Reporting environmental legislation: a balancing act

My question for this week was inspired by the Washington Post article, Obama administration issues major rewrite of forest rules by Julie Eilperin, January 26.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/administration-issues-major-rewrite-of-forest-rules/2012/01/26/gIQAnquvTQ_story.html?sub=AR

The nut graph of this article emphasizes the infrequency of changes to forest management rules, and the body of the article contains in-depth coverage of various parties’ responses to the new guidelines. However, there’s not much straightforward comparison of the content of the old rules and the new rules, other than what we can infer from the opinions that Eilperin’s sources give.

It seems that Eilperin assumed that her audience would be more interested in responses to the guidelines than in the content of the guidelines. Do you agree that when covering government guidelines of niche relevance for a broader audience, it’s more important to cover reactions to the guidelines than the content of the guidelines themselves? Or do you think this article could be strengthened by the inclusion of some explanation of what’s in the guidelines? As the article stands, Eilperin could have written it without reading the new rules at all. Was it prudent for Eilperin defer to experts’ analyses of the guidelines, or does it come off as lazy?

Is there anything else you think Eilperin could have added to increase our understanding of the release of the new guidelines? Do you think she did a good job of capturing our interest? A lot of different issues were raised in the article – did you find that they were sufficiently explained, effectively utilized to pique interest, and appropriate to the audience of Washington Post readers?

I’m looking forward to reading your responses!

Dafna

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6 Responses to “Reporting environmental legislation: a balancing act”

  1. I enjoyed reading this article because I don’t know much about the forests in the country. In saying that, I think that this article was definitely lacking some explanation of what is in the new guidelines. I’m sure I am not the only one in this country who is unfamiliar with the state of the national forests, grasslands etc. so those rules would have been extremely helpful. In situations like this, it is very frustrating to some readers when they have to do outside research. Generally, people read the news and go on with their day, and if they happen to find something interesting they will then do that outside research. Then again, maybe that was the authors intention to have readers go out and do the research of what is going on in the country so they can have that awareness.

  2. The nut graph seems to fulfill its duty in the article by letting the reader know why the new regulations of forests and grasslands are important. Even if the reader has no knowledge of the previous rules, or has no genuine interest in forest protection, it does successfully make the comparison between the Obama administration and others before it. The main message is that President Obama IS successfully making changes, and that he is protecting the environment.
    With that being said, I do not believe it was necessary for Eilperin to include specific information about the new guidelines. In my opinion, that was not the point of the article. Eilperin seems to assume that her readers would much rather want to know what other important and relevant people think of the changes. Experts will be much more informed about how the changes directly affect them, and since readers do not need to know the policies, they are left out. Basically, the article is a critique of whether or not experts agree with the Obama administration’s decision, rather than a comparison of the new and old regulations. I think it was successfully done.

    Word Count: 192

  3. This article kept me waiting for an explanation. Though I thought it started out with a strong nut graph and intriguing statistics, as I read on I was expecting more information as to the actual content of the laws. I do not think it is smart to write an article about the response to new laws, without specify what actually has been passed. It is more than likely that most readers of this article have not done extensive research on the topic, thus not being familiar with the new rules. As a reader, the headline of the article caught my attention, but the content could not keep it because the whole time I was wondering what exactly was being discussed. It would be beneficial if the author included a link to the new management plan. This would at least offer readers the opportunity to educate themselves on the topic before reading about its impact on the environmental community. If I had known more details, it would have interested me a lot more to hear about what industry leaders are saying.

    Word count: 180

    -Emily Wilhelm

  4. This article gave a lot of information on everyone’s opinions, and problems in the past but barely touched upon what the new guidelines for management were, and what exactly was the problem with the old guidelines. The lede included Obamas’ name, which automatically lets the reader know they should care, but other than that I found it to be un-enticing. The article itself would have been more conclusive with supportive information on what challenges are facing this area and why these new management policies will help. “They were crafted to enhance the nation’s water supplies while maintaining woodlands for wildlife, recreation and timber operations.” Additionally, the conflict between environmentalists and scientists on how to manage this land should have been more detailed. What are the beliefs on each side? What are they each doing to fight for these policies? That would have made a more intriguing story to me.
    -Nicole Braverman

  5. Seeing this article, I immediately remembered another piece I read this weekend, entitled “Obama’s Forest Service Weakens National Forest Wildlife Protections,” from the environmental news network website– http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/43924. And yep — you guessed it — the author of this article presents the policy changes in a completely different light.

    This article and a quick google search show that there is a huge variety of opinions on this topic. An emphasis on facts is vital for citizens to make their own evaluations.
    Though Eilperin describes (very briefly) the reason why these policy changes were made (to lessen arguments between timber companies against environmentalists and some scientists…which actually sounds really shady…), the core of the topic I am most interested in is WHAT changes were made.

    Although Eilperin includes the voices of ‘experts’, she chooses them very selectively and glosses over conflicts with broad generalizations like “Several environmentalists and scientists praised the guidelines.”

    In all honesty, this article makes me pretty angry. I think that Eilperin’s lack of detail and conclusive presentation of the changes has the potential to lead readers into the false sense that they understand the issue, when in actuality, they probably don’t. The devil is in the details.

    Word count: 200
    -Kristen Kiluk

  6. Eilperin presents the forest regulations in a mundane, superficial way. She approaches the topic from the perspective that readers have read the guidelines elsewhere or don’t care about them. I take a number of issues with this approach, mostly because I was annoyed as I constantly looked for the summary. Also, since the Washington Post is nationally recognized news organization, its primary concern should be to convey the news. If this were an opinion article, or a blog analyzing the issue more in depth, that would be one thing, but it is not. That said, I think Eilperin does a nice job with her nutgraf. I knew from the top why I should care about this. Now, hooked by Eilperin’s nutgraf, I continued to read finding myself bored and confused. She skipped over many controversies in the article, alluding to some conflicts, such as the dueling interests of environmentalists and timber companies and then leaving it unanswered. This is a hot topic and would add more appeal if expanded further. Eilperin also introduces the House representative for natural resources, quotes him and leaves him hanging. She does not investigate his claim or have a conclusive kicker.
    -Taylor Wizner (196 words)

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