Bolting of the Bees: Colony Collapse Disorder in Context

This week, my question aims to investigate how journalists can most effectively balance accuracy and appeal to audience when using recent science research to cover current environmental issues.

I started thinking about this during our science/journalists class as well as our field trip to Detroit, when one of the women on the reader’s panel mentioned that she will not read environmental news stories  unless they involve serious, obvious, dramatic impacts.

As an example to work off of, please read this article which covers the current issue of colony collapse disorder in honeybee populations: http://www.salem-news.com/articles/february022012/bee-research.php

Do you think that the author of this article was successful both in including enough accurate details and putting the issue in a relevant context? How often do you think that journalists focus on striking this balance well?

Do you think that this would be an effective strategy for the majority of readers or that more would rather see a report of the details of the study?

What other tactics could a journalist use to get the general public interested in research on the topic? 

Excited to hear your thoughts!

-Kristen Kiluk

 

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5 Responses to “Bolting of the Bees: Colony Collapse Disorder in Context”

  1. You originally talked about the balance between accuracy and audience appeal. Personally, I believe that this article is designed to appeal to a specific audience, but myself as a reader had a hard time answering the question “why should I care?”. The story seemed accurate, and I enjoyed the X-files references to put a spin on the scientific parts, but I still do not think that this article had enough appeal to the audience of readers in Salem. People care about bees, but they care about the bees not stinging them, or care about the fact that they produce honey. Sure, the author did mention how the hives can affect honey production and other crop populations, but that should have had a greater emphasis throughout the article. I would have been more interested in the story if the lede was less about Eric Olsen, who I felt bad for, but more about the crash of Washington apple production, which I LOVE and would hate to see affected.

    Word Count 167

  2. As a non-scientist, this article didn’t do it for me. I think the author attempted to appeal to a wide audience, but fell short in emphasizing its relevance to my life. To answer the question of whether or not the author was successful in both including enough accurate details and putting the issue in a relevant context, I think he/she did not do enough of either. If the audience was meant for scientists, then there are not enough details on the study to interest a scientific mind. If the audience was meant for the general public, then the issue was not put in enough relevant context to catch someone’s interest. This article lies in the middle, but not is a good way. I do not think the author was well aware of his/her audience, or he/she was trying to please both parties, something that is very difficult to achieve. In order for this article to attract readers of the general public, the author must elaborate on what will happen to food supply without the bees.

    Word Count: 175

    Emily Wilhelm

  3. I think the writer did a poor job appealing to readers, and explaining the issue in layman’s terms. CCD has been a problem investigated since 2006 so starting the lead with the same, unoriginal disappearance of bees bores a reader who already knows about the topic; the writer should jump into the new revelations, not hanging on to the old issue. I felt like the issue here was that the publication tried to write an environmental feature when it should be more of a local environmental news focus. The angle should be that the TV show basically came there to consult on the project, and the beekeeper they spoke with had some insights on the issue. This should be a lot shorter and clearer, as it did not hold my interest. Readers who are interested in an indepth look into the issue should the long article from the New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/06/070806fa_fact_kolbert). This article is a personal approach to the issue, which will entice readers. It is more explanatory but easy to read, and it is interesting to hear from her experience as a bee keeper, as well as the colorful but explanatory quotes she gets from a number of experts.

    -Taylor Wizner (200 words)

  4. I think your questions bring up a lot of valid critiques of this article. I was initially intrigued by the title of this article; it’s not everyday you see a scientific study spurred on by honeybees. The lede was strong too. I was connected to the people behind the honeybees, what they care about, and why.
    At the same time, I don’t think the author proceeded to effectively connect this incident to the larger environmental problem at hand. Yes, it is tragic that populations of honeybees are dying off due to environmental stresses and pesticides, but that is fairly irrelevant for the everyday person. Yet had the author provided some statistics on the economic impact of a diminished honeybee population, I think it would have grounded this article a bit more. Similarly, I found myself looking for other examples of threatened insect or plant populations. Without a broader context, it seemed like the decline of this species was just an anomaly, and that the solution of changing farming tactics would resolve the problem immediately. In sum, I hoped that Eric Olson could once again be reunited with his bees, but I was minimally invested in the environmental problem.

  5. When the women in the Free Press interview talked about environmental news she said, “If there’s a big meteor coming towards earth then I’ll care!” This topic has the potential to be equivalent to a big meteor! Losing these honeybee populations could have serious implications on the agricultural economy. The author focused on the science; how these honeybees are dying and how they’re trying to prevent bee disappearances. However the real issue is why nothing is being done to stop these pesticides and environmental stressors that are causing the bees to desert their natural habitat. As a reader, I think the author focused on the small picture instead of putting the whole issue into context; there are unsafe chemicals being put into the ecosystem that put stress on natural ecosystems. An important tactic to get people to care is making it seem huge, just like a meteor. Focusing on something like how agriculture could be drastically different without these bee populations would be an angle more likely to catch a reader’s eye.

    – Jessica Chovanec
    – Word Count: 172

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