Growing Concern About Drought in the West

The New York Times recently published the article “Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst.” The story focuses on the aftermath of the drought that has been occurring in California. As rainfall remains nonexistent, the rural communities are having trouble providing water to thousands of citizens. Without a steady water supply, many are worried about conservation and access to drinking water.

Please read the article and share your thoughts about this piece and the drought situation. 

 Answer any of  the following questions below:

– What did you think of the slideshow of images that the author included at the beginning of the story? Did it change the way you read the article?

– Do you think that the author explained the drought with a non-biased, facts based approach? Explain.

– Were you convinced that this drought is a serious issue? Why?

– What did you think about the author’s use of quotations? 

– What did you think of the kicker? Was this quote the most effective way to end the piece?

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5 Responses to “Growing Concern About Drought in the West”

  1. The slideshow of images included at the beginning of the article have a very strong effect of portraying the severity of the drought and the emotions and struggles of the farmers dealing with it. A picture says a thousand words and often, when people think of California they think of sunny beaches or San Francisco, and not the majority of California’s mainland which is farmland. California agriculture provides a huge amount of some of–in my opinion–the best produce in the country. There is nothing better than a California avocado and these images show that the poor conditions of the land will prohibit the growth of these products in some areas. Diving into the article after seeing these photos introduced me immediately to the severity of the drought before even reading the lede.
    I believe that the author explained the drought in a very un-biased tone and does a good job of presenting as many facts as are available. Because there is no one to specifically blame per say for a drought in the South-West, it is hard to be biased towards any side, however the author does touch on the fact that human-caused climate change is very likely to be responsible for the current severe conditions and could become increasingly intense.
    As a born and raised Los Angelino, this article convinced me of the seriousness of the current drought. To be honest, I had not even read very much into the topic when I started to hear more about it a little while ago in the news. I can attest to the extremely dry, and especially in the LA area, smoggy conditions currently. Taking a deep breath in in Michigan feels much cleaner and better than taking a deep breath in downtown LA. The idea of the air quality in the city getting even worse due to the lack of rain to clean the atmosphere, coupled with the possibility of running low on delicious avocados and oranges makes me very concerned for what is going to be done to help.
    I thought that the author’s use of quotations was very tasteful. There were not too many quotes, but the ones used did a good job of expressing the current state of things for farmers across the South-West and the changes in behavior they have had to make because of the drought.
    I personally did not think the quote from the Northern California gardener, used in the kicker of this article, was a very effective one. To me, it seemed very “out-of-left-field” and did not match up with the article’s focus on the ways farmers in the area are affected. While it is unfortunate that this couple will not be able to continue their hobby of gardening this winter due to the drought, I think that a quote from a farmer who’s livelihood is being directly influenced in a negative way by the drought would have a much greater effect on the reader.

  2. I am a very visual person. When reading this story it was hard to picture what the situation was like in California. I think the author could have incorporated more situational descriptions to really put the reader into the middle of this issue. Checking out the slide show cleared everything up for me. In my opinion, the slideshow was most effective in demonstrating the extent of the drought. Some pictures were much better than others. In particular, the pictures of the dry reservoir, exposed lakebed, and dry dam did an excellent job. The pictures of the farmers and workers were not really needed at all. After looking at this slideshow, I had a completely different understanding of how bad the drought problem is. If I were the author, I would not have placed these pictures in slideshow format. I would have instead scattered them throughout the story so it would be much easier for readers to see them. Honestly, I probably would not have checked out this slideshow at all if I wasn’t instructed to do so by your blog post. Using a slideshow creates a barrier (albeit small) that readers have to navigate in order to see the pictures and go back to the article. It is unnecessary and only makes it harder for a reader to see them. Scattering the pictures throughout the article does away with this barrier completely.

  3. After reading this article I was left with the sense that this drought is a very serious issue. One reason is due to the word choice that the author used. Words and phrases such as “punishing drought,” “deteriorating situations,” and “dangerous levels” amplify the seriousness of the situation. Powerful words such as those gained my attention, and made me interpret this article more seriously. Additionally, the majority of quotes used where from highly reputable sources on the issue such as the executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies and Governor Brown. All of them expressed the gravity of the situation and with their education background really added validity and severity to the issue.

    However, I do not think that the kicker was an effective way to end the article. I understand that personal stories and quotes are a way to gain the compassion and interest of the reader, however this story wasn’t very compelling. I don’t think it correctly expressed the seriousness that was apparent in the rest of the article. Gardening is a hobby. Rather than addressing the fact that water is necessary to survive, the article ended by saying that Jacob would have to take a break from gardening.

  4. The slideshow was great. It sparked my interest and would have gotten me to read the article, regardless of the assignment. It gives the reader a connection with the people mentioned in the article, which makes the article that much more moving.
    The writer used a non biased, fact based approach, while still expressing the seriousness of the issue by relating the article to the real people who are experiencing the drought. I think the the combination of information from both regular people in the region and policy makers fighting to fix the problem was crucial to the effectiveness of the report. By describing the effect this is having on every person in the region, the writer conveys the seriousness of the problem.
    I also really liked the kicker. It shows how much the people are working together to be proactive about the problem at hand. It gives a bit of hope in the story, which isn’t really necessary, but it certainly changes the tone of the report by circling back to human compassion – the idea that by thinking of our neighbors we can have a beneficial effect on our collective wellbeing – which is always a good thing to incorporate into a report, subtly or not.

  5. I honestly did not see the slideshow until after I had read the article so I can’t say it had much effect one how I read the piece, however I do generally enjoy a visual accompaniment to articles that I read so I thought it was a good addition. I like the variety of images used in the slideshow, giving identities to the mostly anonymous farmers and ranchers mentioned in the article. The pictures of the drought survival workshop were some of my favorites because they were hopeful compared to some of the others which showed barren swaths of land that had been affected by the drought.
    I think that the article was generally unbiased. The writer mentioned several different parties and briefly mentioned how they were reacting to the issue, however I would have liked to read a bit more about the dynamics of the relationships between farmers and environmentalists as well as urban and rural citizens. The article gave a lot of facts and established the state of the issue pretty thoroughly but for some reason I think that there could be more to it.
    Overall, I enjoyed this piece and I think that it raises a lot of important points about an issue that has wide ranging effects in the West as well as across the country. I was intrigued by some of the statistics and I had no idea that the situation was as bad as it is. I’m very interested to see what happens next and how this issue will effect other issues such as climate change and economic/political dealings in the affected regions.

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