Bad Beer: An Article with Potential, but Left a Sour Taste

http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-west-coast-recyclers-think-sewage-water-might-make-good-beer-1426109886

This article comprises anecdotal reporting from various West Coast locations about very progressive, and in the case of the Urban Death Project, controversial recycling projects.

The article has an interesting title, and very interesting content, but was written in a way that was confusing and hard to follow.  The title of the article “Why West Coast Recyclers Think Sewage Water Might Make Good Beer” is a question that is never actually answered, rather just explaining (in very little detail) the gist of a few innovative recycling projects on the West Coast.  And although the title and lede caught my attention, there was no nut graph explaining the why there was such a need for these kind of recycling projects and regulations, like the $1 per recycling violation law in Seattle, right now.  However, the thing that irked me the most about this article was that it jumped around from city to city and from project to project so much that I was confused as to what exactly the article was about.  When the article was brought back to the most interesting part of the story, the part about the Urban Death project, I was so frustrated that I didn’t want to even read the end.

However, I did think the article brought some interesting statistics in, like the fact that San Francisco currently diverts 80% of trash from landfills, and aims for 100% by 2020.  This is compared with NYC which only diverts 15% of trash from landfills.  There were some good quotes as well, along with a touch of humor, with the mention of “poo brew”.

Overall this article had the content to be a potential winner, but failed miserably at telling these interesting stories.

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About colezingas

Hey I'm Cole, I am very excited to be taking Photobook with all of you! I took an introductory photography class my senior year of high school, in which I got to learn the techniques of photography and play around with film cameras! I'm looking forward to this class so that I can take the next step, and use my photos to create a story.

6 Responses to “Bad Beer: An Article with Potential, but Left a Sour Taste”

  1. At first, while reading through the article after reading your comments about it, I kept thinking “what is he talking about?? This article makes perfect sense!”
    And then it started talking about beer again…
    And I began to understand your confusion. I became confused, myself.

    The author of this article does a poor job of presenting what this article is actually about. I know, with me, I have had a little trouble doing this with my news feature, so this is a great example for me of how not to write a strong piece. I know that based on the title of this article, I should be reading about recycled beer. However, I actually think the stronger story is in the “red tags” that the city has been placing on residents who are throwing away too much food waste. I’m curious to see if the $1 fine is easy to collect, or if people are hesitant to pay that. I’m also curious to see what the fine is being used for – what is that money supporting? Because there are so many unanswered questions, I think this article would better be written about that topic, and the recycled beer topic should be a completely separate story.

    In addition to the article being off topic for a majority of the time, the article was a tad too long. Like you, Cole, I had trouble bringing myself to actually finish reading it. I’m not sure if this is because of the way it’s written (all over the place) or simply because there is just too much material presented here.

    Either way, I do believe that the article was educational and I definitely got something out of it. I do believe, however, that if the article had been written in a more clear and concise way, that I would have likely learned more information about the topic intended. I will definitely take away these story-writing ideas and incorporate them into my own news feature.

  2. Like you Cole, I could not find a nut graph in this article. How do people know what the point of telling this story and reporting this is? I know I didn’t really get the sense of urgency or the “why now” of this story. The lack of a nut graph is a sign to me that this is not a story at all. It came off more like a snapshot of potential stories. There are a lot of interesting things in this article and it was enjoyable to read about the different sustainability efforts and initiatives the West Coast is taking. That being said, this article in itself was not a news story. It was a general coverage of stories that have happened in the past. To encompass the comments both Heather and Cole have made, I thought that this article had way too many components and stories it was trying to cover. To make it a story, it needed one underlying theme that would bring it all together, which could have been something like how the West Coast is leading the way to more sustainable cities and how other cities could follow suit, or something along those lines.

  3. I did like the lede, it seemed like it was getting straight to the point of what the article was going to be, but then so much wandering followed. As others have said, no readily discernible nut graph, and although the individual stories are relatable and interesting – there is no sense of urgency. I did like the mention of “silly policies from public gestures” as being an ineffective means of dealing with waste problems, that might have been a better trail to follow throughout the work.

  4. As was mentioned by people in previous comments, there was some disconnect between the expectation I had of the content of this article based on the title, and the actual topics discussed. There was a lot of meandering back and forth between ideas; it feels like whoever wrote the headline picked the most “buzz-word-y” recycling project to gain views, but failed to consider what it was actually primarily about… which kind of felt like nothing, to be honest. The article succeeded in piquing my interest with the few basic statistics that scraped the surface of each of the projects, and then stopped short of actually developing any of them into a story. I was left wanting to know more, and the article moved briskly on to the next section. Each of these projects could stand alone as their own articles, and their novel innovations raise a lot of questions about their sustainability and success in the market audience that could be addressed through further reporting. I think there is some merit in this article, however, as a ‘trailer’ article giving previews of future trends and the stories that will stem from them.

  5. Did anyone else laugh out loud at the absurdity of the lede and following paragraphs about Portland? I couldn’t tell if the article was written as a sarcastic troll to hipster culture of Portland or a self-effacing circle jerk. One google later, turns the writer, Katy Muldoon, is a staff writer for the Oregonian. I guess we’ll go with the latter.

    Beyond the obvious bias, there were some good and bad smelling things about this article (some that the previous commenters have mentioned):

    -Lots of good research.
    -Structure is really confusing.
    -Story has a general point (Advent of Recycling Culture in Cities) that is hugely relevant, but over reported with trite articles (this falls into that category).

    As more of a social theorist or bitter 25 year old than a journalist, I think a lot about how social identity and the resulting social structures play a role in how we organize our resources. As I was reading this, this seemed to really miss the plot of how expensive all of this recycling is. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle — white upper middle to upper class society that can afford to re-haul its infrastructure to redistribute its resources as it pleases. A lot of grand topics such as sustainability usually delve into intersectionality as the understanding of narratives progress, and I wonder if the author could have delved into what less affluent communities are doing in their role as sustainability advocates (rather than agents). Stories in some sense are supposed to bring us together and force ourselves to look at each other and acknowledge each other’s existence for better and worse. This article looked in the mirror and wrote an article about that experience.

  6. Did anyone else laugh out loud at the absurdity of the lede and following paragraphs about Portland? I couldn’t tell if the article was written as a sarcastic troll to hipster culture of Portland or a self-effacing circle jerk. One google later, turns the writer, Katy Muldoon, is a staff writer for the Oregonian. I guess we’ll go with the latter.

    Beyond the obvious bias, there were some good and bad smelling things about this article (some that the previous commenters have mentioned):

    -Lots of good research.
    -Structure is really confusing.
    -Story has a general point (Advent of Recycling Culture in Cities) that is hugely relevant, but over reported with trite articles (this falls into that category).

    As more of a social theorist or bitter 25 year old than a journalist, I think a lot about how social identity and the resulting social structures play a role in how we organize our resources. As I was reading this, this seemed to really miss the plot of how expensive all of this recycling is. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle — white upper middle to upper class society that can afford to re-haul its infrastructure to redistribute its resources as it pleases. A lot of grand topics such as sustainability usually delve into intersectionality as the understanding of narratives progress, and I wonder if the author could have delved into what less affluent communities are doing in their role as sustainability advocates (rather than agents). Stories in some sense are supposed to bring us together and force ourselves to look at each other and acknowledge each other’s existence for better and worse. This article looked in the mirror and wrote an article about that experience.

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