Fuel Efficiency in the News

In this recent story by NPR’s Sonari Glinton, the future of diesel fuel in America is discussed by experts in several fields. It’s a quick story- less than four minutes, but it answers a lot of questions and puts cryptic scientific information in layman’s terms. Listen to the story, and then read its transcription.

I have noticed that most radio news is transcribed into print, but very little print news is made into radio. What does one make of this? Is there a need for both spoken news and printed news? What do you find is the difference between reading the transcript and listening to the story? Or the general difference between reading news and listening to news?

This story has no obvious lede or narrative. It is mainly a conversation between Glinton and the various experts he is interviewing. Even though it is not a conventional news story, do you still find it engaging or effective? Why or why not?

Since the piece is very conversational, it is comprised of more quotes than the words of the author. What do you think that adds or takes away from the piece?


About Julia Paige

I am a senior at the university studying Cultural Anthropology, Sustainable Food Systems, and Writing. I love to bake, cook, ride my bike, and eat cookies.

6 Responses to “Fuel Efficiency in the News”

  1. I consider it to be effective, because it takes the conversation and edits it into a quasi-journalistic piece. While some elements are not a direct style transfer, it’s not a straight Q&A.

    For the lead, Glinton starts with, “For this story about diesel cars, we have to talk as much about science as business. But don’t worry. You don’t have to be an engineer. We got plenty.” That last sentence directly tries to draw you in. It says we got info that you don’t know, but can understand.

    Like I said earlier, it’s not a straight Q&A. Glinton uses some quotes that show the uniqueness of the human voice of the speaker. Like when he quotes Woodridge in one place, “The primary advantage of a diesel engine versus a gasoline engine is the efficiency. So it’s fundamentally higher efficiency than your gasoline engine,” and then paraphrases her right after, “It also has greater low-end torque, which means you have more power at low speeds, but that higher efficiency comes at a cost. The higher efficiency means higher pressure…etc.” Presumably, this part was very scientific and hard to understand, so a paraphrase was necessary.

    Finally, there is a kicker. It sums up the sustainable fuel aspect of it and then states “Relying on the manufactures.” That loops back to the whole reason we are having this discussion in the first place.

  2. I actually think that the piece is rather well put together. There is a lede “The epic scope of the Volkswagen scandal brings this question into focus. Is there a viable future for diesel cars in the United States?” It’s a spin on the story that makes a lot of sense given that NPR’s listening base is the US. It’s not an angle that any international new organization would take.

    As for the flow of the story between quotes and paraphrase, it think that is also executed pretty well. Especially in the audio version Glinton’s paraphrase, and even the sound of his voice act as a sort of glue which holds my attention and helps me navigate through all the different quotes.

  3. I agree with Jacob. I think it was very interesting to listen to a radio news piece that, in my opinion, was put together like a traditional news piece. There was a lede by the host, and the journalist’s voice was heard through his explanation between quotes and introduction of speakers. It was easier to notice the aspects that make up every news story in the radio form, because I was in a new environment (radio) looking for familiarity and comparisons.

    The reason that there are not many radio versions of written articles, but often (as is the case with this NPR article) written transcripts of radio news articles are provided is that written news has a long history. It is the way people are used to consuming the news. For me personally, it is easier to focus on a story if I am looking at the words in front of me as opposed to just listening and staring at nothing. I am a more visual person, but a lot of people are more visual. I did enjoy listening to a radio news story because I thought it was a nice change– it is always interesting to switch up the way we take in news, and I spend most of my time staring at a screen.

  4. I do like the piece; in today’s fast-paced, busybody American culture, it’s important for people in transit, working out, or getting ready to multitask, simultaneously absorbing news and checking something off their ever-expanding to-do list.

    Something that made me uncomfortable, from a journalistic standpoint, is the notion of a “conversation” that you mentioned between Glinton and the various experts. However, it’s difficult to tell if these people are in a true conversation. Are they in a radio station with microphones? Are they on the telephone? Are these pre-recorded interviews spliced together with Glinton’s commentary in between? I feel like this broadcast is able to blur some of these factors and create a pseudo environment where the interview takes place, but listeners don’t come away with an understanding of how this information was collected.

    Thankfully, the newscast is transcribed. With radio, words can slip away, with listeners thinking, “I’m pretty sure NPR said x.” Transcriptions of radio help hold journalists accountable. As they say, always get it in writing.

    Also, despite the “conversational” tone, there was definitely a sense of authority and consensus in the piece. I walked away feeling like everything these people said about diesel was true, even though I know very little about diesel.

  5. I think one of the main reasons that the radio piece was also transcribed onto the webpage is to simply fill space. When I click on the link to the story I don’t want to just see a audio recording with a start and stop button. The transcript also allows listeners to be sure of who is saying what and when. When so many different people are being interviewed it is easy to get forgot who is actually talking, so by having a transcript listens can always follow along while listening. Another reason to have the transcript is for people who are in places where sound is not a good idea. Such as at work or class and you don’t have headphones or don’t want professors to notice you aren’t paying attention.

    I found the piece to be engaging but I must admit I am biased in the situation because I was hooked as soon as Wooldridge said she was a Mechanical Engineer Prof. at The University of Michigan. I think would made the piece engaging as well was that the experts seemed well qualified to talk about the situation. In a conversation piece like this, the people you interview make or break the article, so finding not only people who are qualified to talk about the issue, but also good a communicating their knowledge is crucial.

  6. I think that radio news being transcribed into print is more important than having it the other way around. I could be wrong, but I feel like reading print is more common than listening to the radio. As for learning, maybe having more writing pieces being transcribed into audio form could be helpful for some people in terms of easier comprehension. Then again, it’s easier to miss out on concrete examples by zoning off or not understanding at first listen. Online, you can pause, on the live radio when driving in the car, you can’t pause. So, from a financial standpoint there may be more of a reason not to spend the time turning print to radio. I enjoy listening to more than reading, you really get to hear voices sometimes and especially when you hear the voices of the interviewees you can pick up on emotion.

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