How Tap Water Became Toxic in Flint

The CNN article “How tap water became toxic in flint” written by Sarah Ganim and Lihn Tran analyzes the flint water crisis. The article looks at the flint water crisis from an extensive time span dating back from 2011 to the present. The article eloquently provides a considerable amount of information on the subject matter which I believe is important in completely understanding the issue. I believe that the intent of the article was meant to be a crash course on the subject matters of the flint water crisis, and while I was reading it it felt like I was mentally crashing. As a literary critique, I believe that the lengthiness of the article, combined with the misleading title prevent the reader from appreciating the entire literary work.

I believe that the best news articles are the one’s that convey the most powerful message in the shortest period of time. This article for me personally did not transmit this information. It was extremely long to be a news article and I lost attention several times.

Prior to reading this article I was under the assumption that the article was going to solely be about how the water became toxic based upon the title “How tap water became toxic in flint”.  Rather, this article started from how it became toxic, how they found out it was toxic, how the residents felt, what is being done, and who is to blame. As a result it was definately a lot more than I was expecting to read.  

  • How do you guys feel about the length of the article?
  • What would have been a more effective title to have conveyed the message?
  • Do you feel that the intent of the article was properly portrayed?

11 Responses to “How Tap Water Became Toxic in Flint”

  1. I agree with your comments on the title of the piece. The article does not really match the title, as it covers a much wider scope than simply how the water become toxic. It also does not effectively answer the question in the title. It provides a good overview of the situation and its effects, but does little to explain the origins of the Flint water crisis. The beginning of the article briefly discusses how the water became toxic, but then it quickly moves on to other aspects of the crisis. The title is not particularly interesting or exciting, so I do not know why CNN chose it instead of something more relevant to the article.
    I think that the article is an appropriate length. It covers a lot of information, so I like that it is on the long side. The author is able to briefly explain each topic so that those unfamiliar with the crisis can understand what is going on without being overwhelmed.
    The article conveyed its points, but overall I was underwhelmed. I understood the situation, but was also bored by the end of the article. I think that the author could have made the article more engaging since the topic has many people up in arms. The article did not have a unique angle on the story. The Flint water crisis has been written about by many people, and this article did not offer a new perspective on the issue. It was very similar to other pieces I have read on the issue and did not stand out to me.

    • Morgan:
      I agree that this didn’t do a strong job of presenting a new perspective on the issue. Also, it was written over a month ago, so it seems more dated than it actually is. The writer tried to present a fresh angle by focusing on the class action lawsuit and finding a person who is part of that lawsuit, but instead of keeping this more narrowly focused, the journalist tried to cover it all. The issue is that many news outlets were playing catch up with this issue. Realizing it was a huge story, they needed to put their stamp on it. But unfortunately, many of the articles by mainstream outlets sounded quite similar when the story broke as a result.

  2. This definitely had more length than it needed. The title covers the first two sections, and everything after that is unrelated to the title. Details on the doctor who made a discovery, how Flint got itself into this financial situation, and long term consequences on lead poisoning all fit within the story of Flint and its history but not directly to this topic. A more appropriate title would have been “The History behind Flint and its Water Crisis”.

    Aside from the mislabeling of the article, it was well reported. Quotes included perspectives from locals, medical experts, and policy experts, without any added opinion from the journalist. The intent of the article was to get readers up to speed with the situation in Flint, which it did well, but gave more information on the topic than it advertised.

  3. I believe the article was just slightly too long, but very close to being a good length. It seemed to drone on and report on insignificant details, such as the Doctor’s description as “an animated and passionate young pediatrician with horn-rimmed glasses who everyone calls Dr. Mona”. It’s nice to add a bit of background to your characters, but that seemed like overkill.

    The article title was a bit misleading, as it sounds like the article will be primarily about the events that lead to toxic water. I think a more appropriate title would be “An overview of the Flint water crisis”.

    I think the intent was properly portrayed and the author did a good job of keeping bias out of the reporting. The article sought to have a non-biased review of the Flint water crisis and I think it achieved that goal. In addition, the headlining picture of the Flint water tower with a dreary Michigan sky is a very powerful image

  4. I feel like the article was not too long and it did contain a lot of information. It could have been shorter and gotten the same points across while better keeping my attention, but a lot of the statistics and quotes really helped the article make its point. For that reason, I think the article was of appropriate length for what the author was trying to represent. However, I do feel the part about Flint’s troubles before the water crisis is unnecessary because it does not add any new knowledge or anything important to the current story, especially since most people already know about Flint’s past troubles.

    I think a more effective title would be “The History of the Flint Water Crisis”. I think this goes hand in hand with the current title, however, because the article does explain a lot of backstory as to how all of this happened and how it began.

    I believe the intent was portrayed because the writer did show how tap water became toxic and then even more was also portrayed as effects of that toxicity were represented. The writer did a good job of just stating the facts and making sure those were supported by data and also backed up by quotes.

  5. I also thought that the article dragged on a bit long. I didn’t personally have any issues with the title. I understand that the article title did not indicate how long the article was going to be, but I felt like the article did try to summarize exactly how Flint’s water came to be toxic. I felt like besides the length, there were no real issues with the portrayal or intent of the article. I did, however, take issue with the mini article summaries that the CNN article took. I did not appreciate the title given to Dr. Mona of “The Hero doctor”, as I think it was a bit sensationalistic. As well, I did not understand how the titles of each sequence were organized. The first one was a question; “What’s in the water?” the second one was a statement; “the hero doctor” and the third one “Flint’s woes began before the water, but it’s all related” seems like a jumbled explanation. There was a lack of clarity with what CNN was trying to do here, in my opinion.

  6. Thanks for your post!

    I would disagree about the length of the article – in my opinion, I think when it comes to explaining “how” the tap water became toxic, it requires explanation of the situation from beginning to the end (or where the situation is at currently). I think the article does all of this in a concise manner without leaving any important details. Because of this, I think the title did a fine job naming what was going to be in the story, and I do think that the intent of the article was properly portrayed through the title.

    I do agree with Garrett that the titles were a bit misleading and unorganized, and that the sections could have been thought out and presented in a better way.

  7. I started reading the article before reading your questions, and I think it’s funny how you mention the lengthiness because I got bored with it and stopped reading! It was definitely too long. When people read the news, they don’t want to sit there for fifteen minutes reading the same article. I also agree with the title being a little misleading by insinuating the article was only going to be about how the lead got there. It should have been titled something more like “Everything you need to know about the Flint water crisis”.

    On the other hand, I did appreciate that each section was just that: in sections. They were sections with separate subheadings so you could skip a section or two if you aren’t interested in it. I notice that in a lot of articles nowadays, and I think it is cool.

  8. I agree that the title of the article is misleading in regards to the content of the actual article. Personally, due to the disjoint between the content the article title insinuates the article will cover and the content of the article itself, I felt that the article seemed incomplete in the coverage of the issue because of the expectations that I had from reading the article title. This problem does not seem to apply to the sub-section titles though. For example, the first section ‘What’s in the water’ appears appropriately represent the content covered in that subsection and portrays the content in a clear and understandable way.

    One thing that I did like about the article was the organization that the authors used in breaking up the sub-topics. I think this is something that can address the issue of the article’s length. Because the Flint water crisis is complicated in that it is an issue that has a lot of moving parts and relevant actors, I enjoyed having the story divided up so that it made things easier to understand in a clear and concise way compared to having it read as one long article. When reading the article, the subsections helped me to keep reading through the whole article where as without the subsections I don’t think I would have kept reading. One criticism I have of this is that some subsections seem to oversimplify the issue, specifically in terms of attributing blame.

  9. I personally thought the article was both a good length and had a relevant title. When I saw that the title of the article was, “How tap water became toxic in Flint, Michigan,” I was not expecting a brief article on the issue, but rather a history on how such a situation could ever happen. This article provided a good overview of that unbelievable history. I think it was necessary to write different sections in order to touch on various issues such as who was involved, the context of the issue, the demographics of the city, and how the various actors in the state allowed this to happen.

    Had the article been shorter, I feel that I wouldn’t have walked away with the same amount of knowledge on the topic, and because I was expecting a history on how poisoning of the water happened, I needed more, which the article thankfully provided. Also, this article was done by CNN and we can assume the national and international audiences who read it are unaware of the history of Flint or the background of the story. I thought the authors did a good job, then, of giving the readers enough context in order to gain a better understanding of the crisis.

  10. With any news article, I think length is important in the sense that regardless of word count, it maintains the audience’s attention. In this specific article, I think the author did a good job of following the story in a chronological order that didn’t get too bogged with details. As a reader I felt engaged with the development of the story.
    That being said, I think the title could have been better. The title “How Tap Water Became Toxic in Flint” led me to think it would focus more heavily on the events that lead up to the crisis and less of an overall summary of the story.
    Despite the title, I think the story was captivating and well written. Thanks for your questions!

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