E.P.A. in the News: Bigger Trucks on Fuel Diet?

The article “E.P.A. Proposal Will Put Bigger Trucks on Fuel Diet” was largely focused on the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory’s “truck treadmill,” which will help increase the fuel efficiency of large trucks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks.

While this is a heavily politicized and controversial issue, the authors of this piece seemed to provide a very unbiased opinion.  They stated both the pros and the cons of the E.P.A. Proposal and of the Obama Administration’s “environmental mandate.”

Still, for someone with little to no background information on this rather vague mandate, this article was difficult to interpret.  At times it was unclear whether the E.P.A. Proposal and mandate were the same thing, or whether they were independent of one another.  This article would have likely benefitted from a quick summary of the politics surrounding this fuel-related “bigger truck” dispute.

Some questions I had regarding the journalistic practices were as follows: Was it helpful for this article to link to general terms such as “global warming,” “natural gas,” and “oil“? Who was the target audience of the article, and should it be adjusted? Additionally, could this article have made the same point in fewer words?


15 Responses to “E.P.A. in the News: Bigger Trucks on Fuel Diet?”

  1. I agree that the article could have been more clear in terms of differentiating the proposal and the mandate because it seems to me that the proposals are a result of implementing the mandate. Also, I appreciated the inclusion of viewpoints from the government, EPA, and various truck manufacturing representatives.

    Some of the external links the article provided were pointless as it lead to general results of articles related to the terms and didn’t have any specific articles directly relating to this one. I doubt that many readers click on these links unless they are uninformed of the vocabulary. The most-likely intended audience of this article would be truck drivers and truck manufacturers as they will be immediately affected by the changes. Also, the public in general since their opinions will be taken before any proposals are executed.

    The article could have been more condense if descriptions about the plant were omitted since they did not add importance to the story.

  2. I thought overall the article was well-written and very interesting and relevant. While the distinction between the mandate and proposal was perhaps confusing to some, I think that the mandate was set forth by the Obama administration, and the EPA proposals were set forth to try to ensure that mandate was met.

    I agree that the authors did a great job with their use of quotes by getting input from the government, EPA, and truck manufacturers. By using a quote from Jason Mathers at the Environmental Defense Fund, the article was well placed in the context of a the need for a cut back on emissions due to rising concerns about global warming. Additionally, by using quotes from truck manufacturers, the authors also considered these new proposals from their perspective and addressed concerns about costs.

    Are there any other people or organizations that should have been represented in the story to make it even better?

    • Jenny, your last question here is excellent. Even better would be a suggestion about specific people or groups that the writer might have interviewed. One thing you can almost always say about many truck stories is that they don’t quote enough women. This is a problem across news platforms and topics.

      According to the Women’s Media Center, http://www.shesource.org/pages/about-shesource:

      “In 2011, only 21.7% of guests on the Sunday morning talk shows were women, 26% of NPR’s news sources were women, and women represented only 23% of newsmakers on the 84 news websites being monitored by Global Media Monitoring Project.”

  3. While the article is definitely an important and relevant read, I think the author and editors could have been a better journalistic job with the physical written work.

    I do think linking to general terms would be helpful for readers with less background on the issue. Also, it is good for those who are interested in reading more about the issues. However, I think if the readers were trying to target voters or truck drivers, they should have written an article that was much more clear and concise. The issue is definitely confusing, especially if you do not have much background on the EPA and climate science. The article could have been shortened as well.

  4. Overall I believe this article does a good job in presenting the information in an informative and enjoyable fashion. I actually enjoyed learning about the new regulations for the automotive industry. Furthermore, I feel that this article does a good job in addressing why people should care about the issue and how it affects nearly all aspects of our lives. The article brings up multiple times how most of our goods are transported via truck and even included a quote from President Obama that mentions this fact.

    I also believe that the article does a good job in maintaining a unbiased view of the issue. The author cites quotes from multiple sources on all sides of the issue including truck manufacturers and those in the EPA. In addition to this it also seems to present the reader with a view inside a divide within the truck manufacturing industry, with some manufacturers and buyers having an issue with the proposed regulations and others that seem to be proactively cooperating with the regulations. The inclusion of this divide goes a long way to giving the reader the necessary information for them to form their own opinions.

    Personally, I feel as though the length of the article isn’t an issue. This article contains a lot of information that is already packed together in a fairly concise package, and that shortening the article would lead to the loss of a good deal of important viewpoints/facts.

  5. Targeted at an interested and involved audience, the article was written to be concise and informative. The authors did a good job of including varying perspectives and sources, but I often thought that adequate context was missing from the more minor concepts in an attempt to stay concise. Although unfamiliar with the proposal and the trucking industry, I felt reassured, interested, and engaged throughout the article. Additionally, despite my lack of previous understanding, I felt more informed at the end with the proposal but not completely comfortable with the background context that was bypassed. I was, however, impressed with the authors choice to bring in different aspects and viewpoints, and was able to further acknowledge and explore the interests at stake with the proposal. I think that contributed to the unbiased and experienced tone that was set by the authors.

  6. I actually really enjoyed this article, I think that it had a very balanced amount of hard hitting facts and figures, as well as quotes that are both from reputable sources (Obama) and also from a more relatable source (business owners). I thought that the article was also really informative, and kept the reader focused on the facts as well as explaining how they would be implemented to help people in the industry, as well as the regular citizen.

    I also think the closing paragraph is incredibly effective, and the use of the final quote and the penultimate, over descriptive paragraph really paints a picture of how much effort it appears is being put into the research. Personally, I think the quote to finish was really good, and the best way to end the article.

    • Megan, I’m glad you made that point about the final paragraph, which journalists call the kicker. It’s a really key part of the story. I think a quote is fine in a kicker. Often, it’s a quote with a forward-looking twist that says something about angles yet to be addressed or challenges ahead.

  7. Overall, I agree with my peers that this was a well written and balanced article that appropriately communicated the different sides of and opinions about the issue.

    I also think a more effective image could have been chosen for this article. It could have been interesting to include an image that showed the full truck treadmill, as this seems to be a fascinating contraption that has the potential to make a huge impact on the EPA’s research.

    This article concluded with the common kicker technique of referencing the anecdote that was introduced in the lede. While this technique is usually effective, I felt that it was a bit abrupt in this piece. In my opinion, it lacked a smooth transition from the end of the nut graph to the beginning of the kicker. I think this could be improved if the author reiterated a more explicit connection between the new rules and the truck treadmill in the kicker.

  8. I personally didn’t find the links helpful since I wasn’t trying to delve deeper into those topics. But if I had wanted to learn more about current events while reading the article to further contextualize it or because the piece piqued my interest then the links would have been very helpful. They’re also entirely unobtrusive; I’ve seen links on other websites which try and display information about what they’re linking to and I’ve often found them very disruptive.

    The author could definitely had made the same point in fewer words but I think that’s true of any piece of writing. My dad once told me that any story can be reduced to “This too shall pass.” We can reduce anything to its barest essentials but it just isn’t as compelling. The article could have taken out the discussion of the truck treadmill or the nuances of the EPA proposal. If they had, would I have found the article as memorable? Probably not. I think it’s at a good length since the new regulations are somewhat of a niche issue but still deserve a chunk of news coverage.

    • Ha! Your dad sounds like he has a good sense of humor. Maybe we should do an exercise where we boil news stories down to one sentence followed by, “This too shall pass.” It would be good practice for the Pitchfest — not that you will have to pitch your stories in one sentence. But you will have to be succinct.

  9. Overall, I thought the article was incredibly informative and targeted at a specific audience, due to the specific topic of the article. However, this is why I was confused when there were links to words like global warming, natural gas and oil. I feel as though the demographic reading this article would probably already have that information in their back pockets.
    I agree with Gabby that the graphic could definitely be changed. From the start it did not grab my interest. Especially after bring thrown a term as vivid as “truck treadmill.” I received little from the only attached picture. I think that graphics could really benefit this article. Especially infographics, perhaps some detailing the increase in fuel economy over the years.

  10. Like most commented, this piece was well done in the fact that it incorporated both sides of the argument in a mostly non biased manner. I thought that the use of quotations from those who rely on the trucking industry as their major form of income gave an unique voice to this debate that is not normally considered. Overall the article provided the reader with enough background information, but I do think that especially in a publication like the New York Times, it would be beneficial to preface the story more than this author did. Also, the use of buzzwords like “Global Warming” may put off certain readers who otherwise may have thought this piece to be relevant. The political connotation may be too much, however is this something that journalist really need to focus on when writing there stories? I am not entirely sure.

  11. Being able to have a slightly deeper understanding of the proposal would have made the article a little easier to dissect, and would have given readers a better context for many of the quotes and the opinions that were being discussed.
    Personally, I would have also liked to know more about the process that trucking and car companies would have to go through to get their fleets to meet emissions standards. How expensive would it be? What kind of adjustments would have to be made to vehicles to get them to have the best mileage. Obviously getting to far in to the scientific details would make the article more difficult to read, but I believe that just a little bit more information could put the positions that were discussed in better context.

  12. Great discussion all around here. Many valid points. I want to add my support especially to the people who spoke about the appeal of break-out explainer boxes and graphics.

    One small point to keep in mind in the future when you make the initial post: when you create a link, please check the box that makes the link open in a new tab. That keeps readers on your post while they also check out the story you are referencing.

    Keep asking good questions on the tour tomorrow!

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