The EPA’s Office of Civil Rights and Environmental Racism

The Center of Public Integrity recently published “Commentary: the deeper meaning of Flint,” which briefly describes the environmental racism embedded in institutions like the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights that enable public health crises like the Flint Water Crisis.

Initially, it was unclear how “newsworthy” this article was. What new information was given and why is this relevant now (besides the fact that the Flint Water Crisis is an ongoing issue)? After looking through links mentioned in the article, it appears that this may have been piggy-backing on an article written the same day in The Hill, in which J. Mijin Cha discusses the EPA’s history of negligence and dismissal toward communities of color. The author adds onto the discussion by stating that reporters have found no evidence of a formal investigation having ever been made by the EPA on environmental discrimination.

Frankly, the roughly 200-word summary was disappointing. Most of the information regarding the depth of institutional environmental racism was condensed into brief sentence summaries or linked-in articles. Perhaps this was written to confirm and validate the criticism on the inaction by the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights; nevertheless, I felt mislead by the catchy title and assumed an in-depth analysis or that there would be more updated information. In addition, I was wary that the all of the linked-in articles (besides The Hill article) came from the Center of Public Integrity. Not that the Center of Public Integrity is an unreliable source, but I wonder about how this affects the credibility of the article.

  • Was the article comprehensive enough? What other information do you wish they would have provided?
  •  Was there enough engaging, convincing evidence (e.g. statistics and outside sources)?
  • Do you think the article intentionally included sources from the same site? Would it have been more beneficial to use other outside sources?

9 Responses to “The EPA’s Office of Civil Rights and Environmental Racism”

  1. I thought the article did a good job of bringing up the topic of “environmental racism,” but didn’t do much to provide support to its article so I wish there would’ve been more facts and statistics to back up their claim. I’m glad they didn’t try to explain what the Flint water crisis was all over again, but I wish they would’ve provided more information on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because I had to google it. I wouldn’t say that it needed to provide sources from other sites because Public Integrity is reliable, but I do wish they had included different sources, just to get different viewpoints from different journalistic institutions.

    I was also thrown off by the title and left a little disappointed by the article. The lede held my attention, however, and the kicker wasn’t horrible – I liked the placement of the quote. But, like too many kickers, it was predictable and kind of boring.

    Thanks for choosing this article! It’s such an important topic because racism and discrimination based on socioeconomic status play into almost every single topic in journalism.

  2. The title of this article mentioned that it was a commentary and I wonder if that shaped how the author wrote it or if commentaries are supposed to present information in this way. It did seem to be an extended comment that could easily have been posted on any of the other articles that it had quoted. I thought that the article did have a good lede and introduced some interesting questions but failed to address them adequately.

    When I read this article, I thought that it left a lot to be desired. I had not previously encountered the term “environmental racism” before and in the end I Googled it to gain a better understanding. One of the links that popped up was a New York Times article also on the same topic. I believe that this article does a much better job than the commentary at presenting its angle. This article discusses the politics of the Flint water crisis better than the commentary and I found that a lot of the quotes and statistics were unknown to me even though I have been following the Flint Water Crisis since it broke the news. One issue that I did have with this article is that it seemed to suggest certain racists stereotypes of political parties without substantial evidence to back it up. It wasn’t until later in the article that the lack of political power by residents of Flint was attributed to the fact that Republicans controlled the state government. Did anyone else think it was a little biased?

  3. I’m having a hard time trying to edit my post to add to the link to the NYT article but here it is

  4. I think that this article does a great job in pointing out the downfall of the EPAs office of civil rights. It really questions the integrity of the the program and makes the reader aware of a serious issue of racism in our country. It is interesting at the end of the article when it is mentioned that the EPA plans on making changes to their office of civil rights. That shows how news effects these organizations and can make an impact.

    This article made me as a reader want to look up this issue and see what other sources are saying about it. I think that makes for a good article when the reader gets involved and would like to learn more.

  5. Although this article was relatively short, I think it did a decent job incorporating a lead, nut graph, and kicker for its length. I think since this has been an ongoing issue, the article was able to get directly to the point of reinforcing the notion that the EPA can be held partially responsible for the neglect of water safety in the Flint community. I agree with Holly that the title seemed to be a little misleading in the sense that it felt like it was going to actually go “deep” into the topic and provide an in-depth description of the crisis. The goal of the article seems to be more thought provoking than informative; getting the reader to question for themselves why this issue has yet to be resolved. Maybe they did want us to delve more into the issue ourselves and further investigate the EPA’s involvement.

  6. Though it technically may have the components of a decent news story, it’s missing out on some real opportunities. It wouldn’t be hard to find quotes from actual people of color in Flint, especially regarding the Snyder administration and its undemocratic emergency manager practices. Additionally, there are dozens of historical instances of largely black communities disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation being ignored by the media, the government, and the businesses causing their problems. Any one of those could have been referenced in order to inform the reader and have a greater impact- this is a recurring problem as well as a current one. This truly feels like a rushed effort to get a few extra clicks from an exciting headline, with little content, or even knowledge, to back it up.

  7. A topic as complex and important as environmental racism most definitely warrants an article much longer than this one, which is significantly lacking in analysis as well as overall content. Morris would have done well to have referenced more specific information gathered from the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation into environmental justice as well as to have provided more information regarding Uniontown and Baton Rouge along with any other affected cities. I also took issue with the use of the world “profusely” in the nut graph, a word which tends to indicate an excess of something, in the context of Snyder’s apologies in the aftermath of Flint; however, Snyder will never reach an abundance no matter how many times he apologizes to the people of the city for what the state has allowed them to endure. Overall, this was an underwhelming report on an issue of undeniable importance and I would’ve preferred for it to have gone into more detail about environmental injustice and the individuals affected by it.

  8. This article was very subsurface and didn’t delve into much reasoning for why the EPA would be employing environmental racism. I’ve read many other articles that discussed the political failures that occurred in this situation, particularly with the emergency manager and the desire to cut costs, but this article only discussed one side of the issue regarding the EPA. And although they mentioned two other communities that have made complaints regarding the EPA’s handling of environmental issues, this article didn’t provide any background into all of the factors that played a role in those events. Overall the authors could have provided more concrete evidence to back their claims, such as personal interviews with residents and lawmakers to see if there were other reasons why the EPA failed to properly serve these communities. Therefore, I don’t think writing a commentary piece like this is particularly helpful because it lacks solid background and insight into all factors surrounding the topic.

  9. My initial response is my disappointment with the attention-grabbing title, “The deeper meaning of Flint” and the extremely long lede question that I had to reread several times before fully comprehending. Because this is still such a relevant issue, I was sure I would be given some new and meaningful insight into the actions of Gov. Snyder and the EPA against the city and its people, but the vagueness and brevity of all of the writer’s following points leaves much to be desired. There really is not any newsworthy reason to write this article, and, as Al said, if the writer had even taken the time to expand upon one listed example of Title VI environmental injustice, with an interview from an affected resident and government official, the value of the story would increase exponentially. Additionally, a news organization whose mission is “to serve democracy by revealing abuses of power, corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions, using the tools of investigative journalism,” makes me question “unbiased” writing, the lack of outside sources and the use of internal sources.

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