Thursday, April 8, 2010

Plastics, other common chemicals could be ruining health

Timeliness, importance and locality are crucial factors for many news stories. Together they encourage audiences to stop and read the story. I was impressed by Time's “Perils of Plastics” because it contained all three factors. The environmental story was timely because it’s printed one month before the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and it warns readers about harmful chemicals that affect bodies and babies. The chemicals may be linked to commons conditions like autism, cancers and male reproductive disorders, further driving locality.

The story is packed with information and different chemical names, but the reader can easily read and comprehend the story because the author explains chemicals, where they are found and possible side effects. For instance, Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in an array of plastics like baby bottles and plastic containers. Once broken down, through washing or microwaving, the chemical leaches into food and then bodies.

The story is from a magazine so it's lengthy. Time hyperlinks different topics like the top 2008 scientific findings, the most polluted places and information on common household chemicals. This is thoughtful because it allows the reader to seek more information which helps reduce text. However, hyperlinks were not needed after every paragraph, and some did not fit the topic. I would have preferred only relevant information. Also, I would place hyperlinks at the end of pages, not paragraphs. Finally, a picture or other media would complement the story and divert attention from text.

Textually, the story was informative and easy to comprehend. It also covers different angles like a brief history of chemical environmentalism and DDT. I also like that numbers were put in perspective. For instance the author says, “But as biomonitoring improved — we can now detect human exposure levels as small as one part per trillion, or about one-twentieth of a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool — scientists realized that people were carrying far more chemicals than we'd thought.” This sentence helps the reader comprehend that extremely small amounts of chemicals are in as well as harmful to the body.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Going to war with unsanitary water

Go to your faucet; run water into your cup, or buy a bottled water; untwist the cap. Gulp, gulp, and gulp.

Nothing quenches thirst like fresh, cold water. While first world dwellers are able to share this common experience, one billion people are living with contaminated drinking water which kills more inhabitants than war.

March 22, 2010 marked “World Water Day,” an initiative started by United Nations in 1994 “to celebrate freshwater” and to raise awareness for poor and third world dwellers who are forced to use and drink bacteria infested water. Group Launch is working three initiatives to deliver drinkable water. The article appeared in Fast Company, an online magazine.

I glanced at several water day articles, and I decided on “World Water Day 2010: Three Projects That Are Changing the Future” because of “packaging." Naturally, stark realities about contaminated drinking water capture audience’s attention. Also the subject is not commonly reported, and since the day appears once a year, many news outlets will observe it. As an editor, I would especially focus on packaging so readers would stop and read my medium over others.

In addition to reporting compelling statistics and innovative water quality programs, Fast Company features a picture of a child using contaminated water and pictures of clean water programs. I especially liked the two You Tube videos that demonstrate a filtration system and one that features the impact of clean drinking water at an orphanage. The videos are short, something that provides an extra incentive to stop, read the article and watch the media.

Overall, this article provides a good example of capturing readers' attention through visuals or cross media. The written angle is one aspect, but readers will probably look at visuals first when deciding to read an article. Different sources are reporting this important subject, so visuals' worth cannot be underestimated.