News Track, Sept. 25th: Vice News

Story: There Is Some Uncertainty in Climate Science – And That’s A Good Thing

Source: Vice News


Vice’s Tamsin Edwards draws readers in immediately with an engaging top photo: Blue water and ice, nothing particularly action-heavy but engaging all the same. Blue as a color is engaging because it often evokes a calm or tranquil mind.  People are drawn to blue, as weird as it is to say. In fact, if you think about most social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc), they’re set on blue backgrounds or use blue icons. There’s a reason for that – it attracts views.

So as arbitrary as it may seem, choosing a blue photo as the major image associated with this story gives it an edge over the rest – a smart choice since it shows up “below the fold” on the page itself.

Edwards chose a smart topic for the time – The People’s Climate March has been appearing all over the news for the last two days, and as the protests begin to taper off and the UN begins talks of a global warming attack strategy, discussing how we understand global warming adds important context to news viewers have probably already consumed. The headline hooks the readers in with an inversion of expectations, aiding the simultaneously captivating photo.

However, the style of the article itself is not engaging. The lead is weak (quite a bit of information without a clear twist), and after three information-heavy graphs, the text is split with a link to photos of the climate march. The choice to include that hyperlink to break up text was a good one, allowing readers to understand why the story’s being written without wasting words within the column; however, the piece itself should have had a full stop on its own – a twist, a thesis, some larger point that readers can easily grasp on its own. A short sentence gives readers a chance to easily grab onto the point of the story. Instead, the readers get their full stop drawing them away from the story. It doesn’t do much to keep readers on the page.

The pull-quote another three graphs down explains the writing style – “Climate science is not sound-bite science.” Unfortunately, Edwards is in a sound-bite field. The complexity of climate science does not excuse overly complex writing without any sort of appeal to writers.

The strongest moment in the piece are two paragraphs maybe 2/3 down — Edwards references a project she worked on, including hyperlinks with information about the project. The hyperlinks were crucially important to the piece. Her larger thesis regarding the confused coverage of climate research can only be verified if we get the chance to acknowledge the differences ourselves. She includes the project page, plus two links to two opposing ways journalists covered the aforementioned piece. The conflict is tangible.

She then goes on to bring us her full-stop: “In short, each media outlet told the story it wanted to tell.”

If that sentence appeared after the third graph, or if she started by telling the story of ice2sea, the piece would have been infinitely stronger.


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