A Balancing Act: Representing the Big Picture vs. Providing Details
Perhaps the biggest local story this week is the ongoing saga of 3M chemicals being found in area landfills and in some metro communities' tap water. In reading/viewing/listening to the various reports and articles on the issue, it is clear a lot of grey area remains. There still is a lot of information to be found and questions to be answered; most notably, how dangerous the chemicals really are. All this grey area leaves the door open to a large variance in the way the story is reported, and this is evident when reviewing the coverage from different local news outlets.
The Star Tribune today printed a frontpage article highlighting three more tainted landfills. It differs slightly from MPR's Monday broadcast of the saga in that it containts slightly more up-to-date information, but largely focuses on the same back-facts and information. I found it interesting to note the differences in the ways the two outlets reported the story. Firstly, as a radio broadcast, MPR's coverage was expectedly more conversational. It had more quotes and comments from officials and researchers, and also included the perspective of a mother of young children living in an affected part of the Metro area. This personal angle is definitly more indicative of broadcast journalism. The Star Tribune article, on the other hand, featured more scientific jargon and dampening facts. Yet, on the whole, I found MPR's broadcast to be equally informational and far more accessible. MPR did an excellent job with the difficult balancing act between sufficiently representing the big picure with facts and information, and clouding the situation with intricate details and scientific specifics.