As I’ve mentioned before, I get assigned these environment stories sometimes and on one hand, I think, “awesome! informing the public!” and on the other, I usually realize that no matter how informed the public is, the government won’t do anything to fix the problem, so…oh…ok.
Today, I wrote about a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that’s gettin’ bigger.
A dead zone occurs when nutrients in the water increase algae growth to the point where it sucks up oxygen so fast that there’s none left for the fish and other sea life. So they all die. Hence: dead zone. AKA Aquatic Morgue. AKA Apocalyptic Ocean. (I could go on, but that would be embarrassing for both of us.) The dead zone was first mapped in 1985, but it’s getting bigger and bigger every year, so that means the square mile of lifeless Gulf water is increasing.
The MSNBC headline I used simply said: Dead Zone to Be Largest Ever…or something. When I first read it, I kind of thought this was new news. But with a little background research (you don’t have to thank me, it’s my job) I discovered that there have been many articles over the years about how the zone is the biggest it’s ever been, because it just keeps growing. Studies have been, recommendations have been made to the government, but nobody does anything. Sure, this made me mad at the government. But it also made worried about news.
One year, the zone was as big as New Jersey. Then it was as big as half of Maryland. Then it was not quite as big as Connecticut. Our headline lets you know that it’s now as big as Massachusetts. Yikes. I mean REALLY: yikes.
I went to this panel on the Internet last night with some folks from N+1 magazine. They kind of made some good points about why the Internet was a source of evil, or at the very least causing a decline in quality of writing. One of the reasons was that Internet headlines are just trying to grab you in the catchiest way possible. HUGE DEAD ZONE! MEGA -HUGE DEAD ZONE! IF YOU LIKE STEPHEN KING, YOU’LL LOVE THE DEAD ZONE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO!!
While this story seems to be an example of how the Internet is non-helpful, in my case, having done the proper research, I feel like I really brought something to the table. Repeating the same headline year after year is really pathetic, but the person who can collect those headlines and use them to create a new thesis and even more penetrating, significant headline is really bringing something to table. She (me) is using her ability to search, and the wealth of content on the Web, to draw a greater conclusion about the progression of history, policy and our attention to the natural world.