by Evan Sernoffsky
One of the best ways to follow what is going on in the world is to subscribe to an RSS feed on all of your favorite news websites. I follow quiet of few. The stories that I decide to read vary wildly. Many times it depends on my mood, relevance, impact—all the things that make a story “news worthy.” When I saw a story about beetles eating all the trees in Italy, my curiosity was piqued. I like international stories and I like stories that talk about the environment, so I read on.
“Voracious tree eating beetles invade Italy” is the headline for a story on The Christian Science Monitor’s Global News Blog. In the story, Nick Squires writes about how the large red palm weevil is devastating Italy’s majestic palm trees and wreaking havoc on the environment.
The first thing that I noticed to have an impact in this story was the above-mentioned headline. It is eye-catching (got me to read it), and it uses strong verbs and adjectives to paint a vivid picture in the readers mind. When I write a story I always think of the headline as secondary to the body of the story. However, if a story does not have a good headline, it will never get read. Headlines are equal in importance to the story itself.
The lead to the story is compelling. Squires writes “Place your ear against the smooth trunk of a palm tree, and you may actually hear them. An army of voracious bugs is munching its way through Italy’s majestic palms, denuding some of the peninsula’s most fabled tourist resorts.” This lead gives a lot of information even though it is stylized—even cute (something that works in this case). It also provides most of the five Ws without the reader even knowing it.
Squires goes on to give a historical context to the story. He tells where the bugs came from, how long they have been there, how they got to Italy and so forth. Even though these facts are not happening “right now,” they are essential to the story. If the reader does not have some basic information about what they are reading, they will be lost. For a piece this short Squires is able to teach the reader a lot.
After the reader is schooled on the bugs, the author uses experts to tell the story on the environmental impact Italy is facing. Squires gives quotes from an entomologist and other top scientist to give his reporting credibility. He also references government to show the economic plight that Italy is facing. All of this testimony shows a deep understanding of the crisis, something that Squires passes along brilliantly to his readers.