In late July – the New York Times science writer Amy Harmon wrote a story about a Florida citrus grower's race to save his crops – and many others – from a devastating blight by using the genetic modification to create a more resistant orange. The story drew so much interest, attention, and controversy that Harmon is still responding to queries and arguments even today:
@amy_harmon . @greenroofsuk Still not clear how #GMO is to blame for corp control of food. It's just a technology. If problm is monopoly, be against that.
Harmon also announced on Twitter that she was reposting the story due to continued questions (and a crop of new followers). In fact, the story even provoked a debate here at Tracker, with Charlie Petit describing it as "terrific", which is actually my own reaction, and Paul Raeburn suggesting that it was so tightly focused on the grower and his point of view that it didn't fully allow for a nuanced telling of the complicated GMO story.
Harmon's narrative choices – and, in fact, the way good narrative writers (and Harmon is one of the best) weave a tale are a primary focus in a fascinating recent follow up by Alexa Sobel Fitts at the Columbia Journalism Review. The post is structured around a series of "talking point" discussions at Fitts interviews both Harmon and Michael Pollan – who was widely criticized for criticizing Harmon's piece on Twitter and then refusing to engage – as well as other well-known science writers, such as Matthew Herper of Forbes and Maggie Koerth-Baker of Boing-Boing.
It's four pages long and as an exercise in thinking about telling complicated stories of science – and the complicated issues that follow – it's worth reading right to the end.
— Deborah Blum