The Story of Water Told in a Tale of Two Towns

Hartman, Todd
March 2005
Nieman Reports;Spring2005, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p35
This article relates the journalistic approach adopted by the author when he wrote an historical narrative about the drought in Colorado in 2002. In early 2003, in the newsroom of the Rocky Mountain News, the author and a few of his colleagues were brainstorming for fresh ways to tell the story of the ongoing drought. It had hit hardest in 2002, when precipitation in Colorado dropped to levels unseen for hundreds of years. They wanted to do more than just write the bread-and-butter stories on parched reservoirs, anemic snowfall, tree-ring studies, and lawn-watering restrictions. Generally speaking, their readers' relationship to water was defined by their love of Kentucky bluegrass lawns, long hot showers, and the bottled stuff they drink during their workouts. Despite its proximity to them, most of them did not feel the least bit threatened by the drought. The author states that he was intrigued immediately by the notion of finding ways to show how insulated city dwellers are from this problem and of exploring the impact of people's thirsty water habits have on other regions of the state, such as depleting mountain streams or drying up farmland.


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