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Plastic bags: a staple under siege

By: Don Loepp

April 12, 2013

As a reporter, it's interesting to see how other media cover a topic that I've been covering for a long time. It happens all the time when you're working for a daily newspaper -- when a local TV or radio station decides to report on a story after seeing the print report, or an out-of-town newpaper or wire reporter pops in to do their own version of something I've been covering.

In the news business it's sometimes called parachute journalism, although I don't think it's all bad. I've seen plenty of examples of journalists jumping into an unfamiliar topic and doing an excellent job. And after all, that's something that journalists are trained to do, right? To become experts on a wide number of topics, at least to a point where they can report on them accurately and include context that readers need.

I say all that today to introduce a report from The Washington Post headlined "Maryland's proposed plastic bag tax threatens local factory making them."

[There's also a photo montage titled "Plastic bags under seige" that's worth a look.]

Michael Rosenwald, a reporter on the Post's local staff, does a nice job with the story. He looks beyond the typical arguments about plastics and talks to most of the right experts and players in the debate. Rosenwald even talks to workers at a local Advance Polybag factory, putting names and details to the industry's argument that plastic bag taxes and bans have an impact on people.

The fact that many are refugees from Burma's military dictatorship was an interesting detail.

Overall I think the Post did a good job with this story. Definitely a step up from its previous coverage of plastic bags and related issues.