Sunday, September 10, 2023

Outstanding Science, Technology or Environmental Coverage nominees cover plastics, the Amazon, school surveillance, and mental health

As I promised yesterday, I'm continuing coverage and commentary on the News & Doc Emmy Awards as the Sunday entertainment feature with the nominees for Outstanding Science, Technology or Environmental Coverage.
Outstanding Science, Technology or Environmental Coverage
In Real Life
Plastic Time Bomb Newsy
Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller Amazon Mafia National Geographic
World’s Untold Stories The Brain Collectors CNN
VICE News Tonight Where Protecting the Environment Gets You Killed Vice
VICE News Tonight ‘They’re Watching Us’: Inside the Company Surveilling Millions of Students Vice
This is the only nomination for each of these stories, so I have to use other criteria to handicap their odds of winning, such as views on YouTube and actually watching them. I begin with In Real Life: Plastic Time Bomb by Newsy, now Scripps News.

Less than 10% of plastic waste ends up recycled, and studies show much of what does go in the recycling bin can actually end up in landfills. In this new episode of "In Real Life," we explore how we can plug the gaps in the global recycling system and travel to Malaysia to see the real impact of the world’s un-recycled waste.
This is a video I can recommend to my students, as it serves as examples of all four of Commoner's Laws: Everything is connected to everything else; there is no away; there is no free lunch; and nature knows best. It's even the right length at 22 minutes, the minimum duration for video extra credit.

This is one of two nominations for Newsy. The other is In Real Life: The New Death, which earned a nomination for Outstanding Soft Feature Story: Long Form. Neither is widely watched. In Real Life: Plastic Time Bomb has 4,167 views while In Real Life: The New Death has even fewer, 2,499 views. That doesn't bode well for either of their chances of winning.

Next, Tracking Down the Amazon Mafia (Full Episode) | Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller.

Mariana travels to the Amazon to track down the criminal networks behind a slew of killings and the illegal destruction of the rainforest.
This is another video I can recommend to my students. It's just as strong on the environment as In Real Life: Plastic Time Bomb, even if it's weaker on the science. It, like all the other nominated episodes of Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller, makes up for it by being strong on long-form investigative reporting and crime coverage. In fact, "Fish Pirates" earned a nomination for Outstanding Investigative News Coverage: Long Form as well as Outstanding Writing: News and I've already mentioned that "White Supremacy" has nominations for Outstanding Crime and Justice Coverage, Outstanding Editing: News, and Outstanding Research: News. I will try to get around to covering those categories, if I haven't already, and embedding their videos.

"Amazon Mafia" is nearly two orders of magnitude more popular on YouTube than either of the In Real Life videos with 272,137 views. That's more popular than Where Protecting the Environment Gets You Killed, one of two nominations for VICE News Tonight in this category alone and 28 nominations overall, with 204,354 views.

Around the world, environmental activists are being murdered in growing numbers. They die for defending the land from multinational corporations and governments seeking to exploit natural resources for profit. One of the deadliest countries for environmentalists is Colombia -- a key front in the struggle against climate change.
This video covers very similar territory to "Amazon Mafia" — investigative reporting on crime and the environment in South America, particularly the Amazon rainforest. As such, they are likely to compete with each other more intensely than other nominees in this category. "Amazon Mafia" is more popular and comprehensive, while this report is more focused. It depends what the Emmy voters want, and electorates matter.

Speaking of what electorates want, they produced a three-way tie in this category last year and all of the winners were about the environment, which is good news for the three nominees above. Then again, it might not be enough, as I found the other VICE News Tonight nominee in this category, 'They’re Watching Us’: Inside the Company Surveilling Millions of Students, gripping from the get-go.

Millions of students across the country are being monitored by surveillance tools in the name of school safety. VICE News investigates Gaggle, a company that uses artificial intelligence and human review to detect danger signs in the content kids create on school-issued accounts and devices. Gaggle says it helps schools prevent tragedies and some educators have praised its ability to flag kids in crisis, but critics warn of a potential impact to LGBTQ+ students and increased interactions between kids and law enforcement.
Watching the opening at Oxford High School reminded me of what I wrote nearly two years ago and repeated on Valentine's Day this year.
I find myself unable to blog about the shooting at Oxford High School and its ongoing fallout. It's too fast moving and too close to home, literally. I might get to it later, but then again, I didn't blog about the Larry Nassar scandal until 2019.* It may be a while.
Almost two years later, this still hits close to home. Even the door signs are the same as the ones where I work. That's uncanny, but I probably should have expected it. I'm in the same county as Oxford. I'm sure it hits home in other ways for other Americans, as it's about what's happening here, not overseas where America is having an effect, but not an effect directly on Americans. This is affecting Americans.

Also, the video's use of graphics makes the entire video look better produced than its competitors for this award, including "Plastic Time Bomb," which also had good graphics. That helps. Between the subject matter and the better graphics, I think this report can overcome the slightly lower viewership, 202,440 views, than "Amazon Mafia" or "Where Protecting the Environment Gets You Killed."

CNN does not have a video upload of its nominee on YouTube, but it does have World’s Untold Stories: The Brain Collectors on its website. Sorry, no embed and no stats. It is a well-told, if quiet, scientific detective story, but I don't know if it has the emotional impact of "'They’re Watching Us’: Inside the Company Surveilling Millions of Students," which is my pick to win. The best thing it has going for it is that CNN has a constituency that Newsy and Vice don't have, and National Geographic might have for documentaries, but not news. Again, electorates matter.

I'm taking a short break from this series to observe the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Previous posts about the 2023 News & Documentary Emmy Awards

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