“Burying the lead” is a journalist’s mistake. It’s when the most important part of a story isn’t in, or close to the lead paragraph.
A case in point is this week’s otherwise first-rate Detroit Free Press article about the Nestle attempt to increase its Mecosta County groundwater withdrawal by 167%. The company bottles the virtually free water and sells it at a staggering price for a staggering profit.
Before a major new or increased withdrawal is fully evaluated, it must be considered by what its supporters proudly call an innovative assessment tool. The next several paragraphs are the ingredients of a dynamic lead.
“When Nestlé ran the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool” last December, “they didn’t pass,” said Jim Milne, the shorelines unit chief in the DEQ’s Water Resources Division.
But as state regulations allow, the company then requested a site-specific review by DEQ staff…[which] led the DEQ to determine the increased pumping “is not likely to cause an adverse resource impact,” in January…
It’s not unprecedented for DEQ staff to override the findings of the agency’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. From July 2015 to July of this year, the DEQ authorized 123 withdrawal requests rejected by the computerized modeling after site-specific reviews, Milne said.
So the buried story is: the water withdrawal assessment tool is world class…except when it might be used to block a withdrawal that someone really wants and is determined to get.