Talk for Article "Investigating whether recyclable plastic straws pose allergy risk"

Talk about this Article

  1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    Hey I thought just I would move your comment here Chet, as I thought it was relevant:

    Chet Long
    Chet Long (talk | contribs)
    2018-07-17 05:20:16
    Lise Broer, a former admin over at Wikipedia and a very prolific content creator back in the day there has drawn my attention to this issue (so it isn’t some off the wall concept of course). She did some preliminary research into it (here: and the possible conclusions present a very real danger that is potentially being entirely overlooked (the quotes from her article are to be trusted as well…).

    She already gave me permission to use some of what she looked into to add to this article, but I’d like us to get entirely reliable (and “official”) quotes from Starbucks on this if we can. I also don’t have any personal ability (of course) to reach out to any experts on allergens nor the potential dangers of the corn used in the PLAs here. So help with that would be great!

    And to answer your other question: If there’s decent interest in this, and we think we can get good quotes in those areas, I’m definitely willing to do all of the background story (as in the change to plastics, the municipality choices [perhaps even phone call interviews or some such with city councils reps], the currently published data about the risks of regular plastic straws, etc.)… but I’ll also need some assistance in trying to see if we can get a good answer to this question: are PLA products produced with corn safe enough for people with allergies for Starbucks to place them in our food? (As the FDA doesn’t even test this type of thing thoroughly… at all from the sources I’ve seen thus far. And no major studies seem to exist that back up Starbucks claim that “since PLA is most commonly derived from corn, it should not cause any allergic reactions.” In fact, it seems entirely counter-intuitive and without science backing it may be an outright misrepresentation of the true risks [especially when the straws touch anything hot, due to the composition being degradable by heat]. So, it seems like something worthy of getting some expert opinions about – at least to me… due to the potential risk to lives.)

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      Thanks for that too!! Definitely a better place to keep track of the original question on covering this.

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    Deleted User

    Thanks all, great discussion here, I’ve just changed the headline on this to reflect the fact we’re looking into this and are reporting on it, rather than established anything. I think it’s important to bear that in mind with headlines.

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      Thanks for the change Mr. Upright! I’m new to writing this style of article (Wikipedia articles weren’t investigative obviously…), so I highly appreciate the assistance and information on how to properly handle such a story.

      An additional question since you’re here: Are writers allowed to reach out for interviews to places like Starbucks/Marriott/allergen experts/etc., or is that something one of the paid journalists/editors normally do?

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    I would like to point out the focus of this story is the headline, not to regurgitate old topics already covered by other outlets. That would be a waste of not only my time, but all of the editorial staff at WikiTribune. If we could please, try to maintain that focus and to discover the necessary fact to put together such an article, I feel this process will be much smoother. Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

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    Not everyone benefits from any particular change. Literally everything has some detrimental health impact on someone. Unless the article can show that corn-based straws pose a significant health issue to a significant segment of the population, then this article sounds alarmist to me. Even if the health issue is substantial enough to warrant being covered, what are readers to make of it? That Starbucks was negligent or uncaring? Should it go back to paper straws?

    If this article is worth pursuing, might it instead be about the fact that there are inevitably negative consequences of desirable environmental actions? Use Starbucks’ straws as an example. But an article focused solely on Starbucks’ corn straws seems to me to be unnecessarily harmful to the effort to get businesses to be more environmentally mindful. WT shouldn’t be promoting environmentalism (well, yes it should, but that’s just my opinion), but it also shouldn’t be feeding those opposed to corporate environmentalism *unless* the harm is substantial.

    In any case, the subhead seems quite clickbaity to me. And its suggestion that corn allergy sufferers are just one example of a group that will be hurt by Starbucks’ corn straw policy is not born out by the story notes so far.

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      “Even if the health issue is substantial enough to warrant being covered, what are readers to make of it? That Starbucks was negligent or uncaring? Should it go back to paper straws?” – I assure you those questions will be attempted, in their fullest extent, to be answered by this news story. I would ask you to not attempt to make judgements off of a template for an article though, as this is what we call a Draft version… we have not published this story yet, and there’s a lot of work left to do. I’ll also assure you this is not an attack piece on any corporation, or an attempt to blow anything out of proportion (WikiTribune’s motto is “Evidence-based Journalism” after all). This story is simply an attempt to present facts, based in evidence, to our readers and then to get some very key answers from experts/and Starbucks that may just help our readers understand the entirety of this developing news.

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        Chet, an entirely serious, non-snarky question: When is the right time to raise questions about the newsworthiness of a draft or proposal?

        (Note that in the draft itself I’ve suggested questions that I believe would make this more newsworthy and less alarmist.)

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          Personally, I would say once it’s maybe 50% through, or once it’s been posted to our weekly agenda as a story we are definitely covering (our agendas our published here: At this stage, we don’t technically know if we’re publishing this one or not… that’s how newsrooms just kinda function. We have to put the facts together first to see whether this is “newsworthy” or not. So, if you’re truly concerned about this article… remember that everything here is transparent, so you can see all edits to the article in real time. If you see a fact that seems off or a line of reasoning that seems biased, please let me or any of my more fortunately paid colleagues know at this talk page (which the entire public can see as well). Everything we do here is attempted to have the finest level of transparency we can.

          So, best advice: just keep an eye on the production of this as it goes along [hey it might even ease your concerns on bias altogether], and feel free to add input on this talk page (which I’m watching) if you see any issues. Someone will almost always respond to any valid reader concerns (and that’s one of the things I love about this platform). And don’t worry about this getting published while your asleep or something tonight before you can relay concerns… This story is aiming to be an “in-depth” piece, so it’s gonna take more than a few days to get all the data we need. 🙂

          Edited: 2018-07-19 01:30:32 By Chet Long (talk | contribs) + 104 Characters .. + 7% change.‎‎ (Note | Diff)

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            Since WT is still in a semi-formative stage, please take this as well-intended feedback on the process.

            I appreciate and understand the transparency. That’s why I chip in my paltry monthly donation. (It is very paltry, alas.) But if someone has a concern about the newsworthiness of a piece — not a concern about a particular fact or line of reasoning — then waiting until it’s been posted on the weekly agenda as a story WT is definitely going to cover seems , by definition, too late. Waiting until the story is 50% covered seems more feasible … except I have no idea how to gauge the percent done a story is. In this case, the list of questions in the draft seemed pretty substantial, or at least substantial enough to make me concerned about the questions it was not addressing. (Your response reassures me about that.)

            If you don’t mind — and you well might — I’d like to push a little on the process you’re suggesting.

            I can see why it’s good to give a story some breathing room. And yet I’m not sure what harm is done by establishing a norm by which story ideas can be critiqued at any stage, so long as the critique is civil, and especially if it suggests ways in which the story could be made worth pursuing (in the opinion of the person delivering the critique, of course).

            Perhaps my error in this case was that the questions I raised on this Talk page are more like suggested criteria than questions to be covered — e.g., is the harm substantial enough to warrant coverage? But that, too, seems to me to be a potentially useful form of criticism.

            Finally, thank you for doing what you’re doing. As a human who lives on the planet, I very much want WT to succeed. And since I’m sure you have more to do than is reasonable, don’t worry about responding to this comment. I will remain an enthusiastic supporter of WT, appreciative the space to speak and to be heard. I don’t need to be right, which is good because I doubt that I am.

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              Please don’t misconstrue anything I said as saying we don’t want input at every stage of our stories being built, merely that we’re still compiling the facts necessary to answer the questions you yourself asked (and that I said casting “judgement” at this stage was pointless)… Simply put, it’s not that input isn’t a good thing, it’s just that input on something *before* it’s even been wrote outside of a very basic template doesn’t make a lot of sense to me (and I have over 10 years of administrative experience at Wikipedia, and many years of work doing intelligence analysis/assessments for the federal government before coming here).

              To put it in a more logical and blunt manner: journalists don’t generally try to kill stories using argumentum ad ignorantiam, nor the “default bias” as reasoning. The point of journalism is to find out facts and report them. It is not to sit around and figure out whether a story might be (as you said) “harmful” to the profitability, causes, mission, or any other impact to any corporation (or sets of corporations), before we decide if we should even *try* to find out facts about said corporations’ methods and the risks associated with them. We are not beholden to any ideologies here other than one: Evidence-based journalism.

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                Hey Chet. I sent Starbucks some questions. I have copy and pasted their response into the article.

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                  Thank you very, very much! I will work on putting that into the article tonight.

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                  Mr. Ridgewell, once again thank you. Okay, so after integrating most of their answer into the article there’s still some issues I see… so, if possible, could you follow up with their press people and find out about theses four crucial things:

                  1. Can we reach out for clarification on their reply regarding their sippy cup concept… as in how much more plastic they’re using now to make an entire lid versus just a straw, and whether they’ve considered that an increase in plastic trash is possible from that?<br>
                  2. Do they have any numbers at all on how many of their customers even recycle and if so, how did they calculate those numbers?<br>
                  3. Can we ask about this ( which went viral on reddit and now Facebook… showing the use of apparently even more plastics at their businesses, and would appear to contradict their claim of having a commitment to sustainability?<br>
                  4. How does their company come to conclusions about “quality standards” on allergen content?


                  Edited: 2018-07-21 17:07:36 By Chet Long (talk | contribs) + 168 Characters .. + 17% change.‎‎ (Note | Diff)

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                  And can we press them specifically on what material makes up their new clear cups/lids/replacement straws…?

                  They gave us a little information on the make up of their hot cups (with an increase in compostable fiber, which may be worth a mention if they actually give us more specifics), but considering their own reported jump in cold drink sales I think it’s incredibly relevant that we get an answer to that question. As their “Newsroom” states: “Developing a recyclable alternative to plastic straws is particularly important as Starbucks’ cold beverage offerings continue to increase in popularity. Five years ago, cold beverages comprised 37 percent of sales; by 2017, that figure had jumped to more than 50 percent.”

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