"Gasoline-powered spark-ignition engines" may not sound interesting for all readers perusing National Geographic's news. However, the site's recent story on high school girls striving to build and run an energy-efficient g0-cart, while focusing on its energy-technology niche, keeps the story vivid and colorful enough to grab the attention of many different readers.
The story, titled "All-Girls Team Seeks Record in High-Mileage Marathon" jumps into the scenario of a group of teenage girls concentrating seriously on designing their car for an upcoming eco-marathon in Washington state. The lede paints an intriguing image:
Amid the din of power tools, three girls stand huddled in a shop room around the car they helped design and build. The vehicle looks more like a go-cart than an actual car—and right now, the teenagers are focusing on the brakes.
The picture lede shows that not only are these teens totally comfortable doing something never originally intended to be a female-geared activity, but they find it completely normal.
Interestingly, the article only quickly mentions this theme while giving the background for the story:
The pressure is on for the ShopGirls, the first all-girls team to compete in the Eco-marathon since it began in 1985. Last year, the team (five of the six members are returning from last year) earned first place in their energy class category—diesel vehicles—by completing the six-mile track at an efficiency mark of 470 miles per gallon (199.8 kilometers per liter).
Other news has caught this growing trend of teen girls interested in technology, such as ComputerWorld.com's blog about Android app-building young women, and DiverseEducation.com's story about African-American girls getting involved in technology to influence social activism.
National Geographic departs from the focus on girls moving to explore new fields, instead choosing to further explain the technological ins-and-outs of the system and quote the articulate high schoolers talking about their project.
"Originally we had mechanical brakes on the front and basically, in order to get them to work well enough to meet Shell rules, we had to tighten them to the point where they were actually dragging on the brake discs all the time," said Shante Stowell, 18, a senior. "Now we're going to use hydraulic ones and they're not going to drag and will only touch the brake discs if we're actually braking."
The story does a good job in presenting the girls as normal high schoolers who are personally concerned with the costs of being a young person with a car in today's world, but who are taking it a step further thanks to their learning experience.
Shante Stowell later is quoted in saying that when getting into her car, she notices how much fuel her car is using: "When I press the brake pedal I notice that's wasting one more little bit of fuel." A sophomore, Semira Karn, says in another section that she is impressed as how much the energy-efficiency technology has taught her.
"It's really rewarding to see how much our knowledge base has increased," said Semira Kern, a 15-year-old sophomore. She said last year the girls often had to ask Werner for help. "Now he can tell us do something and most of the work we can do by ourselves and even show newer people things that they don't know how to do."
In class we learned the dangers of sticking to completely European-model journalism, which features a states bias towards its niche audience. We also learned that niches do not always involve European journalism, and can simply be formed to target a certain audience's interest. This piece is certainly a niche article not meant to be read by everyone, but nevertheless presents an informative story for those who stumble upon it.