A couple of the consortium’s partner stations have impressive science and environment features on their own sites as well. WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana (in association with Indiana Public Media), for instance, produces an excellent podcast and videocast called Moment of Science as well as an excellent environment page focusing on local stories. Most of the science and environment pages at other partner stations simply post stories from NPR or wire services.
WKMS in Murray, Kentucky, has a nice looking “Science News & Info” page that aggregates content from NPR’s Science Friday, WNYC’s RadioLab, e! Science News, and EarthSky. However, as the title of the page implies, it’s not all news. While Science Friday and RadioLab are great programs, e! Science News distributes press releases from research universities and EarthSky’s Web site doesn’t have much information about its operations. Using such content is fine, but the station should more clearly label and explain the source of the various streams of information.
Television in the ORV
As usual, there’s less to say about television science and the environment news. It’s a medium that has never excelled in that department. Nonetheless, one finds a couple of exceptions in the Ohio River Valley.
The place to start is KDKA, the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh. Although the pace is somewhat infrequent, the station seems to crank out more locally focused environment stories than any of its regional competitors (judging by their Web sites, at least). Recent coverage has included topics such as solar power, the G-20 conference in September, water and air quality, urban planning, and recycling programs.
Unfortunately, KDKA posts these stories on its Going Green page, located in the Lifestyle section of its Web site. A lot of local news outlets (TV, newspaper, or otherwise) use this categorization, which implies a soft-news approach to journalism. A much better play, if the reporting is serious, as it seems to be at KDKA, is to create an environment page under the news section.
The next place to turn is WRTV (The Indy Channel), the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. Again, we have a Going Green section, which is somewhat more fitting than in the case of KDKA since WRTV’s local reporting tends toward the news-you-can-use variety. There are a number of straight news stories at The Indy Channel as well, however, including pieces about the economic benefits of Indianapolis’s sustainability efforts and a pilot program in local schools to improve energy efficiency.
A lot of the WRTV’s other science and environment content comes from The Associated Press. That is, of course, perfectly acceptable for national stories, but The Indy Channel also relies on the AP for some local issues, such as a recent story about a wind power project in eastern Indiana, that it would be nice to see the station cover on its own.
A lot of the bells and whistles on WRTV’s Going Green page, including its videos and interactives, come from an outfit called Internet Broadcasting, which describes itself as “the leading provider of local Web sites, content, and advertising revenue solutions to the world’s largest and most successful media companies.” Indeed, many local sites feature International Broadcasting’s content, and the group has distribution partnerships with both the AP and CNN, but it’s unclear exactly how its content is produced and its operations seem to lack the transparency of traditional journalism.
Newspapers in the ORV
Not surprisingly, the most robust science and environment coverage comes from the region’s newspapers. There are a number of outlets where one might launch an exploration of this medium, but since the conference was in Louisville I had planned to give the hometown advantage to the local paper, the Courier-Journal.
The Courier-Journal has really gone all out in terms of its Web presence. It recently launched KentuckianaGreen.com on its Web site—a high-profile portal to all of its environment coverage that features tabs for local news, national/global news, useful links, a readers’ forum, photos, and a kids’ section.
Oddly, the local news section doesn’t contain only local news—the lead story at press time, for instance, was an AP article from Sydney about ice loss in Antarctica—but there is still plenty of local stuff. For example, on Sunday, the paper published an incredible full-page feature on “all the weird weather” around the globe, with an emphasis on the meteorological conditions around Louisville. The feature was then digitized for KentuckianaGreen. Other articles there run the gamut of environmental topics, from climate, to pollution, to wildlife issues.