Beyond its solid news coverage, one of the most impressive features of KentuckianaGreen is its outstanding collection of blogs. The Courier-Journal’s environment reporter, James Bruggers, writes the lead blog, Watchdog Earth, where he gets in a post a day on a variety of scientific topics both local and national. Rumor has it that the blog had more traffic than any other news blog at the Courier-Journal last year, with the exception of sports, although that is unconfirmed. At any rate, next to Watchdog Earth are four blogs written by community members, including an environmental engineer, an aerospace engineer, the director of Interfaith Power & Light (a nonprofit “eco-theology organization), and an environmental education and sustainable development advocate.
Though it hasn’t done as many in recent years, the Courier-Journal also has a strong reputation for long, investigative features. Bruggers, for instance, authored an excellent series on coal-ash ponds all the way back in 2002, long before breaks at ponds in Tennessee and Georgia in 2008 put the issue on the national media’s radar. In 2008, Bruggers did another series on pollution in Louisville’s primary watershed, Beargrass Creek, which drains into the Ohio River. Both series featured incisive articles complemented by excellent graphics.
Moving south, The Tennessean in Nashville has a conspicuous environment page similar to KentuckianaGreen, called TennesseeGreen, although it is not nearly as rich or well developed. That’s not to say that the paper doesn’t publish a lot of very good science and environment reporting. It does. Anne Paine, the paper’s environment reporter, recently produced a long, sharp piece on the environmental impact of spent ammo, which hunting and recreation activities leave scattered all over Tennessee to leach lead. Paine has a blog, Environmental Notes, but the format is very clunky.
Like other papers in the region, the Tennessean has also poured a lot of effort into coverage of coal ash ponds. It has a page on its site dedicated to “The TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] Coal Ash Disaster” in 2008. The page features an excellent timeline of the event and its aftermath. There are links to the paper’s ongoing coverage of the TVA as well as primary documents related to the investigation of the 2008 spill. But the page seems incomplete because many relevant stories (particularly those published in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 spill) are not listed there.
If it’s coal and mining coverage you’re after, the best place to turn might be the The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. Unlike the Courier-Journal and The Tennessean, the Gazette doesn’t have a conspicuous environmental news section (which is odd given the volume of work it produces in that area). But if you delve into its “special reports” section, you will find an ongoing series titled “Mining the Mountains,” which features almost daily articles by the paper’s prolific environment reporter, Ken Ward, Jr.
Blogwise, however, Ward’s main focus is his own Coal Tattoo blog, which has received national acclaim and celebrated its first birthday last month after almost 1,000 posts. The site is well indexed, with categories approaching the subject from a wide variety of environmental, political, and socioeconomic angles. Of particular interest to media reporters such as myself is Ward’s “media coverage” category. A recent item, for example, was an interesting dustup between Ward and Walt Williams at West Virginia’s State Journal.
In early February, President Obama announced the formation a task force to speed the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology, and then organized a meeting with the governors of ten energy-producing states, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin then had a conference call with local reporters to discuss the meeting, which Ward found peculiar.
“In Washington, President Obama and his Nobel-prize winning Energy Secretary, Steve Chu, are talking about figuring out how to perfect the equipment that’s needed to be able to burn coal in power plants while not contributing to global warming,” Ward wrote at Coal Tattoo.
“But Manchin and most of the West Virginia media don’t want to talk about much except whether those ‘tree-huggers’ at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are going to stop trying to make sure coal operators comply with the Clean Water Act when they perform mountaintop removal mining.”
The State Journal’s Williams challenged Ward in the comments section, accusing him of “mischaracterizing” his statements and those of other reporters and of “advancing particular agendas.”