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.
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.