And to be fair, not all the national press coverage of the Ohio River Valley is related to coal. The Ohio River Valley made cameo appearances in installments of two award-winning series over the past year: “The Smokestack Effect,” by USA Today, and “Toxic Waters,” by The New York Times. There have also been occasional stories about bacterial pollution in the Ohio River and its tributaries, and stories about the local chemical industry following the explosion at the Bayer CropScience plant in West Virginia in 2008. But such coverage is fairly sparse.

When it comes to pollution, urban development, and wildlife issues, the Ohio River Valley is being overshadowed by two other ecosystems to the north and east: the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, respectively. Searching through the local ORV media, it doesn’t take long to see that there are a lot that of worthwhile stories the national media is missing. So if you have the time, get out of the nosebleed seats and sneak down to field level.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.