Month: March 2009

State of the Union: Democracy and the Web Press

Connecting the Dots
by Glynn Wilson

I almost lost my breakfast in my plate as I watched CNN’s John King interview Dick Cheney on his “State of the Union” show this Sunday. It made me want to get rid of my television set, reinforcing an idea that seems to be growing among the American population.

As newspaper circulation continues in free fall and as we begin to acknowledge that broadcast news let us down as well as newspaper reporting over the past eight years, more and more I’m hearing people say they would rather have a high speed Internet connection than a cable TV package or a newspaper subscription any day.

I mean who gives a damn what Cheney has to say at this point? Is he the only guest King could get to assess the state of the nation? What a joke.

More and more young people are getting their view of the world from shows such as the Daily Show on Comedy Central, where this week Jon Daily took on Jim Cramer of CNBC for his failed coverage of the economic meltdown. This is a video series worth watching in case you missed it.

Jim Cramer in Daily Show Showdown

It’s no wonder newspapers are dying. As their circulations fall and they lay off more news workers, they become even less interesting.

To read the full column, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

Secret Vistas: The Great Smoky Mountains

National Park Celebrates 75th Anniversary

A rock tunnel beckons as you enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park…

by Glynn Wilson

GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS — When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood at Newfound Gap with one foot in North Carolina and the other in Tennessee on Sept. 2, 1940 at the official opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the visibility into the dark blue ridges ranged about 80 miles. By the year 2000, soot and ozone from automobiles and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-fired power plants in East Tennessee had so polluted the air that on a good day, you could only see for about 12 miles.

Due to cleaner cars and smoke stack scrubbers on TVA’s three nearby coal-fired power plants, and a 10 percent drop in the number of people and cars passing through the park over the past decade, perhaps, you can now see for about 14 miles, a slight improvement of a couple of miles, according to park spokesman Bob Miller.

To read the entire few features, with photos, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

Science Wins Over Religion in Scopes Monkey Trial?

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species Turns 150

rheaco_courthouse1.jpg
Glynn Wilson
The famous Rhea County Courthouse, where the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial took place

gwcubamug.jpgUnder the Microscope
by Glynn Wilson

DAYTON, Tenn. — Forty-three years after the death of British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated far and wide this year, a few men were sitting around in a Rexall drug store across from the now famous courthouse in this rural Southern town talking politics, science and religion.

In contrast to most of the official accounts of how the so-called “trial of the century” and the “Scopes monkey trial” got started, this was the genesis for an idea for a trial to test the legality of teaching evolution versus creationism in the public schools: A conversation over Coca-Colas at a soda fountain counter. (There’s no official indication whether whiskey was involved).

rexall_drug1b.jpg
Glynn Wilson
A photograph of the drug store where the idea for the Scopes Trial was hatched

You won’t even find this account on the Wikipedia page about the trial, although the evidence is presented in the museum in the basement of the courthouse, and knowledgeable locals know the story.

The way the word got out happened as it often does, with a leak to a newspaper reporter, in this case the old Chattanooga Times.

To read the whole column, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.

TVA to Begin Coal Ash Spill Cleanup March 20

coalash7.jpg
Glynn Wilson
A coal ash island visible in the Emory River with the smokestacks of TVA’s coal fired power plant at Kingston, Tennessee in the background.

by Glynn Wilson

KINGSTON, Tenn. — Steve Scarborough came to East Tennessee from Georgia for the scenic boating and stayed to raise a family and start his own canoe building company, Dagger Kayaks and Canoes. But on Dec. 22, the longest night of 2008, his world was turned upside down when an embankment wall caved at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal fired power plant here, causing the largest environmental disaster of its kind in U.S. history.

Heavy rains, freezing temperatures, and potentially a minor earthquake a few days before, caused the holding pond for TVA’s coal ash waste to fail, dumping 2.6 million cubic yards of the mildly toxic material into the middle of the scenic Emory River.

Tests of the river water around the spill showed elevated levels of lead and thallium, which can cause birth defects and nervous and reproductive system disorders. But levels of toxicity are not that dangerous and not the main issue, Scarborough said. The event was not just a spill of a hazardous substance, like many environmental disasters in the past, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989.

coalash3.jpg
Glynn Wilson
A six mile long land mass of coal ash where the most vibrant and biologically diverse stretch of the Emory River used to be.

To read the full investigative news feature with more of the story and videos, visit our sister site, The Locust Fork News-Journal.