So. How does the crusty old institution of television network news attempt to stay relevant? The same way your favorite local print weekly does: by covering the blogs. Crews from CBS News' 60 Minutes landed in East Tennessee Tuesday evening. They'll be joined by host Lesley Stahl today, to assemble a feature on the Kingston Ash Spill. One of the primary interviewees will be co-founder of the community blog RoaneViews.com, Steve Scarborough.
"I think it was a way for, not just 60 Minutes, but Barbara Boxer's senate committee and others to keep track of what was going on," says Scarborough of his blog's popularity in Washington and New York. "They'd have a staffer keep an eye on what was being discussed at RoaneViews. We were pretty much instant information after the community meetings. We live-blogged some of them. It's been an interesting community experiment. It wasn't just me, it was the community. I sort of kept the throttle out of the red zone in some of the conversations, and evaluated some of the information we did have. Some of this is tough to understand."
Scarborough describes himself as a recovering engineer. He co-founded Dagger Canoe Company in Roane County in 1988. He says his engineer's mindset, coupled with the community-mindedness that led him to start and become a moderating influence on RoaneViews, has proven useful.
"It doesn't matter what kind of engineer you are—I'm an electrical engineer, actually—it's more of a problem-solving mindset," he says. "You learn to weed through bad information. It's a suspicious way of life. You learn the value of knowing what's accurate and what isn't. I consider myself an environmentalist, but I think everybody walking on the planet ought to be an environmentalist. It should be a part of what we do and learn, in addition to balancing the checkbook or whatever."
Scarborough, who posts as "WhitesCreek," is standing in his yard and can see the confluence of the Clinch and Emory Rivers. He says it actually looks almost the same as it did last August, aside from the fact that there are no birds visible or audible. There is no sign of animal life in or on the water.
Scarborough had been active on KnoxViews. After deciding to launch a site that focused more on his own community, he worked with Randy Neal to build RoaneViews almost two years ago. The blog was already a functional community meeting place by the time the shit hit the fan last December.
Satisfied is hardly the word to describe anyone's view of TVA's process and progress in dealing with the catastrophe. But Scarborough says it's important to separate the people of TVA from the ill-equipped institution.
"Early on, it was chaos," Scarborough recalls. "I actually felt like TVA was out of its league in trying to own up to it. Tom Kilgore made some statements that were very good on the face of it. But you know, he wrote checks his ass couldn't cash. He was good on his promises and failed miserably in delivery. I don't think that was all his fault. The people at TVA wanted to do the right thing. These are friends of mine, a lot of them.
"People look at this as a Roane County problem and it's not. It's a national problem. We just took a bullet in the fight to prove that there is no such thing as clean coal. No matter what they do, you can't mine it cleanly, you can't burn it cleanly and you can't deal with the after-effects cleanly."
Scarborough is not aware of when the Kingston feature is scheduled to air. Stay tuned to RoaneViews or Metro Pulse and we'll pass it along.