Sunday, September 19, 2010

After the EPA Hearings in Binghamton, NY

I was only able to make it to the last session, which ran for four-plus hours onwards from 6 p.m., Wednesday night, Sept. 15.

But I read every word of the Binghamton Press' coverage — some in print, and the rest online.

All in all, I'm going to have to say (somewhat reluctantly) that I thought the Gannett organization did a helluva job in covering these thoroughly contentious hearings (which, of course, were scheduled, cancelled, moved, cancelled, and re-scheduled, over the last month or so, right in its own backyard).

It's true that — contrary to all the pre-fight trash talk, and some jitteriness from officialdom — the street drama failed to erupt into a re-staging of the Boston Massacre.  But it was still an important, landmark event, occurring right in the heart of what turns out to be, by geological fate, the shale gas zone.

In a sense, the Binghamton
Press essentially acted as a host for these meetings.  They put up a live, intermittently flaky feed on the Internet (Jeff Platsky).  They planted its new main Marcellus shale reporter (Jon Campbell) at the press table right up front for all 16-plus hours of ceaseless public commenting.  They had extra reporters and photographers — inside, outside, all around town — filling up generous amounts of daily space on the printed page.  And, on top of their usual web-based coverage, they even experimented a bit more with blogging, micro-blogging, community tweeting, and all that sort of young-person's thing.

Plus, let's not forget the coverage, which I think was fair, accurate, balanced, and pretty complete, too, truly.  I know people will always complain one way or another about their hometown paper.  And I know — over the last two-plus years, at the ever-wringing hands of former reporter Tom Wilber — the Binghamton Press has definitely earned a reputation for anti-drilling crusading on the Marcellus shale issue. 

But I think they have finally reached a certain level of clear-minded, whole-context sophistication.

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