Monday, March 05, 2012

Blog for whistleblowers in Appalachia could become font for investigative journalism

Honest Appalachia, the region's "own version of Wikileaks," could fill an investigative journalism gap that was left when large, metropolitan papers closed bureaus in the region, says Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky. He told Susan Svrluga of The Washington Post that most newspapers in the region generally don't have time, staff or money to "dig into long investigations," even though the stories are out there. "When you don't have reporters turning over rocks in these places," he said, "they're just not going to get turned over."

"There are other barriers to investigative reporting in Appalachia, he said, including the closeness of weekly papers’ staffs to their communities; the mountains, which make travel more difficult; and the dominance of a single industry — coal — known for playing hardball," Svrluga writes. "Cross said Honest Appalachia makes sense because the creators 'know people are scared to death of going public with anything. But they know that there's a lot going on.'"

Some think anonymous leaks are "troubling." National Mining Association spokeswoman Carol Raulston said the NMA "speaks on the record" and stands by public information "in a transparent manner." She said there are systems in place for people to anonymously report "wrongdoing," and that the NMA expects others to be transparent. The site's creators say whistleblowers can upload documents and pictures to Honest Appalachia to back it up their complaint and staff will try to verify information before posting. (Read more)

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