Saturday, April 30, 2005

What should I write about?

On Friday, I sent out an e-mail to many of the people I've written about or interviewed in the past 17 months and invited them to suggest story ideas, profile subjects, etc. Scientists are over-represented, African-Americans are under-represented, but this is a pretty interesting cross section of the Lowcountry. Here are excerpts from some of the first replies (names withheld):

Development: I have heard Dana Beach of the Coastal Conservation League say that
restrictive zoning ordinances are not the answer to controlling unwanted
development, but access to water and sewer are. I want to know how decisions
about running new water and sewer lines are made, whether the public can
have input into the decision, and why this process is not currently being
utilized to control development. Is this tactic used in other areas of the

Highways: How could The Department of Transportation have been so incompetent as to
build brand new interchanges at Ashley Phosphate Road and the Mark Clark on
I-26 that could not handle rush hour traffic from the minute they were

Start-ups: I think the problem is that everyone wants to be quick to say that small
businesses provide the vast majority of jobs in the country and in our local
area, but media articles about business aren't often excited about the
prospect of attracting entrepreneurs to the region or encouraging our own
residents to start successful businesses--they're all breathless about the
latest big business acquisition.

Antimicrobial resistance: The over prescription of antibiotics to humans has caused the phenomenon of them gaining resistance to the drugs. Thus the ever increasing search for the new antibiotic that will initially work but eventually fall into the same cycle of resistance. While focus has been on human consumption directly there are caveats. First the drugs
including antibiotics that we take are excreted and end up in the harbor
etc. Collectively then there are many drugs out there including antibiotics
so we and the marine organisms ingest them. So I take in somebody's birth
control pills. But so do the dolphins etc. A few months back I received a call from the SC Aquarium that they had a turtle that had an infection that could not be cured by antibiotic regimen - antibiotic resistance. I forwarded the call to the
turtle folks here and did not follow up on it. So there is a complex story.
Commercial animal farms dose animals with huge amounts of antibiotics and
hormones. These excess chemicals get to the water. We drink the water. We
eat the fish. Some marine animals are sick themselves - e.g. turtles. Some folks hypothesize that these chemicals are responsible for the very large group of folks with diabetes ( coupled with other things too of course). This field is called
"Endocrine Disruption".

Emerging Contaminants: How do we know what new ( anthropogenic) chemicals are in the marine environment and what is dangerous. Most recently is the discovery that flame retardant chemicals are in big amounts. So where do they come from? Everything from
children's sleepwear to carpets to house construction materials. They are
accumulating in the environment but are they dangerous?

Potpourri: 1. The marine industry in Charleston (not the international shipping in and out of the port) but the marine industry with all the personal boats and yachts, piers, slips and companies buying and selling, repairing parking and buiding...big story! How does it affect the tax base? Just how much revenue does it generate for the state and local income? How many people locally work in the industry. and how many enjoy its benefits? There are a million angles!!
2) I'd like to read about the he future of the weapons station and the Air Force base—or more correctly, Charleston's future with and without them.
3) We need more stories about the sorry state of traffic and traffic control (the damned timing of the lights in this town!!) and how the city plans on handling another 100,000 cars and trucks in the next 6 years!?!??! It is almost to the point now to where you have to leave home an hour and a half before work...just to do 5 miles!!! This is a quality of life issue for the working class and is costing them an arm and a leg! Every minute at a stop light is money going up in heat!!
4) I'd like to see someone go back, pull the list of both Reilly's and Sanford's campaign promises and report on their status. I don't mean an isolated 500 word litany of "he didn't do it!" I'd like a side by side analysist of what each candidtate had to say and a real expose of what has been delivered!!
5) I'd like to see a feature about the real loss of history (both buildings and the social 'atmosphere' here in Charleston. Things ain't like they used to be—people coming here are very different, and those Yank-olinians with their gruff ways are changing it!! We're in danger of losing our charm to something...
6) Like to see a feature on diminishing wildlife due to all the building and the push to put a shoebox on every square inch of Charleston. Fill in the swamps and wetlands and build, build, build!! We need the taxes so we can spend, spend, spend...but on what?? The state of education here is no better. There are more potholes than ever! And again, traffic is at a standstill!!! Where is all this money going??
7) Organized crime in Charleston. That's all need be said about that.
8) The state of immigration in Charleston, SC and how it has affected, schools, the police and even neighborhoods.

High-tech environmental monitoring
: We are currently involved in re-mapping our intertidal oyster beds,
this time using low altitude, high resolution digital imagery (1/4 m
pixel resolution) and then computer programs to automatically identify
bed location, size and density/condition of beds. It is a neat, high
tech approach that could be interesting reading for your audience.

Enviro-friendly construction:
This is a good year for cordwood masonry, a natural building style. Every 5 or 6 years, there is a Continental Cordwood Conference (CoCoCo). This year, it is in Merrill, Wisconsin, July 30 -31, 2005. All of the shakers and movers in the field will be there to share latest techniques, innovations, and discuss code issues.

MEGALITHS (a personal favorite): Our big Megalithics (Stone Circle) workshop here at Earthwood, West Chazy, NY is July 20-24. Should be a good one. We are raising a 5.7 ton stone by hand, the second stone in the Earthwood Trilithon.

Traditions: I think I would like to less "fluff" kind of articles such as the flippant
style you see in the "Good Morning Lowcountry" and more significant reading
provided in perhaps a special section/column (every week? every other week?
once a month?)
devoted to places of historic interest in and around the Tri-County area. I
would suggest taking a cue from some of the shows like "Carolina Camera"
(you know the one Michael Trouche used to do on Channel 5)to get some ideas
about what to include or places you could go. You could also plan to talk
with the chairmen/presidents etc...of heritage organizations for ideas--Sons
of Confederate Veterans, Daughters of the American Revolution, for example,
or interview a C of C or Citadel professor
for ideas.