How multimedia reporting can improve my environmental journalism (and yours, too!)

rm iwest mugWow. After a draining but fascinating week at the  Knight Digital Media Center's multimedia journalism boot camp, I'm itching to edit the video for what will be my second InvestigateWest piece.

And you, too, can benefit from the Knight Center's expertise -- whether you're a paid journalist or a citizen who is thinking about committing some journalism to right some wrongs. Much of what I learned, and more, is available on the center's website in the tutorials section. For me, this stuff should prove pivotal.

Our marathon learn-while-you-do sessions, lasting from 9 a.m. at least until 9 p.m. each day, allowed teams of journalists to produce actual multimedia stories. My team* was sent out to profile the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a non-profit formed by teachers to divert useable materials out of the waste stream. It not only helps teachers and artists find cheap stuff -- it also keeps landfills from filling up so fast.

Our multimedia piece features a video, an audio slideshow, a little game, information on the store and links to more resources on reuse.

 I'm grateful that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation saw fit to fund this intensive week of learning, which I'll be putting to practical use very soon.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Shrink-wrapped bales of Hawaiian garbage headed for the Columbia River and a landfill near you

What do you think about shrink-wrapped bales of garbage barged from tropical Hawaii across the Pacific down the once-fierce Columbia River to Longview? Just doesn't sound like a good idea, does it?

rita_hibbardwebDon't feel too good about reports that the plan, hatched about six months ago by Seattle-based Hawaiian Waste Systems,  may have hit a snag, reports The Longview Daily News reporter Andre Stepankowsky. It's likely to prove only a temporary delay. Getting an amendment to its federal permit has taken longer than expected, a company official says. The amendment involves a change of plans -- instead of shipping all the way to the Roosevelt Landfill in central Washington, the garbage would be barged to lower Columbia ports, from where it would make the rest of the journey by truck or train, saving time.

Already, 300 tons of Honolulu garbage is stacked up at a port there, shrink-wrapped in tight bales, awaiting transport to the scenic Pacific Northwest. Officials are concerned it may become a health hazard.

The plan has already survived a review by the Department of Agriculture, which found that if the garbage was shrink-wrapped, those pesky nonnative pests couldn't get out. Yeah, I'm sure that's absolutely never gonna happen. The Vancouver Columbian writes:

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the company’s original plan to barge the waste directly to Roosevelt.

Two dilemmas, one incinerator: Northwest fights garbage, finds energy

Not too long ago, InvestigateWest reported that woody debris was being paraded as a viable source of renewable fuel for the Northwest. But it seems there's another alternative energy source gaining popularity in the region and it may be even more abundant: garbage.

The Portland Business Journal writes that a $10 million garbage plant in McMinnville, Ore. may be able to generate enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. While the facility will not be finished until next year, the solidiwaste company that developed the technology to convert waste-to-energy already has plans for a second plant in Arlington, Ore.

Vancouver, B.C. has commissioned for a garbage-to-energy incinerator too, promoting the technique as an ideal way to cope with the overwhelming volume of garbage the city receives each year. City officials have recently displayed fierce efforts to curb the amount of waste hitting landfills, heavily promoting composting and recycling with hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the area has seen public opposition to the garbage-to-energy plan, with 65 percent of polled Vancouver residents fearful that waste incinerators will negatively affect air quality, writes Jeff Nagel of BC Local News. The plants are not pollution-free: One hour of incinerator emissions is equivalent to 20 cars traveling two miles, said Dr.