03/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Was Coal Sludge Story Big On Twitter, Small On National Sources?

Three days before Christmas, a billion gallons of liquefied coal ash poured out through a broken retaining wall, inundating fifteen homes, covering hundreds of acres of farm fields, and potentially contaminating water supplies for a sizeable chunk of eastern Tennessee.

Maybe it was the Christmas holidays, but the major U.S. media largely took a pass on the story. The New York Times didn't show up for 48 hours. National TV news outlets mostly ignored it, despite the appalling images of a community spending Christmas blanketed in a gray, soupy, toxic mess.

Twitter was an odd exception. The social networking site was abuzz with info from activists, journalists, scientists, and links to reports from regional media treating the story like the major environmental disaster it was.

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