Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - By zak - No comments

What's That Smell?

Something was in the air in Charlotte, NC. Gassy odors grabbed the attention of SCF users and eventually the local news media, whose coverage of the problem led to a fix.

Charlotte's local CBS station WBTV added a SeeClickFix widget to their website in mid-February, and began featuring SCF issues on morning news. We blogged about their first such story--a residential neighborhood where drivers ignored the speed limit. News Anchor Christine Nelson grabbed a radar gun and investigated the area to see for herself whether or not speeding was a problem.

Since then, WBTV has added a number of short investigative segments based on SeeClickFix, running the gamut from traffic light timings, to broken water pipes, to garbage heaps in the woods.
A recent SCF post prompted the investigation of a municipal mystery over the course of two news segments. A driver posted about a "strong gas smell" on SCF.

Nelson headed out to the gassy overpass and traced the origins of the smell to a partially open manhole. Then she contacted a local utilities company and the city to get some answers. Both entities were unhelpful at first. The city said that they never would have left a manhole exposed like Nelson found it and blamed the utility company. The utility company said they had no knowledge of the problem, and the first segment left off as an unsolved mystery, with the onus on the gas company to come up with some answers.

Refusing to let the gas company off the hook, Nelson returns to the site in Part 2 to find that the utility company had fixed up the manhole and had vanquished the odor.

It turns out that there had been a minor gas leak, which the company repaired.

Thanks again to WBTV for giving SCF issues the full attention they deserve. Their use of SCF is a great case study in how local news can create a community out of its readers and make their websites truly interactive. SCF issues provide the seed for much larger stories, which local journalists can pick up on and expand. SCF becomes an instrument to bridge the gap not only between citizens and government, but between citizens and local media as well.


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