From Our Listeners

Letters: The Decline Of Coal, 'Nasty Effect'

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NPR's Lynn Neary reads from listener comments on past show topics, including vocabulary events in the news, the decline of "king coal," and how nasty comments on the web change our perception of online news stories.


It's Tuesday and time to read from your comments. Last week, we talked about what has changed in the coal industry since the natural gas boom. We spoke with analyst and with the president of the Kentucky Coal Association. Lisa Hoyos wrote on Facebook to say: I'm unpleasantly surprised. You didn't have any one on the show talking about the social movements in this country trying to stop coal exports. Coal is the cheap contributor to global warming, devastating peoples and ecosystems all over the world. We're close to climate tipping points. Our government needs to help Kentucky and other coal producers build a renewable energy infrastructure.

Aaron in Louisville wrote: My father was a coal miner. His father was a coal miner. Most people who mine coal do so because it pays a much higher wage than any other job in a region that was built for better or worse by coal companies for the purpose of mining coal. If coal goes away, so will the livelihoods of these communities. While coal isn't an ideal power source and its environmental impact is significant, a solution needs to be reached that allows the people in coal country to provide for their families.

We also talked to Professor Dominique Brossard about how negative comments online can affect our interpretation of new stories. Devin, a freelancer in San Francisco, told us: I recently wrote an article for a local news site that received several negative comments, and I was surprised to find myself thrilled. I know some other young writers who have had similar experiences. In today's media landscape, it feels you haven't made it until people are hating on you.

Last week, the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope preempted our Political Junkie segment. Anita Monga(ph) from Berkeley, California felt betrayed. She emailed us: You kicked Ken Rudin off for a puff of white smoke? Et tu, TALK OF THE NATION? Rest easy, Anita. Ken will be back tomorrow.

And about a dozen of you wrote with a correction last week when the editor-at-large at Merriam Webster, Peter Sokolowski, came on to talk about vocabulary events. A caller mentioned the word bellwether, which Peter said, had to do with a practice of leaving a flock of sheep.

Joan Kelly(ph) in Eugene, Oregon wrote to clarify: While that is in the neighborhood to be incorrect, the term is actually derived from the Middle English bellwether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram, a wether, leading his flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight, hence the bellwether is an indicator of where things are going.

If you have a correction, comments or questions for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help in how to pronounce your name. You can also find us on Facebook, and if you're on Twitter you can follow us there, @totn.

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