Where was the Fifth Estate when Flint Michigan needed it?

Americans and the world know now about the ‘poisoned water’ coming out of the taps in Flint, Michigan, covered well today in an exposé written by the NYT. In switching the city’s water from Detroit’s supply to the Flint River in April of 2014, to save money, a cascading series of problems resulted in lead leaching from the water pipes supplying homes across the city. But, according to the article, it was not until September that the evidence of lead poisoning became public knowledge. The City has switched to Detroit water, and is doing all it can with the State, National Guard, and requests to FEMA to address this problem as soon as possible.

However, how and why did it take so long for the problem to be taken seriously in this era of networked individuals being able to post information and, in many other cases, hold institutions more accountable. Where was the Fifth Estate when Flint needed it? Was the problem not as visible, or capable of being documented? Were concerned citizens not networked, and able to use the Internet and social media more effectively? And perhaps it is fair to ask if the Fourth Estate was timely in addressing this problem.

Demonstration on Flint water contamination
Demonstration on Flint water contamination

2 thoughts on “Where was the Fifth Estate when Flint Michigan needed it?

  1. Damian, all the media are covering it now, local as well as all of the major US papers, and surfaced in the Democratic Party Debate last night, but the lag between people first noticing the problem and widespread public awareness seems inexcusable in the Internet age. Perhaps it is the nature of slow, creeping problems, like the deterioration of infrastructure, that makes it more difficult to address. That said, other problems such as with police shootings have a history preceding the viral distribution of news following recent incidents. My work on the Fifth Estate needs to focus on such failures.

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