Michael Collins has been covering the environment for 13 years. He's won several awards, including the Los Angeles Press Club's Journalist of the Year.
But it wasn't his long-form exposes of gooey landfills that have thousands of eyes (literally) watching him everyday this week. No, it's his Geiger counter, which has a webcam pointed at it.
We've seen as many as 4,300 visitors logged on to the Ustream video feed of Collins' radiation sensor at his Santa Monica home-office.
A large number of visitors have slowed his enviroreporter.com website down. And the 54-year-old has received media inquiries about his Geiger counter from as far away as France.
National news-feature show Inside Edition has interviewed him, and so have local news stations, including KTLA News and KCAL9/CBS2. “I've lost track of the amount of media calls I've received,” Collins, an LA Weekly contributor, says.
People are attracted to his Geiger counter cam because they “want to see the magic moment when it takes off,” he says.
Commenters on his site have taken to calling Collins “man hands” because his digits are occasionally seen adjusting the counter.
And, in response to commenters who allege that the thing is on a loop because the readings rarely register any changes, he placed a digital clock next to it.
So the big question, then, is, has Collins' Geiger counter seen any increase in radiation that scientists think could be coming to California from Japan's ailing Fukushima reactors?
“Everything is the normal amount of radiation you find in this area,” Collins, says. “If we had fallout I would detect it.”
But Collins warns people to remain vigilant.
“The only thing we know is that we don't know,” he says. “Disasters of a nuclear nature get worse as time goes on.”