J500 Media and the Environment

Finding the Time by brookec08

Conducting an interview with a politician two weeks before Election Day has definitely been a challenge. Finding the time, just 15 minutes, proved to be a pretty difficult task. I was fortunate to get to speak with a state representative that serves on the select committee on energy and environment for the future, Representative Gene Rardin. I also selected him because I’ve been bombarded with direct mail for his campaign (a few samples below).

My goals for the interview were to find out where policymakers get their information about environmental issues, learn more about the major issues facing Kansans, and where renewable energy and the environment rank as a priority. I think one key to a successful interview, no matter how much time you have, is to be prepared by doing your research ahead of time. A few of the Web sites that I found helpful were gpace.org, sponsored by the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, and also the American Society of Journalists and Authors Web site. GPACE had a section of the site dedicated to interviews with politicians to find out their views of clean energy and the ASJA site gave helpful tips for conducting interviews.

So what did I learn from the experience?
Everyone is busy! Not having time, is a poor excuse. But planning as far ahead as possible and being prepared can make all the difference. In regards to our field work, I learned that educating our politicians is going to be very important for the future of clean energy. I was surprised by  some of the comments that showed a lack of knowledge.

Brooke Connell

4 Comments so far
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I’d like to home in on your last sentence. Do you have any thoughts or insights on why politicians might have a lack on knowledge on clean energy, environmental protection, etc.? Do you think the problem is that information they perceive as being trustworthy and un-biased is not available? Or could it be that their constituents just aren’t concerned with those issues (so they don’t feel the need to be knowledgeable on those topics? Or something else? We can’t solve the problem unless we know what it is.

Comment by shawng

Those are good questions. I think there are several factors contributing to their lack of knowledge. Representative Rardin made it very clear that the issues that are important to his constituents are the issues that he puts at the top of his list of priorities. He said that clean energy and environmental concerns was not a topic that is brought up to him. However, he is on the committee on energy and environment for the future, but he expressed to me that is because it is an issue that he personally values. The other big issue is where the information comes from. Another interview in our group the politician said that he didn’t trust sources like Sierra Club because they were biased and not credible. They all tend to listen to other politicians, so hopefully if we can establish a few opinion leaders, we can get things moving toward a larger use of renewable energy.

Comment by brookec08

Great post. Excited to hear more next weekend. It’s great to hear we have someone like him in politics who personally values these initiatives however it appears that he’s struggling to get it on the agenda. Does it seem that he has strong goals to push for this to become a priority message or to educate his constituents so that they realize the importance of making this a priority? If it hasn’t made it to the top of the list, I’m curious how far down the list it is. Also was interesting to read your insight into the lack of knowledge. It is also quite scary. Even though information out there may be un-trustworthy, I’m surprised they haven’t done more research then to gain a foundational learning enough to form their own conclusions. Perhaps they have and they still don’t see it as an immediate threat? Jennifer W.

Comment by jenjenku

Brooke, Rep. Rardin’s comments are telling. He must serve his constituents, but, as the national election has demonstrated, all these issues are inter-connected. I suspect his community cares deeply about the economy – and right now one of the most important ways to stimulate our economy is to find domestic energy sources and create more jobs. Considering Kansas has the third largest wind capacity in the country, we are primed to take a leadership role in this transition.

Comment by j500

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