I am the editor, publisher, and writer at Green Car Journal and GreenCarJournal.com. I also write for other publications and business clients as time allows.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
Top-of-mind is reporting realistically and honestly on the state of electric vehicles. For the 30 years I have been publishing Green Car Journal, the mission has always been to assess what’s ‘real’ and what is not, whether talking high efficiency/advanced technology vehicles or alternative fuels like hydrogen, ethanol, natural gas, electricity, or other fuels du jour. Then I share it on the pages of my magazine or website. An important distinction is that these articles are presented from the perspective of a car enthusiast who understands the importance of environmental sustainability, rather than from the perspective of an environmentalist writing about cars. There’s a difference.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
I was invited to participate in an early demonstration of self-driving cars in the mid-1990s. The cars demonstrated an ability to autonomously follow a cone course with the aid of sensors embedded in the pavement. A driver controlled the accelerator and brakes with hands off the steering wheel. I got behind the wheel and put on a blindfold I had brought along, asking the tech to tell me when to speed up or brake. He wasn’t so sure about that and had to get permission. Driving blindfolded was a great hook for my story in Popular Science.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
Honestly, there are plenty of stories I’m proud of, but what stands out now is my piece in the current issue of Green Car Journal, “Caution Signs Ahead for Electric Vehicles.” I have extensive experience driving battery electric vehicles and living with them for years at a time, starting with the GM EV1 back in the late 1990s. I am an avowed EV enthusiast and have been a member of the Sierra Club for decades. But I’m also a car guy, a realist, and an automotive analyst. The truth is out there but it seems to have been lost amid all the excitement and hype surrounding electric vehicles. “Caution Signs Ahead for Electric Vehicles” is an honest assessment of where we are with EVs, the very real challenges ahead, and whether banning the sale of new gas cars just a dozen years from now is practical or even possible. Writing that kind of piece is challenging as an EV enthusiast, but I felt compelled to do it.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I like writing stories that deal with advanced technologies and concepts that have the potential to positively impact our lives and our world. I am especially drawn to topics where my decades of immersion in this field allow me to provide context that gets readers to think, consider, and ultimately make up their own minds on how they feel about the subject being discussed. It’s one thing to report on breaking news focused on a new technology, vehicle, or ‘clean’ fuel breakthrough, and quite another to do so in a way that draws on the events and activities that have led up to it. Context makes for better understanding, and ultimately, a better read.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
I’ve been writing articles for over 40 years now and enjoy it so much I’ll probably be doing it forever. I started as a writer-trainee at a biomedical engineering newsletter, condensing information from medical journal features into a few short paragraphs to fit the newsletter format. Then the custom van phenomena took off, and as a van club president there was no stopping me when the first van magazine came out. I submitted an article about our van club to that van magazine and was offered a job. I loved it. Within a year there were nine van magazines out there so I left and freelanced to most of them. I’ll never forget driving to Petersen Publishing Company some 50 miles from my home and pitching three articles to Lee Kelley, editorial director at the new Hot Rod Specialty Publications Group. He offered me a job as feature editor on the spot. I was prepared to turn it down since it would have been a horrendous commute in heavy traffic. Then he told me I could work from home and come in just once every week. The rest is history. I did the work-from-home thing long before it was popular and continued doing so for the full 20 years I was at Petersen Publishing, launching seven magazines and making my way to the staff at Motor Trend for the last seven years. Talk about a dream job!
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Understand what I cover and don’t get too far afield of that. Also, since I regularly invite auto, energy, and environmental leaders to share their perspectives in Green Car Journal and on GreenCarJournal.com, know that it’s better to pitch a Perspective or Voices piece authored by an executive you represent rather than ask if I’d like to do an interview. While I have enjoyed doing interview pieces over the years (Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Lee Iacocca, Carroll Shelby, Mario Andretti), interviews are small in number compared to the industry leader perspectives I run.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Nope. Their job is to pitch stories (ideally by e-mail) and mine is to identify ones that are interesting and might fit our coverage. I spent plenty of time on the other end when we had Green Car Marketing & Communications so I do understand the important role that PR can play.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.)
I’ve been married for 40 years to a fun-loving and creative woman who appreciates cars and, apparently, me. Our son and two daughters grew up on the pages of magazines since they were often shown in my vehicle features over the years. I have a small vineyard and make wine with a local winery…high-end hobbyist but one day, who knows? Plenty of industry contacts and PR folks have enjoyed my Writers Block Red over the years. I also enjoy travel writing. Since I was attending new vehicle launches all over the world, I realized long ago that I should be sharing photos and stories about the amazing places I’ve been, and so I have.
Follow my reporting on GreenCarJournal.com and use the home page link to read the digital edition of Green Car Journal.
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