My experiment in audience participation falls short
I had the chance to sit down for a few minutes with California’s top air regulator today. Mary Nichols, who chairs the state’s Air Resources Board joined us by satellite from Sacramento. The seven-minute interview will air on KQED’s This Week in Northern California, Friday evening.
On Wednesday, blogger Jon Brooks posted a call for questions on “News Fix,” the KQED News blog. It was a worthwhile experiment but the results speak to the extent to which Nichols has become a lightning rod for opponents of environmental regulation in general and cap & trade in particular — and to some degree the state of public policy discourse in America today. The comments, some emailed and some posted on the comments thread at News Fix were largely a stream of invective directed at Nichols and the Air Board. Some questions were a bit technical for a seven-minute TV interview. Others were valid but off-topic. As the latest installment in our series of “Climate Watch Conversations,” I tried to keep to the climate-related business of the Board (with one exception: I felt I needed to have her address events unfolding in Japan and concerns here about radioactive drift).
Nonetheless I was able to cull a few for this brief interview. Several questions make it clear that some remain convinced that implementation of AB 32 will be a drag on California’s economic recovery:
“Don’t you think that now is a time to worry about jobs and the well-being of people? Do you understand how many jobs this bill will kill? Do you understand that the amount of “green” jobs created will still not cover the jobs lost?”
You can hear all of her answers in the video segment posted on the This Week site and below.
As Nichols is often perceived as a person vested with considerable power, Steve, Chris, and Jeremy Schellhardt wanted to know why Nichols’ post is appointed, rather than elected. This question didn’t make it into the seven-minute broadcast window but Nichols answered, with no apparent irony, that she had never been asked that before. She said she thinks the power of the position is overestimated. When I asked if she’d rather be elected, she said “No! I don’t want to have to go out and raise money to keep my job.” Personally, I liked the question offered by Taggart:
“I’d like to know how many times Ms. Nichols has taken “alternative transit” to work in the past year. Bet I could guess.”
Answer: She walks to work (in Sacramento, though she confesses to driving when she works in Los Angeles). I wonder if that was Taggart’s guess.
In retrospect, I would say this was a worthwhile experiment but I don’t think I’d repeat it for an interview of such short duration. I could’ve bypassed your comments and pursued my own line of questioning, as journalists typically do. Or I could have ignored the extraordinary crisis unfolding in Japan and its potential implications here. Neither seemed like a good choice. The brutal time constraints of television meant that readers and I were both shortchanged in terms of questions we’d like to have answered. We’ll learn from this and pursue a longer format for the next one.