Episode 157 - GTR Green Blogger Series: Tim Hurst of Red, Green and Blue
Host Sean Daily talks with environmental politics blogger Tim Hurst, editor of RedGreenandBlue.org and publisher of Ecopolitology.org, about his writing and the role of new and social media in environmental politics and activism.
Introduction: Hi, and welcome to GreenTalk, a podcast series from GreenLivingIdeas.com. GreenTalk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles, through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Sean Daily: Hi everyone, it’s Sean Daily here. Welcome to today’s episode. Today’s another instalment in our ‘Green Blogger’ series, where I talk to the (low house?) industry’s top bloggers and authors. Tim Hurst is a blogger, and editor, at Green Options Media, where he heads up the team at ‘Red, Green, and Blue’, the network’s environmental politics blog. His research and professional interests are in the politics of energy and the environment, with a particular focus on renewable energy policy, and the clean tech sector. Tim is also the publisher of Ecopolitology.org. Tim, welcome to the program.
Tim Hurst: Thanks Sean, it’s good to be here.
Sean Daily: It’s good to have you. So you and I have known each other for a little while through the various green blogger groups and networks that we’re – and social media sites – that we’re, uh, members of. And I’ve been really interested to hear more about your story, and then also the sites you’re involved with. So why don’t we just start with, you know, your background, and how you got involved with blogging, and also with the Green Options group.
Tim Hurst: Sure. Well, first of all, good job on pronouncing ‘Ecopolitology’.
Sean Daily: I practiced [laughs]
Tim Hurst: It’s kind of a mouthful.
Sean Daily: We should spell it- you know, as long as we’re- maybe we should spell it for people, just so we’re not making any assumptions there, uh – it’s e-c-o-p-o-l-i-t-o-l-o-g-y dot org.
Tim Hurst: Right, just like it sounds. [they laugh]
Sean Daily: Yeah, it’s easy.
Tim Hurst: Right. Uh, so I kinda started- I started blogging as a informal medium to get my research thoughts down, to kinda get in the habit of writing on a daily basis, as I worked towards my PhD. And before I knew it, I was just kinda wrapped up in the whole thing. And it doesn’t take long, as you know, to get kind of real inspired by this group of people that we’re, you know, that we’re involved with, and we’re interacting with on a daily basis. So, it’s kinda taken on a, you know, life of its own. So, I did the Ecopolitology thing for, I don’t know, six months before I got in touch with the Green Options folks, and they were- they hinted that- they were telling me they were going to launch an environmental politics blog, and uh, if I would be interested in it-
Sean Daily: And that’s the Red, Green, and Blue blog.
Tim Hurst: That is RedGreenandBlue.org, right.
Sean Daily: Last summer, right.
Tim Hurst: Right. And that was in – I guess that was actually in March, maybe April, somewhere in there. Late March. And, yeah, it just kinda took of from there. I started writing for them just about the energy stuff, like, (real?) energy stuff, but it was always kinda leaning towards the policy stuff. And so, to have this outlet, to have the pure politics outlet, was a perfect fit.
Sean Daily: Now obviously, ‘Red, Green, and Blue’ launched in a time-frame where we were very much pre-election, we were in the midst of that process, and all of the interest, and now that that election’s over and the campaigning is sort of died out, what’s your vision for ‘Red, Green, and Blue’, and how do you sustain the momentum you guys have gained over the last year in that climate?
Tim Hurst: Right. That’s- that’s actually a really good question, and I’m open to suggestions. [they laugh]
Sean Daily: Well, we do have an interactive format here, so, we do like to hear from our listeners.
Tim Hurst: We saw just, you know, meteoric growth in between March 15th or whatever it was that we launched, and, you know, right up through the election. We went from getting about 10,000 pageviews in the first couple months to, you know, pushing 200,000 in October.
Sean Daily: Wow.
Tim Hurst: But, you know, as soon as the election happened, we haven’t been able to sustain that. Although, recently we’ve kind of been picking it back up. So I think, you know, we were getting a lot of traffic before from people who were, you know, people who were interested in politics, and interested in the race, and not as much, you know, as into the, sort of wonky details of environmental politics and policy. So we’d like to kind of get back to that. I’m looking forward- you know, I’m really actually kind of thankful, in a way, that the campaign is over.
Sean Daily: Oh, oh, along with a lot of other people, I think, including myself.
Tim Hurst: Right, right.
Sean Daily: It was exhausting.
Tim Hurst: We did lose some traffic, as a result. However, you know, we get to focus on- there’s a lot more to politics than, you know, than the election season.
Sean Daily: Oh, it seems to me that there still continues to be a target for some environment- and, uh, the sustainability of The Daily Show is testimony to that.
Tim Hurst: Absolutely. Absolutely, and they, you know, those guys have really opened up, not just on their television shows, but they have started to take it to the Internet as well. And they’ve got a lot of good things going, over there. And so, what we’d like to do is experiment with new media, with, you know, bringing in more video, bringing in more interactivity to the site. We have a site redesign coming down the, uh… coming down the pipe. Pike? Pipe? I always say both.
Sean Daily: It’s the- you know it’s funny, that was a little foible of mine for many years, and it’s ‘pike’, technically, but I used to say ‘pipe’, so I’m a former- I’m a recovering pipe/pike addict there. [laughs]
Tim Hurst: Right. So we’ve got that in the works, and, you know, we’re recruiting writers actively, we’ve got a bunch of new writers on hand. So it’s- it should be interesting. We’ve got, uh- the way we’ve structured the site for the people who haven’t been there is, uh, we- midsummer we went to a web-magazine format, which gave us, you know, a front page that sort of divides things up from, you know, left to right, or liberal, conservative, center, and while that’s useful, in sort of, parsing- and it also gives lots of exposure to things simultaneously- so we’re going to stay with the web-mag format, although there may be some sort of tweaks in that as we progress.
Sean Daily: Well, I think that it’s important to reiterate, which is that you are covering both sides of the political spectrum. And some people might think, you know, any environmental politics blog is inherently going to be a lefty publication. But the layout here that you have, you very clearly delineate the two spectrums.
Tim Hurst: Right, and that’s what we’re trying to do, is really appeal to- you know, really, environmental politics doesn’t necessarily, just like you said, doesn’t have to be a lefty issue, just because- you know, people forget that Nixon passed some of the most sweeping environmental reforms this country has ever seen.
Sean Daily: Absolutely true.
Tim Hurst: And that may have been, there may have been some politics behind that to sort of soothe the counter-culture movement of that era, and that may have been the easiest thing for him to do, but it- still, it’s not a- it doesn’t really have to be a partisan issue. Partisan issues.
Sean Daily: I think partisan ownership of that issue is no less disingenuous or unfair than, say, uh, on the right, some of the attempted ownership of other things like family values and things like that. All of these things are ultimately an illusion, and, you know, it doesn’t make sense.
Tim Hurst: Sure, sure. Patriotism, and national security, all that stuff. It’s really- and, you know, the election season, we’re constantly bombarded with- you know, we’re being told how we’re different. We’re being told that, you know, the left (senator?) says this. Meanwhile, the vast, vast majority of the people are in the middle, you know, and they might deviate a little bit to the left, a little bit to the right, but people have a lot more in common, I think, than the way the media has portrayed, or portrays them as having.
Sean Daily: Well, I agree, I think politicians are the most for the left or the right, and the rest of us, the actual people, the average citizens are far closer towards the center than people would espouse. I agree with you.
Tim Hurst: Right, right, but it’s the activists who are really controlling the agendas of each party, you know, and they’re the ones who go to the- who are really active in their community, and they’re the ones who nominate candidates, they’re the ones who go to- it’s not surprising to see- what happens is it’s, you know, you see the polarization, is because of this sort of activist’s politics.
Sean Daily: Right, yeah, exactly. So Tim, I wanted to ask you, you know, there were once clear distinctions between traditional media and new media, and those are constantly being blurred these days, as we see. What do you see as the future of this particular space with respect to environmental politics?
Tim Hurst: Well, that’s like hitting a moving target, you know what I mean? It’s constantly changing. Just before I got on the computer here with you, I got a ‘tweet’ and he was sort of-
Sean Daily: Now for people that are not familiar with Twitter.com, a ‘tweet’ is sending a message on that particular network. Please continue, it’s just so that they know. Being ‘tweeted’ by Al Gore is kinda sounding like... [they laugh]
Tim Hurst: And he was- it was basically his take on Obama’s energy team, or his green team. And so, that’s just kind of an example. I think Twitter is something that’s sort of been taken hold by a lot of mainstream media folks. You know, I’ve followed several, you know, people who I wouldn’t normally- you know, I’m not a CNN junkie by any means, but, you know, I follow Anderson Cooper, you know, or I’ll follow some BBC folks. And we had an interesting- an interesting thing happened earlier this week. I was listening to- and they had announced, Barack Obama had announced that Ken Salazar was going to be the new Secretary of the Interior. And, within probably an hour, or two I was working on a- I was at my desk, and I was listening to NPR, and they said something about how most environmentalists were fuming about the choice. Well, you know, I’m from Colorado, and Ken Salazar’s from Colorado, and, you know, he’s got a pretty good, pretty strong reputation here in the state, as being a, you know, fairly progressive-minded conservationist. I kind of- I tweeted instantly, so I sent a Twitter update, saying I was taking issue with NPR’s characterization of ‘most environmentalists’. Then, about an hour later, or half an hour later, again – and it wasn’t the exact same story, but the wording this time was, maybe, ‘some environmentalists were fuming’. And then I heard the story again, another hour later, and the reporter had sort of tempered that ‘most environmentalists are fuming’ down to, you know, something much- no, I follow NPR politics on Twitter, and I know they follow me back. I’ve no idea whether or not what I said kicked off any chain of events. Interesting to see that potential is there, and, you know, the media loves to sort of create this, create controversy maybe when there isn’t any. Now, I’m not saying that [unintelligible] weren’t happy with their pick, but…
Sean Daily: But there’s this opportunity to have a real-time conversation with the media, and that, you know, that they actually pay attention to that, and the ones who are really paying attention will incorporate that in, I mean, that’s fascinating.
Tim Hurst: Absolutely, and I know NPR has a fairly stout collection of social media folks. ‘What’s going on?’ and participating, and, so I’d like to think that I was shaping the reporting as it was happening, but you know. Who really knows?
Sean Daily: Well, if they’re paying attention, you know, they know that, right, and you know, you yourself are top in the green blogosphere with regards to environmental politics, so it would make sense that they’d be paying attention. Yeah, I don’t know that NPR is following me; I know that MC Hammer is, though, so I’m not sure what (reference?) that is, anyway, but we’re connected.
Tim Hurst: I just recently started following Kevin Rudd, who’s the Prime Minister of Australia, and he followed me back, or his people did, or whatever. And then, like, four days later, somebody else started following me called ‘fake Kevin Rudd’. [they laugh] At least they were, you know- there’s lots of people who are a little, uh- you could set up a Twitter account saying you’re anybody, but at least this guy was admitting he was the fake Kevin Rudd.
Sean Daily: Right, there’s an opportunity for humour there, when people get to, you know, sort of create a caricature. But it is difficult, authenticity is difficult on that network, because you sort of have to get from-the-source verification that ‘yes in fact, we are tweeting on that account’ and that’s always a sort of dubious thing. Just switching options, although I could talk about Twitter all day long ‘cause it is such a fascinating medium – Green blo- Green Options, rather, it’s a blog network that presents, really, a whole, you know, new set of issues for coordinating bloggers and covering these topics. I wanted to ask you, what are some of the costs and benefits of working in a blog network as opposed to an individual blog, and how have you been able to address or take advantage of those.
Tim Hurst: Right, well, we have- we were, you know, I started with these guys just about, it was on the 1st, January 1st last year, I think that was my first post, and we were kind of rolling out new blogs about one-a-month, for a couple months. I think we stabilized around 15, which is still quite a, you know, quite an arsenal. And, you know, one of the costs is obviously, how are we able to sync up all of these writers, either via chat spaces, or via forums, or via, you know, different ways of communicating to each other, and how do you make sure stuff gets covered, A, and how do we make sure stuff isn’t over-covered? And I think it’s been (official?) to be able to cover things from multiple angles, and we do that quite a bit. You know, we’re just trying not to, sort of step on each others’ toes in the process. I think that’s kind of a learning process, but based on our traffic numbers, not just ‘Red, Green, and Blue’, but some of our other blogs, we’re working out. Now, I’m not taking credit for it, there’s master tacticians behind it. But, you know, it’s going to be- the hard thing is creating a space that people want to stay in, yet also reaching out and linking out and making other connections at the same time. There’s a lot- we’re not saying we’re the, you know, you should come to Green Options and spend all of your, you know, your green reading there, there’s lots of good stuff going, but we want to kind of make that, make it a bit of a one-stop shopping [unintelligible].
Sean Daily: Good. Well, we’re going to take a quick break right here for a word from our sponsor on this show, and then we’ll be back, and we’re talking today with Tim Hurst, blogger and editor at Green Options Media, including the ‘Red, Green, and Blue’ site, which is online at RedGreenandBlue.org, and he’s also the publisher of Ecopolitology.org, where he blogs about the new politics of the environment. We’ll be right back on GreenTalk Radio. Thank you everyone.
Sean Daily: And we are back on GreenTalk Radio. We’re talking with Tim Hurst, he’s a freelance writer, blogger, and editor at Green Options Media, and he focuses on the energy industry and environmental politics. Tim, we were talking before the break about your background, your writing, and the ‘Red, Green, and Blue’ site, as well as Ecopolitology and sort of the role of new media in discussing environmental politics. Shifting gears a little bit away from that, I wanted to ask you, how have the tools and techniques proffered by green netizens, or citizens of the ecosphere to media junkies changed modern politics as we know it, in your opinion?
Tim Hurst: Well, we’ve kind of touched on Twitter a little bit, and so I don’t want to harp on that too much. But I’ve been involved in a couple- one is called OnDayOne.org, and it is actually a really neat project, and what they’ve been doing is collecting – this has kind of been happening throughout the [skip] – they’ve been collecting people’s suggestions as for what the next president should do on Day One. And, you know, people have been able to go over there, log in, leave some suggestions, and then, so, over the last couple months, these were kind of getting narrowed down to a smaller and smaller number, and then they chose a few ‘judges’, quote – air quotes – to hone those down to a smaller number that people could vote on. People would vote on ‘em, and then the winner is the person who get- that, sort of, winning idea would then be presented to the transition team. The winner actually gets to go to Washington for the inauguration. So this is just the kind of the example that you’re seeing, more opportunities for two-way communication. You’re not just seeing- and I think the change.gov, Barack Obama’s new, the new website- is that what it is? change.gov?
Sean Daily: Yeah, which also went heavily down in its daily readership after that. I saw a news-piece on that, they were talking about just the massive drop-off that they suffered there.
Tim Hurst: Right, right, but they’re also doing some of the same stuff: the voting on ideas, the batting around of ideas, that you wouldn’t always have a forum for before. You know, there really wasn’t a, you know, there really wasn’t a very good forum for that kind of stuff, unless you were actively participating in local politics. You know, you can call your congressman, you can send a letter, those sorts of things, but it’s still- it makes having a conversation much trickier, you know, so I think the- some communication (media?) are just completely changing the way politics is done.
Sean Daily: What are some of the more- other specific examples of ways that these (techniques/tools?) we’re discussing, that we’re- been talking about in this conversation, could be used, you know, as tools of direct enviro-political action, as it were?
Tim Hurst: Sure. Well, you know, there are several people or groups that I follow, so I’ll follow- Twitter’s the example, but it doesn’t have to be. But they can send out a, you know, an alert, or, you know, if something particularly [unintelligible] happens, or something’s going on, something’s being debated on the floor of either House, or even in state politics, you know, they can be like, ‘Hey, heads up, you may want to weigh in on this’. And so we’re seeing a lot of that. You’re also seeing platforms like Facebook, where you actually create groups, create events within those groups. I think Facebook hasn’t quite taken off as far as politics goes. You see, you know, someone’ll have, you know, Barack Obama might have hundreds of thousands of ‘fans’ , but I still haven’t figured out how Facebook is kind of- or how it’s going to be properly used in the politics of- you know.
Sean Daily: Politics as opposed to, say, more social issues.
Tim Hurst: Oh right, yeah, I mean, I’ve got six or seven games of Scrabble going as we speak.
Sean Daily: What, during the interview? Oh man. [they laugh]
Tim Hurst: No, no.
Sean Daily: No, just kidding.
Tim Hurst: But as soon as we get off.
Sean Daily: It’s waiting for you. [they laugh] That’s funny. I ‘tweeted’, just as an aside there, I tweeted something once, it was actually after an interview was over, saying something about something that was happening in the interview, and one of my friends wrote, ‘Stop Facebooking, and get back into your interview!’ and I was like, ‘no, that was delayed’, you know, I’m not- I pay attention to my guests. I try to anyway.
Tim Hurst: Well, thank you, we appreciate it.
Sean Daily: Well no, it’s easy in your case, it is a fascinating discussion and I also was [skip] opportunity, putting you on the spot a little bit here, giving you an opportunity to share with our listeners other tips that you might have for- whether it’s, you know, these media tools, or things that they can be doing to get themselves involved in [skip] politics, or politics in general, online and otherwise, what are you most excited about right now, other than Twitter?
Tim Hurst: Well, just the sheer volume of information. The amount of volume, the amount of news that’s being produced, and the speed at which it is produced, is mind-boggling. You know, it’s tricky to be able to sort of condense that into more manageable platforms, or more manageable techniques, but, you know. (and beyond?) Twitter, I’m very active on StumbleUpon, I think is a great tool, and I’ve never had a more focused wasting of my time than I did until I found StumbleUpon. And so, I think there’s opportunities to get involved in groups there. And the thing about StumbleUpon, as soon as you kind of find your little niche, and then you kind of create a group of friends, you let the friends end up deciding what you’re gonna like. Or at least, you know, showing the stuff that you might like. And it’s really amazing how that stuff gets passed around, and how quickly it gets passed around. So, you know, when I’m not Stumbling, I’m Twittering, and when I’m not Twittering, I’m Digging, and it’s all these words that a year ago, maybe, or a year and a half ago, I would have been like, ‘what the hell are you talking about, Tim?’
Sean Daily: For many of us.
Tim Hurst: Yes. [laughs]
Sean Daily: And there really is real leverage there, and I have to say as a site-owner, especially with regards to StumbleUpon, I think that StumbleUpon, in my opinion, as a- with a marketing and technology background, and certainly [skip] that I’ve seen the most leverage in that network, easily accessible to the every-man, or the every-blogger, versus sites like Digg, where if you get on the front page of Digg, it’s really great, and there’s the Digg effect and it’ll crash your site. Sort of a more consistent benefit from building a community on StumbleUpon – at least in my experience there, your mileage may vary.
Tim Hurst: No no no, I think you’re absolutely right, and, you know, there’s some new ones bubbling up, they have- we actually had an experience with them earlier this week, where a story of mine got put on their front page, and the amount of traffic it brought, I mean- our server, we’ve got a pretty stout server network. They crashed our servers within a few minutes-
Sean Daily: Wow.
Tim Hurst: And it drove something- I mean, something on the order of about 20,000 hits in the, you know, just the first few minutes. And so that was- that kind of stuff is really neat, and so to see that many people who are actually invol- or, actually interested in it, and this is, you know, sort of a mainstream platform, this goes on Yahoo.com, people just got to check their mail, and boom – there’s my story. And people were interested in it. So that’s, you know, that kind of gives you- gives me hope, at least.
Sean Daily: Yeah. Well, great. Well Tim, we’re out of time today, it’s really been great to finally meet you, and talk with you-
Tim Hurst: Likewise.
Sean Daily: -and hear more about the story of the sites and your own story and journey.
Tim Hurst: Well, thanks for having me Sean, it’s been a pleasure.
Sean Daily: My guest has been Tim Hurst; he’s a freelance writer, blogger, and editor at Green Options Media, including the RedGreenandBlue.org site, as well as his own site, Ecopolitology.org.
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