As We Roll Into 2020, Time To Reconsider, What Is The Media’s Role? What’s CleanTechnica’s Role?


Published on January 22nd, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan

January 22nd, 2020 by  

No industry is perfect. No company is perfect. And there’s a good chance you and I are not perfect. The best we can do is try to observe thoughtfully and compassionately and learn from life. Life is a learning lesson, as some say.

CleanTechnica has its own problems every day that we try to learn from and improve upon. But one of the big ones that never goes away is the question “what should we be writing?” It’s a question of what topics to focus on, what stories to write about, and how to write them. We have the question of what to research, what to skip, what to repeat.

At its essence, I think the media has one core role — to present as complete and accurate a picture as possible. One of my favorite analogies is that it’s like trying to put a puzzle together — we need to make sure we pick up all the pieces, put them in the right spots, and have the picture facing the right way.

Unfortunately, I think that many people in the media forget, ignore, or just never settle on the core, pure aim of the industry. Some think their job is just to be skeptical and try to find out things that are not true as presented, neglecting to try to put the big picture in mind and convey an accurate portrayal of reality for their audience. Some think their job is just to tear people or companies down. Some think their job is just to report on what happened that day.

Our goal has long been to provide as much extra, useful context as possible to convey the biggest stories in cleantech, and also little ones. If we are covering the news, the aim is supposed to be putting that in the broader context of reality. If we are creating our own reports or analysis, the aim is supposed to be adding to the public understanding of the topic or potentially even correcting misunderstandings.

Since our focus is cleantech, we have a handful core topics that feed into our work:

  1. What’s the biggest news in cleantech?
  2. What are the core overarching stories of cleantech? (Most articles should probably reference those stories in order to help convey them to more people and to also put any news in context.)
  3. What are the biggest misconceptions about cleantech that need corrected?
  4. What are the biggest gaps in cleantech knowledge and understanding, and how can we fill them?
  5. Why cleantech?

So much in cleantech is a matter of scale. If a scientific “breakthrough” is cool, cool, but if it will have no impact on the industry, it’s not very worthwhile to cover other than as a “gee-whiz” story. If a cleantech startup sounds interesting but is unlikely to really get off the ground or even have a large-scale impact, that should be considered. If we’re covering the electric vehicle industry, we should often recall who is leading the industry and who’s expected to be leading it in 3 or 5 or 10 years. A press release regarding a Honda Clarity EV update doesn’t warrant as much attention as an update across all Tesla models (including many vehicles on the road today).

I’ve sort of skipped over one purpose of the media. One purpose, especially today, is also to entertain. How much that is a priority of any particular site, writer, or reader is really a subjective matter. The more people you entertain, the more influence you can have. The more you focus simply on entertaining, the less time and space you have for unentertaining but important content. It is an ongoing balancing act. We have a very writer-centric, freedom-focused system here on CleanTechnica. I basically let writers make this call on their own and follow their interests — within the realm of what seems useful and interesting for our readers. Most of all, I know many of us try to combine useful and entertaining, striving for max positive effect. We don’t always hit our targets. 😛 😀

Overall, I greatly appreciate that so many people have come to rely on CleanTechnica as a daily news and analysis resource. We’re always taking feedback (perhaps more than is healthy), and we’re always making mistakes. Most importantly, though, we’re consistently trying to improve and help the world, or help society help itself, as I’ve been saying for over a decade.

To close, I’ll say what I’ve said many times to large audiences as well as privately to individuals — I think our greatest resource is our readers. It is our readers, especially the slim percentage of you who regularly comment and carry on the discussions, who most help us to learn and improve. The articles are often only the starting points of larger discussions and information sharing. The expertise spread across the readership is immense. It is a lot of work to keep trolls out of conversation threads and make sure these “chat rooms” remain useful and enjoyable, but it is even the regular commenters themselves who do the most work shaping and guiding those conversations in the right direction. So, thank you to all of you, and especially to those of you who work so hard to help us pursue our mission. 

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About the Author

is tryin’ to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.