We all have things we could do better, and if people were more positive about the good that others do instead of condemning what's not perfect, there'd be a lot more people interested in participating.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
I started to write a story about greenwashing, which is when a company makes exaggerated or untrue claims about its environmental sustainability. I worked on the piece for a while before realizing that the topic is such a massive, complex beast with so many interesting characters that it couldn't have been contained within the 2,000 words I'd have been allotted.
During the conferences and conventions I attended to research the topic, what I saw was a space filled with slick publicists, rehearsed networkers, even outright hypocrites. There are some genuinely concerned people working to make corporations more responsible, to be sure, but there's also so much fakery to wade through that it's no wonder two-thirds of Americans don't trust green marketing claims. Advertisers and branders, in service to the bottom line, have created doubt and cynicism in place of enthusiasm and trust. The cure, in my opinion, is an emerging marketing concept: radical honesty.
My article's on the shelf for now but maybe it'll end up as a book one day.
Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame for your field?
Emerson, Thoreau, and Rachel Carson. Emerson and Thoreau sound like clichéd answers, but I really am a true, deep fan of theirs, especially of Emerson's. I visited his grave in Concord, Massachusetts, and it felt more like a pilgrimage than anything I've done. And Rachel Carson's writing did what most journalists dream their writing will do -- it enacted real policy change, which is all the more impressive considering she was a woman and it was the early 1960s.
If you're talking modern era, though, I'd say John McPhee, Bill McKibben, and, increasingly, Jonathan Franzen.
What other field or occupation did you consider going into?
Psychology. I have a fierce curiosity about what drives people. I find it fulfilling -- and not in a schadenfreude sort of way -- when people choose to be nakedly honest about themselves and their problems, especially if they're on a quest for betterment. I chose journalism, though, which is also a job for which you get paid to ask people probing questions.
What website or app most helps you do your job on a daily basis?
Is Google too obvious an answer? That company is a godsend.
What song's been stuck in your head lately?
"Endlessly," by Muse.