By Bill Barron, CCL Regional Coordinator for the Mountain West
Grand Junction, Colorado, is like much of the American heartland: conservative in a pragmatic way, it’s a small city that anchors a huge, mostly rural, Republican-leaning Congressional district. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel is the main media outlet for the city and surrounding Mesa County, with a population of about 150,000.
In late September 2019, the Sentinel’s editorial board agreed to meet with a contingent of CCLers for a second time. Back in April 2018, a group of us had presented to the editorial board, and the paper published a strong endorsement of carbon fee and dividend. This time, we were seeking an editorial specifically supporting the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, knowing that it could be leveraged to build political will in our lobbying efforts, break the ice for other media endorsements, and reinvigorate the local chapter.
The Grand Junction CCL chapter had gone into hibernation in late 2018, after several key members, discouraged by their member of Congress’s lack of interest, decided to pursue other projects. The group leader, Dave Reed, had moved an hour and a half away and was committed to doing what he could to recruit new leaders.
Preparing for success
Dave requested the meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board well in advance, timing it to coincide with my travel back from a regional conference in Denver. Then, knowing the value of having locals in attendance, Dave reached out to his contacts in Grand Junction with an eye to community/business leaders and recruited Lou Villaire of Atlasta Solar Center; Darin Carei of Atlasta Solar Center and Senergy Builders; and Aaron Hoffman, a local real estate investor.
We met by Zoom to prepare the week before the meeting, and again in person just prior to the editorial board meeting. Similar to a meeting with a member of Congress, Aaron identified an appreciation to use that highlighted the paper’s previous editorial and the importance of a strong local news source in the community. Knowing how important it is that we tailor the message for the audience, we planned to frame the conversation to highlight conservative values: the Energy Innovation Act is a market-based solution creating the space for American ingenuity, providing economic security and job growth.
As we headed to the meeting, Lou mentioned that his customers’ interest in solar has shifted in recent years from the economics of renewables to wanting to do something to help with the impact of climate change. We offered that this would be a great comment to incorporate in the meeting.
Holding the meeting
The meeting lasted an hour. We were able to go into the details of the bill and to respond to questions such as the rate of increase, how the policy sunsets when its goals are met, and how the dividend protects people in low and middle income brackets. Lou, Darin and Aaron were able to add the local Grand Junction perspective, emphasizing the need for local actions in addition to national legislation to match the scale of the problem.
As the meeting concluded, Jay Seaton, the Sentinel’s publisher said, “We are glad you met with us. We had no idea that anything was happening on this issue in D.C.”
The day after our meeting, the paper published an editorial supporting the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This editorial joins dozens of others that have been published around the country, and there are probably many more opportunities waiting across the country. Even towns and cities without active chapters could become prime targets.
Our recipe turned out to be: make contact with the newspaper’s editorial board, foster a relationship with well-planned meetings, include community and business leaders, frame the message to your audience, and who knows…CCL might be primed for a wave of new editorials across the country!
If you would like to seek an editorial endorsement from your local newspaper, attend our January 23 Citizens’ Climate University training on generating editorial endorsements, or use CCL’s existing resources and trainings. For one-on-one support, contact CCL’s Communications team members Flannery Winchester or Steve Valk.