Neil Caudle has been central to a pair of excellent university research magazines over the years, Endeavors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Glimpse from Clemson. He has retired from that sort of thing, mostly to write fiction, apparently. But he also has a blog as part of his personal website, and a recent post describes a situation he found himself in as editor at Glimpse.
It was just a geeky science story, but a vice president was telling me not to write it. He was not my boss, but my sources reported to him and wouldn’t utter a peep without his say-so. The topic was toxic, he said.
I sat in his office and gaped at him, dumbfounded. Only in some alternate universe would the topic of wind turbines and power grids be toxic.
Patiently, the VP explained to me the alternate universe of South Carolina politics. According to doctrine in that realm, decent Americans pledge allegiance to fossil fuels and nukes. Only weirdo liberals truck with solar and wind.
So Clemson University could build and operate, in North Charleston, a fabulous new facility for testing wind turbines and simulating their use on the grid. And we could bank some big grants and contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy and companies such as General Electric to do the work. We just couldn’t write about it.
Caudle bided his time, the VP left, and the shrewd editor brought the story back, tuned up to dodge legislative wrath.
Insurgents afoot in an alternate universe rely on stealth. To save my boss a world of hurt, I would have to think like a native. And in South Carolina, the natives take pride in their history.
So I dug up some history. Three centuries ago, windmills designed by Dutch engineers powered the saws that cut the lumber that built a city called Charleston. The windmills also drained swamps and ground corn. So wind energy was nothing new. It was heritage, deeply rooted as indigo or rice. I had my lead.
You can find the story that ran here.
By the way, lest there be any question about Caudle’s motive, he has titled his blog An insurgence of words, with a subtitle: “In which we attempt to puncture the culture of spin.” Man after my own heart. And my first suggestion as a presenter at next year’s Editors Forum.