My first reaction when associate producer Anne Lilburn uncovered the story behind "Too Poor To Go Green" was that this was huge. It’s about nothing less than our region’s worst water pollution problem — stormwater runoff -— the efforts being made to try and curb it, and the well-funded forces that are arrayed against those efforts.
It’s become a years-long battle taking place in L.A. and Orange County Courts, complete with unexpected twists and reversals of fortune. Anne Lilburn is one of the best reporters I know, and she’s to be commended for digging this up. But what really surprised me about this story was that no one else seems to have been following it.
Other than a 2003 L.A. Weekly article, and a couple of minor items buried in the Times and the Daily Breeze, it’s been played almost entirely behind the scenes. The depressing conclusion is that this silence is the result of years of decimation of our region’s newspaper staffs. Just a few years ago, the Los Angeles Times (and a few of our local stations) had full-time reporters covering beats like the environment, the local courts, the various regions like South Bay and Long Beach. They would have been on the scene to see this momentous story percolating its way through southern California and it would have made front page news several times.
Those reporters are all gone now; and I know I shouldn’t be complaining. After all, we in the TV news business have always been accused of playing follow-the-leader (i.e., the newspapers). I’m proud that we’re among the first to be telling this story, but at the same time, I’m sad about the implications of that.