Revisiting a Case Erin Brockovich Lost

Here’s an interesting little twist. Today’s interview piece on Beverly Hills Patch with journalist-turned-author Norma Zager (pictured), whose book Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills Greenscam was released in October, is much better than similar coverage published last month in the Beverly Hills Courier, the newspaper Zager joined as a reporter in 1999 and oversaw as editor from 2003 until 2007.

The newer item was written by USC journalism grad Joe Talgieri, who has been contributing to various LA area Patches since the spring of 2010. Among the more interesting tidbits are Zager’s observation that the legal losses of environmental crusaders such as Brockovich get much less media attention than the wins (in this case, Brokovich had to reimburse $450,000 in legal fees) and, more critically, that the causal link between an old oil well on Beverly Hills High grounds and student-resident cancer cases will never be properly quantified.

“Unfortunately now, the tragedy of Beverly Hills is, we’ll never know the truth,” Zager said. “We’ll never know if for all those years that oil well was there, whether it actually was a polluter. We’ll never know if it was harming children, we’ll never know anything now.”

Zager, who won several awards and national media commendations for her community newspaper coverage of the case, has recently been teaching an investigative journalism class at California State University–Los Angeles. But because of recent budget cutbacks, she says her course has been put on hold.