Ace environment reporter Mike Taugher has passed away, but we can still learn from him. Check out his 2007 talk at the U.C. Berkeley California Colloquium on Water (above).
Incidentally, to me the most memorable story by Mike had nothing to do with water or the Delta. It was his first-person retrospective after Jaycee Lee Dugard was found alive in 2009.
When she disappeared in 1991, Mike was a brand-new reporter at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. In the retrospective, he remembers covering that first press conference when Jaycee went missing, and witnessing first-hand the “media invasion” that disrupted life in that small mountain community. Most importantly, he remembers the unspeakable pain endured by Jaycee’s parents — and hints at his reluctance to intrude.
He writes: “I remember accompanying Terry to Jaycee’s room one day with a photographer.
“This wasn’t going to be easy, everybody knew, but the photographer wanted the photo and I think Terry felt it had to be done. I wasn’t so sure. Terry sat on her daughter’s bed and buried her face in a stuffed animal.
“The pain I saw that summer was unspeakable. Whoever stole the daughter also ripped the mother’s heart out. Carl, Jaycee’s stepfather, was wracked. He told me one of the things that haunted him: If only he had the car keys in his pocket he would not have had to chase the car uphill on a bike.”
Mike calls Jaycee’s abduction an “act of evil inflicted on decent people.”
He eventually left Tahoe and didn’t write about the case again until Dugard was discovered alive, 18 years later:
“I’ve written thousands of stories since then, but the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard and Tahoe’s summer of 1991 is one of the few that burned into me.”
I really didn’t know Mike personally, but those who did have commented on his qualities not only as a reporter but as a person. It seems to me that, like all great reporters, Mike was a human being first.