There certainly is common purpose for using the site as open space. Boeing’s idea of safe open space is much different than the community’s or even government standards should the company continue to refuse to clean up its huge area of responsibility back to normal background levels of goo. Cleanup activists say that Boeing’s refusal to clean up completely would leave 98% of the contaminated soil in place.
“Given the long history of negative publicity at the SSFL site, it will take time for the press, stakeholders, elected officials and the public to conceive of the property in new ways,” the Make Over Earth plan opines positively. “Expectations for the news media campaign need to account for that reality and overcome it with a sustained effort and strategic focus. By telling the SSFL story in new and compelling ways, we will be in a better position to communicate key messages and shift discussions from a site with a sordid past to one with potential.”
By telling this story this way, the man behind Boeing’s meltdown makeover has taken his potential and shifted it to the disreputable in one fell swoop. “There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy,” famed journalist Joseph Pulitzer once said.
But Boeing’s Meltdown Makeover plan is secret no more.
MELTDOWN MAKEOVER MAN
The own goal of mistakenly publishing this campaign on the Internet turns Boeing’s secret plan on its ear and with it the credibility of its journalist-turned-huckster, Gary Polakovic. Polakovic shared the Pulitzer Prize with 46 other folks at the Los Angeles Times for the 1998 prize for breaking news reporting of the 1997 Southland firestorms.
EnviroReporter.com did not make the grade to be a media target in this PR plan and that probably wasn’t an oversight; Make Over Earth’s honcho Gary Polakovic and this reporter share many close friends. Polakovic is well known in environmental circles and serves on the boards of the Clean Air Coalition and the California State Parks Foundation.
Polakovic’s Facebook friends reads like a who’s who of Southland environmental and journalism players including Marla Cone, also a former Los Angeles Times reporter and now editor in chief of the aforementioned Environmental Health News, Patt Morrison, popular columnist for the Timeswho also serves as an advisor to the Los Angeles Press Club, Gina Solomon who is deputy secretary for Science and Health at the California Protection Agency and Jonathan Parfrey of Climate Resolve also a commissioner of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
Parfrey was one of the people who told this reporter about Rocketdyne in 1998. When Polakovic starting covering SSFL a year later, I wrote fellow journalists July 1, 1999 saying “[H]e comes in on the scene with impeccable credentials, like being the conference chairman for the upcoming Society of Environmental Journalists 9th annual conference at UCLA this September. Gary’s excellent reportage is evidenced by his latest Rocketdyne piece on June 25th, ‘Rocketdyne lab cleanup standards are called lax.’ The piece is available at the paper’s website, www.latimes.com. Gary will certainly keep me on my toes at the [L.A.] Weekly.”
Discovering that Gary Polakovic was behind Boeing’s plan 13 years later was shocking. At first blush it seemed that the leaked meltdown makeover plan couldn’t have been written by the same person since that journalist knew about Rocketdyne’s extensive contamination. Could this be the same guy?
Could this be the same Gary Polakovic who, on his LinkedIn page, speaks highly of himself during his August 1998 to October 2004 run as Senior Writer, environment science and policy for the L.A. Times?
“I pioneered environmental journalism in California,” Polakovic’s bio reads with no hint of irony.
While he was at the Press-Enterprise in Riverside from August 1986 to July 1997, Polakovic writes on his LinkedIn page under Key accomplishments that he “Established and led the Society of Environmental Journalists.”*
Actually, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) was founded by the late David Stolberg in the 1980s with Jim Detjen who would become the group’s founding President. Stolberg was a 38-year veteran of Scripps Howard and was proud of his accomplishment. “It was my concept,” he said in an interview on an SEJ webpage devoted to the David Stolberg Meritorious Service Award. “I’m extraordinarily proud of it.”
Make Over Earth, Inc.’s Draft Media Campaign for Santa Susan Field Laboratory includes a timeline that incudes, “Incorporate Make Over Earth team into Boeing’s ongoing outreach and remediation efforts – 3rd Qtr/2012.” It also states, “Identify third-parties who may be willing to publicly support the open space vision at SSFL – 4th Qtr/2012” and “Consider commissioning a blue-ribbon study on SSFL health risks today and in the future – 1st Qtr/2013.”
Polakovic’s idea of commissioning a Boeing study on health risks at Boeing’s lab follows a classic polluter pattern. In this case, replace the science that has shown in repeated studies – that the contamination at the site can cause serious health impacts – with a media friendly fairytale of how wonderful the lab already is.
Now that Make Over Earth’s campaign is public, only time will tell if Boeing still rolls with his recommendations. One thing is for sure, the company has had this campaign in the works long before Polakovic offered his greenwashing services and willingness to bear false witness.
Polakovic, who considers himself an “expert authority on some of the biggest environmental controversies of our time,” has just stepped into one with gusto.
*[Editor: Since this article's publication Polakovic's LinkedIn has been modified to remove the claims. We have a copy of the original page.]
Related Content: “Draft Media Campaign for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory”