Philip L. Fradkin, a native New Yorker who I believe became the first environment reporter at the Los Angeles Times, died Saturday of cancer at his home in Point Reyes Station. After the Times he went on to write numerous books about California and the West, focusing on earthquakes, water, history and the natural environment. His books include "A River No More: The Colorado River and the West," "The Seven States of California: A Natural and Human History," "Wallace Stegner and the American West" and "The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906."
Last year, after Fradkin and his son Alex walked the length of the California coast, they produced a book, “The Left Coast," that reviewer Jonathan Kirsch called "at once, a memoir, a work of investigative journalism, and a portfolio of fine art, all of which is sharply focused on the California shoreline."
From Fradkin's journalistic creed on his website:
1. I tell stories; I don’t spin theories or outline ideas.
2. I don’t believe there is any single truth, but rather differing versions of it. For my version I employ three goals: accuracy, fairness, readability.
3. For average youths and would-be writers, there's hope; I was an indifferent student, only catching fire later when I had to earn a living and vowed to find work I enjoyed and was passionate about.
4. My mantra for all the rejections of proposals by editors was: "Don't let the bastards get you down."
5. Along the way the following phrase from Emerson’s essay “Nature” became my guideline: “All the facts of natural history taken by themselves, have no value, but are barren like a single sex. But marry it to human history, and it is full of life.” I am interested in the blending of natural and human histories. That is why I call myself an environmental historian.