The world of California water has been reeling the last couple days at the news of Mike Taugher’s untimely death. Mike lost his life on Sunday while snorkeling in Hawaii, at the far-too-young age of 50. He leaves behind a wife and two kids, and a community that will be ever grateful for his probing, insightful reporting.
Before moving to a position with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife last year, Mike was one of the top journalists covering water issues in the state. In an era when press coverage often amounts to little more than repeating the sound bites of various advocates, Mike took the time to dig deep and uncover the facts. Mike’s fellow journalist Paul Rogers said it well in today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
“Water is one of the most complicated topics in California, but it’s really, really important,” Rogers said. “There’s billions of dollars riding on the decisions that are made. The health of rivers and lakes and salmon and other species depend on the kind of decisions that are made.
“There are very few reporters that take the time to really understand it and report in a really fair and thoughtful way,” Rogers added. “Mike knew more about water than nearly any journalist in California.”
Clear-eyed, fact-based reporting is essential to allowing us as a society to have a fact-based policy discussion and make sensible decisions about our future and our children’s future. That’s the kind of journalism Mike pursued – the kind that informed public policy debates and cut through the sound bites and posturing.
In an era when the Wall Street Journal blames the driest hydrological period on record in California on a “government-made drought,” we will sorely miss Mike’s intelligent, fact-based reporting. More than that, we’ll miss his smiling face at water hearings and gatherings around the state. While California’s water community has its foibles and internecine squabbles – as any community does – we are all an integral part of that community, and the loss of one of our own leaves a gaping hole. Thank you, Mike; we miss you already.