Interested in the spirit, and tactics, required of investigative journalists who uncover stories of political and environmental importance, Sag Harbor Citizen Advisory Committee (Sag Harbor CAC) Chairman John Linder reached out to the East End reporter, columnist, author and broadcaster Karl Grossman.
On Tuesday night, Grossman joined the Sag Harbor CAC, giving the group a brief history of his career in journalism and highlighting some current crusades the veteran reporter has made a priority.
Grossman has never covered Sag Harbor, although the reporter of 40-years has lived in the community with his wife, Janet, since 1974, and his grandfather worked at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory in the heart of the village before moving to New York City.
Originally, Grossman aspired to be a college professor – an aspiration he would eventually achieve, but after working at The Cleveland Press through an Antioch College program, Grossman found himself inspired by the newspaper’s motto, “Give the people light and they will find their own way.” After his internship at the press, “a scrappy little paper that took on power,” Grossman dedicated much of his life in the 1960s and 1970s to investigative journalism in New York and on Long Island.
Starting out at The Babylon Town Leader, Grossman found a knack for environmental journalism, taking on the all-powerful Robert Moses when he began a string of articles focused on the urban planner’s goal of constructing a four-lane roadway on Fire Island.
“I spent almost two years crusading against that road, while Newsday, The New York Times and The Long Island Press were all in Moses’s pocket,” said Grossman. “It really taught me, if you can give people the light, illuminate the real issue, people will find their way.”
Moses was ultimately unsuccessful, and Grossman said the powerful planner had him fired and almost blacklisted in the industry as a result, although he found his way back at The Long Island Press, his home as an investigative journalist until it closed its doors in 1977. There he uncovered political corruption in Southampton Town, and fought against the creation of a nuclear power plant in Shoreham.
“The environment became my main thing,” said Grossman of his career. “I finally felt as an investigative reporter, I was doing something that had meaning.”
It was during his tenure at The Press that Grossman began his career in broadcasting – which he continues to this day as a weekly commentator at WLIU-FM and through his nationally syndicated television show, “Enviro Close-Up.” Grossman is also a professor of journalism at the State University of New York’s College at Old Westbury and the author of six books tied to environmental journalism. He continues his role in journalism through weekly columns that appear in The Sag Harbor Express and The Southampton Press, as well as through magazine articles nationwide.
“I have been investigating a lot recently into this move to revive nuclear power as a solution to global warming,” said Grossman, noting nuclear power actually contributes significantly to global warming through the mining, milling and fuel enrichment needed to create the energy source. “And there is a real alternative, with solar, wind and other clean energies.”
Grossman said his energy bill clocks in at about $5 a month, due in part to the installation of solar panels on his roof.
“So there is no need to go nuclear except for those who profit from the industry,” he said.
“To me, environmental journalism is in part about the scenery,” said Grossman. “But I also see it as life or death …You have these vested interests, a combination of big business, big government, big science, but in the meanwhile people are dying and everyone knows it and there is no need for it.”