Fishing for Answers
Maybe asking a 77-year-old environmental reporter to squeeze through a fence and navigate uncut grass in the Flats was a bit much to ask, but Betty Klaric just shrugged: Lead the way. Klaric is considered the first major newspaper reporter to cover the en
Cleveland Magazine: So on the off chance we actually catch something, are we going to cook it up?
Betty Klaric: From this part of the river? No way. It still doesn't look good. From up near the headwaters? Sure. Granted, the river has always looked good up there.
CM: It has to look a little better, though, no?
BK: I certainly don't remember irises growing on the side of the river. Or any flowers, really, so that's a promising sign.
CM: So how nasty was the river back then?
BK: When you flew into Cleveland, you would see an orange aura.
BK: Yes. In pools along the river and just hanging over it.
CM: When the river caught fire, was anyone surprised?
BK: There were not a lot of people paying attention to the environment. It was a fringe group. Even when the fire happened, at first, nobody paid that much attention to it locally.
CM: Did your fishing rod just move?
BK: I don't feel anything biting.
CM: Looked like it moved. If something does bite, are you prepared?
BK: I'm holding on!
CM: Obviously the fire became a big deal. Mayor Carl Stokes held press conferences. You wrote a ton about it.
BK: It became bigger than any of us imagined it would.
CM: Do you feel guilty at all, now that Cleveland is still defined by this 40 years later? I mean, the jokes aren't going away.
BK: It doesn't bother me, because it had such a positive effect. I became more or less a crusader. I wanted things done.
[Fish leaps from the water]
BK: Oh, my! What do you think that was? A carp?
CM: I don't know, but it's proof there are fish in here!
BK: Hey, come over here. We have a worm for you.
CM: Think the health of the river will ever be ignored again?
BK: Oh, no. The environmental movement has become a business, and it's not going anywhere.
CM: I think my line is stuck on something.
CM: Well, let's call it a morning. Too bad we didn't catch anything but the bottom of the river.
12:00 AM EST
June 23, 2009