Tom McCall may be most famous for signing the Oregon’s Beach Bill, protecting the beach as public property for future generations. But at KGW, he was best known for his seminal documentary, “Pollution in Paradise,” which first aired on Nov. 21, 1962. The documentary revealed the many sources of pollution in the Willamette River.
Produced by station manager Tom Dargan and then-KGW political analyst and commentator Tom McCall, Pollution in Paradise is considered an early leader in narrative environmental journalism. It focused on McCall’s investigative skills and reputation as a straight-shooting truth-teller. McCall pressed the powerful idea that there should be no tension between jobs and livability — Oregonians could enjoy both a robust economy and a healthy environment.
Delivered in his distinctive, familiar voice, McCall pointed his sharpest criticism at the pulp and paper industry. The film includes footage of a Willamette Falls mill dumping thousands of gallons of waste into the river and documented other sources of open pollution of the Willamette River and other waterways in Oregon.
The documentary also criticized the Oregon State Sanitary Authority for its failure to enforce existing regulations.
McCall went on to statewide office, serving as Secretary of State and then from 1967 to 1975 as Governor. Many of the ideas he championed as a journalist became law in Oregon under his political leadership.