Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Writer Settles Lawsuit with Utility Company

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Writer Settles Lawsuit with Utility Company

Article excerpt

AN ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER who sued Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for $100 million, charging it blacklisted her at magazines because of her anti-nuclear views, has settled with the giant utility firm, it was reported.

Under the agreement, neither the journalist, J.A. Savage, nor PG&E are allowed to discuss its terms. The San Francisco Bay Guardian headlined the settlement story, "Reporter Beats PG&E -- Utility Forced to Settle Suit With Reporter Whom Company Officials Got Fired."

A PG&E spokesman declined to comment on the Bay Guardian story or on the terms of the settlement, but did confirm it.

Savage is a former reporter for the Bay Guardian, which has been attacking PG&E for years for its nuclear power program and on other grounds.

However, it was the respected New York-based environmental magazine, Energy User News that fired Savage as its West Coast correspondent in 1987 after a PG&E official complained that her previous association with a Northern California group, the Redwood Alliance, represented a conflict of interest with her role as a journalist.

Savage claimed she had severed relations with the anti-nuclear group, which she helped found, when she began working for Energy User News. PG&E claimed otherwise, saying that she was an active member of the alliance at the time.

Savage charged that the PG&E executive, David Monfried, again put her out of a job by raising an objection to her employment with the editors of the Journal of Commerce, which had hired her as a free-lance stringer.

In her suit, Savage charged PG&E with libel, slander, intentional interference with economic relationships, tortious inducement of a breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with a ratepayer's rights.

Two Superior Court judges dismissed Savage's suit in 1991 and 1992, but a California appeals court reversed their decisions in 1993 and remanded the case for trial.

The higher court concluded that Monfried "may have acted improperly" in intervening with Savage's editors whose publications regard PG&E as a news source.

Said the court: "Because its monopolistic position extends over a large and economically vital geographical area, PG&E wields considerable power over the press covering its activities. …

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