Requiem for a watchdog

Editor’s note: editorial represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently of the newsroom.


As an investigative journalist in Las Vegas, Jeff German covered casinos, corruption, organized crime and one of the deadliest shootings in the nation.

Tragically, his death now complements his work as a powerful reminder of the impact of local news and its enduring importance. German, who had Wisconsin roots, died of stab wounds outside his home earlier this month. A county official he wrote about was charged with murder.

The Star Tribune joins news organizations across the country in mourning German’s loss. Journalism’s role as a watchdog is fundamental to good governance at all levels—local, state, and federal. German has actively taken on this responsibility. His exemplary work made his adopted home and city a better place.

The 69-year-old German, pronounced “GARE man,” has been a reporter for the Review Journal since 2010. Before that, he was a longtime Las Vegas Sun writer.

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During his decades-long career, he exposed the unethical and the unscrupulous. One of the highlights: receiving 32,000 pages of receipts and squandering lavish spending on gifts and travel from members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

His techniques were old-fashioned – paper files for the information gathered, an unerring personal radar for wrongdoing, and a legendary network of sources whose trust he had earned with fairness and accuracy over the years. His stories ensured that taxpayers’ money was well spent and that politicians were worthy of their jobs.

While many local and regional media outlets continue to face financial headwinds, German’s career demonstrates the importance of retaining journalists with investigative expertise and deep community connections.

They are the backbone of a news organization. Accountability and transparency atrophy in their absence.

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Robert Telles, who served as Clark County’s public administrator, was charged with the murder in German’s death. The criminal complaint alleges that the fatal stabbing was “premeditious, intentional and premeditated” and that the perpetrator “was lying in wait,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Telles lost a Democratic primary after Germany documented bullying, hostility and favoritism in that county office earlier this year. He is now being held without bail.

Journalist deaths in the United States remain rare, but the increase over the past decade is alarming. “So far in our history, 39 journalists have been killed in the US, many in the Civil War. Ten journalists have been killed in six incidents in our country since 2003,” read the National Press Club’s statement on German’s death.

Colleagues remember him as a friend and mentor. At the same time, they boldly put grief into action. The organization Investigative Reporters and Editors has established a fund in honor of German.

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“It was an immediate response that we would take up his work and move on,” said Review-Journal’s Rhonda Prast. She is a former Star Tribune editor who worked with German as the newspaper’s deputy editor-in-chief for investigations and engagement in Las Vegas. In fact, German’s preference for paper files over digital files has made it easier for his colleagues to find his notes and continue his work.

The byline of German is overlooked. But he leaves behind colleagues who know how to dig and who to call because they’ve worked with him — and readers who expect that coverage from their newspaper. This is a worthy legacy for Germany’s decades of public service.

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