Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
Jeff German covered casinos, corruption, organized crime and one of the nation's deadliest shootings as a Las Vegas investigative journalist.
Tragically, his death now augments his work as a powerful reminder of local news' impact and its continuing importance. German, who had Wisconsin roots, died of stab wounds earlier this month outside his home. A county official he'd written about has been charged with his murder.
The Star Tribune joins news organizations across the nation in mourning German's loss. Journalism's watchdog role is fundamental for good governance at all levels — local, state and federal. German energetically shouldered this responsibility. His exemplary work made his adopted home state and city a better place.
German, 69, pronounced "GARE-man," had been a Review-Journal reporter since 2010. Before that he was a longtime Las Vegas Sun writer.
During his decadeslong career, he exposed the unethical and the unscrupulous. One of the highlights: obtaining 32,000 pages of receipts and outing lavish spending on gifts and travel by members of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
His techniques were old-school — paper files for the information he gathered, an unerring personal radar for malfeasance, and a legendary network of sources whose trust he'd won over the years with fairness and accuracy. His stories ensured that taxpayer dollars were well spent and politicians were worthy of the office they held.
While financial headwinds continue for many local and regional media outlets, German's career illustrates the importance of keeping journalists with investigative expertise and deep community connections on staff.
They are a news organization's backbone. Accountability and transparency wither in their absence.
Robert Telles, who served as the Clark County public administrator, has been charged with murder in German's death. The criminal complaint alleges that the fatal stabbing was "willful, deliberate and premeditated" and that the perpetrator was "lying in wait," according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Telles lost a Democratic primary after German chronicled bullying, hostility and favoritism earlier this year at this county office. He's now being held without bail.
Journalists' death in the United States remain rare, but the increase over the past decade is alarming. "So far, 39 journalists have been killed in the U.S. during our history, and many of those were in the Civil War. Since 2003, 10 journalists have been killed in our country in six incidents," said National Press Club statement on German's death.
Colleagues are remembering him as a friend and mentor. At the same time, they're courageously turning grief into action. The Investigative Reporters and Editors organization has set up a fund in German's honor.
"It was immediate reaction, that we were going to pick up his work and continue," said the Review-Journal's Rhonda Prast. She is a former Star Tribune editor who worked with German as the Las Vegas newspaper's assistant managing editor for investigations and engagement. German's preference for paper files vs. digital files has actually made it easier for his colleagues to find his notes and continue his work.
German's byline will be missed. But he leaves behind colleagues who know how to dig and who to call because they worked alongside him — and readers who expect that level of reporting from their newspaper. That's a worthy legacy for German's decades of public service.