Jeff German, an investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was driven by his passion for exposing wrongdoing — a passion that ultimately cost him his life.
German, 69, was found fatally stabbed outside his home on Sept. 3. Robert Telles, the Clark County public administrator now charged with murder in his death, was the subject of a news story written by German last May. It included allegations that Telles oversaw a hostile work environment and engaged in an inappropriate relationship with an employee. Telles denied the charges, but after the story was published, he lost a Democratic primary race. He was also said to be upset that German was pursuing a follow-up report.
His murder is a reminder that the underlying goal of journalism — to reveal sometimes uncomfortable truths — can also create a universe of subjects who feel wronged by it. In the United States, that combination rarely leads to deadly violence — but it does happen. According to data kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists, German is the ninth American journalist murdered since 1992.
However, in recent years, and especially during the presidency of Donald Trump, antipress rhetoric increased in intensity and so did threats. In 2019, the international press freedom organization, Reporters Without Borders, downgraded this country from a “satisfactory” place for journalists to work to a “problematic” one. That report came out the year after five people were killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. The man charged with their murders had previously filed an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against the newspaper.
German’s long career, which began in Milwaukee, took him “from typewriters to Twitter,” as The New York Times put it. His interest in writing about organized crime inspired a move to Las Vegas, where he worked at the Las Vegas Sun before moving to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Whether he was covering politicians, mobsters or moguls, his goal was to hold the powerful accountable by doing what good journalists do. He asked tough questions, tracked down facts, and developed sources to connect the dots of wrongdoing as plainly as possible for readers.
It was a job he loved. Geoff Schumacher, one of German’s editors at the Las Vegas Sun, told the Review-Journal, German “was not someone who it was, ‘Maybe I’ll be a reporter for awhile and then I’ll go do something else.’ He was a reporter probably from birth to death. Ink was running very heavily in his veins.”
“He was not afraid or fearful at all,” Rhonda Prast, assistant managing editor for investigations and projects at the Review-Journal, told the Los Angeles Times.
Fearlessness made German good at what he did — and vulnerable.
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