When investigative reporter Jeff German was killed in September, his colleagues at the Las Vegas Review-Journal were determined that his stories would not die with him. They reported on his stabbing death outside his home and the complex saga of Robert Telles, the former Clark County official whose turbulent management style German had investigated and who was now charged with his murder. German had just begun another story before his death. The Washington Post reached out to offer assistance, and the Review-Journal’s asked the Post to help finish it? Post reporter Lizzie Johnson flew to Nevada to join a long journalism tradition. She was handed a stack of folders, neatly labeled in pink highlighter. German had written an outline for the story that she would try to pursue, the Post reports.
“It was a no-brainer for me,” Johnson said. “I can’t imagine anything more meaningful than continuing a slain journalist’s work so that the story can live on even when they can’t.” On Wednesday, Johnson’s collaboration with Review-Journal photographer Rachel Aston on how an alleged $500 million Ponzi scheme targeting Mormon investors ended in a standoff and gunfire at a desert mansion published on both papers’ websites. It was the latest project by journalists who set aside competitive pressures and their usual beats to help finish the work of a fallen colleague. In 2007, Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was shot and killed while walking to work. He had been reporting on the troubled finances of a local business called Your Black Muslim Bakery; prosecutors said his murder was ordered to stop his coverage. Instead, three dozen people from California news organizations and journalism schools came together to complete his reporting. Their coalition, the Chauncey Bailey Project, received funding from major philanthropic and industry organizations. The Chauncey Bailey Project was modeled on the Arizona Project, which in 1976 brought together 38 journalists from 28 newspapers and TV stations to complete the work of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles, who was killed by a car bomb while reporting on organized crime.