Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2023
When Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German was murdered, it launched a quest to find out who killed one of Nevada’s best reporters. But once police made an arrest, a First Amendment legal battle began between the newspaper and prosecutors and homicide detectives working to bring German’s suspected killer to justice.
At issue is access to German’s cell phone and laptop. Police and prosecutors want to view the contents of the electronic devices to prove their case. The Review-Journal is asking the courts to deny or closely control access to the devices to protect German’s unpublished notes and, more importantly, to protect the identities of his confidential sources. German was an investigative reporter for 44 years and for a time covered organized crime. The Review-Journal argued in its court case that protecting German’s sources could literally be a matter of life or death.
Complicating the Review-Journal’s court fight to protect the First Amendment and Nevada’s shield law for reporters is the nature of the charges against German’s alleged killer. Police allege German was killed by a former public official who was the subject of an ongoing investigative project the reporter had been working on. German was silenced, the Review-Journal contends, for practicing his fundamental First Amendments rights as a reporter.
The violent death of one of its own hasn’t stopped the Review-Journal editorial team from carrying on German’s work. The fight to protect the First Amendment and the state’s shield law includes the staff’s exemplary coverage of German’s murder. The staff, coping with the murder of one of its own, also was committed to continuing the underlying investigative reporting that likely led to his death.
“The murder of a journalist is the most extreme and horrific measure anyone can take to censor the media, promote secrecy, block scrutiny and accountability and halt the flow of information. The killing of Mr. German can’t be allowed to erode the protections that allow courageous reporters and sources to inform the public,” said Glenn Cook, executive editor of the Review-Journal.