“I love digging up stories”: Remembering Jeff German

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The first double byline that German and I had was for a mob story. One morning in January 1997, he rushed to my office and said, “Blitzstein has been murdered. Let’s go.” I grabbed a notebook and we ran out of the newsroom to the photo lab, grabbed a photographer and rushed to the scene east of the Las Vegas Valley to the townhouse of “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein. German, while driving, talked about Blitzstein and how he had started writing about him years earlier after German had moved to the valley. Blitzstein was a high-ranking gangster in Las Vegas who helped oversee the city’s loan sharking and street rackets.

At the crime scene, we both interviewed Blitzstein’s neighbors and the homicide police lieutenant. We learned that Blitzstein had been shot in the back from his head running style. Back in the newsroom, we sat down at German’s desk and wrote the article on schedule. As a result, we were the first to break the news of the murder of Herbie Blitzstein, the latest gangster killed in Las Vegas.

Still, police said early on that it didn’t look like a mob hit. The German, however, did not buy it. So he and I continued the story through each of our sources and learned that Blitzstein had indeed been murdered by the Los Angeles and Buffalo crime syndicate families: they had joined forces to take over Blitzstein’s operation. . German instinct was right.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise because at this point the German was a mafia expert. He arrived at Las Vegas Sun, from Milwaukee Journal, circa 1982, during Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro’s grip on the Chicago outfit that ran the skimming of profits for the Las Vegas organization. German’s arrival came a year after the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrested Spilotro’s Hole in the Wall Gang for a burglary.

Mary Manning, who joined the Sun as a journalist in 1972, recalls German’s arrival at the paper as casino corporations began to take over the Las Vegas Strip.

“Jeff was hired to cover up crime and mob influence,” she said from her Utah home. “He was an established reporter from Milwaukee. He came in looking like he knew what he was doing. He was very impactful in his approach to stories and never gave up. He was a star reporter. Jeff didn’t talk about his sources and he didn’t say where he was going with a story, but he went after the story, always.

As for me, I arrived at Sun a decade after German, long after he had perfected his craft. Shortly after we met, German invited me to basketball games at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. It was a year after coach Jerry Tarkanian left the team, and German, a huge fan, is full of praise for “Tark,” as he called him, and his winning record. During term intermissions, however, German usually talked about the news, not basketball, and he always asked me what I was working on. He advised me on my rhythm by saying to me: “Make sure to speak to such and such about this or that” or: “Don’t forget to ask questions about such and such”. He was still working and always eager to help his fellow reporters.

A few years after leaving the Sun, Jeff and I sat together in the gallery of the courtroom as we each covered the murder trial of casino magnate Ted Binion. German and I each had contracts to write books about Binion and his drug overdose death at what prosecutors said was at the hands of Binion’s girlfriend and her lover. But German and I didn’t talk shop in the courtroom. As usual, German kept his views on the case to himself. I would have to wait to read it in his book.

In 2009, Manning said, when the Las Vegas Sun reduced, she and German, along with others, were fired. “We were waiting to collect our things from our desks,” she said. “Jeff was in tears and said he didn’t know what he was going to do. He had worked there for two and a half decades. But the Las Vegas Review-Journal hired him and he fell to his feet.

The German stayed Review-Journal until his death earlier this month, about 10 years after he began working at the newspaper that had been his longtime competitor. Clark County elected official Robert Telles was charged with fatally stabbing German outside his home due to several scandals in Telles’ office that German revealed with his reporting.

It’s this stubbornness to get the – usually exclusive – story that I remember most about German. He worked the phone to deadlines as if his life depended on it. He could get chatty one-on-one with friends, but German was generally a man of few words when it came to colleagues in the newsroom. When her phone rang and it was a source, her chatter accelerated.

Years later, finding stories was still his thing. The German’s Twitter bio read: “I’m a member of the Las Vegas Review-Journalthe investigative team, and I love digging up stories. Jeff German did it with vengeance, all the way.

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