Should journalists worry for their safety?

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Two weeks ago, the city of Las Vegas lost a pillar of the community when Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German was found dead in front of his home.

German was reportedly stabbed to death by Democratic Public Administrator Robert Telles, after publishing articles exposing claims of bullying in his government office. 

While safety of reporters has always been a concern, those in large cities and those reporting on governmental issues always should take extra precautions. Arriving on-scene during or after events to relay information, like German did with the Oct. 1 shooting, is dangerous in and of itself.

With the loss of Jeff German, Las Vegas and the world are confronted with the question of how to protect journalists.

“When I heard about Jeff German, I was shocked. It shocked me because he was a journalist for so long, and it only took one person to stop or take away what he did,” said Yixi Yang, a freshman majoring in molecular cellular developmental biology at Yale University.

“It happened in my hometown in Las Vegas, and it was done in such a brutal way,” Yang said. “This will definitely give worry to those who want to get into the profession and make people more cautious about how they get sources. It won’t stop anyone from getting into journalism, but it will make people a lot more cautious and concerned with safety.”

Yang predicted that additional safety protocols will be put into place by either publication companies or cities themselves.

German was no stranger to controversial subjects, as he previously targeted Las Vegas’ tourism agency, sexual harassment claims at the Clark County Coroner’s Office, lawsuits against the Raiders and more. 

There’s no question that the event was planned, as prosecutors filed a criminal complaint alleging that the crime was a “willful, deliberate and premeditated” murder, according to multiple sources. Likely there was a motive deriving from German’s investigative work around allegations of bullying, favoritism and an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

While the issue of journalistic safety proves to be prevalent in Las Vegas, the issue extends worldwide with 51 journalists killed in 2020 already, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The United Nations says that around 90% of these killings go unpunished.

In May of 2022, three journalists (Yesenia Mollinedo, Sheila Johana García and Luis Enrique Ramírez) were killed over the span of three days in Mexico.

Considering that the cities and counties in the U.S. can only put so many restrictions on journalists, the majority of safety is left up to the journalists themselves. This may include telling an additional person where you are meeting a source, meeting the source in a public place during daylight and never using your own vehicle.

Safety for American journalists is essential. Without journalistic safety, the foundation of the First Amendment would begin to crumble.

From the founding of our country, the freedom of press, right to challenge the government and right to speak freely without fear of retribution has been central to our democratic republic.

The best way to preserve this is to pursue cases of threat against journalists, strengthen the relationship between those in the journalism community across the country and inform as many people in the industry as possible about the necessary precautions.

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