A sad goodbye

I’ve come to learn this week that if you think you know what is going on in the world—in particular in the lives of the people you work with—you don’t.

Last week, staff writer Gary Webb took his own life, and it’s a tragedy on many levels.

It’s tragic because Gary was a smart man with large amounts of reporting and writing talent, and there were exposés to be done. He had journalism skills that he was born with and earned, and there are very few around who have the courage to use them like he did. Tragic because Gary was again doing what he was meant to do: report the truth and write it well. He liked talking story—the language of writers and editors.

Throughout his life, he had an instinct for finding the interesting and the important, and he did that with this newspaper, evidenced by his stories (click here). An award-winning journalist during a long career (he won a Pulitzer for reporting on the Loma Prieta earthquake), he is perhaps best known for a series of stories he wrote for the San Jose Mercury News. But the controversial series, “Dark Alliance,” which revealed CIA involvement in cocaine smuggling and distribution in this country, did not enjoy the backing of the newspaper’s management once other establishment newspapers went after aspects of the story and believed the CIA. That was very tragic. The CIA’s inspector general later admitted the agency’s involvement in protecting drug traffickers.

We won’t claim that after four months of his employment here, we knew Gary well. We didn’t. Gary was straightforward and direct, and he also kept to himself. Only he knows what happened in his life to cause this.

A tragedy on many levels, but none more so than for his family. He left behind three children, an ex-wife and a number of close friends and colleagues, including many at this newspaper who remain shocked and saddened by what happened.