German Lopez recently walked up to my desk on a busy Tuesday morning and said he had some bad news — he was offered a really great professional opportunity in Washington, D.C., and had decided to leave CityBeat after almost two years as our lead reporter. He apologized within the next two or three sentences, and I did my best “This is just part of the business” speech.
We spent some time talking about how much we’ve enjoyed working together and finalized the date we’ll have going-away drinks with the staff (we had to reschedule after hearing that German was trying to meet up with his parents that same night; we’re hoping he’ll drink enough to tell everyone how he really feels about us).
CityBeat readers have grown accustomed to opening these pages and finding multiple news stories and commentaries under German’s byline week after week. Many people expressed concern for this clearly overworked reporter whose name they usually couldn’t pronounce correctly (it’s “Her-mon”). While plenty of people have appreciated his stories on local elections, the streetcar, prison privatization, poverty, gay marriage, fracking and Gov. Kasich’s whack budgets, among many other subjects, few understand how thoughtfully he approaches his work and how rare it is to find such careful contextualization of so many varied and complicated political and social issues on such a consistent basis.
So I’m not surprised someone like Ezra Klein, the well-respected former Washington Post reporter who ran the paper’s Wonkblog, scooped up German within four weeks of announcing his new media endeavor online Jan. 26. In his announcement of the still-untitled media venture currently known as “Project X,” Klein lamented the limitations of print media, which he says has become faster and more accessible yet remains as surface-level as the days when space constraints limited stories to recent events with little context.
“We treat the emphasis on the newness of information as an important virtue rather than a painful compromise,” Klein wrote.
Sounds familiar. In a recent column Klein probably only had to read halfway before moving our guy to the top of the list, German wrote, “The media does a terrible job explaining public policies, and one of the major causes is reporters’ reliance on ‘he says, she says’ and faux authority figures who really have no business drilling into wonky policy debates.”
Klein writes that Project X will re-imagine the way reporters explain news; German will thrive under that philosophy.
In announcing his departure to our staff in an email, I noted that I didn’t have to explain to my colleagues German’s impact on our work as a whole during his time here. No one has ever come to CityBeat straight out of college and produced such a wide variety of important, nuanced stories about complicated local and statewide issues. And our readers noticed.
German stayed cool as the accolades rolled in via Twitter, only occasionally describing himself as “the best” and usually preferring to champion the “immense beauty” of his news department mate, Hannah McCartney. One day last summer, a TV newscast interviewing Mayor Mark Mallory caught German standing in the background watching, unaware he was in the shot. Music Editor Mike Breen created several different versions of the image — German in the background during Woodstock and former President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” announcement among the favorites.
German’s humility is one of the many
reasons he has found such success in his young career and likely why
he’s not afraid to pack up for D.C. and try something new. Before he
takes off, he leaves us with one final column on page 11, most of which
is about issues facing Cincinnati, rather than his accomplishments here.
It’s packed with tips we’ll gladly take him up on in the coming months.
This is not to say that German lacks confidence, though. He never doubted that our small news team could produce work of the highest quality — and he seemed to expect it from the start. The same could be said for McCartney, whose narrative writing style made both German and me feel like simpletons poking around on a typewriter, two-finger style. “Workmanlike” is how James McNair, another reporter I should thank for being an essential resource for all of us on investigative and long-form stories, would describe our writing. McNair, too, is leaving town soon for another legit reporting job, his at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in Louisville.
It’s always bittersweet to see colleagues move on, and this is especially true at CityBeat,
where the organization is small, the workload big, the stakes high and
the successes generally celebrated too little. All of these people, and those like reporter Andy Brownfield and designer Julie Hill who have come and gone during my tenure as editor, made this organization better every day and left big shoes to fill for the likes of Ashley Kroninger, new reporter Anthony Skeens and whoever ends up in German’s chair next.
But one of the pleasures of this job is seeing people like German move on to something so fitting and cool. And who knows — maybe he and his husband
will find the fancy tacos in their new D.C. neighborhood to be a drain
on the budget and we’ll be able to help out in exchange for some
freelance work. Although after the 300-plus bylines he authored in the
past two years, we’re going to give him some time to get settled before
bringing it up.
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