The topic of Gary Webb and his treatment within the journalism world remains divisive. People I respect fall on both sides: that he was a courageous investigative digger who got screwed over the political fallout from his 1996 "Dark Alliance" series alleging a CIA-Contra link to the urban crack epidemic, and that he was a reporter who leaped to conclusions and destroyed his own career. Webb killed himself Dec. 10, 2004, and now Nick Schou of the OC Weekly has written "Kill the Messenger, coming in October from Nation Books. A story today on the Editor & Publisher website says:
While Schou admits major mistakes on the part of Webb and his editors, he saves his harshest vitriol for The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, which severely criticized the series in the months after it ran. "So much of the reporting was personal and an attack on Gary Webb, it was unbelievable," Schou tells E&P.
Schou, an investigative reporter with OC Weekly in Orange County Calif., also seeks to debunk the conspiracy theories that Webb was murdered. Because he had to shoot himself twice in the head to end his life, speculation has surfaced in many corners that Webb might have been bumped off. But Schou raises various pieces of evidence to kill that theory.
Finally, Schou spends an entire chapter essentially backing up Webb's reporting on several figures in Los Angeles with ties to the crack trade and the CIA, most notably a former police officer and convicted drug dealer, Ronald Lister. "Lister's business deals with powerful Salvadoran officials, his role in supplying the contras with arms, his relationship to retired CIA officials and his ties to [two prominent Nicaraguan drug smugglers] all suggest that the 'Dark Alliance' drug ring had closer ties to the CIA than even Webb could have known," Schou writes.
Gustavo Arellano also talks it up at the OC Weekly staff blog The Blotter.