The best still-at-a-paper journalist in the state ….

… is leaving the East Valley Tribune today. Ryan Gabrielson, who, along with Paul Giblin, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, will begin his year long investigative reporting fellowship at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism September 1. Let the choir sing Amen. Not because Arizona is losing him, but because the nation is about to be exposed to a brilliant, young investigative mind through the work Ryan will do during his fellowship.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa Community College District might be rejoicing at Ryan’s leaving, as investigations he did illuminated all sorts of questionable dealings in the Sheriff’s office and the CC District. It must be noted, however, that Ryan told me shortly after winning the Pulitzer that Arpaio actually called him to congratulate him, an act Ryan said said “showed a lot of class.” (It also shows that the sheriff, demonized by the left, is a human being.)

I knew about Ryan before I actually met him, hearing stories of his reporting at a weekly paper that he toiled at before I came on board. When I started covering higher education for the Tucson Citizen, Ryan and I met at Arizona Board of Regents meetings, and the first and best thing I noticed about him was how gracious and kind he was. Reporters – especially good ones – can develop egos that interfere with their humanity. Not so Ryan. When he won the Pulitzer, all I could think was, “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

With newspapers laying off reporters at record pace, and with a not-irrational fear growing that government will get away with all sorts of nasty doings with no watchdogs barking at their heels, it is nice to know that somewhere, in the brave new world of journalism, there are places still committed to further grooming of the best and the brightest among us. Good luck, Ryan. We’ll miss you.

If you want to follow some of Ryan’s thoughts about journalism,  check out his blog, Conspiracy to Commit Journalism, he hopes to highlight some of the best in investigative journalism.

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