Gary WebbGary Stephen Webb (August 31, 1955 – December 10, 2004) was an American investigative journalist.
He began his career working for newspapers in Kentucky and Ohio, winning numerous awards, and building a strong reputation for investigative writing. Hired by the ''San Jose Mercury News'', Webb contributed to the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Webb is best known for his "Dark Alliance" series, which appeared in ''The Mercury News'' in 1996. The series examined the origins of the crack cocaine trade in Los Angeles and claimed that members of the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua had played a major role in creating the trade, using cocaine profits to finance their fight against the government in Nicaragua. It also stated that the Contras may have acted with the knowledge and protection of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The series provoked outrage, particularly in the Los Angeles African-American community, and led to four major investigations of its charges.
The ''Los Angeles Times'' and other major papers published articles suggesting the "Dark Alliance" claims were overstated and, in November 1996, Jerome Ceppos, the executive editor at ''Mercury News,'' wrote about being "in the eye of the storm". In May 1997, after an internal review, Ceppos stated that, although the story was right on many important points, there were shortcomings in the writing, editing and production of the series. He wrote that the series likely "oversimplified" the crack epidemic in America and the supposed "critical role" the dealers written about in the series played in it. Webb disagreed with this conclusion.
Webb resigned from ''The Mercury News'' in December 1997. He became an investigator for the California State Legislature, published a book based on the "Dark Alliance" series in 1998, and did freelance investigative reporting. He died by suicide on December 10, 2004.
The "Dark Alliance" series remains controversial. Critics view the series' claims as inaccurate or overstated, while supporters point to the results of a later CIA investigation as vindicating the series. The follow-up reporting in the ''Los Angeles Times'' and other papers has been criticised for focusing on problems in the series rather than re-examining the earlier CIA-Contra claims. Provided by Wikipedia