Feb. 12 2013 11:29 PM

Goodbye to perhaps San Diego's best investigative reporter

Dave Maass

    Our music editor, Peter Holslin, finally snapped. After years of being on the receiving end of constant needling and badgering and poking and prodding and pestering by our investigative reporter, Dave Maass, Holslin—possessor of the mildest manner around—reached his limit recently and told Dave to "Shut! Up!" It was a watershed moment in CityBeat office-space lore.

    Lots of San Diegans have wanted Dave to Shut! Up!—mostly those who find themselves in his argumentative crosshairs on Twitter. He certainly has a way about him.

    It's all part of the package, and on balance, Dave, despite his unique ability to burrow under the skin, is the most organized and focused investigator and one of the most creative and talented writers I've ever worked with. In my view, he's the best reporter in San Diego, but he pairs that skill with a knack for generating the kinds of irreverent ideas that alternative weeklies need to stay fresh—they just keep coming, as if on a conveyor belt from a machine. The best example is our "Turds & Blossoms" election-time series, in which we (mostly Dave) called out the best and worst candidate behavior.

    I sing his praises because the day this issue hits the streets is, sadly, Dave's last day with CityBeat. He's leaving San Diego for a job in San Francisco with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where he'll help journalists do their thing in the digital realm. Happily, he'll continue doing journalism himself, including carrying on his technology column for CityBeat, "No Life Online," as well as a big investigative series he and associate editor Kelly Davis are preparing to launch.

    Just as former arts editor Kinsee Morlan revolutionized the way CityBeat covered visual art, Dave set a high bar for investigative reporting. For example: He wrote the first, definitive story about problems at the San Diego Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies, leading to enactment of reform legislation; he led the way in chronicling how county Supervisor Bill Horn has tried to use taxpayer money to further his religious agenda; he shined light on attorney Gary Kreep's role in the nationwide "Birther" movement before Kreep was elected to the San Diego Superior Court bench and continued to watch him after he took his seat. Most recently, he's used public records to lift the curtain on what goes on inside San Diego County jails and juvenile-detention facilities. That's just a small sampling of his memorable work—the list goes on: medical marijuana, neo-Nazis, Carl DeMaio, Darrell Issa, FBI Citizens Academy, WikiLeaks, CalPERS, not to mention his cultural writing, such as his Comic-Con coverage and stories like the one he wrote recently about a vintage-turntable repairman. It's an impressive body of work for three-plus years.

    One of my favorite of Dave's stories was a cover piece called "Tuan's paradoxes." It started with Dave wanting to know more about a man who was waging a quiet protest against the CIA out of a minivan parked Downtown, and it turned out to be a riveting profile of a brilliant but troubled Vietnamese immigrant.

    We'll also miss Dave in the office. Though his abundant gift of gab dramatically drove up CityBeat staffers' use of headphones—and his workspace might be a Superfund site—he's also entertained us and kept us loose with his sharp, quick wit. He'll be hard to replace, but we're working on it. We're committed to continuing the momentum that Dave helped us generate. We have a handful of strong candidates. 

    All of us wish him the best of luck.

    The loss of Dave Maass is but one of a handful of changes going on at CityBeat. In the wake of art and culture editor Amy Granite's departure (along with her food column, "Grubby Bitch"), we've promoted events editor Alex Zaragoza to the title of staff writer and replaced her with a new events editor, Shea Kopp. Zaragoza has taken over our "Seen Local" visual-arts page and will contribute more culture features, along with her lively monthly column, "There She Goz."

    We've selected a new wine writer, Jen Van Tieghem, whose column starts next week; I thank Anders Wright for carrying the vino torch as long as he did. We'll also be adding a couple of new food writers shortly, one of whom is Mina Riazi, who'll begin in March. Our new "Urban Scout" shopping columnist is Katrina Dodson; she'll start in March. I'm excited about adding these fresh new voices to our team.


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