For the past three years, the Weekly has given kiddies straight out of college an opportunity to do a six-month stint with us at a reporter's salary. Our first person was Spencer Kornhaber, who wrote THE definitive piece on Birfer queen Orly Taitz, was a staffer with us for about a year afterward, and is now with The Atlantic–home run! The second person…um, double? You just never know what you're going to with kids raised on the Internet instead of Esquire when it was great.
So it was with slight trepidation that we welcomed Marisa Gerber to our staff around six months ago.
She seemed to have the creds–degree from the University of Arizona, a desire to do investigative reporting, fluency in English and español–but Marisa was only 22, and from Nogales, Arizona, which is essentially an expanse of concrete thrown somewhere in the Sonoran Desert. But she immediately impressed everyone on staff with her enthusiasm, great work ethic, and an unassuming personality that really means a lot in a newsroom that has seen many hotshots over the years try to assert themselves and laughably fail.
Marisa's first cover story was a somewhat known one: Lupe Gomez, the SanTana tax accountant who fundamentally changed Mexican migration remittances forever. It was a good piece, if a bit too obsessed with numbers, but hey: rookie mistake. Not only that, but Marisa exhibited that quality way too rare in young reporters: she improved every day, with every blog post and every news story. Her second cover, “Vaya Con Mom,” dealt with a mom torn from her children by this country's crazy immigration system–well-reported, damn-great story.
But all along, Marisa was covering THE OC story of the year: the Kelly Thomas murder. Lunacy, right? A cub reporter taking on such a huge story instead of Moxley or Schou? Not only did Marisa handle it, not only did Marisa do well, not only did she excel, but she hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, down three runs, in Game 7 off a damn eephus pitch. And it culminated with her majestic “The Bullies in Blue,” which documented how the Fullerton Police Department had long run roughshod over everyone and anyone. The story was an immediate smash–sources tell me the city of Fullerton is REAL mad at the Weekly right now, and I know that police spokeshole Andrew Goodrich ranted at Marisa after it got published, but fuck them! Marisa did such a great piece that Fullerton activists read the story during the public comments of this week's Fullerton City Council meeting in its entirety.
And now, Marisa leaves us. Today is her final day–we toasted to her yesterday at Memphis in Costa Mesa–and although we desperately wanted to keep her, she wants to go back home for a couple of months to spend time with her family. (Don't worry, Kelly's Army: our own Brandon Ferguson has been briefed by Marisa on the lay of the land and is reporting for duty) Afterward? Any newspaper in this country would be lucky to have her–fuck J-school, METPRO, or any rookie programs. Marisa is already a great reporter–and, best of all? Her potential is limitless.
Vaya con Dios, kid. And consider this your letter of recommendation…