The Oregonian's veteran investigative reporter Les Zaitz announced his retirement yesterday on Twitter.
"The news this morning: I retire from The Oregonian/OregonLive in October," he wrote.
Zaitz may be best known to current readers for leading the paper's coverage of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
But Zaitz, 61, has been covering big stories for the daily since 1976. His front-page reports on the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens adorned the exterior wall of the Oregonian's Southwest Portland printing plant for years, and he led the paper's coverage of one of the most bizarre and terrifying chapters in Oregon history, the occupation of Antelope, Ore. by the Rajneeshees, whose Rolls Royce-loving leader diverted attention from what became a terrorist organization that launched a series of murder plots.
Zaitz's boss, Oregonian Editor Mark Katches, says retirement was Zaitz's idea and that he tried to talk Zaitz out of it.
"The man is a legend. And he will be dearly missed," Katches says. "He's chosen to leave on the highest of notes and I respect his decision."
In recent months, Zaitz has worked as part of a state task-force that's seeking to reform Oregon's public records law, which is now riddled with more than 500 exemptions.
In an email, Zaitz said that even amid a dismal outlook for media companies, he remains optimistic about the news business.
"The public's hunger for good, solid watchdog journalism remains strong," he says. "To me, investigative reporting is more crucial than ever as our country tears itself apart on the whims of half-baked reports and plain nonsense."
Although he'll leave the daily next month, he'll stay in the business, as his family owns two Oregon newspapers, Keizertimes and the Malheur Enterprise.
"I have had what I consider one of the best journalism jobs not only in Oregon but the country—free to tackle major, impactful investigations while working with sharp editors and colleagues and all the time living on an eastern Oregon ranch," Zaitz says. "I have done my duty and I have no more journalistic mountains to climb."