Major Hollywood film has ties to Northern Kentucky

CINCINNATI – A new film opening around the nation next week tells the story of a reporter who got his start in Northern Kentucky.

“Kill the Messenger,” which stars Academy Award nominated actor Jeremy Renner, details the work of newspaper reporter Gary Webb.

Webb became the target of a smear campaign after he exposed the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California.

Before Webb won a Pulitzer Prize, he was a reporter for Northern Kentucky University’s independent student newspaper The Northerner.

After winning several awards at the paper, Webb landed a job at the Kentucky Post.

RELATED: Win a pair of tickets to the new movie 'Kill the Messenger'

"Gary was a bulldog,” said former co-worker David Wecker. “He was smart and he knew where to go to find the answers. He was one of the greatest I have ever worked with."

Later in his career, when he worked for the San Jose Mercury News, Webb reported the Reagan administration shielded inner-city drug dealers from prosecution in order to raise money for the Contras. The Contras were rebel groups active from 1979 through the early 1990s in opposition to the Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua.

Webb's reporting generated fierce controversy, and the San Jose Mercury News backed away from his story. It effectively ended his career as a mainstream-media journalist.

In 2004, he was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head. The coroner's office that investigated his death ruled it a suicide.

In 2013, Nick Schou – a journalist writing for LA Weekly who wrote the book “Kill the Messenger” – said Webb's reporting was eventually proven to be true.

Those who knew Webb said he fit the mold of an investigative reporter and didn’t stop until he got answers.

"He was the guy that would take deep dives on stories," Wecker said. “He was feisty.”

In the video player above, 9 On Your Side anchor Chris Riva details Webb’s life and story – and how it all started right here in the Tri-State.

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