East Valley Tribune Editor Jim Ripley Keeps up Pissing Match With Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman

By Ray Stern

The East Valley Tribune's editor Jim Ripley will reportedly be retiring in early January, (at the same time nearly half the newspaper's staff is being laid off). But in the meantime, it seems he's more than happy to keep the pressure on oddball Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman (pictured).

On Saturday, Ripley published a short, gossipy column about Berman's recent appearance at a Gilbert function with his wife, of all people, Michelle Berman.

It's a legit story, though, because aa court order requires Gilbert's first couple to keep a distance from each other of 150 feet.

Marital problems between Berman, who is nearing the end of his second term, and his fourth wife became very public in early July after Michelle told police the mayor threatened to kill her. She also told police Berman had plotted to kill Gilbert Councilwoman Linda Abbott. Berman denies he made the threats to either Abbott or his wife.

Following the Trib's extensive coverage of Berman's domestic problems, in early September the mayor slammed the newspaper at a council meeting. Ripley followed with a snarky column titled, "Fact-checking Berman's Bluster."

Jim Ripley, East Valley Tribune executive editor

A few months previous, Ripley found out the mayor was lobbying Gilbert merchants to remove the Tribune racks from their stores, and a Trib reporter found a city e-mail in which Berman maligned the paper to a college student. Ripley responded with a column that highlighted Berman's anti-Trib efforts and questioned whether Berman's invitation to the editor to appear in a Gilbert-produced TV program was some kind of set-up.

Ripley's been taken to task by some of his readers for getting too personal and petty with the mayor. But politicians like Berman, who's had to apologize several times for gaffes during his eight years in office, deserves to be scrutinized closely as he prepares his campaign to run for a third term in city elections this coming spring.

Berman, and his supporters, don't have to wait much longer to be rid of Ripley, anyway -- the editor is on his way out to make way for the Trib's new business model. With the paper heading in the direction of community newspapers like the Gilbert and Chandler Independent, which closed their doors last year, criticism of local politicians in the Tribune could soon be a thing of the past.


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