Almost two years ago, Marisa Kwiatkowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans dove head first into close to 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to a lawsuit accusing U.S.A. Gymnastics of child abuse. The work came on the heels of reports of Indianapolis-area schools failing to report similar cases.
The Indianapolis Star staff did some digging and came across the tip regarding U.S.A. Gymnastics, and the work began.
That work led to the eventual arrest of gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison earlier this week — and the downfall of a corrupt, violent institution that spent more than two decades harming young athletes. Some curious reporters, a tip and countless hours of grunt work resulted in the uncovering of one of the most extensive sexual abuse cases in history. It all started with local journalism and the courage of victims and those individuals “in the know” to speak out on the record.
In a world where the term “fake news” gets tossed around on a daily basis, journalists are ridiculed for their work even more often and graves are half dug for an industry some claim is dying, three diligent reporters at The Indianapolis Star — and the intensive reporting that followed — further proved journalism’s importance to communities and, in this case, the world.
Sexual abuse infected U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University. Cover-ups and concealment followed. While nothing in this case can be fully healed, journalism helped halt the devastating situation.
Not all stories carry the impact that The Indianapolis Star’s “Out of Balance” did. But all stories carry impact.
Those stories come from journalists who work tirelessly to find them and the facts that coincide. It’s a thankless job, but accolades aren’t why it is done. It’s purposeful, meaningful and important.
Freedom of the press was written into the Constitution for a reason, and community journalism is as important today as it was when those words were first transcribed onto parchment in 1789.