Over the course of days, calls for the resignation or firing of interim Michigan State University President John Engler crescendoed in the wake of offensive and insensitive comments he made to The Detroit News about victims of ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar.
As the fast-moving story developed, multiple outlets cited anonymous sources in reporting his imminent departure. But not the AP, whose News Values and Principles are clear on the preference to attach named sources to our reporting: “Whenever possible, we pursue information on the record.”
Detroit reporter Corey Williams and Lansing, Michigan, correspondent David Eggert scored many significant beats on the story, all of them solidly sourced.
Williams successfully reached two MSU trustees – one who said the board had the votes to oust Engler and another saying he was expected to resign later that day. Meanwhile, Eggert scored a beat, contacting Rachael Denhollander, the first victim of Larry Nassar to have gone public, for exclusive early reaction.
And finally, working his sources, Eggert exclusively obtained a copy of Engler’s resignation letter, which the university’s board was refusing to release. Eggert got the letter via email while in his car and quickly forwarded to Ed White in the Detroit bureau. He digested the 11-page letter and worked with Central desk editor Jeff McMurray to APNewsAlert Engler’s resignation far ahead of others and a half-hour before a trustee announced it on Twitter.
Working his sources, Eggert exclusively obtained a copy of Engler’s 11-page resignation.
The AP was alone with the letter for at least an hour, and with the help of Katie Oyan on the West Desk, posted the document online so we could link to it from our breaking story.
The AP’s story and reporting were widely used, including by The Detroit News – where Engler’s offensive comments had appeared, setting the series of events in motion.
For solid on-the-record reporting that put the AP far ahead on a highly competitive story, Williams and Eggert win this week’s Best of the States.