The Indiana Writers Center (IWC) will host a public discussion with the team of investigative journalists from The Indianapolis Star who uncovered decades of sexual abuse in a series, “Out of Balance” — reporting that ultimately led to the conviction Dr. Larry Nassar and the resignations of officials whose actions and inaction enabled the continued abuse of dozens of female athletes.

Funded by a grant from the PEN America’s Press Freedom Incentive Fund, and in partnership with the Arthur M. Glick JCC, “In the Balance: Press Freedom & the Public Good in the USA Gymnastics Investigation,” will take place 7-9 p.m., March 22 at the Arthur M. Glick JCC, Laikin Auditorium, 6701 Hoover Road, Indianapolis.

John Krull, chairman of Franklin College’s Journalism Department and host of the WFYI show, “No Limits,” will moderate the panel, featuring Mark Alesia, Tim Evans and Marisa Kwiatkowski, the Indianapolis Star journalists who investigated and wrote the stories about widespread sexual abuse in the USA Gymnastics organization.

Other panelists include Steve Berta, editor for the series, Robert Scheer, visual journalist, and Gerry Lanosga, professor of journalism at Indiana University.

The Star’s investigation began in 2016. It provided the first comprehensive look at the pervasiveness of the abuse in gymnastics, revealing that at least 368 gymnasts had alleged sexual abuse over the past 20 years. As a result of the team’s reporting, Nassar, former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, will serve a minimum of 125 years in prison up to a maximum of 275 years, after more than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over two decades.

The series was among the top award winners in the 2016 Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) contest, which recognizes the best watchdog journalism of the year. Reverberations from the scandal continue. The entire leadership of Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics resigned, and institutions such as Michigan State University and the United States Olympic Committee have been accused of mishandling complaints.

The series also resulted in proposed national legislation addressing the reporting of abuse.

Barbara Shoup, executive director of the IWC, said the PEN America Press Freedom Incentive Fund grant is designed to stimulate programs, projects, events and activities that will mobilize local communities around press freedom advocacy.

Panelists will discuss the origin of the series and how it developed, addressing such issues as First Amendment issues, obstacles encountered, ethical concerns, and the role of investigative journalism in an environment in which mainstream media is often attacked as “fake news.”

The national grant is a first for the IWC, a small Indianapolis non-profit organization dedicated to writers and writing. For more than 30 years, the organization has offered classes in poetry, fiction, nonfiction and playwriting. It also publishes anthologies of Indiana authors, and books highlighting the voices of individuals whose voices aren’t often heard.

Shoup said she hopes that the panel discussion will not only address the public policy and press issues, but will also highlight a goal of community outreach of the IWC. The organization not only advocates for freedom of expression, press freedom and the power of the written word, but advocates for those at the margins.

To that end, as part of the PEN grant, the IWC will develop writing classes during the weeks following the panel discussion that will explore some of the issues of abuse and trauma brought out in the IndyStar investigation. Writers will also be introduced to some of the “tools” of journalism useful to any writer.

For more information about “In the Balance,” call 317-255-0710 or email barbshoup@gmail.com

Free Tickets available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/in-the-balance-press-freedom-the-public-good-in-the-usa-gymnastics-investigation-tickets-42767065444

Written by Roxanna Santoro — February 26, 2018


© Indiana Writers Center 2012