Reporters who broke USA Gymnastics scandal speak on campus


Photo by Michaela Nees

Marisa Kwiatkowski (left) and Tim Evans (center), investigative journalists who exposed the USA Gymnastics scandals, answer questions Wednesday evening in Carter Hall from Jane Weatherred (right), assistant professor of advertising and public relations, about their investigative stories behind the United States Gymnastics scandal.

Ian Young and Shelby Clark

Students, faculty and staff gather in Carter Hall Wednesday evening to hear Marisa Kwiatkowski and Tim Evans, two of the Indianapolis Star reporters who broke the story about Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and the cover-up by USA Gymnastics in 2016.

The event started at 6:00 p.m. with around 175 people in attendance. The event was a Q&A format with questions being led by Jane Weatherred, assistant professor of advertising and public relations. At the end of the event, the floor opened for audience members to ask follow up questions.

Riley Hayes, a junior public relations and advertising major, went to the event after seeing the Netflix documentary, “Athlete A,” featuring the reporting work done by Kwiatkowski and Evans. She said, “Seeing the journalists here and hearing it all in person was a different experience.” 

“I’m really glad I went to the event,” said Skye Fuller, a junior advertising major. “I learned a lot, and the leaders are very well spoken.”

Kwiatkowski, USA Today investigative reporter, and Evans, IndyStar investigative reporter, were both investigative reporters at the IndyStar in 2016. Kwiatkowski was investigating a local failure to report child sexual abuse in local schools and recieved a tip from a source to investigate USA Gymnastics. 

This tip led to Kwiatkowski, Evans and others on the IndyStar to discover USA Gymnastics had a policy and a practice of not reporting every case of child sexual abuse, and they discovered Dr. Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team doctor, had sexually abused over 500  survivors including Olympic gymnasts. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in 2018, according to the IndyStar. 

“Our focus was always focused on the systemic failures by USA Gymnastics,” Kwaitkowski said. “It was bigger than just Larry Nassar.”

Kwaitkowski said because of their reporting, there is a new federal law that requires “all national governing bodies to immediately report child sexual abuse allegations to authorities.” 

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017 requires any reports of child abuse to be immediately be reported to local or federal law enforcement authorities.

Kwaitkowski said their hope of their journalistic work is leaving people in a better place through their reporting. 

“We try to be the voice of people without a voice and represent people who don’t have anyone else representing them,” Evans said. “It’s more important than ever to distinguish the media and journalism.”

Evans said it was important to them when interviewing the survivors that they “weren’t going to do anymore harm.” Kwiatkowski and Evans said they were careful to go above and beyond with their journalism ethics when reporting this story. 

“Our job as journalists is to be fair, accurate and help the public understand what’s going on in their communities,” Kwiatkowski said. “Whether it’s local or throughout the United States.”

Kwaitkowski and Evans talked about the amount of work that went into the reporting and writing process. Evans said, “We had a whiteboard and this kind of warzone where we worked.” 

The white board was full of names and sources, Evans said. In the “warzone,” Evans and Kwaitkowski said they would question each fact and word of the story to ensure every word was factually correct. 

“We spent a lot of time because we wanted to make sure that we were being accurate and sharing good information with the public to verify all the details that we could,” Kwaitkowski said. 

“I think it points out the power of good journalism,” said Leigh Anne Howard, chair of the communications department. “Journalists are the watchdogs of the public.”

Kwaitkowski and Evans are featured in the Netflix Documentary “Athlete A.” They said they enjoy sharing their experiences, especially with students.

“We’re passionate about journalism and to encourage people to pursue this career and to understand how much care and thought goes into the work we do,” Kwiatkowski said. 

“I love journalism. I love talking to students,” Evans said. “If I can get it in my schedule, I’ll go anywhere to talk to students.”