Marisa Kwiatkowski: The Investigative Journalist Who Helped Put Away Larry Nassar

May 16 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: Don't Silence Us

If you’ve watched any thriller involving a hero investigator or cop, you’ve probably thought, I should do that. Fight for justice, yeah! Today, I encourage you to put your investigative prowess into full effect by…scrolling through Instagram. Except this time, look for sources.

One major Instagram account came under fire for stealing comedians’ quotes to promote a product. Be the social media vigilante and comment if you see content that’s reproduced without attribution or altered to remove a watermark or name. Some accounts do this out of sheer ignorance and will correct it. For the indignant ones making a profit off someone else’s work, consider submitting a copyright claim.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 8 out of 10

There’s power in standing up for yourself or others. Women are often dismissed or taken advantage of. In 2016, a victim of the convicted Stanford rapist, Brock Turner, read a letter following a combative trial and lenient sentencing. In it, she speaks her truth. That’s a terrifying thing to do. But the victim inspired others to tell their stories, and we need to know their stories. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 81 percent of women report short- or long-term impacts like post-traumatic stress disorder following sexual assault.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Marisa Kwiatkowski, Investigative Reporter at USA Today

Let’s talk about a real-life investigative reporter. Her name’s Marisa Kwiatkowski, and she’s seriously a freakin’ rock star.

At just six years old, Marisa asked for a typewriter for Christmas. It was the beginning of a long romance with writing and journalism. She interned at a weekly publication in Michigan and worked at the Detroit Free Press, all before graduating high school.

This year, Marisa won the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism for her work exposing abuse in USA Gymnastics. She and two other reporters uncovered that former gymnastics trainer Larry Nassar was a serial abuser, who was accused of abusing hundreds of girls over three decades. He would later plead guilty to sexually abusing seven girls, and he’s now serving a 40 to 175-year prison sentence.

That’s big-time stuff, y’all. Marisa and her colleagues’ investigation uncovered not only patterns of abuse, but also cover ups, resulting in other charges and the resignation of the USA Gymnastics president as well as board members. For an investigative reporter, there’s no greater feeling than following a lead and making real, significant change because of it.

At the time of the investigation, Marisa was a journalist at The Indianapolis Star. She recently announced her transition to USA Today. As Marisa continues her career in investigative journalism, she will be focusing on social services, like child neglect, human trafficking and access to mental health services.

There’s a heaviness to Marisa’s work that many of us don’t have to experience. She sees the dark side of human beings. Marisa’s willingness to dig deeper and endure tough situations for the greater good is something to believe in. It also gets results. When she discovered that Indiana’s Adult Protective Services were underfunded and understaffed, state officials increased funding by more than a million dollars.

Not every day is big breaks and redeeming responses. Marisa’s colleagues praise her for her “ability to put a human face on data-driven issues.” That’s something that takes time and patience, and we’re grateful for women like Marisa who keep on keeping on.


Swedish actress Alicia Vikander said:

"The mere fact of being able to call your job your passion is success in my eyes."

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