IndyStar reporters share experiences with aspiring young journalists

HSJI Sstudents listen to Bob Scheer and Chris Evans – Photo credit to Kristine Brown

While the tidal wave of sexual assault allegations within the realm of gymnastics may have subsided since 2017, those involved in reporting the stories share their experiences from the time in order to educate young journalists.

IndyStar journalists Tim Evans and Bob Scheer were two of the reporters that broke the original story about Dr. Larry Nassar, a USA Gymnastics doctor who was convicted of sexually molesting hundreds of young girls. The two journalists traveled to the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University to inform students about their reporting experience.

“Really since early 2016 to the end of last year, the three of us worked on it almost full time,” Evans said. “Originally, Larry Nassar wasn’t on our radar. But over time, we kept pulling strings on different avenues and different things, and at the end one of those lines was Nassar.”

The two went on to describe the rapid progression of the story and how their investigation switched direction and focus on Nassar, rather than other coaches and officials.

“When we did our first story, USA Gymnastics had known about Nassar for a year. It was like a game of cat and mouse. After we ran our first story, within a couple weeks 16 women had come forward against Nassar, and over the course of another 10 or so weeks, we were up in the 30s,” Evans said.

Evans went on to describe their reporting strategies while trying to piece together the allegations against Nassar.

“My team and myself, we had a boardroom with myself and three reporters. We had various complaints against [the coaches] over the years, and as we were going through them, we would have to routinely make sure that these people could be used as legitimate sources,” he said. 

On days when they were in the boardroom, story production was moving at full steam ahead.

“Depending on what story we were going to work on, some days it was like ‘OK we’re going to divide up’ and we’re all chasing the interviews or chasing a lead,” Scheer said. “It was pretty much just being locked in this war room doing something every day.”

Throughout the story’s creation, Evans and Scheer were required to take caution and ensure that everything they had written, recorded and photographed was as factually accurate as possible.

“Keeping to the truth was critical to our credibility, which is all we have as journalists,”  Evans said. “Don’t give that up for one good story. There’s no story good enough to get rid of your credibility and your reputation, cause that’s all you’ve got.”

For both of the journalists, a lot of the stress affiliated with the story didn’t just arise from a lack of sleep.

“There were a lot of times when the interviews got really emotional, and the older I get, the softer I am. Some of those stories just tear you apart,” Evans said. “You’ve gotta take care of yourself, especially as a reporter in a situation like that where you’re so deep in.”