reporter, Detroit Free Press
“Brian was simply the best reporter I ever knew,” said one associate of Brian Flanigan, describing him as “a terrier on a scent” when investigating corruption, criminal problems or other issues. Fellow Detroit Free Press reporter Jack Kresnak called him “the heart and soul of the Free Press newsroom.” Flanigan presented a tough, crusty appearance to the world, his speech freely sprinkled with profanities. Yet he was known as a compassionate, sensitive person who cared deeply about his community. Executive Deputy Detroit Police Chief James Bannon called him ‘the most trusted reporter in Detroit.” The trust he earned among members of Detroit police and city government helped him develop a network of sources that enabled him to uncover in minutes facts other reporters had sought for weeks.
He was a crusader as well. Beginning with his four years as the only white reporter on the Michigan Chronicle, and later at the Free Press, he fought to make police more accountable to the black community. He also crusaded against crime and drugs. To get the public involved in fighting crime, he created two features, “Dump Dope” and “Michigan’s Most Wanted,” for the Chronicle and Free Press respectively. Flanigan was 43 when a heart attack cut short his life and career. Perhaps the greatest compliment to his work came a few months later, from a Detroit mayoral assistant complaining of a rash of leaked, inaccurate stories. “I wish Flanigan was here,” the assistant said, “so we could find out what’s really going on.”