Harry Atkins spent all of his nearly 40-year reporting career in Michigan, and in that time shared with state and national readers the stories one only finds through hard work, keen observation and a friendly manner.
Beginning his career at the St. Clair County Independent Press and then the Utica Daily Sentinel, Atkins joined The Associated Press Detroit bureau in 1971. He would spend 29 years there, the last 21 as sports editor. In that time, Atkins covered the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and high school football, as well as World Series and Stanley Cups. To all his coverage, he brought quality writing and a commitment to gelling it right.
Not only did Atkins spend his entire journalism career in Michigan, he spent most of his life here as well. Born in Port Huron, he received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State University.
Atkins won numerous awards during his career. He is the only writer to win AP Michigan Staffer of the Year twice, and he was a three-time runner-up for National AP Sports Writer of the Year. In 2000, the Michigan Associated Press named its annual writing award after Atkins.
For all his recognized excellence in reporting, Atkins also was highly regarded as a teacher and mentor. He taught journalism at Oakland University as a part-time lecturer for 10 years, covering basic journalism, feature writing and sports writing. Atkins has also conducted writing workshops for AP, the Mid-America Press Institute and several newspapers.
AP Projects Editor Paula Froke, Atkins’ editor for nearly 10 years, wrote, “I was one of his bosses, but it was he who helped me be a better journalist. He epitomizes all that a journalist should be.”
Atkins retired in 2000, but his influence remains tangible to all who worked with him.