reporter, abused children in Michigan, Detroit Free Press
Jack Kresnak is the best friend an abused child could have in Michigan. His stories in the Detroit Free Press changed laws, saved lives.
In one of his more poignant series, he exposed the sad, abusive world of Ricky Holland, a bright youngster whose life was extinguished at age seven at the hands of his adoptive parents, Tim and Lisa Holland.
A 14-part series published in 2007 on Ricky’s life was the swan song for a journalist who devoted 20 years to child welfare and helped change state laws, enact new policies at the agencies responsible for overseeing children and altered how juvenile courts operate. He spoke up for the most vulnerable children of Michigan, extending compassion and courage even as he reported on children who had been abused or even killed at the hands of the very people charged with keeping them safe.
Kresnak began his journalism career in 1969 when he heeded the guidance of Fr. William Cunningham, founder of Focus: Hope, and became a copy boy at the Free Press. He began covering juvenile justice in 1988 becoming a national leader in his field. He frequently spoke to journalists about how to cover the beat professionally and ethically, while also giving guidance on how to overcome confidentiality restrictions in the juvenile justice system.
Over the years, he did Fr. Cunningham proud. In 1977, he won a Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for a series on crime in Detroit. And kept collecting kudos. In 2008, he won the Wade Hampton McCree Jr. Award for the Advancement of Social Justice, the Journalist of the Year Award from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and second place for a newspaper reporting series for his “Ricky Holland” series.
Kresnak continues — in retirement — to work on behalf of abused children as president and CEO of Voices for Michigan’s Children.