Robert Ankeny spent 45 years covering some of the most important stories of his time, including the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa; the life and legal times of the Giacalones and the Detroit underworld; auto executive John DeLorean’s trials for investment fraud and drug dealing, and former governor John Swainson’s fall from grace on charges of perjury and accepting bribes.
Ankeny explained complicated legal issues including his reporting on the legal situation that allowed prosecutors to grant probation to the killers of Vincent Chin in 1983, and still enlighten writers and scholars.
Ankeny so enraged Dearborn mayor Orville Hubbard with stories about corruption that he was barred from city hall. Hubbard suggested that Ankeny should be thrown from an upper story window “to see how high he’d bounce,” but then reversed himself a few years later, offering Ankeny a job.
Ankeny spent 26 years at The Detroit News, which touted him as its “courtroom authority.” After declining to cross the picket line during the 1995 newspaper strike, he finished his career with 13 years at Crain’s Detroit Business. There, he led reporting on Detroit mayors Dennis Archer, Kwame Kilpatrick and Kenneth Cockrel Jr.; downtown development, and a beat he created, the business of law.
The Detroit Bar Association gave Ankeny its Liberty Bell Award for public service by a non-lawyer, citing his “reputation among lawyers for his fair treatment of sensitive legal stories and for his ability to write about complicated legal issues in a form understandable to the general public.”
Ankeny also earned UPI and AP awards for a series on workers’ compensation law in Michigan. He helped revive the Detroit Press Club Steakout in the mid-2000s, raising funds for journalism scholarships and Detroit Goodfellows projects. He also served as adviser to the University of Michigan-Dearborn student newspaper.
Ankeny died March 7, 2022.