Stephen Cain’s arrival at The Detroit News is best described with one word: Bang.
With five years of experience at small weeklies and dailies, Cain produced four front-page stories in his first week at The News. One story led to the re-opening of 40 closed clinical research units across the country and made possible the first heart transplant at the University of Michigan.
The next week, Cain tracked down the ringleader of a group responsible for seven anti-establishment bombings in southeast Michigan. He not only tracked down the leader, but brought the man into the newspaper offices for a studio portrait and interview.
When Cain wasn’t banging out dailies, he convinced his editors to let him go undercover for such assignments as exposing the horrid conditions at Detroit’s Receiving Hospital, detailing the sub-standard care of mentally ill patients at Northville State Hospital and investigating a private ambulance service that operated with untrained attendants and little or no emergency equipment.
His reporting also led to a 7-0 Michigan Supreme Court decision setting aside the first-degree murder conviction of Margaret Lynch of Midland, who had been wrongfully charged with starving her infant daughter to death.
Cain also made a bang in the morals category, typified by his decision to quit The News in protest when editors cropped out then-Teamsters International vice president Bobby Holmes from a photograph and edited out critical information on him from an investigative piece exposing how the Chicago mob was looting the Michigan Conference of Teamsters Health and Welfare Fund. Holmes, who controlled the distribution of The News, was forced to resign his union offices two years later as the price of avoiding federal indictment.
Freedom of information lawsuits were as common a tool in Cain’s reporting as his noted work helping young reporters and exposing them to covering a major story, giving them the exposure they would not have gotten otherwise.