Joe Swickard’s career epitomizes what it means to be an investigative reporter. He has “contributed mightily to the public understanding of important issues and is exemplary of the timeless standards of journalism in any form—accuracy, credibility, fairness.”
He has been a journalist for more than 50 years, taking on the coverage of Detroit’s criminal justice system as his first primary responsibility in Michigan 33 years ago at the Free Press and gathering awards along the way.
Through his groundbreaking stories, the juvenile justice system was opened so the public learned about the legal system for young offenders and victims of abuse and neglect, and called for public officials to be held accountable. Another series led to reforms in the parole system. And yet another exposed the problems of lead poisoning from old buildings that led to policies for dealing with children’s health care, the dangers of old paint and penalties for culpable landlords.
Other award-winning projects included covering imported drug and alcohol abuse, tracing the Oklahoma bombing plan that was conceived in Michigan, exposing lies and corruption during the administration of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and corresponding from military operations in the Balkans, Albania and Iraq.
Through his knowledge and work, Swickard was a major contributor and editor to a project of the State Court Administrator’s Office called “A Journalists’ Guide to Covering Michigan State Courts.” He became a fellow for Michigan State University’s Victims and the Media program, instructing beginning journalists on the effects of news coverage on victims. And, he has continued throughout the years to hold educational seminars for journalists on the state and federal court systems.