M. L. Elrick, investigative reporter for Fox News TV 2 answered questions for nearly an hour on a warm summer night in late May, fielding queries about everything from winning a Pulitzer Prize to hanging in a news truck waiting for a worthy picture to illustrate a story.
When emcee David Versical, director of news operations for Automotive News, asked Elrick the difference between print and television, he said, “finding the right picture.” When the cameras captured an investigative reporter roughed up by Kwame Kilpatrick, it was the beginning of the end for the former mayow – worth more than a thousand words.
But three weeks parked outside a news source’s home in what he called a “watch dog exercise” was necessary to tell a tale that could be captured in a couple hours in print. Elrick labors on, looking to expose political wheeling and dealing among the highest ranks of Michigan politics. With co-reporter Jim Schaefer, he won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism in 2008.
He is shopping the New York agents and publishers for his book, “The Last King of Detroit: Sex, Texts, Lies and the Betrayal of a Great American City.” “The publishers have this bias against the Midwest. They can’t see how people will read a story about a Detroit mayor. Hey, Detroit is always in the news.”
Elrick started his career at the State News, Michigan State University’s daily paper, where he met his wife Tresa Baldas, now an investigative reporter for the Detroit Free Press. He graduated from MSU in 1990. His first job was at the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where he investigated a public official named Swindlehurt. The couple moved to Illinois, Ireland, France and Chicago, coming back to Detroit in 1999 where he began to set the town on fire with ground-breaking investigations.
Is this a good time to be a journalist in Detroit covering the city? Elrick recently told Metro Times, “Given that it’s a time when they’re laying people off and cutting salaries, I’d say there are better times. This has always been one of the best news towns in America. You could build a silver and gold city on the news here.”
He is building his career anew at Fox TV-2, having jumped ship in 2012 for a new, creative outlet. He suggests reporters watch Mike Duggan, the current mayor of Detroit, closely because he and Kilpatrick have the same political DNA, having been tutored by the Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara. See this story for more details: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/23847179/kilpatrick-ghosts-follow-detroits-mayoral-candidates
Elrick plans to do more investigations, particularly Detroit councilman George Cushingberry, and more publisher shopping on the side. In the meantime, he signed copies of the book of quotes he and Schaefer wrote about Kilpatrick’s shenanigans, “Kwame Sutra.” We thank Jim Parks of Crain Communications for sponsoring Elrick’s talk at Bookie’s Bar & Grille and the Millershin Group for all its promotional assistance.
When asked why he uses “M.L.” instead of Mike or Michael he says, “there is a long story behind that, but the late city councilwoman Brenda Scott told me, just tell people it’s cooler, so we’ll just go with that.”