Detroit News' Robert Snell named journalist of the year

The Detroit News

Detroit — Robert Snell, a veteran multimedia reporter covering federal courts and the auto industry for The Detroit News, was honored Thursday as journalist of the year by the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Snell's winning portfolio showcased expansive coverage of the United Auto Workers corruption scandal, which has led to 13 convictions and reached the highest ranks of the union.

It included a story titled "Driven by Greed," which explored an alliance of automaker and union leaders entangled in the corruption.

Robert Snell

“‘Driven by Greed’ is a detailed look at the UAW’s corruption scandal. One University of Michigan professor calls it ‘an ugly story.’ He’s right: But (Snell) nailed it, leading coverage nationally of a scandal that has rocked the union and the auto industry," read the SPJ's evaluation of Snell's work. 

"Each of the stories in the entry attest to how Snell has worked sources to get ahead of the curve on the story with loads of detail. His work led to resignations of top UAW officials and prompted structural changes aimed at protecting UAW members. It’s classic investigative journalism.”

Snell previously received the SPJ award — its highest honor — in 2018 and 2014.

Two years ago, Snell was recognized for his work covering a joint training center between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as well as detailing the government’s use of a counterterrorism tracking device to hunt undocumented immigrants.

In 2014, he was recognized for his coverage of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Detroit's historic bankruptcy.

SPJ on Thursday also recognized Violet Ikonomova of Deadline Detroit and Riley Beggin of Bridge Magazine as its young journalists of the year.

Lifetime achievement awards were given to David Ashenfelter, a former reporter and public information officer at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Mary Kramer of Crain Communications and Vickie Thomas, a reporter with WWJ-AM (950).