CMU alums, former editors Chad Livengood, Chris Gautz now covering same beat for separate publications
Chad Livengood sits back in his chair, his desk mildly cluttered. Taking a generous bite of his corned beef sandwich, on white, not rye, he chuckles and asks, ”Did I mention the time me and Chris chased a state representative out of the Capitol building?”
It was a little less than a year ago when Chad Livengood, a 2005 Central Michigan University graduate, was working for the Detroit News, and Chris Gautz, a 2004 CMU graduate, was at Gongwer News Service when a Michigan state representative made an insensitive remark to a pregnant woman involving abortion and a coat hanger.
Suddenly, the chase was on; Gautz and Livengood approached the representative about the incident, who then dashed into an elevator. Upon both Gautz and Livengood reaching the upper floor of the capital building, the representative had already gone back to the first floor and exited out the backdoor.
It’s not the only experience the two share. They have also worked at the same newspaper on four occasions and have both held the job of editor-in-chief at Central Michigan Life. They have also each received CMU’s Young Journalist of the Year Award – Livengood in 2008, Gautz in 2009. Now, they work in Lansing across the street from each other.
Gautz works at Crain’s Detroit Business as a Capitol correspondent, while Livengood is a state government and political reporter for The Detroit News. Gautz focuses more on in-depth analysis, whereas Livengood writes news coverage.
Gautz and Livengood’s different reporting styles are not the only dissimilarities between the two former CM Life editors.
“(Livengood) is definitely more aggressive,” Gautz said. “I don’t always feel the need to report that way. A lot of television reporters are like that; they’ll get right in your face. But, if there are multiple reporters and my question doesn’t get asked, I’ll be fine. As for Chad, he’ll ask it regardless.”
As former editor-in-chief of CM Life, Gautz was tactical in his criticism of the administration and Michael Rao, who was president of CMU during Gautz’s time on campus.
“I was careful to set up periodical meetings with Rao and make sure to establish a good relationship with him,” Gautz said. “I didn’t want to leave a mess with anyone after I’m gone.”
When Livengood came into the position, he and Rao had a tumultuous relationship, one for which Livengood believes Rao still hasn’t quite forgiven him.
That’s not the only spat Livengood has had with public officials in his career.
Along with the state representative whom Livengood and Gautz ran out of the Capitol building, there was also the Delaware Senator who tried to expand his office, which would have resulted in the destruction of a handicapped bathroom. It did not escape scrutiny from Livengood.
“It is always, of course, important to keep your articles objective,” Livengood said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t infuse your articles with the appropriate flavoring of anger.”
Livengood said keeping public officials accountable is a key tenant to his job.
“As I see it, they are working for the public; they are accountable to the public,” Livengood said. “I have no problem showing up at their door at 7 o’clock in the morning and catching them on their way to work.”
Gautz has also had his fair share of triumphs as a reporter, winning multiple awards. He’s proudest of a 2007 investigative report on a company called Kositech Scientific AG. The company announced it was going to create more than 700 jobs in the Grass Lake community, but Gautz’s investigative report revealed the company was little more than a scam.
“It shows the value of paying attention,” Gautz said. “The city officials were more than excited to take this company in.”
Although the two reporters were previously states apart, the two have been working in Lansing for the better part of the last year, initially working in the same building, only floors apart. Their connection as journalists and friends seems apparent, even within their familial lives.
“Both our wives got pregnant around the same time, and we both had to take time off in mid-October, right before the presidential election,” Gautz said. “I was talking to him, and we were like, ‘We couldn’t have timed this any better, both political reporters, both missing out on the biggest political story in the last four years.’”
Gautz minored in political science; Livengood is simply a political geek. With such a long working relationship, the two have developed a close professional and personal relationship. As two dedicated journalists, the relationship can take interesting turns.
“I generally have no problem sending (Chad) a source I’m not going to use if he might need it,” Gautz said. “But, we don’t share our important sources. If we’re in the same room and Chad gets a call, he’ll move into another room, because he doesn’t want me to hear the conversation. We work for two different publications, and it shows.”
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