How I Got That Story: Inside The FBI

Learn how an investigative reporter for the Commerical Appeal uncovered civil rights insider Ernest Withers’ covert life as an FBI informant.  Scripps News Online reported on the fight to unveil even more information earlier this year.  Register for the FREE webinar to hear more.

 Wednesday, December 5

2:00-3:00 p.m. EST

Register by 5 p.m. December 4


The Back Story

Back in 1997, Marc Perrusquia got a tip: James Earl Ray, alleged assassin of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was dying of liver disease. Encouraged by a sympathetic judge – Judge Joe Brown – Ray’s lawyers floated a number of conspiracy stories aimed at proving their client didn’t shoot King. One convo­luted tale after another floated out of Brown’s Memphis courtroom. These tales proved little, but the accounts persuaded King’s family to embrace Ray’s claims of innocence.

The drama led Perrusquia to interview a retired federal official who knew the truth. The FBI didn’t kill King, but they did spy on him. When in Memphis, the FBI got help in its surveillance of King from an unlikely source: photographer Ernest Withers. Withers had secretly worked as an FBI informant for years, the retired official said off the record. Ten years later, after Withers died, Perrusquia filed a Freedom of Information Act request and, later, a lawsuit. These actions created a massive paper trail leading from Withers, to his secret FBI code number – ME 338-R – to the handwritten notes of a now deceased FBI agent. The pursuit, while still unfolding, is helping reshape what we know of King, the civil rights movement and its greatest photographic chronicler – Ernest Withers

Marc PerrusquiaMeet your presenter: Marc Perrusquia

Marc Perrusquia is an investigative reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where he’s worked the past 23 years, cov­ering City Hall, public housing and Juvenile Court. Perrusquia now specializes in investigative reports on the projects team. His stories led to the firing of 80 convicted felons working in pub­lic classrooms; the convictions of five contractors engaged in a broad embezzlement scheme in Tennessee’s publicly funded day care system; the convictions of three poll workers involved in a dead-voter scheme; and the imprisonment of several politi­cians.

Topics Perrusquia Will Cover

• Working sources

• Using the Federal Freedom of Information Act

• Tapping private archives

• Connecting the dots in records and investigative leads

• Sticking with a long-term story

Check it out here.

To hear the whole story & register for this webinar hereRegister by 5 p.m. December 4.