It's a real stretch trying to connect the Automotive News editorial department to the Michigan State University hockey program — unless you're lucky enough to know Dave Versical, our retiring chief of editorial operations.
Versical was one of the best goalies in MSU history. He holds the record for saves in a season: 1,410 pucks stopped in the 1975-76 season. His name is all over the MSU record book.
Fast-forward to December 2021. Versical's name has been ubiquitous throughout the pages of Automotive News for more than 30 years — long after his goalie days and after modern hockey equipment forever changed the nature of goalkeeping.
But just as hockey changed, so did journalism. And Versical served as a textbook case in how a journalist could succeed from the 1980s to the 2020s.
From the computerization of newspaper production, to online news, to audience-obsessed digital engagement, Versical thrived through it all. Most notably, he adapted from weekly newspaper deadlines at Automotive News to real-time online news during a four-year stint at Bloomberg News. While there, he learned a modernized set of journalistic tools and brought them back home to our web team here in Detroit in 2008 in time to cover the Great Recession.
Versical then guided this organization through some of the most compelling and impactful stories in automotive history: the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, the GM ignition switch debacle, the recall of Takata's exploding airbags, the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, the death of Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, the coronavirus pandemic and the microchip shortage.
Through all of these historic events, Versical was our editorial goalkeeper. He served as our dedicated last line of defense on the facts, making sure even the most arcane statistics were correct. He also was a steadfast grammarian and ensured we used every word the right way — even as real-time news broke at all hours of the day and night. Versical's editorial integrity never wavered, and he made sure we covered the news fairly and accurately.
Automotive News serves tens of thousands of decision-makers who rely on this newsroom to give them accurate information about the industry so they can make the crucial decisions needed to adapt, grow and survive. We don't give away our editorial content, and we aren't cheap. Versical's commitment to our audience ensured that those who invest in our product earned a profitable return. He made sure the audience always came first — and he was never afraid to protect that commitment.
"Not wrong isn't good enough," Versical often said.
But Versical's fine work not only benefited our audience. It also made the rest of the people in this newsroom better at our jobs.
Our beloved colleague, friend and audience advocate has cleared out his desk at Automotive News, but his lessons will help us move forward to a great future. Dave Versical's legacy here will last for many decades — just as his records survive at Michigan State.