Jonathan Wolman, who over more than 45 years in journalism served as editor and publisher of The Detroit News and previously worked as a reporter, Washington bureau chief and executive editor at The Associated Press, died Monday in Detroit. He was 68.
His family told the News that Wolman died of complications from pancreatic cancer.
Wolman had been editor and publisher of the News since 2007, running the newspaper during a financially challenging period that included staff layoffs, a cutback to only two days a week of home delivery, and a relocation from the massive headquarters building that it had occupied for nearly a century.
However, Detroit — even as it careened into and then out of bankruptcy in 2013-14 — has survived as one of a shrinking number of U.S. cities with more than one major daily newspaper. The News has a joint operating agreement with its rival, the Detroit Free Press, in which the newspapers consolidate business operations while fielding separate editorial staffs.
“Jon came to Detroit at a time of incredible uncertainty, not only for the News, but for the industry,” said the News’ managing editor, Gary Miles. “He was a steadying, calming influence who put a priority on the big picture: the accuracy and fairness of our news report.”
Miles recalled Wolman’s “painstaking analysis” as the paper’s management grappled with budget cuts and staff reductions. Even amid the austerity, Miles said, Wolman oversaw expansion of the paper’s investigative and projects unit, and maintained a strong focus on national and world news at a time when many regional papers were cutting back.
“He was incredibly kind,” Miles said. “Some decisions clearly pained him. But he kept the long-term interests of the News, its staff and its readers, paramount.”
Peter Bhatia, editor of the Free Press, praised Wolman as “a magnificent person and an outstanding journalist.”
“He has kept his newspaper relevant and engaged in the community and has been a fierce and appropriate advocate for the News in its partnership with the Free Press,” Bhatia said.