The publisher and president of the Detroit Free Press, Joyce Jenereaux, announced this week she will retire.
Jenereaux has been with Gannett media for 25 years, and helped guide the newspaper business in Detroit through the often difficult transition to the online world.
“One of my favorite sayings is ‘a bullseye is the result of 100 misses.’ You’re going to fail a lot along the way,” says Jenereaux. “It’s constant looking, checking, experimenting, trying something. And it’s kind of fun, but it is frustrating too.”
Jenereaux says even though the newspaper business has changed a lot over the past couple decades, readers still have a personal relationship with the papers. She says when the papers went from daily print home delivery to three days a week they told subscribers months in advance so readers could process a potentially major change in their daily lives. She says the shift was a sort of grieving process for many readers.
“It all is representative of the deep relationship they had with what we were doing,” she says. ”It’s personal.”
“There’s always going to be tough decisions to be made,” she continues. ”From an external viewpoint, it looks like some Gannett decisions are harsh. But we need to do them because we need to keep our voice alive.”
Jenereaux has a professional background in finance, but says she knew the news business was right for her during coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. The newspaper printed a now-iconic picture on the front page of a fireman carrying away the lifeless body of a toddler who died in the bombing. Jenereaux says some people were upset the paper led with the disturbing image.
“Sometimes it’s something people don’t want to see or hear, but it’s necessary and essential that some of these things are brought out to the public,” says Jenereaux. ”This is what we do. We tell the stories that people need to know.”
Jenereaux spoke with WDET’s Laura Weber-Davis. To hear more of their conversation click on the audio player above.