reporter, editor, teacher and community leader
Few Michigan journalists have had as varied and accomplished a career as Ben Burns. As a reporter, editor, teacher and community leader, Burns has dedicated his life to the highest standards of performance and commitment. As one supporter said, Burns is an “outstandingly gifted journalist who has tackled every assignment with the same professionalism, leadership, enthusiasm and spirit he continues to exhibit as a college classroom teacher.”
During his 13 years as a professor at Wayne State University, Burns has been a prolific writer and is the co-author of Michigan Media Law. Before pursuing a career in teaching, Burns spent 20 years as a journalist with several newspapers, including the Lansing State Journal, the Macomb Daily and Miami Herald. He served as executive editor of The Detroit News.
Beyond his successful career in journalism and teaching, Burns has made important contributions to the promotion of diversity in journalism and society. Burns helped to develop the Rosa Parks Foundation and the Journalism Institute for Minorities at Wayne State. As his nomination statement said, “The cause of urban journalism has been strongly served during his tenure at the top of Wayne State’s journalism program, and particularly the role of minority reporters and editors.”
Burns has been equally active with community and professional organizations. He has raised funds for the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes and the Salvation Army. He is a past president of the Detroit Chapter of SPJ and helped to found the Michigan Citizens Freedom of Information Act Committee.
Colleagues often speak of his outstanding professional skills and civic-mindedness. However, those who know him agree that, above all, Burns is a mentor and advocate who always has time to provide guidance, motivation and empathy for those in need.