Longtime Detroit newsman Ben Burns dies at age 72

COREY WILLIAMS Associated Press Published:

DETROIT (AP) -- Longtime newsman and Michigan journalism icon Ben Burns died at his suburban Detroit home following an illness. He was 72.

Burns wife, Beverly, confirmed his death Friday morning, friend Nancy Nall Derringer said.

The former editor and head of journalism at Wayne State University had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Burns was a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and served as executive editor at The Detroit News from 1983 to 1986. He also worked for the Lansing State Journal and the Miami Herald, and was editor and publisher of the Macomb Daily and the Daily Tribune of Royal Oak.

He also was founding editor and partner of GrossePointeToday.com.

Burns joined Wayne State's faculty in 1991.

"People like Ben Burns paved the way for people like me to pursue higher education," said Rasheda Williams, a Wayne State graduate and student in what eventually became the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.

"He was a quiet man, but behind the scenes he was doing some amazing things. We all looked up to him," Williams said.

Burns earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State University, according to his biography on the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity website.

He also was a graduate of the Executive Business Program at the University of Michigan. He later was selected as a fellow of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Institute for Excellence.

Burns was a 2001 Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame inductee. A year earlier, the newsman also was inducted into the Memphis (Michigan) High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He starred in basketball at the school in the late 1950s.

"Ben was not just a tall man -- having been an all-state center on his high school team, but he also was a very tall man in thought and deed," said friend and retired Associated Press newsman Hank Ackerman. "He continuously practiced his profession, writing and editing stories about events in Detroit and in the small city where he lived."

In addition to his wife, Burns also is survived by four children and six grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.