copy editor and reporter, Detroit Free Press
Jeanne May, a veteran copy editor and reporter for the Detroit Free Press saved children’s lives and factory workers from mutilation in a series of hard- hitting, award-winning stories she covered for the Detroit Free Press. Returning to reporting late in her career, she was a true professional.
“She sniffed out stories in places others would never look. She found real people who told real tales. She took her readers there and made them uncomfortable,” notes Michael G. Wagner, a former Free Press investigative reporter now working in Davis, CA.
The “Workers at Risk” series, which took two years of painstaking research by May and two colleagues, ran in 1990. The series contributed to revisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The series shared the Detroit Press Club Foundation Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and a Michigan Associated Press first place designation.
“Jeanne was at her best telling stories of injury, loss and hardship,” recalls Paul Anger, vice president/editor, Dave Robinson, deputy managing editor and Patricia Chargot, staff writer at the Free Press.
Wrote Barbara Stanton O’Hair, “…the clips only hint at the personality behind them and the impact she had on colleagues…. As writer or editor, she approached every assignment with such infectious verve and enjoyment that she inspired others to do likewise. Before switching to the reporting side of the paper, she spent some time on the copy desk, burnishing other people’s reputations. Like Rumpelstilskin, she could spin straw into gold.”
May, now deceased, was a pioneering woman in journalism, becoming the first woman news reporter at The Virginian Pilot and the first copy desk chief at both the Morning News in Wilmington, DE , and the St. Louis Post Dispatch, among other posts.