Looking Back: Jane Briggs-Bunting
Jane Briggs-Bunting, a former advisor of The Oakland Post, and The Oakland Sail, and former director of the journalism program at Oakland University, has often stood firm in defense of the First Amendment.
“I learned in high school as a student editor that words could change lives,” Briggs-Bunting said.
Her passion for journalism is unwavered as she stated, “it’s a heavy responsibility that should be used for the good. Journalism can hold institutions and individuals, especially those in power, accountable. It’s one part of the First Amendment that is so vital to the success of this country. It’s really one of the checks and balances on government.”
Briggs-Bunting pushed her students to uncover and report on violations, and in the process she was never afraid to file a lawsuit on the behalf of her campus newspaper.
“Being a journalist is never a popularity contest,” Briggs-Bunting said. “Holding the powerful accountable, trying very hard to uncover the truth is not always popular. Always I tried to educate the critics, but never let them intimidate or silence me.”
As she often stood firm in defense of the First Amendment, Briggs-Bunting was led to face many critics. Despite the negative criticism, she persisted in doing what she knew best.
“When you are doing what you believe with all your mind and heart is the right thing to do, and you have validated that with research and study, you do it,” she said.
Since leaving OU’s journalism program, she became director of the School of Journalism at Michigan State University. She was the director for six years and retired from Michigan State University three years after.
Briggs-Bunting also founded a non-partisan watchdog group called the Michigan Coalition for Open Government. It is a tax-exempt, non-profit corporation.
“At the time of our founding, Michigan was one of two states nationally that lacked a public records advocacy group,” Briggs-Bunting said of the group.
She stepped down as president last year, but remains on its board of directors.
When discussing her time with The Post, Briggs-Bunting said, “I met and worked with so many great students who became journalists. Their successes reflect back on OU’s journalism program and hopefully help those that come later launch careers.”
Briggs-Bunting stated she sincerely appreciated being able to get to know the staff, many of whom were journalism majors, much better than is possible in the traditional classroom setting.
“With every new staff and sometimes with more experienced staffs, there were challenges and learning curves,” she said. “We made mistakes, but we hopefully learned from them and did not repeat them.”
At Oakland, Briggs-Bunting was able to help guide her students to understand that their role as journalists was to amplify authoritative voices that lacked only access to the means to spread their messages.