Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:February 19th, 2007 07:31 EST
Jack Lessenberry: The Original Journalist

Jack Lessenberry: The Original Journalist

By Garrett Godwin

Unlike the journalists in today`s world, Jack Lessenberry is a cross between old school and a Renaissance man: a dinosaur " who loves to read.  However, like television`s Dr. House, he is blunt, gets to the point, pulls no punches, and tells it like it is.  That explains why, according to the 54-year-old going on 55 " too old " he said "has no free time.  Well, what do you expect?  Journalism is a tough profession to break into and be successful, and Jack Lessenberry knows that. Well, if that is true, why is this man interested in this field known as journalism?  Because in the interview, Lessenberry states that he has an ability to write.  Jack Lessenberry was born in Detroit, also known as the Motor City, and has lived there most of his life.  He and his wife now live in Huntington Woods, where Lessenberry have 14 guinea pigs that reproduced themselves.

Lessenberry first began studying journalism at Michigan State University and then to the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he earned a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree.  He traveled to Russia, where he did a story there more than once, and speaks its language fairly.

Lessenberry`s lengthy career as a journalist includes The Metro Times, which-- since 1990-- he has been writing columns about his favorite subject-- politics.  Lessenberry does not have any favorite or memorable stories because to him, journalism is like any other job.  You write one story, he said, and then you move on.  However, his most memorable stories are ones such as recently deceased former President Gerald Ford, who Lessenberry had a great deal of respect for.

He wrote an article for the Times almost two weeks ago entitled How Gerald Ford held the road ".  Lessenberry stated that Ford was a decent man who thought common sense was important, who liked people, who was honest, had a normal family and really did care about his country. "

Another unforgettable story from Lessenberry was less than a month ago, about the release of Dr. Jack Kevorkian. 

Known to the world as Dr. Death ", Kevorkian justifies his aiding of an Oregon homemaker in 1990 to die by saying that he was helping end her suffering " and pain ".  While some believed that it was assisted suicide, others believed that it was murder, but to Jack Kevorkian it was about giving this woman peace.  However, was this man playing God or was the Devil incarnate?  Not to the other Jack " Jack Lessenberry, that is.

"Jack Kevorkian, faults and all", he stated in the article, "Dr. Death gets out of prison", was a major force for good in this society.  He forced us to pay attention to one of the biggest elephants in society`s living room: the fact that today vast numbers of people are alive who would rather be dead; who have lives not worth living. "

In 1994, Lessenberry did a documentary about Kevorkian and he was nominated for a National Emmy the following year.  Just as if no one thought that daytime soap diva Susan Lucci would finally win an Emmy in 1999 for All My Children, Lessenberry thought he would not win either.  Nevertheless, he proved himself wrong in 1995 when he won an Emmy for his work.

Like the Renaissance man that he is, Lessenberry does not watch television because it`s a weakness ", adding to the fact that broadcast journalism has gone sensationalized with stories of Hollywood gossip and tabloids.  That explains why this man would prefer documentaries to TV any day of the week. 

A radio and newspaper alumnus, Tim Kiska, who teaches journalism at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, has known Lessenberry since 1987.

"We get along personally and professionally," he said.  "I have great admiration for his work.  He is one of the strongest, most consistent voices.  His Metro Times features are always written extraordinarily well and meticulously argued."

Benjamin Burns, both professor and head of the Journalism Program at Wayne State University, was Lessenberry`s former boss at the Detroit News.  He speaks nothing but the best for his colleague.  Brilliant, knowledgeable, witty, sometimes sarcastic, and smarter than 98% of us ", he said.  He [Jack] has a remarkable ability to retain information-- you might say he`s a walking, talking, Google. "

However, despite Burns` raves, Jack Lessenberry is not plugged in like us.  Never owned an I Pod ", he said, and does not even have a profile on MySpace ".  Never to have a naked picture of me on the Internet " was his solemn vow, and stays true to it to this day. 

Today, Jack Lessenberry wants to help people ".  In other words, to give something back to " journalism, the field that has given him success, as well as an Emmy.  As professor for Feature Writing at Wayne State, he believes that students do not know much about history.  Lessenberry has to be tough on his students, in order to shape the minds of budding journalists, in the hope of making them better in their writing, as well as having a love for journalism like he does.

Now that he is reaching middle age, Jack Lessenberry does not think of journalism as just any other occupation, because it is not; rather, journalism is more than just words, writing stories, and bringing them to life. It goes deeper and farther than that.  I want to create intelligent dialogue ", he said, About the problems we face today.  I think we need to think about and talk about who we are as a country and who we are as people, and explore all of these things. " Sources:

The Metro Times (


() Jack Lessenberry Essays and Interviews ( Jack Lessenberry himself