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Former Director of MSU School of Journalism, State News board member dies at 70

March 25, 2021
Photo courtesy of MiCOG (Michael J. Reitz)
Photo courtesy of MiCOG (Michael J. Reitz) —
Photo by Lucy VanRegenmorter | The State News

Co-founder of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government (MiCOG), Jane Briggs-Bunting passed away Tuesday, March 23, after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70.

Briggs-Bunting worked as a professor and Director of MSU School of Journalism between the years of 2003 and 2012.

She is remembered by family, friends, and colleagues as a fervent advocate for open government, bringing energy and passion to the fight for public access. 

“It really was her vision to have a bipartisan coalition that could speak on this topic and focus on it in a single minded way,” MiCOG President Michael J. Reitz said. “Just getting that off the ground and recruiting a founding board and putting all the right people together was a significant thing in and of itself, and evidence of her energy around this issue.”

According to Reitz, Briggs-Bunting’s passion for open government made huge strides in Michigan — a state that needed it the most. 

Colleagues at MiCOG remember Briggs-Bunting for her perseverance and positive energy. 

“She was relentless,” Reitz said. “You couldn’t have a conversation with her without her figuratively banging the desk in front of her saying ‘we've got to do this, we've got to get this done.‘”

Even during her 7-year fight with neuroendocrine cancer, her determination did not waver. 

“She also brought that kind of attitude to her fight with cancer, I never saw her discouraged," Reitz said. “She was always optimistic, she was always very energized by the need to carry on, and I admire that and really look to it as an example.”

Briggs-Bunting also served on the The State News Board of Directors from 2004-2009 and as President from 2007-2009. State News General Manager Christopher Richert released a statement mourning her death.

"While she may have been small in stature, she was giant in defending student journalists’ rights, the independence of the student press, and specifically, The State News," Richert said in the statement. "Her sense of adventure, guidance, willingness, and vision to push the limits, led The State News into creating SNworks, a full-service media website design, hosting, and content management service developed by MSU and State News students."

Richert's statement said that Briggs-Bunting would be pleased to know that SNworks is now serving over 65 commercial and college media organizations throughout the country.

"Jane will be missed but remembered, and her actions have and will continue to empower generations of student-journalists. For that, we are grateful," the statement said.

In honor of Briggs-Bunting, MiCOG will continue to recognize individuals who advocate for open government. This includes private citizens, as well as journalists. The award was first given to Briggs-Bunting last year. 

“As time goes on and we’re able to identify other individuals who have taken on the cause of open government, and were able to honor their work, we’ll be doing it in Jane’s name,” said Reitz.

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