With dedication to diversifying newsrooms, a listening ear to urban dwellers talking about their neighborhoods and the commitment to radio for almost his entire career, Jerome Vaughn is clearly outstanding. He joins three other journalists inducted next month into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
Vaughn, the news director of WDET-FM on Wayne State University’s campus, has broken some of the biggest stories in and about Detroit. These include reactions to Civil Rights heroine Rosa Parks’ death, interviews with 400 Detroiters on what they would like to see happen in their town and government, and a salute to the legendary Detroit radio station WQBH.
“One of the reasons I love this profession, is that I get the opportunity to talk to interesting people, get to know them better, and write about their lives,” says Vaughn.
Friends and coworkers stepped up to speak on behalf of Vaughn a former board member of the Society of Professional Journalists – Detroit and a former vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists – Detroit Chapter.
“Jerome Vaughn’s titles are formally news director and “All Things Considered” host, but he is really an anchor in the broadest sense of the word,” says W. Kim Heron, senior communications officer for the Kresge Foundation, long-time fan and past inductee. “He’s there, rock solid, reassuring and reflective as a day-to-day-voice for public radio in Detroit, and he’s a dependable anchor for the long-term, long arc perspective in Detroit and the region that he’s the heart of.”
He will be inducted April 15 in a banquet at Michigan State University along with former Detroit Free Press columnist Susan Ager, automotive journalist John McElroy and Central Michigan University educator Jim Wojcik.
Over 140 journalists have been inducted since 1985 including Detroit News columnist Betty DeRamus, Bill Black, WJR Detroit Reporter, Arise Detroit’s Luther Keith and Michigan Chronicle publisher Longworth Quinn.
Vaughn was nominated by Alicia Nails, J.D., who directs Wayne State’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity. “Born and raised in Detroit,” Nails said, “Vaughn considers dispelling myths about his hometown a crucial part of his job. . . At the heart of Vaughn’s mission is the ideal of telling the truth.”
Listening to the truth has become a lifelong past time for the man with the authoritative voice.
When he was just five years old, Vaughn tells how he fell in love with a little yellow transistor radio and listened to Walter Cronkite, Charles Collingwood and Eric Sevareid while other kids listened to rock-and-roll.
By 1992 he had landed a job on WDET producing an evening local news magazine and directing a monthly call-in show. In 1996 the National Public Radio tapped him for one of six fellowships nationwide to increase diversity. He produced features for Morning Edition and All things Considered.
Other than a three-year stint in California after college, the news directorship at Michigan Radio, and some freelance work, Vaughn has lived in Detroit and worked for WDET throughout his career.
“Jerome developed a mentoring program where interns would get the kind of hands-on experience seen in very few newsrooms,” writes Don Gonyea, national political correspondent for NPR.
“As they gained skills and experience, they’d be given more demanding assignments and tougher deadlines,” he adds. “And they’d be treated with the professional respect of a veteran reporter. Talented young journalists emerged, and the audience was served by the work product of this deceptively robust news operation. And orchestrating it all was Jerome Vaughn.”
Over the years when Detroit has been cheered, jeered and resoundingly cheered again, Vaughn has been there to chronicle the experiences as an intern, producers, reporter, assistant news director, executive producer, news/program director and news director since 2007.
“Jerome taught me a lot – although I didn’t realize it at the time,” says Sarah Hulett, senior editor, Michigan Radio. “How to stay cool under pressure, how to listen, how to cultivate meaningful working relationships, and, of course, how much pizza to order on election night.”
In his spare time, Vaughn relishes historical reading, gardening and coaching his kids’ soccer teams. He has a wife and eight children, and at least a hundred alumni who cheer him in his latest career attainment in the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
“It’s been quite a ride. I’m thrilled about this honor from the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame and will cherish it for the rest of my life. But, there’s still plenty of work to be done,” says Vaughn.