Former journalism chairman James Wieghart dead at 76; remembered as ‘fearless, outspoken’
Family and friends of James Wieghart will remember him as a passionate journalist.
Wieghart, former chairman of the journalism department, died Sunday morning in Clare after a battle with pneumonia. He was 76.
“He was full of passion and thought that was very important in life,” said Rebecca Eaton, Wieghart’s daughter. “He was like an old-style hero.”
Wieghart served as chairman from 1989 to 1992 and was a faculty member for a few years more, said Jim Wojcik, associate professor of journalism.
John Palen, a retired journalism professor, worked with Wieghart from when he started at CMU until Wieghart retired.
“I will remember him as fearless, outspoken, a real rock ‘em, sock ‘em, give-them-hell journalist,” Palen said. “And a great teacher and a great friend.”
Wealth of experience
Wieghart worked for the New York Daily News from 1969-84, with his last position being editor and executive vice president. He also was a national political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service in Washington from 1984-86, staff director for former U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy from 1986-87 and the director of public information for the Office of Independent Counsel investigating the Iran-Contral affairs from 1987-89.
Wieghart genuinely enjoyed being the chairman because he liked a good fight, Palen said. But Weighart also really like being in the classroom.
He was the best friend a journalism student could have, he said, a sentiment Wojcik shared.
Wojcik said Wieghart could tell story after story and educate students in the process. Wieghart was inducted into the Central Michigan University Journalism Hall of Fame in 2004 for his work as chairman of the department.
“He brought with him a wealth of experience. All that really kind of helped the department,” Wojcik said. “It brought some new energy. What he brought to us was an outlook of looking at the really, really big picture.”
A ‘real’ reporter
Palen remembers Wieghart for his great career in journalism, espicially in the old-school form. Palen hopes Wieghart’s dedication will carry over into the new form of journalism.
“He was a real reporter. He believed you had to get out there and go where the story was and dig,” Palen said. “He believed that one of the functions of journalism was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Visitation will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Stephenson-Wyman Funeral Home, 165 South St., in Farwell. A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home.
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