John Madigan didn’t work for The Michigan Daily when he was at the University of Michigan. He studied business and didn’t have any plans to go into the field of journalism. He went into finance and investment banking after graduation, and eventually took on The Chicago Tribune as a client. After a couple years of working with the company, they hired him as a CFO in 1975, and as he rose through the ranks of The Tribune, he eventually became CEO and chairman of the Tribune Company.
“I came to greatly appreciate what the news people do and how hard it is to turn out a story or a product that's completely accurate and interesting. It's not easy,” Madigan told me when I spoke to him on the phone last week.
Madigan says that’s a big part of why he and his wife, Holly, decided to give back to The Daily. In 2015, they donated the funds to support the renovation of The Daily’s newsroom and endowed a need-based scholarship for Daily staff. And now, they’ve given us an incredibly generous gift of more than $300,000 to devote to professional development, building a diverse newsroom and creating a sustainable revenue model for the paper.
“I'm really proud to have run a major news organization and the least I can do is just give back so other people have an opportunity to develop themselves so that they could do the same someday,” he said.
The gift is in the form of a fund called the Lipinski Journalism Fund, named by the Madigans in honor of Michigan Daily alum Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor of The Chicago Tribune. As Madigan told me, he and Lipinski became “fast friends” after meeting while they both worked at The Tribune — they bonded over their shared love for the University. He said it was Lipinski who helped steward him into the world of journalism.
“I needed to learn a lot,” he said. “One of the people that really helped me along the way was Ann Marie Lipinski. That's part of the reason that Holly and I want to honor her with this program.”
Lipinski, who currently works as the curator of the prestigious Neiman Foundation for Journalism, told me she was shocked and honored to learn the Madigans had decided to name the fund after her. Like so many of our alumni, she has a sentimental attachment to The Daily — after all, it’s where she met her husband and spent many of her college days. Beyond that, though, it also served as a sort of classroom for her.
“I had the opportunity to cover Chicago politics and to work with two reporters — together, we won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Chicago City Council,” she said. “But the first time I ever walked into a city council meeting in my life was in Ann Arbor. I covered the City Council for The Daily and I'm pretty sure I can draw a straight line from that experience to my experience in Chicago. There's such clear and direct connection.”
The Lipinski Journalism Fund will allow us to continue this tradition of enabling students to grow as journalists and people through experiences at The Daily. Using the Madigans’ gift, we will expand our professional development efforts by bringing veteran journalists (including Daily alumni) into the newsroom for short-term fellowships and sending staff members out to journalism conferences.
The gift will also help The Daily create a new revenue model to achieve financial stability so it can remain a resource for students on campus and aspiring journalists at the University.
Additionally, we’ll use the gift to help younger students from a wide range of backgrounds explore journalism through workshops targeted toward high school students. In future years, The Daily plans to run a fully-funded residential summer camp that will give high schoolers first-hand experience with the work we do at the paper.
“I remember opportunities that I had as a high school student that were hugely influential to me,” Lipinski said. “It was this idea that somebody would take you seriously and see you as somebody who, you know, who might be able to have a career in this thing that you really loved.”
The gift will also enable us to expand the reach of the scholarships we offer at The Daily, in an effort to make working at the paper a viable experience for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Ultimately, our goal is to bring the feeling of acceptance that Lipinski felt both before and during her time at The Daily to students of all backgrounds — especially those of minority identities who might not have ever thought of journalism as a field they could pursue.
On behalf of the entire staff of The Daily, I want to thank John and Holly Madigan and Ann Marie Lipinski. We have ambitious goals at The Daily — goals that will undoubtedly require financial backing to accomplish. With the generosity of the Madigans, we can continue to improve this paper and the staff that run it for years to come.
Madigan told me on the phone last week that if there’s anything he hopes to see come out of this fund, it’s journalists who are prepared to do the work that’s asked of them in this world.
“Journalists are going into so many different things than when I graduated from school. But I just hope that they're well prepared to be very successful. And I just think there's a lot of room for that. I'm pleased to do my little thing to help that goal.”
Thank you, Mr. Madigan. We’re pleased, too.