Nicole Avery Nichols is first black woman executive editor for the Detroit Free Press

As editor, Nichols said she intends to continue Free Press’ renewed emphasis on community-level reporting that provides critical information and builds trust with readers. Photo credit: Yahoo News

The Detroit Free Press announced the appointment of Nicole Avery Nichols as its new Executive Editor on Wednesday, making her the first Black woman to lead the newspaper.

According to Detroit News, Nichols has reported and edited news that ranged from culture, the culinary arts, the COVID-19 pandemic, and education in Detroit over her 25-year career in journalism. She now makes a return to the Free Press following a period of more than 2 years as editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat, a nationwide journalism nonprofit focused on education.

Nichols first joined the Free Press newspaper in 2000 after being recruited from the Detroit News and spent 20 years with the news outlet, taking on roles like editor, current affairs editor, and senior news director.

Among her many duties at Free Press, she supervised a diverse roaster of award-winning editors and journalists covering a broad spectrum of beats, including courts and corruption, immigration, gender equity, religion, public health, travel, race, popular culture, restaurants, entertainment, and politics.

She also led efforts to shape how some of the most impactful local stories were covered, which include the opioid epidemic, the Flint water crisis, the “Me Too” movement, the racial reckoning after the death of George Floyd, the attempted kidnapping plot against the Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Nichols left the Detroit Free Press for Chalkbeat in February 2021, she continued to live in metro Detroit with her husband – Free Press contributing columnist, Darren Nichols, and their twin children.

At Chalkbeat, the seasoned journalist played the role of top editor, and was responsible for newsroom operations, as well as a national reporting team with offices in Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Tennessee, Colorado, and Indiana.

“I firmly believe in centering people and their experiences within the heart of journalism, and I am thrilled to be leading one of America’s most powerful newsrooms as we tell the stories that matter most. I look forward to engaging new audiences amid our ever-changing and diversifying media landscape,” the newly appointed executive director said.

Chief content officer at Gannet and the USA Today Network, Kristin Roberts, commended Nichols for her deep knowledge of issues in the Detroit area and for her “fearless and unflinching commitment to journalism.” She added, “I am confident that under Nicole’s leadership, the Free Press will deliver exclusive and solutions-focused journalism that our readers, viewers, and listeners want.”

The newly appointed executive editor started her journalism career in 1993 as a weekend reporter at the Utica Observer-Dispatch in upstate New York and later became the features writer at what was then known as The Syracuse Newspapers.

She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Tuskegee University, Alabama, where she played trombone in the school marching band, and holds a master’s degree in Newspaper journalism from Syracuse University. Nichols is also a member of the Detroit National Association of Black Journalists.

As editor, Nichols said she intends to continue Free Press’ renewed emphasis on community-level reporting that provides critical information and builds trust with readers. “My goal is to deliver relevant news that matters to people’s day-to-day lives” she noted. “It sounds simple but it’s not. It required a lot of eye contact and in-person reporting.”

The late Bob McGruder became the first Black executive editor of the newspaper in 1996 since it was launched in 1968. In 2002, Carole Leigh Hutton became the first female executive editor of the paper. Nichol’s appointment comes decades later making it an important step for the paper in times where diversity and gender equality are strongly encouraged.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: May 5, 2023


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