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Cain, DeRamus join state Journalism Hall of Fame

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Former Detroit News Lansing Bureau Chief Charlie Cain and former News columnist Betty DeRamus will be inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame this spring.

Cain's 37-year career stretched from the post-Watergate era to the advent of around-the-clock online news coverage.

DeRamus retired in 2006 after 17 years at The News, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. She has written two nonfiction books based on interviews and family stories about the Underground Railroad — including one being turned into an eight-hour miniseries on NBC.

Another inductee will be Harvey Ovshinsky — a Detroit writer, story consultant, media producer and teacher.

Born into a family of journalists, Cain died in 2011 at the age of 60. At the time, former Gov. William Milliken called Cain, "a beacon of excellence in journalism ... tough but fair in his coverage of politics."

Cain's nomination was sponsored by David Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the Detroit Free Press and The News. "I'm glad they chose him and he richly deserves it," Ashenfelter said. "It's too bad he's not here to enjoy it, but his family is, and they're thrilled."

News Editor and Publisher Jonathan Wolman said Cain "was all-pro in every way. Always fair and thorough, his coverage from Lansing provided our readers with a spirited view of government and politics.

"The force was with Charlie," said Wolman. "He and his siblings inherited strong values and a remarkable work ethic from their parents."

Cain's late father, Charles C. Cain, worked at the Detroit bureau of the Associated Press for 39 years, and his late mother, the former Ruth Edstrom, was a columnist at the Grosse Pointe News and worked at The News, Free Press, Business Week, Macomb Daily and Oakland Press, and as part of the communications team at Blue Cross in Detroit. Five of Cain's six brothers and sisters are in the communications business.

Wolman said he worked with the senior Cain at the Associated Press, as well as Charlie Cain's brother Brad Cain, an AP capital correspondent for many years in Salem, Oregon.

The new inductees were announced Tuesday by Michigan State University's School of Journalism, which administers the Journalism Hall of Fame.

DeRamus, who worked for the Detroit Free Press as well as The News, is a writer whose style has been described as elegant. She is the author of two nonfiction books about the struggles of African-American families to escape slavery and stay together, as well as the lives of the freed men and former slaves who helped them. They are "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad" and "Freedom by Any Means: True Stories of Cunning and Courage on the Underground Railroad."

Last month, NBC announced it would turn "Forbidden Fruit" into an eight-hour miniseries with Detroit-born singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder as executive producer, according to Entertainment Weekly. The book also may be adapted as a stage production with songs by Wonder.

Ovshinsky is a former production director for Detroit Public Television who produced award-winning documentaries and TV programs about Detroit and its residents. He has taught at Wayne State University, Madonna University and Washtenaw Community College, and has guest lectured about creativity and storytelling at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University.

The News once described him as "one of this country's finest storytellers."

"My father has urged hundreds of colleagues and students over the years to follow his lead, and to do what he calls scratch the surface," said Ovshinsky's son, Noah, who is assistant news director for Wisconsin Public Radio. "For more than 40 years, that is what he's done for Michigan and the Detroit area, in particular. Front yards are boring, he likes to say. Backyards tell stories."

Induction ceremonies are scheduled for April 19 at Michigan State University's Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.