Editor's Note: RIP George Weeks, a fine newspaperman
George Weeks was like Velcro. Whenever he walked through a room, stories stuck to him.
Downloading George was my job for a number of years at The Detroit News, when he was our political writer and I was state editor in charge of the Lansing bureau.
George Weeks died last Friday at age 86 at his home in northern Michigan.
He was my favorite reporter, and not just because he always had a pocketful of news tips. What I particularly liked is that George lived within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and worked out of his home office there.
So I scheduled my annual sit-downs with him for the summer, spending a couple of days with George in one of the most pleasant spots in Michigan. He owned the property before the park was formed and was grandfathered in. From his front window, he could see Lake Michigan and the dunes in what was perhaps the world's sweetest newspaper office.
For as long as he was able, George started his mornings by kayaking across the bay.
Back then, stories from remote areas were transmitted over a computer attached to a landline telephone, and garbled text was common. If I had questions about his reports, or felt some key information was missing, George would quip, "I must have had sand in my couplers."
There was something about George that just made people want to tell him stuff. He was easy-going, soft-spoken and wryly witty, most often wearing an impish grin.
He worked his beat like a plow horse. George was never off the job. A reporter's notebook was always tucked into his back pocket, ready to come out when his news antennae went up. Until earlier this year, George was still writing a syndicated political column for newspapers Up North.
If George had enemies — and covering politics for four decades, it's hard not to step on toes — I don't know who they were. In all the years he worked for me, I never got a single complaint about his accuracy.
"He worked hard to get things right," says Bob Berg, who succeeded George as press secretary for former Gov. William Milliken. "He took his responsibility to his profession very seriously. "
After his stint as press secretary, George became Milliken's chief of staff and joined The News when the governor left office. Some of us were skeptical that he could leave the political world and return to journalism without bringing a partisan slant with him.
George quickly put those concerns to rest. He was unfailing in his fairness.
He was also unabashed in his love for Michigan. He wrote several books on Michigan history, and liked nothing better than to follow an assignment to an out-of-the-way corner of the state.
George kept writing even through personal tragedy — he outlived his wife and both of his children. He couldn't stop chasing news leads, couldn't put down his pen.
His profession changed around him, but George never did. He did his job the old-fashioned way. He built relationships and gained the trust of his sources by getting things right.
George Weeks was a hell of a newspaperman.
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