Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Free Press is the largest daily newspaper in Detroit, Michigan, US. The Sunday edition is titled the Sunday Free Press. It is sometimes referred to as the Freep (reflected in the paper's web address, It primarily serves Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Washtenaw, and Monroe counties.

Detroit Free Press
On Guard for 192 Years
The September 11, 2011, front page of the Detroit Free Press, with Eric Millikin art and Mitch Albom column about the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
TypeDaily newspaper
(Detroit Media Partnership)
PresidentTimothy Gruber
EditorPeter Bhatia[1]
Headquarters160 W. Fort St.
Detroit, Michigan 48226
United States
Circulation234,579 daily
639,350 Sunday (2011)[2]
OCLC number474189830

The Free Press is also the largest city newspaper owned by Gannett, which also publishes USA Today. The Free Press has received ten Pulitzer Prizes[3] and four Emmy Awards.[4] Its motto is "On Guard for 192 Years".

In 2018, the Detroit Free Press received two Salute to Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists.[5]


1831–1989: Competitive newspaper

The newspaper was launched by John R. Williams and his uncle, Joseph Campau, and was first published as the Democratic Free Press and Michigan Intelligencer on May 5, 1831.[6] It was renamed to Detroit Daily Free Press in 1835, becoming the region's first daily newspaper.[7] Williams printed the first issues on a Washington press he purchased from the discontinued Oakland Chronicle of Pontiac. It was hauled from Pontiac in a wagon over rough roads to a building at Bates and Woodbridge streets in Detroit. The hand-operated press required two men and could produce 250 pages per hour. The first issues were 14 by 20 inches (360 mm × 510 mm) in size, with five columns of type. Sheldon McKnight became the first publisher with his uncle John Pitts Sheldon as the editor.

In the 1850s, the paper was developed into a leading Democratic Party–aligned publication under the ownership of Wilbur F. Storey. Storey left for the Chicago Times in 1861, taking much of the staff with him.[8] In the 1870s ownership passed to William E. Quinby, who continued its Democratic leanings and established a London, England edition.[7]

In 1940, the Knight Newspapers (later Knight Ridder) purchased the Free Press. During the next 20 years, the Free Press competed in the southeastern Michigan market with The Detroit News and the Detroit Times, until the Times was purchased and closed by The Detroit News on November 7, 1960. The Free Press was delivered and sold as a night paper, with home deliveries made after 7:00 pm until around 1966. A morning "Blue Streak Edition" was available at news stands beginning around 1965, meaning the Free Press actually printed two editions per day. During that period The Detroit News was sold and delivered as an afternoon newspaper.

1989–present: Joint operating agreement

In 1989, the paper entered into a one hundred-year joint operating agreement with its rival, combining business operations while maintaining separate editorial staffs. The combined company is called the Detroit Media Partnership. The two papers also began to publish joint Saturday and Sunday editions, though the editorial content of each remained separate. At the time, the Detroit Free Press was the tenth-highest circulation paper in the United States, and the combined Detroit News and Free Press was the country's fourth-largest Sunday paper.

On July 13, 1995, Newspaper Guild–represented employees of the Free Press and News and the pressmen, printers and Teamsters working for the "Detroit Newspapers" distribution arm went on strike. By October, about 40% of the editorial staffers had crossed the picket line, and many trickled back over the next months while others stayed out for the two and a half years of the strike. The strike was resolved in court three years later, and the unions remain active at the paper, representing a majority of the employees under their jurisdiction.

Free Press offices 1998–2014

In 1998, the Free Press vacated its former headquarters in downtown Detroit and moved to offices into The Detroit News' building and began to operate from its new offices in that building on June 26 of that year.[9]

On August 3, 2005, Knight Ridder sold the Free Press to the Gannett Company, which had previously owned and operated The Detroit News. Gannett, in turn, sold The News to MediaNews Group; Gannett continues to be the managing partner in the papers' joint operating agreement.[10][11]

The Free Press resumed publication of its own Sunday edition, May 7, 2006, without any content from The News, other than that The News would print its editorial page in the Sunday Free Press.[12]

Home of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News offices since October 2014

On December 16, 2008, Detroit Media Partnership (DMP) announced a plan to limit weekday home delivery for both dailies to Thursday and Friday only. On other weekdays the paper sold at newsstands would be smaller, about 32 pages, and redesigned. This arrangement went into effect March 30, 2009.[13]

The Free Press entered a news partnership with CBS owned-and-operated station WWJ-TV channel 62 in March 2009 to produce a morning news show called First Forecast Mornings. Prior to the partnership, WWJ aired absolutely no local newscast at all.[14]

In February 2014, the DMP announced its offices along with those of the Free Press and The Detroit News would occupy six floors in both the old and new sections of the former Federal Reserve building at 160 West Fort Street. The partnership expected to place signs on the exterior similar to those on the former offices.[15][16] The move took place beginning in October 2014.[17]

Ownership changes

In June 2015, Gannett split itself into two companies. The company's television broadcasters and digital publishers became part of a new company known as Tegna Inc. while its traditional print publishers became part of a new Gannett.[18]

In November 2019, the newspaper announced it would cut four staff positions ahead of the GateHouse Media conglomerate completing its purchase of Gannett. The Gannett board finalized the purchase agreement on November 19, 2019.[19][20]

Other Free Press publications

  • Screen & Radio Weekly (1934–1940)
  • The Detroit Almanac: 300 Years of Life in the Motor City (2001). Peter Gavrilovich and Bill McGraw, editors. ISBN 0-937247-34-0

Notable people

See also


  1. "Peter Bhatia named new editor of the Detroit Free Press". Detroit Free Press. August 31, 2017.
  2. "Circulation numbers for the 25 largest newspapers". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. November 1, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  3. Reindl, JC (April 14, 2014). "Free Press' Stephen Henderson wins 2014 Pulitzer Prize for commentary". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  4. "Detroit Free Press wins 4th Emmy Award for Christ Child House". Detroit Free Press. Michigan Federation for Children and Families. September 22, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  5. "2018 Salute to Excellence Winners". National Association of Black Journalists. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  6. "Oakland County". Michigan Newspaper History. 2009.
  7. "Detroit Free Press". Detroit Historical Society. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  8. Willard Grosvenor Bleyer (1936). "Storey, Wilbur Fisk". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  9. Grimm, Joe. "600 W. Fort: Built for newspapering". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on August 19, 1999. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  10. Seelye, Katharine Q. (August 4, 2005). "2 Huge Publishing Chains Swap Newspapers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  11. "Detroit papers change hands in 3-company deal". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  12. "Detroit News, The | Detroit Historical Society". Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  13. Pérez-Peña, Richard; Mary Chapman (March 31, 2009). "Detroit's Daily Papers Are Now Not So Daily". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  14. Marcucci, Carl (March 29, 2009). "Free Press will join WWJ-TV for reports". Radio + Television Business Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  15. Zaniewski, Ann; Gallagher, John (February 20, 2014). "Free Press, News moving to new home in core of downtown Detroit". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  16. Aguilar, Louis (April 23, 2014). "Detroit News, Free Press, DMP will occupy 6 floors in old Federal Reserve building". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on April 25, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  17. Rubin, Neil (October 24, 2014). "News moving out, leaving century of memories behind". The Detroit News. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  18. Reindl, JC (June 29, 2015). "Gannett, owner of Detroit Free Press, splits into two". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  19. Ikonomova, Violet (November 13, 2019). "Layoffs Planned At Detroit Free Press Ahead Of Sale To Hedge Fund-Backed Group". Deadline Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  20. Bomey, Nathan (November 19, 2019). "CEOs of new Gannett: 'Pivot' needed for digital transformation as merger is completed". USA Today. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  21. "Veteran Detroit-Area Sportswriter Jack Berry Named Recipient of PGA Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award - The Golf Wire". The Golf Wire. February 15, 2007. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
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