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July 08, 1988 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-08

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Free Press Publisher David Lawrence Jr. gets
down to cases with Fink.

trial?" Fink mumbles. "They want her notes.
We've got problems with the prosecutor's office?'
A short, pre-trial discussion with prosecuting
attorneys makes Fink's job a little easier. Yet the
Free Press subpeona is the only dismissed, and
he feels compelled to speak on record to the court
about the First Amendment as it applies to the
Prosecutors have argued in court that
Michigan laws do not recognize news gatherers'
privileges. Such privileges historically state that

reporters should not testify about information
they have obtained for a story unless alternate
sources are exhausted and the information is vital
to a case.
Fink believes strongly in these principles. So
his speech in court is intended for the judge and
the other reporters as well.
"I like what I'm doing. It's exciting. I'm a jour-
nalist at heart," he says, adding lightly, "I've
always wanted to work for the Free Press and now
I am:'
Walking out of the courtroom, Fink, Gruskin
and Stewart bump into Wayne County Prosecutor
John O'Hair. Fink doesn't hesitate to tell the pro-
secutor the office has communication problems
when dealing with the media. He suggests a
meeting with Free Press Executive Editor Heath
"Oh, the student telling the teacher what's go-
ing on," says O'Hair, who was one of Fink's law
school professors. "Have Mr. Meriwether give me
a call?'
They exit the courthouse and head back to
their respective offices. It's been a successful mor-
ning for Fink.
"The first rule of thumb on media attorneys
for an editor is that he or she must be at least as
passionate about the First Amendment as I am,"
Meriwether says. "Herschel qualifies. He is ex-
tremely conscientious. People who work here feel
as if he is a valued part of the staff?'
Fink carries a beeper. He uses a car phone. He
has a home computer terminal linked to the Free
Press system.
"It's in his blood," says David Page, a partner
at Honigman. "It's part of his life. He feels very
strongly about the First Amendment. He is not
a censor. He wants to protect freedom of the press."
No matter what the results may bring, Fink
is readily available. Recently, a judge threw Fink
out of a courtroom when he tried to aid Free Press
reporter Joe Swickard, who had been subpoenaed
to testify for a murder case he was covering and
asked to leave the trial.
A hearing was never held, and neither the
Michigan Court of Appeals nor the Michigan
Supreme Court would hear the case. Yet Fink
hasn't given up. He is appealing the Swickard
matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It is a matter of principles," he says.
Those who know him well say Fink's deep con-
cerns toward journalism make him successful in
a specialized profession that only a few are able
to master.
"He's the single best newspaper attorney with
whom I've ever worked," says Free Press
Publisher David Lawrence Jr. "I didn't know him
when he was a reporter, but he must have been
good. He cares so deeply about getting informa-

tion accurately and fairly?'
Adds Fink's wife, Annette, "Work makes him
tick. I still think of him as a journalist first and
then a lawyer. If he sees a fire truck driving down
the street, he still turns on his police radio?'
Fink, a native of metropolitan Detroit, always
aspired to be a newsman. His first stint came dur-
ing his student years at Wayne State University,
where he was a writer and editor for the student
newspaper, then the Daily Collegian.
After graduation in 1963, he applied and was
accepted to law school, but deferred the option for
a reporting job at the Flint Journal. A few years
later, he returned to his hometown as a reporter
for the Detroit News.
A nine-month newspaper strike in 1967 left
Fink with extra time to reevaluate his career. He
worked throughout the strike, but not too many,
long, gruelling hours. He received an offer from
Time Magazine, yet turned it down.
"I just couldn't see myself in a newsroom in
30 years," he says. "It was either Time or law
The strike ended. He started night school at
Detroit College of Law. And daughter Sheri was
born. During these years, he worked the graveyard
shift and eventually was promoted to night city
editor at the News while studying law. They were
hectic years for the Finks, who also had their se-
cond child, Marc.
After graduating law school, Fink took a job
at Butzel Long in Detroit. He practiced corporate
law and handled a few media issues since the firm
represented the Detroit News. Yet such oppor-
tunities were few and far between.
"My first interest was combining my interests
in media and law," he recalls.
A few years later, Fink moved to Honigman,
Miller, Schwartz and Cohn, where he started with
no media clients. Eventually, he landed ABC and
Scripps-Howard Broadcasting. And five years ago,
the Free Press hired Fink, handing him 13 libel
suits. Two are still pending. The Free Press pro-
vides the bulk of his media work.
"Every day presents so many challenges,"
Fink says. "It's fun, serious, hard, a lot of fighting
"I like to think that I do what I do well, but
I like to think I can always strive for better."
Striving for better means helping the Free
Press survive during the fight for the Joint
Operating Agreement. He has done some related
legal work, but mostly handles day to day legal
issues for the city's morning daily.
The death of the Free Press wouldn't destroy
Fink's law career, but it would shatter his dreams.
"Representing this newspaper is my most
favorite thing; he says. "It would be a personal
loss to me if the JOA was denied and the Free




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