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Lisa Yanick Litwiller, Bridge editor and Mt. Pleasant stalwart, dies of cancer

Lisa Yanick Litwiller headshot
Lisa Yanick Litwiller, 46, of Mount Pleasant was Bridge Michigan’s executive editor of innovation and daily news. (Bridge photo)
  • Lisa Yanick Litwiller came to Bridge from the Center for Public Integrity
  • An accomplished journalist, she won several awards and worked to broaden voices in newsrooms
  • She died of cancer on Monday at her home, surrounded by family

Lisa Yanick Litwiller, a champion of community journalism and inclusion who became a top editor at Bridge Michigan this year, died of cancer Monday at her home in Mt. Pleasant.

Yanick Litwiller, 46, was named in January as Bridge’s executive editor of innovation and daily news. She began her career at the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant and rose to become director of audience for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity.

She had a similar role at Hearst Newspapers, where she led a nationally award-winning investigation into sexual abuse by the Boys & Girls Club in Connecticut. At Bridge, she was charged with overseeing daily news, politics coverage and efforts to evolve from a web-first publication.

“We were fortunate to work with Lisa, even for the short time we were given,” said Katy Locker, the chief executive officer of The Center for Michigan, Bridge’s nonprofit publisher.

“The example she set by the type of leader she was and her passion for our mission will be a high standard for those that follow her. We're incredibly honored she chose to work with us. We only wish we'd had more time.”

An Oakland County native, Yanick Litwiller graduated from Central Michigan University in 2000 and remained in Mt. Pleasant. She described herself as a “transplant townie” who intended to work for the Morning Sun for one year, but stayed after “falling in love with my community and the stories and moments people trusted me to tell.”

She won several awards as a photographer before transitioning to become a reporter, said Rick Mills, the paper’s local news editor. 

“She always talked about giving voice to the voiceless, the homeless or the people fighting City Hall,” said Mills, the former publisher and editor-in-chief of the Morning Sun.

“She had a passion for shining lights into dark corners.”

That drive informed her work at Hearst and the Center for Public Integrity, said Matt DeRienzo, who was vice president of news at Hearst Connecticut and editor of the Center for Public Integrity.

“She is one of the most strategic thinkers that I ever worked with, and she used that power to lift people up and (help) women in particular to have a shot to have their ideas heard,” DeRienzo said.

“Compared to the dudes who were slapping people down, she got results. I am heartbroken, devastated and sad.”

At the Center for Public Integrity, Yanick Litwiller’s primary job was leading fundraising, product campaigns and audience engagement. She also helped change the mission of the investigative news nonprofit by insisting it not only produce stories about local communities, but put them in the center of reporting and solutions, DeRienzo said.

At Hearst and the Center for Public Integrity, Yanick Litwiller helped lead work that won a national Investigative Reporters & Editors award and a national Edward R. Murrow General Excellence Award.

Last year, she gave a keynote address at the annual Collaborative Journalism Summit in Washington, D.C.

Coming to Bridge this year, Yanick Litwiller said she was “humbled and excited” and eager to “do work that creates change and makes lives better across the state.” 

During her two-plus months, she worked with Executive Editor for Impact and Enterprise Joel Kurth to help expand newsletters and hire two deputy editors to continue restructuring a newsroom that is amid significant change. In the past year, founding CEO John Bebow and Senior Editor David Zeman retired.

During the interviews for the posts, her first question to applicants was: “what’s your superpower?” 

“She did a great job not only talking about that, but unlocking everyone’s superpower,” DeRienzo said. “Her north star was building communities where no one was left behind. You saw that in her work in Mt. Pleasant, and in day-to-day journalism.”

This month, Yanick Litwiller was honored by the Mt. Pleasant Chamber of Commerce for her volunteer work. Over the years, she had worked as a morning radio personality on WCFX radio, served as an adjunct professor at CMU, volunteered at a business incubator and served on the boards of anti-poverty nonprofits.

She is survived by her husband, Ryan; children Sam (Kaylee Goddard) Baerren, Oliver Jonaitis, Jude Litwiller and Cash Litwiller; grandson Carter Baerren; sisters Cheryl Landry and Natalie Kane; mother and stepfather Wendy and Dave Kane; father and stepmother Nelson and Brigette Yanick.

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