After living in Albany, JoAnne Purtan’s first day at WXYZ 19 years ago was a homecoming of sorts.
“It was a real honor to return to a building with such history and where my dreams of going into broadcasting started,” she said. “I grew up in Bloomfield Township and went to Andover High School, so this was returning home.”
Purtan and her five sisters sometimes accompanied their famous father, radio personality Dick Purtan, to work on Saturdays. As the popular DJ took to the airwaves, his daughters roamed the building, and JoAnne especially loved visiting the Action News studio.
“I would sit where Bill Bonds and Diana Lewis sat and pretend I was doing the news,” said the four-time Emmy winner.
She joined the station in 1998 on the same day as fellow anchor Carolyn Clifford. “On June 8 we both walked in,” Purtan said, “and between us we have worked every shift in the building.”
Purtan, 48, has seen massive changes in the news business over the past few decades. “When I started here there was no social media or website. Your job was to go out and report, and that was it,” she said. “Today, every story I do on the air I have to also write a web version. I do my best to put something out on social media at least once a day, if not more. We are now multimedia journalists. It’s an exciting thing but it can be tough; there are more demands on our time.”
Time is always at a premium for Purtan. She and her husband Eric are raising two teens. She’s on the advisory board of Midnight Golf and the board of directors for New Day Foundation for Families. In addition to anchoring at noon, Purtan co-anchors the 4 p.m. newscast, does consumer pieces for “Don’t Waste Your Money” and features “mompreneurs” in “Mom’s a Genius.”
“I love profiling these women because they take such a chance and risk to follow their passion and dreams to put something out there,” she said.
Purtan has talked with thousands of people over the years and puts Warren Buffett on the top of her interview wish list. “Not only is he a brilliant investor, he’s humble,” she said. “He still lives in the very modest house he raised his kids in, and most importantly, he’s pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth … and has encouraged other billionaires to give similarly.”
As a journalist, Purtan is careful to keep her political views to herself. “The media has a huge responsibility to cover things fairly and to get it right. Our job is to be fair, accurate and objective.”
One topic she’s happy to share her feelings about is Detroit’s renaissance. “I get to see it each day when I anchor the news at noon overlooking Campus Martius. The activity I see and the energy going on is just invigorating. It is exciting to have a window to all of that and to bring it to our viewers. I recognize that people in the neighborhoods say, ‘don’t forget about us,’ and more needs to be done, but a strong central downtown will expand out to the neighborhoods.”
She also enjoys visiting her youthful stomping grounds. “I remember growing up and shopping in downtown Birmingham,” Purtan said. “I love Birmingham – it is just a fun, happening city.”
Photo: Laurie Tennent