Gannett Blinks: Henderson Gains Payout to Avert Potential Suit Over Freep Firing

September 09, 2018, 11:28 AM by  Alan Stamm

It took seven months of legal back-and-forth for former Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson to gain a settlement from the paper that fired him abruptly after 18 years there.

His attorney, Deborah Gordon of Bloomfield Hills, tells Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit Business:

"He's moved on and wanted a clean slate and is pleased there is resolution. There were never any complaints filed against him."  

Stephen Henderson, shown hosting "American Black Journal" in February. (WTVS photo)

Henderson was booted as managing director of opinion and commentary 10 days before last Christmas for what the newspaper's owner, Gannett Company, called "credible allegations that Mr. Henderson’s behavior has been inconsistent with company values and standards."

The firm kept mum about details, though the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner said three days later on "Detroit Today," his WDET radio show: "The Free Press found instances with two female employees in which my interactions, in social situations outside of work several years ago, were deemed inappropriate." 

His late July settlement comes without a lawsuit, says Gordon, who doesn't disclose the financial agreement and other terms of the deal that avoids a potential wrongful dismissal claim.

Shea adds:

Henderson deferred comment to Gordon. . . . Peter Bhatia, the Free Press's editor and vice president, said via email Friday afternoon that he can confirm there's a settlement, but declined to say more.

Bhatia opposed firing his chief editorial writer, but was overruled by Gannett, several insiders told Deadline Detroit in February.

In his broadcast statement shortly after December's dismissal, Henderson said:

The newspaper’s review of my ten years in management at the Free Press found instances with two female employees in which my interactions, in social situations outside of work several years ago, were deemed inappropriate. One situation involved sexually themed conversations with an employee; I had encouraged that employee to disclose this interaction. In the other situation, a co-worker who was a manager in another department reported two rejected advances that she said made her uncomfortable.

Neither of the co-workers involved had come forward or filed a complaint before the outside allegations were made against me. There are no other allegations. I have maintained professional friendships and good working relationships with both of these colleagues. The Free Press told me that neither of the two women want to take any action.


Henderson, 47, has a 1988 University of Detroit Jesuit High School diploma and a 1992 University of Michigan degree. He continues hosting the WDET public affairs show each weekday morning, as well as "American Black Journal" on Detroit Public TV.

He also helps guide the Tuxedo Project Literary Center at 7122 Tuxedo St., his renovated boyhood home in northwest Detroit. It opened last September as a writers' residence and literary center in partnership with nearby Marygrove College and the Knight Foundation. 

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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