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Retired MSU Journalism Professor William (Bill) Cote, who directed CNS, Dies

Dr. William (Bill) E. Coté

Dr. William E. Coté, a retired journalism professor who influenced the careers of hundreds of Michigan State University students and a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, died this past Monday (8/30) at age 81.

Coté was born July 14, 1940 in Jackson, MI, the son of Mervin and Maybelle (Crosthwaite) Coté. He graduated from Jackson Community College and earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from MSU.

He was a conscientious, highly respected, ethics-driven and consummate practitioner of journalism for newspapers who began his career at the Grand Rapids Press and Ypsilanti Press, moved to the Booth Newspapers Capitol Bureau in Lansing and joined the MSU faculty full time in 1986, retiring in 2003. His tenacious but fair reporting won awards from the Michigan State Medical Society, Detroit Press Club Foundation and The Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

As an educator and mentor, he transformed Capital News Service from a pilot reporting program to one of Michigan’s most widely read sources of fair, balanced and accurate news about state government, politics and policy.

Earlier this year to mark the 40th anniversary of CNS, several alumni described Coté’s impact on them. One wrote, “Bill Coté taught me how to tell stories. And how to brush away the unimportant details in a hurry to meet the all-powerful deadline. And how important it is to get the facts right.” Another said, “He was the kind of person who not only gave advice, but followed through on helping me follow it.” Yet another wrote, “He literally changed the trajectory of my life.”

As a researcher, he was a pioneer in the study of coverage of victims of crime and violence and co-founded the internationally recognized Victims and the Media Program, an achievement that won him recognition from the State Senate.

As a leader, he chaired the Michigan House of Representatives Press Committee, served as a long-time officer of the Mid-Michigan Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and championed freedom of information.

Coté also co-authored with Roger Simpson, a book titled “Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting.”

He was a 33-year survivor of a Liver Transplant which he received in July of 1988 at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, WI. Coté had a variety of interests, including ham radio and research into novelist Ernest Hemingway’s under-appreciated journalistic career. He was active in Mount Hope United Methodist Church, where he first met his beloved wife, Donna. He also taught an adult Sunday school class there for many years.

Coté was preceded in death by his parents: Mervin and Maybelle (Crosthwaite) Coté; 2 brothers, Donald and Gloria (Doleski) Coté and Gene and June (Hicks) Coté; and one nephew, Scott Coté. He also lost the love of his life; his wife, Donna E. (Lawrence) Coté who died in 2013. He is survived by his niece, Lugene (Coté) and Keith Broxholm; nephews, Mark Coté, Collin and Darla (Gormley) Coté and Wally and Shawn Coté; and brother and sister-in-law, David and Nola (Lawrence) Meade. He is also survived by many great-nieces and nephews, and special “adopted” son and daughter: Ed and Sue Bryant, their children: Major Kate Bryant, and Alex and Casandra Bryant and great-grandchildren Oliver and Ophelia Bryant. He will be missed by all his friends and especially his caregiver Roslyn (Jackson) Personius.

Funeral services will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, September 10, 2021, at Mt. Hope United Methodist Church, 501 E. Mt. Hope Ave., Lansing, MI. Visitation will be at the Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and at the church for one hour prior to the service on Friday. Interment will take place immediately after the service in Evergreen Cemetery, Lansing, MI.

Memorial contributions may be made to: Mt. Hope United Methodist Church in his memory.

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