Oct. 26 2016 11:45 AM

WLNS anchor Jane Aldrich announces January retirement

After 31 years behind the WLNS News 6 desk, anchor Jane Aldrich announced she will step down in January.
Photo courtesy WLNS
After 31 years behind the desk for WLNS 6 News, anchor Jane Aldrich is ready for her next chapter. Just don’t call it retirement.

“I’m calling it recess,” she said. “It’s like being in school, and you work really hard on projects and tests. You look forward to recess, to clear your mind and get out and run around. That’s kind of what I want to do.”

WLNS and Aldrich have not set a date for her final newscast, but she plans to step down in mid-January. Aldrich, 61, started as anchor and reporter at WLNS in October 1985. Over the years, she has anchored the station’s noon, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts, as well as a “sleepless but memorable” week in May 2013 co-anchoring the morning news.

“That’s a young person’s game,” she said with a laugh.

An Ann Arbor native, Aldrich knew she wanted to be on television from an early age. She recalls a “spiritual” experience on a family road trip when she was around 10 that helped guide her career.

“We passed by a television station and I heard a voice, as crazy as that sounds,” she recalled. “I heard a voice say, ‘You’ll work there someday.’ At that time in my life it was something that made me feel really special and safe. I always held on to that.”

That encouragement was important for Aldrich, who often felt discouraged in school. She suffered from a learning disability that made schoolwork challenging.

“It was very difficult to read and write,” she said. “I inverted numbers and letters. Back then they didn’t call it dyslexia, but I’m sure it was a form of it.”

Because of her learning disability, Aldrich was sent to breakout classes with other struggling students.

“They actually called those groups the ‘slow reading group’ and the ‘slow math group,’” she said. “You can imagine, already having a fragile sense of self-esteem, to be relegated to those groups where kids would point and make fun of you was very difficult.”

One gym teacher even told Aldrich that the best she could hope for was to “be as successful as a barmaid.” But Aldrich pushed through and learned to read and write. As she began to consider possible careers, newscaster seemed like a perfect fit for her personality.

“I was always inspired by stories, by listening to people and asking them questions,” she said. “I was always curious.”

Aldrich went on to study communications at Alma College. After graduating, she was offered a radio sales position at WLNS, then named WJIM and paired with the similarly named AM radio station. When she asked about making the jump to on-air talent, she was told by station manager Jim Gross, “I just don’t think you have what it takes to make that transition.”

Determined to break into television, Aldrich took classes in radio and television production at Lansing Community College while working two part-time jobs. She eventually landed a job as news director at WFSL, the TV station that would eventually become Fox 47. Her time at WFSL was short-lived, though, as budget cuts led to the end of newscasts at the station just nine months after she was hired. Aldrich found herself unemployed for the first time in her adult life.

“It was a beyond humbling experience,” she said. “It was a really challenging time for me.”

She was able to land a job at WILX doing weekend newscasts, then about a year later, she took a lead anchor position at a station in Toledo.

“It was a big decision to leave,” she said. “It was in January; it was cold and dark. I stayed in a hotel for a month before I could move into an apartment.”

During her stint in Toledo, Aldrich maintained a “commuter marriage” with her husband, Kip Bohne, who continued to work at Fox 47 in Lansing. Looking for a way to work in the same city, Bohne agreed to look into jobs in Toledo and Aldrich put in a call to WLNS. Aldrich had a meeting with the news director, who told her the station didn’t have any openings.

“The next day, he called me and said, ‘You will never believe this, but our anchorwoman has decided to start a family and is leaving. Would you be interested in a job?’” she recalled. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

Aldrich describes her time behind the news desk as sitting “in the front seat of history.” One of her personal career highlights was being invited by the White House to moderate a discussion on women’s healthcare with President Bill Clinton at Lansing Community College in 1999.

“At first I didn’t believe it was the White House calling,” she said. “I was so honored and scared at the same time.”

Sitting on stage with the president in LCC’s Gannon Gymnasium, Aldrich used the opportunity to send a message to her childhood doubters.

“I’d like to say to my eighth grade gym teacher who never thought I would amount to anything — look who I’m in the gym with today,” she said.

The unplanned comment earned the applause of the crowd — and Clinton’s approval.

“It was one of those defining moments, and the president laughed,” she said. “But it also made me realize that kids are told things like that all the time that are so harmful.”

Aldrich has made public service an important part of her career at WLNS. She has worked with a variety of local charities and nonprofits, including the Alzheimer’s Association and Hospice of Lansing, and introduced a News 6 segment, “Tell Me Something Good,” focusing on positive, inspirational stories. She has also set up a scholarship for LCC students looking for a career in communications and is an advocate for disability rights.

“Because of the things I experienced growing up, I have such respect and empathy for anybody who has an emotional, physical or mental challenge,” she said.

As for what’s next, Aldrich doesn’t have any firm commitments. While she hasn’t ruled out returning to WLNS in a part-time capacity, possibly as a community ambassador for the station, she is planning to take some time to focus on her family.

“I’ve worked in broadcast news for 36 years, and I’m tired,” she said. “I’ve done it, and I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s been a blessing to work here, but I feel, in my heart of hearts, there’s something left for me to do. I’m going to take a few months off, for the first time in my life, to sit and think and spend time with family and friends. I don’t think I’m going to regret that.”