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More media smackdowns

Irritating. Downright insulting. Some might say ignorant.

That was my reaction to an article my friend sent me about Detroit. "Here's some fodder for your blog," she wrote.

Oh, yeah.

It was a link to the Des Moines Register's web site. An article there outlines the Halloween traditions of that area, including the Beggars' Night tradition. That is where children tell a knock-knock joke before the homeowner hands out candy.

Detroit, meanwhile, was mentioned in the first paragraph for its so-called "Hell Night."

Really, now.

What gets me is the tone and placement of this statement. First, the reporter wrote it in the present tense. Like we've still got this ridiculous event.

Then, there is never another mention of Detroit in the article.

This is why Michigan – Detroit in particular – hates most of the media. Hates the national spotlight. Hates bad reporting.

I'm a reporter through and through. This is the only job I've ever wanted to do. And even I hate the media when I read stories like this.

Here's why. I've lived here in Michigan my entire life. There is no such thing as Hell Night as far as I know.

FYI – here is what Wikipedia said about it: “The name ... Hell Night is used in parts of the eastern U.S. and Canada, although the acts are generally less destructive and violent than those committed in Detroit.” A compliment? I don't think so.

I am never one to shade the truth about Detroit. We have an awful, hideous thing called Devil's Night that put us before the news lens for all the wrong reasons. (Read Darrell's post for more on this. We're not obsessed with the topic; it's just high on the mind of most residents around this time of year.)

The problem started in the 1970s when vandals went ballistic and started setting arson fires. For nearly three decades, some brainless people set fire to abandoned homes either for fun or for insurance money.

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer came up with the idea for Angels' Night around 1995. Since then, as many as 50,000 volunteers gather to patrol neighborhoods. There also is a curfew that starts at 6 p.m. for the days before Oct. 31.

Last year, a total of 136 fires were reported compared to 142 in 2007. Compare that to a peak high of about 800 fires set in 1984.

In fact, this year's campaign started Sept. 30 under new mayor Dave Bing. The theme is “Watch Your Block.” And another 50,000 volunteers are expected to participate.

Where is that is your article, Des Moines Register?

Not to get too high on my soap box, but it reminds me of what happened with The Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank marathon this past weekend. Rather than focus on the event, the people and the joy of it all, some reporters and television stations centered their coverage only on the three deaths.

People around here don't like random smackdowns and insults. Now, as my state comes under the microscope – and I'm the one feeling the pressure as well – I'm starting to understand.

P.S. Nolan Finley of The Detroit News had an awesome piece on this topic today -- and it's probably written far better than mine. Read it

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