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5 Thoughts About "The Detroit Story"

Thursday's conference at Wayne State University, called “Taking Charge of our Story”, featured an exciting mix of  activists, community organizers, academics and journalists (including those who'd define themselves as bloggers and those, like me, who come from more traditional media backgrounds). The most enlightening part of the day was Tom Sugrue's morning speech about the true history of Detroit, especially the part where he compared the experience of his father with that of an African-American man who lived in the same neighborhood. The most invigorating part of the day was the afternoon, where several groups split off to workshop ideas for new stories about Detroit.

With much of the day given to a question that can be summed up as “Why isn't the mainstream media telling the ‘real' story of Detroit?”, I figured I'd offer some observations from the mainstream media side of things.

  1. There's a dichotomy that community organizers need to acknowledge. On the one hand, they (rightly, I think) trumpet the democratization of media, the fact that with social media everyone's a publisher. On the other hand, they bemoan the fact that traditional mass media aren't getting their story out. And by this they don't mean that traditional mass media aren't publishing their stories in blogs such as this one or the many that are hosted by the Detroit Free Press and the News. They want print coverage in traditional mass mediums.
  2. Getting stories into print is harder than it ever was. There's less of it, for one thing, accompanying the falloff in advertising support. So if community groups and activists want to get their stories into print, they have to work even harder than they did in the past. Just as reporters have to work hard to find these new sources of information.
  3. I was struck by the fact that no one at the conference suggested that telling the story of Detroit is a multi-platform challenge. Since you can't count on getting your story to one reporter and scoring a print piece, you need to have an active Twitter feed, develop a community that spreads the news, create video, look at new storytelling constructions like flypmedia, and understand the ways traditional outlets use different media to create blanket coverage of a topic.
  4. Reporters at traditional mass media companies report—they ask questions and put things to the test. Of course Detroit wants a positive image. But individual stories of hope can't negate the truth of life on the ground in the city. The Free Press and News, with severely drained resources, do a pretty terrific job of covering all aspects of the city, without giving up their traditional watchdog duties in any way. Who else is can uncover local corruption in the in-depth way the Free Press revealed the troubles around Kwame Kilpatrick? Looking to the future, the papers have to consider the pain that the city will undergo in the years ahead, and analyze whether these emerging plans of reinvention will work or not.
  5. National mass media is not a monolith. These days, it's an experiment. Whether it's Fox, TIME, NBC, or the Free Press, there's a blog, there's a Twitter feed, there's video, there's local reporting, national reporting, print, pretty much the whole kitchen sink. Inside those companies, all of this is regarded as important coverage. Every mass media company is looking at telling stories in new ways. TIME's Assignment Detroit project fits right into that, in that it's a multi-level effort that keeps spawning new things. We've got a blog with local writers. They cover local events and individuals who are trying to make a difference, while also commenting on the region's biggest stories. We've added into that mix the TIME 11, our group of local high school kids writing and blogging about life on the ground for teens. In the months ahead we'll add more video and we'll add photography. We have print stories running in a range of outlets from TIME to Fortune to Essence and Sports Illustrated, and major text and video stories on Websites like and And we've taken a stake in the city in a number of ways, including donating our Detroit house to a community service group when the project is over. From our end, we hope that adds up to coverage that works locally and nationally. For people looking to have access to TIME journalists, that means multiple ways to get your story heard.
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  • 1

    I would never rely on MSM i.e TIME to be the critical vessel to provide news and significant knowledge for the Black community.

    TIME has never had a representative body of reporters and journalists that are Black or people of color. TIME braggs about the 11 teens writing and blogging about life on the ground but these 11 teens reflect are a reflection of TIME's idea of which teens matter. None of the Black teens selected by TIME truly reflect the indigenous vibes of the underclass in the city.

    What also troubled me about the entire conference @ Wayne State was the presence of the usual white liberal suspects and the same media talking heads posturing on this issue..

    Truth is the core question was irrevelant instead of pondering about telling the 'real story' of Detroit the event would have been better serve by having a number of people from a number of layers telling us the 'real story.'.. The MSM should never be the architects of the "real story"

    What's the point of changing the conduits of the message if the message is not true...

  • 2

    Saturday evening my daughter asked me to pick up some Chilli Cheese Fries because she wanted to watch the Michigan Hockey Match.

    So I went to the American Coney Island and he guys behind the counter were white but from another country and I was having trouble communicating with them an ultimately did not really end up with what Megan wanted.

    There was a black man standing next to me and patiently waiting to be served.

    While walking across the street to my my car with the order a cab came up next to me and the driver rolled down the window and the Cabbie asked politely if he could ask me a quesion. Sure!

    He asked if the guys behind the counter shoul have asked him for his order? Of course. But they didn't and he left rather angrily and said that he was sick of it.

    I quickly told him that my wife was Black and I knew exactly what he was talking about.

    So he replied, "Thank you Brother!" and drove away.

    So Being black does have it's joy of being slighted and ignored and not listened to.

    So Thrasher is pointing to something that we should take note of.

    Are we really providing a respectufll listening for Black People?

    Evidence would suggest otherwise.

    Now talkin with my Tax Accountant who has 4000 clients and has been putting in 12 and more hour days since Jauary,.she tells me that things areabsolutely horrible out there and it cuts across all income goups, races, religions... any way you slice it, it is horrible.

    And running Mary Poppins really doesn't cut it. We are in a full blown D.

    I'll send Karen her phone number... she won't have much time to talk but what could be more appropriate than talking to a Tax Accountat at this time to get a fair picture?


  • 3

    Greg Thrasher is a local internet troll who has spent years spamming local news sites with his racist idiocies. Don't be drawn into his convoluted idiocies, even for amusement purposes.

    Greg, worry less about what people with careers and intellect do and more about the fact that you sit at home spamming the work of others while your poor wife/mother works to support your parasitic rear end. Get a job and get a life instead of nipping at the heels of those who contribute to the discussion.

  • 4

    On a related note, I'm wondering if any or all of TIME's Detroit Blog team are planning on attending the upcoming Detroit edition of Journalism that Matters (June 3-6).

  • 5

    I guess fishingpost will not be inviting me to the Obama Healthcare victory party at his/her,lol,lol

    I will admit my posts, letters to editor, commentaries, my guest appearances on American Black Journal and My own TV Show make a lot of folks envious and angry with me...

    Life for a brother is tough out,lol,lol

  • 6

    Funny. The fact is, Thrasher, if you had something intelligent to say you probably wouldn't have been banned from so many news sites around town. That's not the sign of being enviable, it's the sign of being easily ignorable and useless to any intelligent discussion.

    By the way, have fun on that rinky-dink show you have on channel 500 on cable access TV. At least there you are free to be a buffoon without worrying that anyone is watching.

  • 7

    Fact is intellectual cowards like you who hide behind an alias and a pc and attack legends like me is tragic but I understand..My charisma and skills at making losers like you get emotional and spit out venom at me is the price of being someone with my talents and presence...

    BTW I am not banned from any sites I refuse to post where censorship is present..My comments and posts on sites increased the volume of eyeballs and of course elevates the nature of the discourse..

    Please do me one favor continue to obess and follow my career..I like having fans even ignorant and envious,lol,lol

  • 8

    "From our end, we hope that adds up to coverage that works locally and nationally."

    The key word here is coverage. Coverage is usually not depth but superficiality of both analysis and understanding. Coverage is colonial when a minority is privileged to write about a majority. This is why locals need to write their own stories. They are not trusted to for numerous reasons, the main one being the notion of objectivity, which is a largely false concept. There are those who believe "Detroit's two "local" (quotation marks very important) newspapers to be a colonial power, and there are those who believe that the "coverage" of Kilpatrick (and earlier, the coverage of Coleman Young) was shot through with intention and politics. They may be wrong, but their views cannot be dismissed; these views shouldn't be characterized as irrational and extreme. If they are so characterized, then coverage also is seen to mean framing in what is agreeable and framing out what is not agreeable with prevailing views.

  • 9

    Sorry to be the bad guy. No not really. But I would love to see a full fledged article on one truly successful town, city, state, country, territory,providence where the blacks were overwhelming the majority, where they have the ability to dictate and control their destiny by virtue of their vast majority if they choose to and had the governance. Where corruption of government was not so commonplace it was expected, where the crime rate was not higher than average, where poverty was not rampant, where civil war did not occur regularly. Sorry if my sympathy has been stretched to the breaking point, but if some one could provide me with evidence to the contrary, I would gladly change. New Orleans, still bemoaning its fate even though in the interim there have been several other cities devastated by natural disaster without a corresponding bewailing of their predicament. Once again Haiti sits around waiting for assistance. The pictures of the aftermath were not heart rendering to me, they were expected. Most everyone sitting around crying and waiting for someone else to do something for them. Just like New Orleans, no where did I see any leadership or mobilizing on their own, and even to this day it is a repeat - massive mobbing of those who do reach them with aide and not one person willing to take control and say stop it. Compare that with Chilie's immediate efforts after the earthquake. And Haiti has had aid after aid over the years and still no leadership has emerged. Detroit and Flint, even old Gary, IN, how long must whites be blamed? We packed up and left to it to you starting in the 70's and pretty much completed the exodous by the 90's. We gave it over to the blacks, because we were tired of being the victims and held liable for the mindset that we were completely and perpetually responsible for the state of affairs. We have for all intents and purposes been out of the picture for well over a decade now, and what have you done? Come on some one, give me the one success story somewhere. Not where there is joint control, only where blacks essentially rule. How long can we be held to blame? And how long is everyone else expected to pay and pay again until you can accept your responsibility? Hate me if must, but prove me wrong please.

  • 10

    I am a Detroit native, who moved away 10 years ago and have traveled and lived in many places since then.
    Reading these above comments leads me to the sad realization that Detroit has not progressed at all since I lived there last. Negativity to your fellow people will never lead anywhere.
    Forget about the Detroit story people! Think about the Detroit future! Detroit thinks about its past too much, the whole place and people need a makeover! I am not just talking about a physical makeover, I am talking about an emotional and mental makeover. Detroit is a cool town in a potentially beautiful place. Detroit, if you don't love yourself, how in the hell is anybody going to love you back?
    Rise above the negativity children. People across the nation have read your jabs at each other, do you think this is positive for the city? Detroit needs to stop thinking in black and white. Can I get an amen?

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NICHOLAS FISHER, expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in a study which found that bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi were present off the coast of California just five months after the nuclear meltdown.