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Who Controls Detroit's Image?

Whether we like it or not, Detroit is associated with a bunch of negative images: high rates of violence and crime, low household income, poor education systems and a high incidence of drug usage. But the bigger problem is the lack of responsibility that Detroit citizens take for these issues.

I often hear Detroiters make two claims about the news media: the media don't cover a lot of "good" or "positive" news, or the media "control" Detroit's image. Neither claim places any responsibility for Detroit's negative image on the citizens in the city. The best thing Detroit can do is to look at the media coverage of the city, reflect, and see that the only thing blocking us from having a well-known and positive image around the country (and around the world) is our own inability to function appropriately in our own communities.

It should be hard to blame the media for an anti-Detroit bias when there actually is a lot of negative news to be covered here. If you see negative images in the media, it's because we haven't yet addressed the problems that create them: crime, unemployment, bad schools and illegal drug use. It's not that nothing good happens in Detroit, because it does. Unfortunately, there are more negatives to be covered in this city than positive. That's the problem.

Yes, other cities with problems may receive less coverage of these issues than Detroit does … but that is not necessarily good for them. If we've come to the conclusion that the local and national media have put Detroit under a microscope, then let's change our ways to make sure there's plenty of positive moments to report.

No city is perfect, and no one expects that of us, but together we can make sure our image isn't full of problems. Complaining won't change our image. We must change the way we act. You can start in your own community. Do something positive. Then alert the media.

Joshua Jamerson is part of the “TIME 11,” a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit. In the fall, he will be a senior at Detroit's Renaissance High School.

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  • 1

    Hey Josh,

    Architectural and Planning speaking, the worst part of the image comes from the decaying housing that were made of wood using balloon framing. They are old and many are well past their time.

    While the wood in them is good, they have seen too much wear and tear and must be deconstructed to use the modern catchword.

    Lafayette Park has been more than successful and it was created because of the very same problem some 55 years ago. The situation was inevitable and ongoing for a very long time and Mayor Bing is right to want the areas consolidated through demolition.

    So what to do with these areas? Careful thought needs to happen. The Incinerator must be abandoned and a sanitary landfill would be a great choice. See what other areas have done with them. Why not ski in the winter? Of course there needs to be some great new housing, perhaps through a great international competition. And we are probably the only city in the world that could put in place a golf course right near downtown.

    So there are lots of things that could happen... look at WSU and how marvelously it has grown and the same for the Cultural Center and for the Medical well as the New Center.

    The fact of the matter is that the Mayor has some control here and it would be fun to see him develop some great plans for the City.

    The Image will rotate then.


  • 2

    The frustration I've heard and seen is not so much with the negative media coverage, but with the exaggeration of the negative at the expense of the good, and the requisite follow-up stories about what can be done to "fix" Detroit.

    Solutions and positive media coverage have to come from within, so I agree with the assertion that complaining will not change Detroit's image. But neither will shallow, self-interested media coverage.

  • 3

    As a displaced Detroiter (living in Philly since '86) I am constantly defending Detroit against stereotypic perspectives or I am trying to describe/explain what an amazing city Detroit is. I so love Detroit.

    Having said that - your article is also accurate, Joshua. Real change requires movement. Genuine action. Truth is - much of what is written is true. Complaints or victimization attitudes won't change that.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with Bill's comments.....a golf course downtown??? How cool would that be!

  • 4

    The following were remarks of a friend who after living for years in Detroit moved to LA. You know, I really don't miss the blight, the car jackings, the crackheads, the drive by shootings, my car stereo getting ripped off, and my apartment getting broken into. Why should I? I've got them all right here in LA!

    Over the long haul, image will track reality, but with a significant lag. The auto makers Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet are still paying the price in image for low quality vehicles built in the past. So even though great things may be happening in the City, it will be years before the image of the City improves substantially. Some of the change will occur due to generational replacement (older cohorts with a negative image die off to be replaced by younger cohorts with a more positive view).

  • 5

    Joshua, you are a very smart young man. The problem is just as you have stated. How astute for a High School Senior.

    The problems of Detroit being displayed as a crime ridden city that is falling apart is bad. The media has very little good to display. We, however our the ones that have to change that outlook.

    The police and politicians are not able to fix this. We need to do our part. No one wants to live where they are not safe. Crime has to stop. It will only stop when we stop breaking into our neighbors to steal their stuff to sell and buy drugs. When we don't hijack other peoples cars. When we don't drive by houses to shoot anyone who happens to be around the spray of bullets.

    Supermarket chain stores need to come back to Detroit. We do not have any large chains like Krogers or Farmer Jacks, They don't want to be in the middle of gunfire or theives taking their products.

    We have allowed this to happen. This is not someone elses fault, it is ours. This is not a black man or white mans fault, we all did it. There is no more time to be Lil Kim style closed mouth people. We need to report these losers and take back our city. Only Detroiters can stop these things. We have to take our neighborhoods back from thugs.

    With that and workings I have read on this blog, we can do this.There are many things people are doing right now, to fix this problem. Then we will have made a new name for ourselves. That's when people will want to come to live and work in Detroit.

    We all need to work towards the ultimate goal. With young men and women like you, Joshua, we can make this happen.

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