Working with the people of Detroit to tell the story of Detroit

journalism / Article

Today, Knight Foundation is announcing $1.8 million in new investments to help better inform and engage residents of the Detroit region. This is a reinvestment in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, a partnership of five nonprofit media organizations doing important work telling the city’s story, and new support for the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a collaboration with the Ford Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Working with national and local partners, we are helping to create new models in journalism that can be shared across the industry, helping local news organizations better connect with the communities they serve and helping develop new innovations in storytelling. Knight has made many investments in this area, including the recent Knight News Match, which helped 57 nonprofit organizations across the country, including Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television, Michigan Radio, and WDET, raise funds while increasing their membership and donor bases. I live in Detroit, and these are the types of resources and engagement that help me better understand and participate in our community, and we want to ensure that everyone across our neighborhoods has the same opportunity. 

For three years, Knight Foundation has partnered with the members of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative as they have told the stories of Detroit and Detroiters during one of the most dynamic and challenging times the city has ever faced. 

  • Bridge Magazine, a publication of The Center for Michigan, provided long-form, data-driven reporting week after week to help readers understand the impacts of bankruptcy, emergency management and the ongoing reinvestment in the city of Detroit. As a lead partner in the work of the 2016 Intersection project, Bridge Magazine told in-depth stories of the civic unrest that happened in the summer of 1967 and the state of Detroit today. The Intersection project has traced the overall quality of life, policing, housing, education, poverty and prosperity, and segregation through the eyes of generations of Detroiters, while examining reams of data. This spring, in partnership with the other Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners and Mission Point Press, Bridge will publish a book chronicling the reporting of The Intersection.
  • WDET, Detroit’s public radio station, a service of Wayne State University, provided day-to-day reporting on Detroit and has engaged the community in new ways. WDET’s contributions to the cooperative include conversations on “Detroit Today,” original multimedia reporting, and its DET Insiders project, which connects WDET reporters and producers with Detroiters who are working to make a difference in their neighborhoods. At the end of 2016, WDET launched “Created Equal,” an audio-rich podcast that examines modern inequality through a historic lens. 
  • Detroit Public Television, in addition to contributing documentary-style video content in coordination with DJC reporting, hosted and produced six live community road shows as part of its nonpartisan weekly news and public affairs series, “American Black Journal” and “MiWeek.” The road shows provided a platform for residents, policymakers and community leaders to discuss the issues affecting Detroit. 
  • Michigan Radio produced long-form enterprise and investigative journalism including stories about police working to reduce racial bias, how Detroit’s neighborhoods are not sharing in the city’s resurgence, and a look at historical segregation in Detroit schools. In addition, Michigan Radio produced an hourlong documentary, “Separate and Unequal,” which looks at the history of racial tensions in Detroit, beginning with the 1967 unrest, and compared the racial tensions of that time to what exists today.
  • New Michigan Media, a nonprofit collaborative of major ethnic newspapers, has worked to bring cross-community reporting on issues of interest to all Detroiters to its member papers. This has been led by The Arab American News, The Detroit Jewish News, The Michigan Korean Weekly, The Latino Press, and The Michigan Chronicle.

With the new funding, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners will spend the next two years expanding their ability to report on how Detroit is doing. We want to ensure Detroiters are participating in the journalism process in meaningful ways, and to identify methods that promote deeper community engagement by journalists that can be replicated in other cities to strengthen local journalism.

Ford Foundation joined Knight Foundation in our early support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. Today, Ford joins Knight in launching the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The fund aims to increase the quality, outcomes and reach of journalism in the region, with an emphasis on engagement, innovation and the equitable recovery of Detroit, while reflecting the perspectives of diverse groups, including people of color, women and low-income communities. We’ll develop guidelines for applying for support from the fund in the coming months and details should be available from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan this summer. 

This is an important year for Detroit. Elections for the mayor and the city council will take place this August and November, even as we continue to rebuild the city’s systems, educational infrastructure, and more. As a Detroiter and a daily consumer of the news, I constantly look for ways to be a better-informed member of our community. The partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative help make that happen. As Detroit changes around us every day, it’s these resources and the resources of the entire Detroit journalism community that give me and my neighbors an opportunity to better understand what is happening here and to better understand how we, as individuals, can contribute and make a difference. I look forward to working with you and our journalism partners to ensure all of us can be a part of Detroit’s resurgence. 

Katy Locker is Detroit program director for Knight Foundation. Email her via [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @katylockerindet

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