Michigan Radio Partners With Neighborhood Organization To Help Keep Detroit Coverage Informed
Michigan Radio is establishing a reporting station and community council to help tell more inclusive stories about Detroit neighborhoods.
The Ann Arbor-based Public Radio Network has partnered with ARISE Detroit – an organization that works to empower neighborhoods to volunteer and participate in civic action – to create the Community Reporting Engagement Council of 20 people. It will include two members from each of the Detroit neighborhoods as well as the neighboring towns of Hamtramck and Highland Park.
Hiring the engaged reporter and creating the board are two small steps towards Michigan Radio’s broader goals of improving its equity, diversity and inclusion, according to news director Vincent Duffy.
Michigan Radio operates four FM stations in the southern and western parts of the state’s Lower Peninsula. The coverage area of WUOM, its flagship station in Ann Arbor, includes the Detroit metro area. The city’s population is around 80% black, Duffy said, and the station has a lot of work to do to improve its coverage of the community.
The organization’s updated strategic plan includes several goals to create media coverage that is truly representative of Detroit neighborhoods, he said. The objectives include the diversification of sources of information and of personnel. The plan also calls for meaningful engagement work that informs reports that reflect the needs of the Detroit community and those working to improve it.
“The people we cover need to have confidence that we are a part of their community and that we care about it and that we are not just here to fill the airtime,” said Duffy. The community engagement reporter “will be a key part of this process,” he said.
The reporter, who will join Michigan Radio’s news team, will work with the council to identify stories about city neighborhoods and for neighborhoods, Duffy said.
The perfect intermediary
Michigan Radio covered neighborhoods outside of the downtown Detroit business district, but reporting was often from the perspective of officials, Duffy said. While the city’s central core has experienced “tremendous revitalization” over the past five to ten years, many of its residents have not benefited in the same way from this economic growth, he said.
“Our reporting on neighborhoods has been somewhat episodic and not really built on relationships,” Duffy said. “So we kind of needed… an introduction and a path to this community.”
For this introduction, Michigan Radio turned to former journalist-turned-community organizer Luther Keith, executive director of ARISE Detroit. A former editor and columnist for the Detroit News, Keith founded ARISE Detroit after his retirement in 2005. The organization works to empower neighborhoods to improve their quality of life through civic action by coordinating with community groups and religious organizations on issues. volunteer projects and local action campaigns.
ARISE Detroit has gained credibility with residents, and Keith’s experience as a reporter makes him the perfect “go-between” as Michigan Radio seeks to improve its neighborhood coverage, Duffy said. ARISE Detroit will work with Michigan Radio to recruit board members.
“We don’t necessarily have the connections in the neighborhoods or the credibility to talk to everyone… and be able to summon them the way I think ARISE will help us do it,” said Steven Chrypinksi, Marketing Director. from Michigan Radio. .
In addition to the reporting and community engagement partnership, Michigan Radio is sponsoring ARISE Detroit Neighborhood Day. The event, scheduled for August 7, coordinates hundreds of volunteer activities across the city. Chrypinksi said he hopes to deepen the station’s relationship with other community organizations and sees ARISE as the starting point.
“Stories that change a community”
Keith envisions that the Community Reporting Engagement Council will focus on coverage that presents the perspectives of people working on solutions, he said in an interview. Journalists often take a narrow view in their reporting on community issues, he said.
Keith declined to describe the types of stories that will be reported or how the board will inform those stories. He’s so invested in developing community informed coverage that he wants to leave those decisions to the board.
But he’s determined that stories embolden and empower communities.
“What interests me – and what interests ARISE Detroit – is the transformation of the community,” Keith said. “Not a few stories. … I’m talking about stories that change a community and improve the quality of life.
The partners aim to appoint board members this summer and convene the first quarterly meeting in September, Duffy said. Council members will receive a $ 50 stipend from the station to “ensure that it is in no way a difficulty for them to be part of these groups.”
Chrypinksi and Duffy said Michigan Radio could potentially launch similar engagement initiatives with other communities in its coverage area. But this partnership is focused on Detroit.
“We hope this is the concept that we can replicate elsewhere,” Chrypinksi said.