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Americans love a comeback story, media tells Detroit

This Is A Reprint of blog by Marge Sorge for Wayne County Edge

The media coverage of Detroit is that old chicken and egg argument. Do the media come here to do stories on Detroit because it is a stereotype of demise or is Detroit a stereotype of demise because of what the media write about Detroit?

With that in mind, the Detroit Regional News Hub wondered how reporters who live here, those who have visited Detroit and those who have never set foot here view the Detroit region. So a few weeks ago we asked Intellitrends to conduct a study and asked journalists in Detroit, Michigan, and across the U.S. for their assessment. The results were enlightening and not as grim and focused on demise as many of the stories we’ve seen would have us believe.

In fact, the majority of the journalists interviewed felt the media do not provide a balanced story about the region and pointed out that journalists often report what is easily and readily available crime, negative news stories and government scandal. That influences other reporters as well. Here’s a case in point:  Several reporters who viewed Detroit as a poor place to live had never been to the city.

Nearly all those interviewed agreed Detroit is portrayed more negatively in the media than other cities and feel negative news tends to “stick to Detroit” more so than other cities such as L.A. or Chicago. Many believe those who live here must take some responsibility for that. They said Michigan and Detroit residents let the city be defined by crime and safety data rather than promoting the things that are going right. According to a Detroit-based reporter, Detroit people are too hard on themselves. They need to promote themselves in a brighter light and not rely on the media to do it.

There was an overall concern from external media that Detroit has “given up,” but these same media see Detroit as a city with many strong and unique features. Some suggestions were to celebrate its rich history and heritage, promote its architecture and cultural center, and play up its identity with the auto industry and Motown. Detroit’s theater and arts center is a wonderful asset to the city and should be promoted more.

According to nearly all interviewed, the opportunities are endless for the Detroit region and journalists see a bright future for the Detroit economy if the city can control its crime rates and get city government under control.

Journalists also overwhelmingly see the auto industry as Detroit’s primary industry and said the area should embrace and promote the industry rather than be embarrassed by or step back from. Using the resources and technology within the auto industry to discover new modes of transportation such as light rail, mass transit and electric/battery powered cars was the most second common answer from both internal and external viewpoints.

With a strong engineering base and large number of universities, many believe Detroit could very well become the center of advancements for green technology.

“Detroit could be a hub for green technology,” said one journalist.

That said there is a lot of work to do to get journalists outside of the region to see Detroit’s diversification beyond the auto industry. Very few reporters outside Michigan could name any other industry in Detroit. Healthcare, technology and education were mentioned by internal journalists only.

Local journalists also were extremely aware of revitalization efforts in the city and those based in Michigan see efforts in attracting new business, creating green space and attracting young people into the city. Unfortunately, half of the journalists we talked to outside Michigan were unaware of any revitalization efforts.

Internally, most journalists see revitalization efforts moving forward because elected leaders are working together effectively. They see Detroit and its suburbs slowly coming together, but all agree there is a long road ahead. “Everybody now realizes all of our fortunes are tied together,” said one journalist.

The overall feeling from those outside of Michigan is that Detroit and Michigan are very important places. The rich history, beautiful architecture and manufacturing capabilities are an asset to the entire country. Detroit needs to re-imagine itself and take pride in its history.

As two reporters said:

“Detroit is a city worth saving.”

“Americans love to hear a comeback story.”

Marge Sorge is the Executive Director of the Detroit Regional News Hub.

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