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Journalism Grants Bring Diverse Voices and Storytelling to Detroit and Southeast Michigan

September 23rd, 2020 Back to Browse Stories

Updates from the 2020 Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund Grantees

The Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund is increasing the quality, outcomes and reach of journalism in the region, with an emphasis on engagement, innovation and the equitable recovery of Detroit. The Fund, through its grantmaking program, seeks to advance quality journalism while reflecting the perspectives of diverse constituencies including people of color, women and low-income communities.

Here are some updates from this year’s grantees:

The Detroit Equity Action Lab – Across the country, most newsrooms at major media outlets are predominately white. The Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL) — a program of Wayne State University – is working to empower journalists of color to diversify Detroit’s media landscape and explore and report on issues of race and equity in Detroit. DEAL’s Race and Justice Reporting Initiative has led to several pieces published by journalists of color that center on environmental justice, racial justice, and – amidst the COVID-19 pandemic – the lack of mental health resources in communities of color. Read more.

Riverwise Magazine – Backed by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, Riverwise Magazine is making use of its most recent grant to pilot a new podcast to amplify its storytelling efforts. The podcast, which will be recorded in-studio with podcasting partner Detroit is Different, is designed to supplement the magazine and its current digital presence to incorporate a greater number of voices in the conversation around how Detroiters are moving the city forward at the grassroots level.

Michigan Community Resources – Nonprofit and grassroots leaders are often closest to the heart of critical issues facing Detroit neighborhoods, but all too frequently, their stories go neglected or unheard. In partnership with the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Community Resources is working to provide media access directly to grassroots community leaders through office hours and toolkits. The partners are offering community office hours sessions in various neighborhood-based locations in Detroit to ensure the service is accessible. The goal is to build the capacity of neighborhood leaders to engage media, tell their unique stories, and help them establish relationships with media professionals.

Southwest Detroit Business Association Inc. – As part of its work running the Center of Music and Performing Arts – Southwest (COMPÁS), an after-school and summer outlet for youth self-expression, the Southwest Detroit Business Association is piloting a youth-based broadcast news platform in southwest Detroit. Through the program, students are learning to produce news media content about the arts in their community while receiving hands-on experience as broadcast journalists from media professionals teaching research development, creative writing, on-screen presence, interviewing, marketing, and video editing.

Detour Detroit — For media outlets of all sizes, retaining audience members in the digital era is challenging. To help retain readers, Detour Detroit is piloting a membership model, dubbed the Community Powered Journalism (CPJ) program, which focuses on delivering relevant journalism that results in audience loyalty. Through CPJ, journalists are encouraged to produce content and engagement experiences, such as online or in-person community conversations, that are relevant to readers. When a journalist’s article or engagement experience leads to increased audience engagement, that person receives a financial reward as incentive to continue producing similarly relevant and impactful work. The outlet currently has three local journalists for this pilot; women and two of whom are people of color.

Outlier Media – Unlike other media outlets, Outlier Media distributes pertinent information and data to members of low-income communities, primarily via SMS and text message apps. Over the past five years, thousands of Detroiters have received high-value information about their homes and utility issues through Outlier. Recently, Outlier has expanded to work nationally, but did not want to discontinue its housing information service. Through its DJEF grant, Outlier is transferring its housing information service to local news platform Bridge Detroit, which is hiring a journalist to manage the former Outlier program.

LGBT Detroit — As numerous studies have shown, communities of color are underrepresented in the media, and LGBT+ people of color are no exception. In partnership with Between the Lines magazine, LGBT Detroit is working to bring voices of color into the media by producing content by and about LGBT+ people of color. The Hotter Than July Retrospective project creates, identifies, and retains a pipeline of Black and Brown LGBT+ journalists, who are tasked with creating 26 articles for the Between the Lines newspaper that will be published on a bi-weekly basis.

Tostada Magazine – Over the past three years, Tostada Magazine has worked to fill a gap in metro Detroit ‘s food journalism scene by providing equitable coverage of the region’s diverse and abundant food communities. The magazine is currently working to build its capacity by providing internships and hosting fundraising events. Each intern hired by Tostada is tasked with producing one piece of original content per month and assisting in planning fundraising events that explore issues and themes centered around Detroit’s diverse food cultures. The goal is to better prepare students for food journalism careers, establish a deeper connection with readers, and further bolster fundraising efforts to help the magazine grow.

Urban Aging News – Sponsored by Bridging Communities, Inc., Urban Aging News produces content for seniors that is informed by community meetings and senior voice. Through its community conversations, Urban Aging News is connecting with seniors, caregivers, and service providers to gain input and story ideas to augment its content. With its recent grant, the outlet will also profile up to 10 seniors or caregivers and share their stories about aging in place. These profiles of local seniors focus on their real-life achievements as well as the barriers they have faced, to inform and motivate other seniors and caregivers about various aspects of aging in their community.

North End Woodward Community Coalition — A Detroit-based social justice/community development organization, the North End Woodward Community Coalition is providing podcast training for citizen journalists to help them produce content about how climate change is affecting their communities. Residents who participate in the program are taking part in a version of NEWCC’s Podcast Boot Camp program, where they gain skills in creating, recording, editing, and producing podcasts. When pieces are completed, NEWCC will use its network to place stories on local and national podcast platforms such as Planet Detroit.

WDET – With newsrooms facing staffing shortages, many aspects of community life go unreported, including public meetings. Detroit radio station WDET is working to increase awareness and coverage of public meetings – and thereby create a more informed citizenry and hold public officials accountable — through its Detroit Documenters program. Through the program, WDET is providing additional basic trainings for documenters, advanced training for existing documenters, and networking events. The organization is also hiring a field coordinator to manage a rotation of orientation workshops, advanced training workshops, and social events to increase awareness of the program.

To support this initiative, please use the form below to donate to the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund. If you’d like to learn about other ways you can support permanent, positive change in the region, click here.