A Detroit Journalism Cooperative Reflects on Past, Civil Unrest

Detroit marchers on a recent peace march (Photo by Bill McGraw/Bridge Magazine)
Detroit marchers on a recent peace march (Photo by Bill McGraw/Bridge Magazine)

Two years ago, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative was created. The cooperative, which is a local media partnership between Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television (DPTV), Michigan Radio, WDET and New Michigan Media (a partnership of ethnic and minority newspapers), was made possible thanks to a $500,000 investment from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Ford Foundation. Their task? To report on the city’s future by taking a deep dive into stories affecting ordinary, local citizens.

This year, the cooperative decided to focus on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit riot, considered one of the worst riots in U.S. history. The riot lasted for five days and resulted in 43 deaths. More than 1,000 people were injured.

A front page from the Detroit Free Press after the riot in July 1967
A front page from the Detroit Free Press after the riot in July 1967

To examine the city’s progress since the riot erupted, the cooperative launched “The Intersection” series. Each chapter includes multiple stories about one subject written by the different media groups. As of this report, the cooperative has published two chapters: Power and Police. Future chapters include Poverty, Racial Attitudes, Schools, Justice and Segregation.

To handle the many moving parts of the project, David Zeman, editor of Bridge Magazine, said the media companies are constantly in contact with each other to avoid redundancy and to make sure the stories complement each other.

“A writer from Bridge will accompany, say, a reporter from Michigan Radio on a particular interview, with a camera person from DPTV there as well, even as a graphic designer from WDET is presenting data relating to the same subject or issue,” he said.

Through the cooperative’s collaboration, “The Intersection” has been able to thoroughly report on some of Detroit’s most prevailing issues they might not have otherwise been able to do alone.

“I’m frankly at a loss for why more mainstream daily newspapers aren’t rushing to embrace collaboration with high-quality nonprofit news outlets,” Zeman said. “The big city dailies have to get out of this archaic mindset that hesitates to share resources or credit with other media groups. Readers don’t care who gets the credit, or who shares in the credit. They just want to read, hear or see solid journalism that makes a difference in their lives and in the lives of their communities.”

When it comes to the reporting from his own collaborative project, Zeman said, “Only when Detroit’s renaissance reaches the neighborhoods far from downtown can the city’s recovery be considered a success.”

To learn more, visit detroitjournalism.org.

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