Detroit has braved huge economic and social difficulties in the past decade. With the collapse of its industry and a dramatic decline in population, newspapers have struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing city. Its two major papers, Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have had to layoff employees and increase the price of their papers. All is not lost, however- a news venture is looking to reinvigorate the Detroit journalism scene, and transform the city while doing it.
The new project, Detroit 143, plans to investigate into what the audience "really needs" to know to inspire civic engagement. Bill Mitchell explains that the project was prompted by Kirk Cheyfitz, his former colleague at the Detroit Free Press, who tracked him down after a Time Magazine cover story blaming many of Detroit's current problems on Coleman Young, the city's first black mayor in the 1970s.
"I didn't share Cheyfitz's feelings about that story, but he did convince me that somebody - maybe us- should dig deeper into how Detroit ended up in such a mess and what role journalism might play in its turnaround."
Improving Detroit through thorough and motivating journalism is not a simple task. The initiative will build on already established city-focused journalism projects, such as EveryBlock. EveryBlock, an online micro news source that focuses on connecting neighbors and aggregating news about city blocks, is an especially pertinent example for Detroit 143. Although it does not delve into investigative journalism itself, its motto is "make your block a better place", a goal not unlike that of Detroit 143.
Cheyfitz, the head of the initiative, wants to use to experiment to prove that a news organization can also be a business success. Instead of relying on declining advertising sales for revenue, Detroit143 plans to sell advertising services.
Online, users can disregard or skip past advertisements in ways that were not possible in print. To counteract this, Cheyfitz believes that advertising needs to become just as engaging as the content it is embedded into. Detroit 143 plans to gain revenue from working with advertisers to develop their products into worthwhile and useful stories that can be read on multiple platforms - social media, print, and online.
Detroit 143 is an ambitious project. Revolutionizing advertising and galvanizing civilians to change their city is no small task. Although the results have yet to be seen, Detroit is a city that could benefit journalistic work to document its rapid changes, investigate the causes of its problems, and to help find ways to revitalize itself.
Photo Credit: Times Magazine