Aug 4, 2023 - News

Why They Left: Detroiters at NABJ in Birmingham

Phil Lewis at the NABJ convention

Phil Lewis, Huffington Post senior front page editor. Photos: Samuel Robinson/Axios

👋🏼 Hey, Sam here! I ran into a number of Detroit natives Thursday at the annual National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

Why it matters: Detroit is well represented here by journalists who grew up in the city, but our once-vibrant Black press corp is not what it used to be — partly because of the number of natives in the industry who leave to work in other markets.

Bowdeya Tweh at the NABJ convention
Bowdeya Tweh, deputy bureau chief with the Wall Street Journal's corporate news bureau.

State of play: "If the right opportunity would have come up in journalism, I would have stayed in Detroit," Renaissance graduate Bowdeya Tweh, deputy bureau chief at the Wall Street Journal, tells Axios.

  • Tweh graduated during the recession in 2008 and got an internship in Florida that didn't turn into a full-time role.
  • "I was living with my mom for a few months and I was just applying for job after job and I got an opportunity to work in northwest Indiana. Even though I was excited to leave Detroit, it was still sad because I still care about the city and I've always said I'd come back under the right circumstances."

Between the lines: Another Renaissance graduate, Phil Lewis, who moved to Maryland in 2015, says he doesn't know what it would take for him to return to his hometown.

  • "I wasn't a journalism major, I never applied for the Free Press or News," says Lewis, senior front page editor at the Huffington Post. "Huff Post gave me a shot, they were like, 'You have an oddly large following.'
  • "Teachers definitely told us to leave when I was in high school."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more