Jan 4, 2024 - Business

Metro Detroit's robust media market

Illustration of a stack of laptops tied together with twine mimicking a stack of newspapers.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While Michigan's physical newspapers are declining in number, the local media market remains a diverse ecosystem with ethnic and digital outlets that complement our two legacy papers.

Why it matters: Greater awareness and readership of emerging or specialized outlets is crucial to their survival, which, in turn, strengthens coverage of Detroit's public officials and special interests.

  • Industry failures to adequately cover issues facing Black Americans and other marginalized groups come into sharper focus in Detroit, where the number of Black reporters has declined in recent decades.

Driving the news: The Michigan Press Association (MPA), which uses different data methodology, objected to a recent Northwestern report that Axios cited assessing U.S. newspapers. It found that Michigan has lost 30% of its newspapers since 2005.

  • MPA public affairs manager Lisa McGraw tells Axios the assessment missed some newspapers and overlooked the value of local organizations such as El Central and the Telegram Newspaper, which has been Black-owned since 1944.
  • And new podcasts such as "Detroit in Black and White" also contribute to the news discourse.

Of note: Eva Garza Dewaelsche and her husband, Robert, last year bought El Central, a bilingual newspaper based in Southwest Detroit covering local and Hispanic news. They sought to enhance the outlet's online presence, Metro Times reported.

  • "Our overall goal is to preserve the voice of local Hispanic leaders and families," Robert Dewaelsche told Metro Times.

By the numbers: MPA membership encompasses 170 newspapers and 68 other outlets, including online-only outlets and college newspapers.

  • That includes 14 in Wayne County, 19 in Oakland and 11 in Macomb.
  • Here's the entire directory.

Yes, but: Metro Detroit's media organizations may be strong in number, but shrinking staff sizes have hindered their watchdog coverage, Free Press reporter M.L. Elrick tells Axios.

Zoom in: Elrick, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2009, got a fresh look at the local media landscape last year when he campaigned to restore Detroit city hall's press room. The city didn't end up providing a common space for reporters, but the Free Press renewed its lease to work out of city hall's basement.

  • "I found there were more local news outlets than even I thought there were," he says. "If they're able to sustain themselves, they'll push their way into our consciousness and perhaps cover some of the gaps that have been left behind."

Be smart: A publisher of weekly newspapers recently offered some tips to support smaller outlets — patronize their advertisers, stop reading newspapers on Facebook and subscribe to the print version.

Recent highlights from Michigan's local news outlets

The Detroit Jewish News examined life on local college campuses for Jewish students amid the Israel-Hamas war.

  • Some described heightened tensions both inside and outside their classrooms while others have strengthened their Jewish pride.
  • "I'm not ashamed to be supportive of Israel," U-M Dearborn student Sammy Caruso told the Jewish News. "But, at the same time, it's also hard if you're putting on a rally … because it's hard to unequivocally get behind everything right now."

Planet Detroit laid out staggering statistics on the city's poor air quality as part of its "Exhausted in Detroit" series, a collaboration with Outlier Media.

  • The numbers help explain the consequences of the city's continued reliance on industry and motorized transit.
  • A new northwest warehouse is expected to see an average of 868 trucks per day, more than four times the daily truck traffic at Amazon's fulfillment center near 8 Mile.

The Newberry News, covering the Upper Peninsula's Tahquamenon area, examined high school student conduct following the recent destruction of a boys bathroom pipe.

  • The incident reflected a pattern of troubling behavior, which contributed to the resignation of a high school science teacher.
  • A student was suspended for 45 days, but "it is unknown if the suspended student is the culprit behind the December 14 flooding incident," the newspaper reported.
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