‘By listening to the media, you’d think everything is happening in downtown & midtown. Neighborhood residents know that’s not true,” Mayor Mike Duggan’s official Twitter account unloaded on the media May 31, during the Mackinac Policy Conference.
It looks like Duggan is taking the approach of President Donald Trump, whose deep disdain for the media is evident by his incessant tweets pouring venom and going as far as calling the media the enemy.
If that is the case, the mayor may need to step back from the Trump template and think about how a vibrant and critical media helps in the revitalization of the city. Expecting that the media would be at the beck and call of his administration smacks of poor understanding of the role of the media and its place in the city’s turnaround.
Let’s not get it twisted. The media is not the opposition. To go that route would be a fruitless exercise and the media is not here to be Duggan’s friend nor foe. The press is here to render a critical and objective review of the mayor’s administration and its performance across a number of issues that are at the center of the city’s comeback.
The mayor should understand that not everyone in Detroit is looking at the city’s comeback through his lens. That comeback should not be esoteric, it should be personal. Every Detroiter should be able to view the city’s rejuvenation through his or her own experience.
And when the media gives voice to Detroiters who depart from the mayor’s narrative, Duggan should see it as fair and necessary. He should not be jumping to Twitter like Trump to dismiss contrary views and projecting the media as non-credible.
Because the most disconcerting issue confronting the city right now is the economic alienation of the majority in the neighborhoods amidst the downtown boom.
Poverty is evident in this city. There is no evident poverty in downtown and Midtown. Period. The 60 percent of children who live below the poverty line and outside the downtown area have a different reality compared to the one the mayor says is taking place. Their parents are worried about the issues of everyday survival.
These children and their plight should not be forgotten. The media has an obligation to call attention to their plight while not ignoring the achievements of downtown.
Yes, the mayor hit a home run at the Mackinac conference with his presentation retelling the history of redlining in the city and how Detroit got to this point. He weaved undeniable historical facts with contemporary realities demonstrating why and how the playing field of economic and social empowerment was not equal for blacks in the first place. Hence we now have to deal with issues of inclusion.
The mayor’s presentation followed repeated discussions in the press about inclusion as an imperative part of the city’s comeback, and also about why addressing poverty — as this column has argued before — must become part of the mayoral campaign.
So the media, as should be expected, has presented vigorous debate on the difficult issues of race and economic inequality which existed long before Duggan became mayor.
In that debate, there have been multiple voices. Some are louder than others. Democracy requires that those who appear voiceless are not excluded. Those who have yet to reap the benefits of economic development should equally be allowed a sit at the table to make their demands.
So, yes the media is right and conscientious to report the fact that many people are left behind. Woodward looks like heaven to somebody who lives around that area, but may look like another country to someone who resides on the far east side of the city.
Given the choice between praise and criticism, it is tempting to choose praise. But our role in the media is not to serve as praise singers and cheerleaders.
The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.