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Councilman: News misrepresents DDA members

DetroitNews-Unknown

Re: The Detroit News’ Dec. 16 report, “Detroit DDA members have checkered financial past”: The editors of The Detroit News have refused to provide their readers with any clarification or documentation regarding its story on the members of the Detroit Development Authority.

The story highlighted various criminal and financial histories of certain members in an attempt to raise concerns that some events in their past put into question their present ability to make good financial decisions. The story, while framed as an investigative piece, was unbalanced and only featured African-American DDA members, and at times, made dangerous inferences about race and trustworthiness.

The so-called analysis highlighted events that were over 30 years old and tried to turn a home foreclosure during one of the greatest recessions in American history into a nefarious act and a condemnation of character. Nor did The Detroit News follow standard journalistic protocol for any respectable outlet by providing specific details as to how its analysis was covered — such as how many years of tax filings were reviewed and stating if the same investigation methodology was applied unilaterally to all members of the DDA.

While The Detroit News may not have had this intention, the message that went out to the black business, political and ecumenical communities was heard loud and clear: Black board members cannot be trusted and should not be making decisions of such importance.

While I support responsible journalism that brings to light and questions improper practices, poor decision-making on the part of city officials or fiscal improprieties, I take offense when a story only highlights the embarrassing criminal and financial past of the black volunteer board members, which is the case here, with no other value added.

When you conduct an investigation on a board that is not accused of making poor decisions, does not have a history of fiscal improprieties and has done nothing to give a citizen pause, I look upon that report’s results and purpose with a jaundiced eye. This story is not chasing smoke from an existing fire. The smoke the story is chasing is of the author’s own creation, and in some cases required going back over 32 years to find negative material from which to work.

The press has a right and the duty to inform, but it should not be used as a tool to harass and embarrass volunteer public servants.

As an elected official in Detroit, I expect and welcome a certain level of scrutiny, but when that scrutiny is recklessly leveled against unelected volunteers with the mere purpose to embarrass and harass I take issue and encourage all members of our community to speak up when they see these types of situations.

Scott Benson, 3rd District

Detroit City Councilman