The Great Lakes Water Authority was a product of the bankruptcy. What’s next for southeast Michigan customers?
It’s official: Detroit and the suburbs have struck a water deal. Leaders voted to let Detroit lease its massive, crumbling water and sewer system to a new, regional board called the Great Lakes Water Authority. The deal was originally cooked up as part of Detroit’s bankruptcy, as a way for the city to fix its water system – which is in serious need of expensive improvements – and for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to pay down what it owes the city’s retirees. Here’s Michigan Radio’s story about the agreement and the issues that remain.
WDET, Wayne State’s public radio station, and its partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative will continue exploring the city’s recovery from bankruptcy and ongoing financial issues with an additional $500,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Launched at the beginning of 2014 with funding from Knight Foundation and Ford Foundation through funding to ZeroDivide on behalf of Renaissance Journalism, the partnership also includes convening partner Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television, Michigan Radio and New Michigan Media.
The DJC reports on Detroit’s bankruptcy and engages the community around the city’s revitalization. As a unique news-sharing project, the DJC focuses on outreach and enterprise, explanatory and solutions-oriented journalism. The partners’ work is showcased on the NextChapterDetroit.com website, which focuses on bankruptcy-related news.
By empowering and connecting the voices of Detroit’s residents with watchdog coverage needed to help citizens better solve their individual and collective issues, the DJC has sought to inspire dialogue and improve public policy to increase Detroit’s chances of recovery.
“Detroit’s continued success hinges on engaging residents to contribute to its growth and be part of the reinvention of the city,” says Katy Locker, Knight Foundation program director for Detroit. “By better informing people and opening avenues for them to help solve some of the challenges facing our city, the cooperative is helping to secure a brighter future for Detroit.”
In its first year, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative published hundreds of stories, blog posts and special reports as the city weaved its way through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. In 2014, partner content earned more than 175,000 unique visitors. DJC journalists also regularly appeared on broadcast programs, averaging some 200,000 listeners and viewers per week.
“The Detroit Journalism Cooperative is a terrific example of how collaboration by news organizations can have a positive impact on coverage and communities,” says Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.
The new support will continue the work of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative into 2016.
“The Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners have a long history of working together,” says John Bebow, president and CEO of The Center for Michigan and Bridge Magazine. “Knight Foundation’s pioneering investment has formalized that collaboration. The cooperative had a good first year, but we’re just hitting our stride in terms of providing revelatory, forward-looking, multimedia coverage of Detroit, its neighborhoods, its businesses and its residents. The DJC is an innovative media public service for Detroit and the nation to understand and overcome the challenges faced by America’s traditional urban centers.”
In mid-April, Detroit Journalism Cooperative content created by WDET and Bridge Magazine earned 26 awards (including eight for Detroit Journalism Cooperative projects) in the annual Society of Professional Journalists Detroit chapter journalism competition. Those awards included first and second place in radio investigative reporting, first and third place for radio breaking news, second place for online blogging, second place for digital media presentation, third place in watchdog reporting, and honorable mention for online feature writing.
Earlier this year, WDET won “Public Radio Station of the Year” and collected 10 individual category awards in the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) Broadcast Excellence Awards for work in 2014. Several pieces related to Detroit’s bankruptcy case and future revitalization were honored, including broadcasts of two of the 12 community meetings the station held around the city.
DPTV and Michigan Radio also won MAB awards for DJC-related work. The State Bar of Michigan recognized WDET’s Sandra Svoboda, Courtney Hurtt and Joan Isabella for the station’s bankruptcy coverage with a McCree Award for the Advancement of Justice.
In addition, WDET’s Sandra Svoboda’s DJC work inspired the Wayne State University Graduate Public Administration program to name her its 2015 Distinguished Alumnus.
As Detroit has emerged from municipal bankruptcy, the DJC’s coverage has shifted to focus intensely on the challenges and opportunities in the city’s many neighborhoods.
Support for the DJC is one part of Knight’s efforts to help public news organizations establish long-term sustainability and advance excellence in journalism. Knight has made various other investments in the space, including the $5 million Knight Local Media Initiative, which has supported more than 50 organizations to date in developing new innovations in media.
About Detroit Journalism Cooperative
To focus on community life and the city’s future after bankruptcy, five nonprofit media outlets have formed The Detroit Journalism Cooperative (DJC). The Center for Michigan’sBridge Magazine is the convening partner for the group, which includes Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television (DPTV), WDET and New Michigan Media, a partnership of ethnic and minority newspapers.
Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’sMichigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation, the DJC partners are reporting about and creating community engagement opportunities relevant to the city’s bankruptcy, recovery and restructuring.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, please visit knightfoundation.org.
“In my Detroit neighborhood, the change I wish to see seems so far away,” writes Khalil Ligon in an essay broadcast on Michigan Radio, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner. “Imagining places that are clean, safe and vibrant threads my work as an urban planner and sustainability advocate. Yet, despite years of planning and designing these grand visions, my daily landscape doesn’t match the efforts. I know there’s still a long way to go, but I’m getting anxious.”
Former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr was back in town Tuesday for an “exit interview” before the Detroit Economic Club. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports that Orr reiterated that municipal bankruptcy was the only real option for Detroit, but insisted both he and the city got through the process relatively unscathed. Michigan Radio is a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner.