Attention National Media: It’s Time to Change The Way You Cover Detroit

When the Economist‘s piece on Detroit (“The Parable of Detroit: So Cheap, There’s Hope“) landed in my inbox this morning, I dug in, curious. This is the Economist, after all, which typically puts its jaundiced British eye on American subjects and reports without bias or mercy. Ah, yes, I thought—here comes a super legit international media outfit to tell Detroit’s story correctly. And they did, sort of. But there are a few things irritating Detroiters about the way we’re covered by reporters that I’d like to air out.

First: Can we please, please, PLEASE stop holding Slow’s Bar-B-Q up as Detroit’s savior? It’s a restaurant, and if not for its location right next to the highway that carries suburbanites to and from the city, it would probably be like any other restaurant in Detroit, only with a better beer selection. I have absolutely nothing against the Cooley family (though, judging by this mock Twitter page, others in Detroit might) and I appreciate their efforts to improve the Corktown community. But the truth is, what they’re selling to their mostly white clientele is a “Detroit experience” that involves hardly any Detroit. Any given Sunday, Slow’s has a two-hour wait. Drive by: You can see for yourself how the men in Dockers clutch their wives protectively while their teenaged children creep tentatively toward the Michigan Central Station ruins to snap a few photographs. Then they eat, walk across the street to the security-patrolled parking lot, get in their cars, and go home.

I suppose it’s better than nothing, and considering how racial prejudice still haunts every single issue in this region, it may be the best we can hope for at the moment. But reporters should know better. I understand that all of us in the word-juggling business are being asked to do more with less, and that reporters often don’t have the resources to stay in town longer than a few hours. So, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I hearby offer any visiting journalist a spot on my “guest futon” if they want to stay a few days and truly cover the city. I live in a cramped Detroit apartment that I unfortunately share with cockroaches, but at least it’s authentic.

And if it’s authenticity you seek, then please let me show you around. The Economist‘s report seems to play … Next Page »

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