I’ve been in a lot of meetings lately about Detroit and where the city is headed. Just the other day I had coffee with an influential business leader who was curious about my take on issues, and the subject of who could be the next mayor. This individual was very interested in the “written word” reminding me of what someone said long time ago that journalists have the last word in history.
Two days after that coffee dialogue I met with another political heavyweight and a supporter of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who like the business executive wanted to know what journalists who are covering this city in the corridors of power think about all the issues going on.
As the person put it “What do you make of everything that’s happening? You are among a handful of journalists in this town that I read religiously. I read everything that you guys write because it is credible.”
I felt flattered that my articles garnered that much interest in the political power class.
Both but encounters left me with the impression that in part the city’s current socio-economic and political evolution lies in the hands of credible story-tellers (journalists) who can convey both the pain and the aspirations of the people of Detroit.
Detroit needs tough love to get to where it needs to be. But that won’t happen if we are not willing to tell the truth. No real transformation from the bottom up will take place if the media is expected to play along instead of asking the hard-charging questions.
Because journalists who have distinguished themselves as credible voices writing about this city’s current chapter, as it leaps to the next have a reputation to protect in light of consistent following among readers of various political persuasions.
At the same time we cannot skip or deny the weight of history and how that has informed the current Detroit landscape. Yet that history should motivate us to demand effective leadership in every facet of the city’s life without compromising the basic democratic needs of service for those who have chosen to remain in this city.
About 10 months ago I spoke at the University of Michigan Law School Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. At the MLK event some of the students from one of the nation’s leading law schools confirmed that their impression about Detroit is framed by what’s written in the press.
Whether what’s written conveys a bad or good image it’s potency is in its ability to influence people’s minds just like some of the students at the University of Michigan Law School.
I challenged the students to visit Detroit, Michigan’s largest city and experience for themselves what’s taking place in the city.
It’s one thing to buy into the hype, it’s a completely different experiment to engage the city itself to determine how what it does is important to the survival of the region.
The fact that we are talking about who could be the next mayor shows why Detroit matters.
Bankole Thompson is a Senior Author-in-Residence at Global Mark Makers Publishing House in Iowa where he is writing a groundbreaking six-part book series on the Obama presidency. His book “Obama and Black Loyalty” published in 2010 follows his recent book “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with a foreword by Bob Weiner former White House spokesman. His forthcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and “Obama and Business Loyalty.” He is the first editor of a major African American newspaper to have a series of sit-down interviews with Barack Obama. Thompson is also a Senior Political News Analyst at WDET-101.9FM Detroit (NPR Affiliate) and a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening round table on WLIB-1190AM New York and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut.