We’ve just finished the most partisan election of our lifetimes, one that demonstrates the crying need for trustworthy, credible news that breaks through the babble of high-pitched partisan voices and, indeed, outright fake stories.
The result: Today Michigan is split into separate tribes, each suspiciously lurking in its own isolated turf. Republicans, Democrats and puzzled folks in between. Those who live in the cities or the suburbs or rural communities. Whites, African Americans, other minorities. Working folks, unions and bosses. The poor, the rich, the working class.
Many people can’t – or won’t – talk with each other. Can’t even agree on the factual basis to start and carry on a conversation.
How can we have a functioning civil society when we can’t talk comfortable with each other? Especially when anybody who’s got a computer is a publisher, free to propagate whatever they wish, fact-based or not? And nobody’s an editor, checking facts and calling out misrepresentations.
It’s both ironic and sad that just one week after the election, both of Detroit’s daily newspapers announced massive cutbacks in their news-gathering operations.
Who’s going to explain ideas to bring us together? Who’s going to speak for all of us in a civil society? Who’s going to assure the basis of an adult conversation?
It’s Bridge Magazine, the publication of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Michigan. Started just five years ago, Bridge has earned more than 800,000 annual readers, pretty good evidence that lots of people are interested in thoughtful, fair-minded, adult journalism.
Bridge won the 2016 Michigan Press Association’s coveted “Newspaper of the Year” award. We used reams of government documents to publish a comprehensive timeline of the Flint water treatment debacle, which one investigator called, “an incredible resource” for public understanding of one of the worst crises of our times. When Bridge revealed this fall that tax dollars meant to help the poor are used instead in Michigan to pay tuition for upper-income students, reader LeRoy Barnett responded, “Great investigative reporting. … Were it not for Bridge, who would have told us?”
None of this work is easy, although it’s enormously important to provide a shared, trusted sense of context to help pull Michiganders together. And it’s expensive.
Which is why we’re launching this week our fall reader donation campaign. All you need to do to make a tax-deductible contribution to help support trustworthy journalism in the public interest is to make out a check to The Center for Michigan and mail it to us at 4100 North Dixboro Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.
As a special incentive this fall, your donation goes twice as far, thanks to a dollar-for-dollar matching grant by the Michigan-based Dow Foundation.
We’ve got a ton of work to do at Bridge. Who’s going to watchdog politicians and government? Who’s going to tell you how your schools are performing? How your tax dollars are being spent? Who’s going to respectfully share the diverse perspectives of 10 million Michigan residents? Who’s going to provide in-depth policy and capital coverage in the run-up to the 2018 election?
Needless to say, that’s Bridge’s job … and our pledge to our readers.
You’re counting on us. And we’re counting on you. Increasingly, the enormous burden of thoughtful, nonpartisan newsgathering and analysis in Michigan falls on Bridge. With your continued help, Bridge will meet that responsibility in the uncertain times ahead.