An informed public is the iron core of our democratic system. Sad to say, these days the iron is getting pretty rusty.
The old media that served the country well for decades – national network TV news shows like Walter Cronkite’s and various daily and weekly newspapers – are in decline. When I started my publishing company in the mid-1960’s, there were a couple busloads of newspaper reporters regularly working in Lansing; today, you can count them on your fingers.
What’s risen instead is a cacophony of narrowcasting: Politicized talk radio (Rush Limbaugh) and cable TV (Fox News, MSNBC), blogs, Facebook postings, tweets – all expressing separate (sometimes hyperventilated) points of view and many without the careful fact checking, fairness or ethics we used to see in the old media. A sad result: A fragmented, increasingly partisan electorate – fertile ground for the kind of gridlock that we see so clearly in Washington and Lansing.
That’s why in 2011 the Center for Michigan launched our online news magazine, Bridge.
It’s our third anniversary this week, and frankly we’re delighted at how our work is measuring up to our original intent. Bridge is designed to provide fact-based, trustworthy, nonpartisan news and thoughtful analysis of the people’s business. As its name implies, its purpose is to bridge the differences in our state: East and West, North and South, Republican and Democrat, urban cores and suburbs, labor and management, poor and wealthy, minority and majority. And we have tried to help fill the information vacuum left by deteriorating mainstream Michigan news media.
Publishing Tuesdays and Thursdays, together with a weekend edition, Bridge has expressed our guiding philosophy:
Our journalism nonpartisan, fair-minded, probing, thoughtful. We respect the good sense and civic interests of our readers.
Our reporting is fact-based. This means that we try our damnedest to get our stories correct – on the grounds that everybody is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts.
We’re interested in helping readers make choices and understand the consequences of those choices. That’s the only way citizens can work their way through the process of forming public opinion in an informed way.
We try to present information and insight not available from traditional news media, and we hope this service has helped inform our citizens and our leaders and assist them in developing sensible and competent public policy.
“Gotcha journalism” isn’t on our map. Bridge is not interested in sensationalism or the gotcha moments that have come to dominate “conflict for its own sake” media.
At Bridge, we’ve assembled an all-star team of deeply experienced journalists:
Editor David Zeman, a Pulitzer Prize winning editor when at the Detroit Free Press. Senior writer Ron French, formerly at the Detroit News and quite possibly the best explanatory journalist in Michigan. Urban affairs expert Chastity Pratt Dawsey and numbers and data guru Mike Wilkinson, together with always readable Nancy Nall Derringer. And we’ve assembled a growing crew of bright, imaginative freelance reporters and experts. Taken together, we provide our readers with hundreds of years of reporting and editing experience.
Making an impact
And our journalism has impact, sometimes considerable. Take, for example, our 2012 series on the state’s early childhood education program, the Great Start Readiness Program. Our stories documented how 30,000 poor and vulnerable four year olds who were eligible for GSRP couldn’t get in because the state didn’t fund enough slots. As a result of our reporting, over the past two years the legislature has more than doubled state support, making Michigan a national leader in pre-K education.
Bridge’s popular Michigan Truth Squad posts have called foul, no foul, or flagrant foul on misleading and outright distorted political advertising. There’s evidence some campaigns have pulled TV ads for fear of what the Truth Squad might say.
Our work is widely recognized as among the very best journalism in the state. We detailed how two adjacent but profoundly different school districts merged operations and how high auto insurance rates have driven new Detroit residents into hiding.
There’s strong evidence this kind of journalism is striking a chord with Michigan residents. Bridge now has more than 20,000 subscribers who regularly receive the magazine, a 73% increase from the first issue, with well over a half million unique visitors to our website over the past year. Bridge continues to show steady traffic growth month after month.
Our overriding purpose is to help burnish the iron core of Michigan’s political system and policy apparatus. If you agree and are interested in getting some of the best journalism in the state, we hope you’ll sign up to get your free, thrice-weekly issues of Bridge by clicking the button on the Center for Michigan’s homepage.
There is nothing as powerful as an informed and engaged public. It’s Bridge’s mission to make that possible.