Never in our lifetimes — or our combined half-century in journalism — has the need for authentic and credible civic news been more clear or urgent.
We see it in the sheer chaos of the coronavirus crisis, from the devastating health impacts to the long and uncertain path toward economic recovery. We see it in statewide Bridge readership, which has increased tenfold during the pandemic as Michigan residents constantly seek the latest information on schools, jobs, health threats and so much else to help navigate these perilous times.
Needs of many kinds, including civic information, are especially acute in Michigan’s most challenged communities, including Detroit, the state’s largest city. We believe Detroit’s 700,000 residents deserve a transparent, innovative and diversely staffed news organization focused squarely on covering the issues that Detroiters themselves deem most important.
That’s why we are so excited today to announce the launch of BridgeDetroit. It’s a new, editorially independent local edition and partner with Bridge, which has served as Michigan’s leading statewide nonprofit public service news source since 2011.
Stephen Henderson and John Bebow
With a staff of six talented, experienced and Detroit-rooted professional journalists, BridgeDetroit aims to continuously interact with Detroiters to determine their highest civic, education, and economic concerns. And then produce frequent in-depth journalism responsive to those concerns, in collaboration with other media outlets, and distribute the journalism for free, across the city’s media and neighborhood landscapes. Importantly, BridgeDetroit’s staff reflects the city’s majority African-American and Latinx population.
This new venture is made possible through generous support by the nation’s leading nonprofit journalism philanthropy — the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation— and leading Michigan philanthropies, including the Kresge, Skillman, Wilson, Ford, Hudson-Webber, McGregor foundations, the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, and Facebook.
For most of these funders, BridgeDetroit represents a deepened investment in Bridge’s statewide civic information model which they have generously supported since launch in 2011.
This philanthropic investment in nonprofit public service news marks a harrowing moment for traditional local media outlets and local communities. Last year, the American Journalism Project declared: “Market forces are failing local news, and as a result our democracy is at risk. At the center of this storm is the economic crisis faced by newspapers, which have lost roughly half their revenue since the Great Recession. There is no American industry of such combined size and civic importance that has endured such an economically devastating decade.”
Now, COVID-19 rapidly evaporates much of what was left of newspapers’ advertising revenue. Michigan newspapers are struggling mightily to keep pace with today’s immense news needs in the face of yet more cuts to newsgathering capacity. BridgeDetroit aims to help, by sharing both neighborhood-level priorities and content with traditional media organizations.
Naturally, BridgeDetroit also seeks to grow readership on its own website and via social media – and Bridge’s statewide publication will also frequently publish the work of the Detroit team.
BridgeDetroit also serves as the Center for Michigan’s first answer to growing calls from community stakeholders across the state to address a critical shortage of local civic news coverage. We invite you to become a reader, subscriber and member of BridgeDetroit.
Combined, the teams at statewide Bridge and BridgeDetroit now include nearly 20 experienced and diverse professional journalists. This explosive growth, from two full-time journalists at launch in 2011, is made possible by generous philanthropy and thousands of Bridge readers who are contributing financially.
The past decade teaches those of us in nonprofit news that we are all stronger together than we are in competition. Together, philanthropy, invested readers, corporate sponsors and Bridge/BridgeDetroit journalists can deliver, grow and sustain crucial civic news for the next generation. Through Bridge’s statewide issues coverage. In Detroit. And, if momentum keeps building, in other local communities.
So, please, keep reading. Keep us honest. Tell us where we need to go next in our coverage. We are so grateful for this opportunity. Thanks to all — from the philanthropies and donating readers to the front-line staff journalists who have joined the quest — for making this work possible. It’s never been more important.