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New Ethnic Media TV Program Will Show Another Detroit

Ethnic Media in the Recession

New America Media, News Feature, Suzanne Manneh Posted: Sep 04, 2009

Bankole Thompson wants the country and the world to know that Detroit is down, but not out.

Thompson, the senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, the states oldest African-American newspaper, founded in 1936, said while many acknowledge that Detroit has been hit hard by the recession, local and national mainstream media have played a significant role in portraying a grimmer picture of the city.

When you pick up a national publication, by extension, an international publication, the reviews of Detroit are very horrible, Thompson said. Detroit is under siege. This is because of what local Detroit media portrays.

Detroit, known for being the heart of Americas auto industry, has been one of the cities hit hardest in the recession. Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor estimate that the citys unemployment rate is 17.7 percent. With the auto industrys downturn, and three crucial elections in the next year city council, mayoral, and gubernatorial maintaining a positive outlook has not been easy.

Its no question that in the last two years the city has been in a gridlock and thats the least to say, said Thompson.

Thompson said that although several ethnic media outlets have been struggling to survive the recession, they will be essential in presenting an alternative image of Detroit. Beginning Sept. 5, Thompson will host a weekly television news and public affairs program that will go beyond the citys economic and political landscape to highlight various issues facing Detroits ethnic communities. The program will air on WADL cable channel 38 and digital 38.2, an independently owned station reaching 1.9 million cable households throughout greater Detroit and bordering Canadian cities.

Denise Dody-Johnson, marketing director for WADL, echoed Thompsons concern.

Lets face it, there has been a lot of non-flattering press about Detroit and much of this is shaped by personal experience and perception, Dody-Johnson said. Often times the correct view on a news show is either the hosts view or no ones view.

And that is precisely why Dody-Johnson said she approached Thompson with the idea of producing an alternative, inclusive program, the first of its kind, as a collaboration and partnership between an ethnic media outlet and a television station.

This is something that has been missing and greatly needed for a long time, Dody-Johnson said. In a newscast you only have one to two minutes for a story. You dont have time to delve into the greater issue, yet its so important to understand the story.

Dody-Johnson said the partnership intends to present information asking, Can we make improvements for the community and if so, how we can make things better?

Thompson said his programs format would consist of face-to-face interviews with his guests, followed by round-table discussions on each weeks featured topics.

Its important to go deeper into the story, find the story within the story and present perspectives that wouldnt otherwise be considered, he said.

The program will feature several guests as ethnically diverse as Detroit is politically," Thompson said.

Media is in the driver's seat, he said. Especially for the ethnic media to be recognized theres strength in the ethnic media and strength in ethnic communities.

Thompson also explained the importance of remaining unbiased and inclusive of various perspectives.

The information we give is not qualified by political agendas, he said. Were not just obligated to do this journalistically, but morally.

Dody-Johnson said WADL picked Thompson because he is well known, especially in Detroits ethnic media sector. However, she noted that some people might have misunderstood the programs purpose.

People have a misconception that it will just be focused on urban issues, assuming that urban only applies to the African-American community, Dody-Johnson said. But that is not what urban is. Detroit is a melting pot, with as many issues as communities, so everyone will be heard and served.

For example, Thompson plans to air soon a segment to highlight concerns about health care reform, an issue he said is important to all ethnic communities.

Like Thompson, Dody-Johnson said she was hopeful the program is a step in the right direction in further engaging and educating all Detroit communities.

Were in a pick-yourself-up and dust-yourself-off mode, she said. We can fix this. We can and do have a plan to do this, but it cant be one-sided. This is why the program will be a great vehicle to present sound and accurate information, and help make it happen. I believe that.

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