Seen lots of stories about how bad Detroit has become? It’s not an accident.
Thomas Morton at Vice Magazine has a pretty great story about the endless stream of lazy journalists looking to write “Detroit is such a hellhole” stories.
After suffering through the nation’s worst and most concentrated examples of racial violence, industrial collapse, serial arson, crack war, and municipal bankruptcy following years of municipal kleptocracy, Detroit is being descended on by a plague of reporters. If you live on a block near one of the city’s tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, you can’t toss a chunk of Fordite without hitting some schmuck with a camera worth more than your house.
The interest in coverage is legitimate—if you search places like Digg or Reddit for Detroit stories, even totally boring news items like a hiring jump at the local wind-energy plant number in the thousands. And God help you if the piece has anything to do with urban decay. When Vice UK ran a little series of photos by James Griffioen of the demolished interior of an abandoned Detroit public school, it tripled our website’s traffic for nearly a week.
The problem is it’s reached the point where the potential for popularity or “stickiness” or whatever you’re supposed to call it now is driving the coverage more than any sort of newsworthiness of the subject. There’s a total gold-rush mentality about the D right now, and all the excitement has led to some real lapses in basic journalistic ethics and judgment. Like the French filmmaker who came to Detroit to shoot a documentary about all the deer and pheasants and other wildlife that have been returning to the city. After several days without seeing a wild one he had to be talked out of renting a trained fox to run through the streets for the camera. Or the Dutch crew who decided to go explore the old project tower where Smokey Robinson grew up and promptly got jacked for their thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment.
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