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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2016/11/in-an-era-of-fake-news-and-layoffs-at-the-dailies-you-can-count-on-bridge/

Phil's column

In an era of fake news and layoffs at the dailies, you can count on Bridge

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.

Or click here to make a secure online donation with your credit card.

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.

Former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent Phil Power is a longtime observer of Michigan politics and economics. He is also the founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan, a nonprofit, bipartisan centrist think–and–do tank, designed to cure Michigan’s dysfunctional political culture; the Center publishes Bridge Magazine. The opinions expressed here are Power’s own and do not represent the official views of the Center. He welcomes your comments at ppower@hcn.net.

11 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. ***

    The Lansing State Journal (a Gannett paper) announced 6 layoffs a few weeks ago, the paper has been spiraling downward for years with layoffs taking a toll. They barely have a news operation anymore.

  2. Rich

    Bridge nonpartisan? Hardly. Bridge is just another appendage of CNN (Clinton News Network).

    1. Jeff

      Only when compared to right-wing click-bait sites full of made up or severely twisted stories

    2. jeffb

      just admit it, you guys lean more than a little left, anything with Phil Power attached to it is going to be that way, still a good source of info and stimulating topics, I ll send you some $. The State Journal is horrible, now that its one of USA Todays bitches

  3. Jackie Berg

    Right you are Phil! I think every news organization still standing is concerned about this trend. Bridge has an impressive roster of talented journalists on board, but it cannot be expected to employ everyone. We need stronger news organizations throughout the state.

    Know that we applaud and support your efforts. -Jackie Berg, Publisher, thehubdetroit.com

  4. Renee Collins

    Now more than ever we need good and truthful journalism. As a journalism professor, I am continuously supporting student efforts to be the best that they can be and ferret out the facts to report responsibly on what’s happening on campus and in the world. They are on fire for journalism and I hope to continue fanning the flames. Without people like you, Phil Power, and Bridge, I’d feel my efforts were for naught. It’s good to have this excellent resource.

  5. duane

    I thought I lived a sheltered life, but in recent years I have come to realize it is those who are stuck looking backwards and only interacting with likeminded people that live the sheltered lives. They are the ones who talk about change but have never learned how change happens nor recognizing when it is happening.

    It seems that this recent election has knocked a chink in the wall of those that keep looking at the past for their future. The belief that we are a nation of tribes because who our parents were, where we live, our financial status, is a belief that clings to the past and thus can only have hope for the future. The holders of such a belief seem to even to deny the present. The conversations Mr. Power wishes us to have been happening since the 70s in results oriented organization. Think of companies that were national then and are successful global companies now. They needed new and an every growing source ideas so they developed cultures of diversity of perspective to adapt and succeed. The military is another example of inclusion for change and success. On the battlefield it demands that all communicate and work as one to first survive and then to succeed. If people’s focus were on results and less about stereotyping they would have learned how to look around and discover what was happening outside their circles of influence. Mr. Power mentions the Dow Foundation, I wonder if he has ever tried to understand how the source of the Foundation’s funding succeeds. I suspect if he were to talk to people at Dow Chemical they would describe how his hopes reinforced the founder’s approach to organizational success and how the company has succeeded by integrating the conversations into their culture generations ago.

    It is the politically driven rather than results driven organizations that have not made this change. The reality about this election is that it was the people who where they work have been having these conversations and seeing their value that were voicing their frustration with those who are still clinging to the stereotypes Mr. Power uses. The military has succeeded; the companies have succeeded by making the conversation a source of ideas and effort to achieve their successes. It is the government, the NGOs, the media that talk about the need for change but are pushing against change.

    Mr. Power wants conversations and yet when does he participated in a conversation with readers in the comments section. For that matter when does the Bridge staff engaged in a conversation? Mr. Zeeman like others will make a statement and then leave, seeming not to know how conversations work, it is about asking and listening, it is about saying and listening, it is about thinking and adding, it is even about conflict of ideas.
    Bridge has an excellent platform for facilitating conversations, talking about innovative approaches, it has thoughtful readers who can be an ideal source of innovative thinking, and yet no one at Bridge seems to be trying to exploit what they have to create to such conversations, to foster different thinking, to seek change in results. What better place than Bridge to create a public ‘think tank’ for change. Maybe Bridge feels such conversation could not be manageable so they don’t try. The reality is that just as those organizations who have been having conversations for decades have managed this with structured conversation so could it be done here, or at least tried, on Bridge.

    Mr. Power bemoans the loss of jobs at the Detroit papers, what he misses is they have not changed their thinking about their purpose so they can’t figured out how to change to succeed. What has changed at Bridge in the past 5 years? A former employer impressed on its people that they should change the organization so much in five years that it would obsoleted the current company.

    Hopes are built on the desire for change, but they can only happen if there is willing to change. Will Mr. Power see his hopes happen? Is Mr. Power willing to change to see it happen?

    I wonder how many readers would like to be part of a public ‘think tank’ on Bridge. I wonder how many would like work on making Mr. Power’s hopes for conversations happen in the public organizations.

    I learned the value of conversations with people holding different perspectives. A critical reality is that the conversations don’t have to wait on what is factual because ideas what needs to be factual.

    1. Rich

      Rather long but worth every word. Good post, Duane.

    2. Roxane

      Wonderful comment. Newspapers need to present the facts and then open the dialog. We are In the age of communication. Let’s use it for good

  6. Tricia McCarthy

    DUANE FOR PRESIDENT! Great post, really enjoyed.

  7. janet mendler

    Bridge is a must-read and deserves our support. While I don’t always agree with those who comment, their views expand my frame of reference, another value.

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