By Shea Howell

December 19, 2015

The Detroit Journalism Cooperative (DJC) and WDET were clearly shaken by the disruption of their media celebration of the Detroit Bankruptcy. On December 15 they posted their perspective on the meeting under the heading “Detroit: We won’t move forward unless we learn to listen.”

The article that follows this headline demonstrates that DJC and WDET were not shaken enough to question their own assumptions. They have no idea how much they have lost any claim to moral legitimacy in the city.

After a brief introduction they explain they “set out to host an ambitious public broadcast that would reflect on the state of the city.” Then they defensively stress how their coverage provided both data and “diverse perspectives” and conclude they “could have done better at incorporating this work into the program. “ Their reason for not doing so, they say, was because the format they chose was “designed for broadcast on both radio and television” and “did not lend itself well to in-person engagement.”

This is simply not true. Their format was an effort to manage controversy. It anticipated most people who would share their perspective. Over the course of the last few years members of the DJC have become increasingly out of touch with the city and more and more insular. At times it seems the only perspective being broadcast on public radio, public television, and printed in the Detroit Free Press is that of Stephen Henderson, with an occasional comment from Nolan Finley. This is not exactly a wide range of views.

The call to “civility” is empty when you have been silent in the face of assault and attack as most of the DJC has been.

Is it civil strip away democratic rights? Is it civil to allow a whole city to be poisoned? Is it civil to strip away the hard earned pensions of our elders? Is it civil to allow children to go to schools without basic plumbing? Is it civil to knock down people’s doors and forcefully evict them from their homes? Is it civil to allow banks to effectively red line the neighborhoods? Is it civil to allow a handful of people to amass property while evicting long term residents? Is it civil to allow the Mayor to appoint inexperienced cronies to head the water department? Is it civil to shut off water and claim there is no human right that is enforceable? Is it civil to evade an open discussion of what is happening to our children, our elders, our most vulnerable citizens?

Civilization, civic life, civil behavior demand we speak up against injustice. It demands that we not be silent in the face of barbaric acts. To speak the whole truth, not the convenient, polite, sanitized version of the powerful, is the most important lesson we can give our children.