Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Reporting Michigan" a new online news experiment

Over on Inside Out there are several new posts this morning, one on some reflections on and another about a former Ann Arbor News reporter's new "Reporting Michigan" online business.

The reporter, Tom, has been a sometime contributor on this blog and I'm going to put up a link on my list to watch his new venture.

At least it has the look of a news site. And a pretty good story up this morning on how some State employees take a furlough day on Friday and then work for overtime the next day on Saturday.


Anonymous said...

Although I applaud Tom's effort on the site, he still needs a hand to guide him -- like an editor. The headline reads that people are taking a furlough day on Friday, then are working Saturday (I assumed that meant the next day). The lead says "next Saturday." Is that 8 days later, meaning they getting a 3-day weekend and then working 6 days the following week? Or are they working one day after the furlough? No comment from Human Services this congressman says is the problem? Who are these people he accuses? Why are they doing this? Too big of a workload or milking the system? Looks like an rewritten press release to me -- no substance, poorly edited. Could have been a major story picked up by other media outlets across the state, but kind of looks like an attack on Granholm's furlough day idea (and this comes from someone on the right), not a great story for an "unbiased" web site.
-- from one of your former colleagues that's trying to help and thinks this is a great idea, not attacking you personally.

truthiness said...

On top of the excellent points from the previous poster, context is everything in these types of stories. What, exactly did these workers do on the "overtime" day -- if they went to the office and pushed paper around a desk, not good. If they were taking abused kids out of a home during a meth lab bust, good.

Also, it is interesting to see that the site is hooked up with a content provider called CNSNews. When you look at the subejct matter and the "about us" section, it's mostly right-wing focused. There's also a Mackinac Center report calling for the abolishment of the MEDC. Not exactly unbiased. Why not just say that it's news from a conservative viewpoint? That'd be far more honest.

Tom Gantert said...

Anonymous. Thanks. I fixed that "next Saturday" to "next day."
And thanks to FreeFromEditors for the plug. And I can verify this is a "news experiment" ...
Also, Anonymous, the latest version of that story was updated after midnight Thursday. That's when I added the comment from the Human Services who emailed me at 10:45 p.m.. And thanks to Liz Boyd of Gov. Granholm's office for responding to me after hours and getting me in touch with that person.

Tom Gantert said...

Actually, I do say that the site will have a conservative viewpoint in the "Welcome to Reporting Michigan" article that is under "opinion" and will sit there for my first few weeks.
My niche is to report on topics that the center to right thinking people don't get in the mainstream meida or blogging media. I say that moderate to conservative people make up the majority of residents in the state in the Welcome piece, and then I linked to the Gallup poll that shows the data to back that up.
Now, how I report on topics of interest to my market is, in my opinion, unbiased.
I'll give you an example of how that didn't happen, but I tried.
There is a story about a GOP state rep complaining about a $100 million tax credit to create a minimum of 300 jobs.
He expressed his point of view.
Despite two phone calls and an email to Pam Byrnes office, I got no response from the Dem side.
I covered City Hall in Ann Arbor. I know the other side. Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje told me that they don't like approving tax abatements, but if they don't, the companies will go the other states lining up to give them a tax break. So Ann Arbor loses all the taxes from that company, instead of getting partial tax payments from the company. Some is better than none. Michigan has the highest unemployment in the state and needs to attract businesses.
But the other side to that debate is what the Mackinac Center is saying. They say that the state ignores the impact such policies have on businesses trying to compete against a firm that comes in with a huge tax break in its back pocket. Mackinac Center says the other businesses have to pay MORE taxes to make up for the tax breaks the state gives. So, in a way, some businesses are actually subsidizing their own competitors.
Both sides have a legitimate point.
And I will be doing that story and I will present both sides to the best of my capability.
That's what makes it a very good story.
Choosing to write about stories that are of interest to conservatives or moderates is a bias that goes on in every news organization in the country.
How you report on a story is another issue.
I covered a health care forum that was put on by the state Republican party in Jackson. There were 140 people there and some wanted to know why Mark Schauer wasn't there and some GOP officials called him out for not appearing.
Well, I don't think Mark Schauer has an obligation to show up at a forum put on by his political opposition and filled with a partisan crowd. I didn't include their comments in the story.
I also mentioned high up in the story the forum was put on by the state GOP and also put that information in the caption of the photo I included. (that I took, because I'm a digital reporter :) ...
So. Everyone thanks for reading. And I enjoy talking about my views as to how I report on the topics.
Personally, I have talked to hundreds of people since before I launched and almost to a person, they all said they just want the truth and transparency.
Now, go to the Michigan Messenger - the liberal nonprofit news site and you can see how they refer to people who go to the tea party protests as "teabaggers" in headlines.
I won't do that.
Also, in these rambling responses, cut me some slack if there are some grammatical errors. I am writing in a box the size of a bar code.

Jim of L-Town said...

Thanks Tom for the reponse. Politically, I guess you could call me a libertarian, but I'm all over the map, but certainly fall into your demographic.

I look forward to following your new site and it bodes well for news coverage that experienced reporters are out there giving it a good go.

As to the counter point sites, I would say there are plenty of left to extremely liberal sites and plenty of far right ones, so one to the center-right will likely fill another niche.

Good luck with your reporting.

truthiness said...

And I must say Tom, while my politics run center/left of center, your site is far superior to That may sound like damning with faint praise, but please accept it as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Tom should explain why he isn't allowing comments on his posts. If that's going to be his site's policy, he should have it up somewhere prominent why. When you click on comments on stories there, it says they are closed.

Anonymous said...


I send the previous anonymous question about comments. I've since found the policy (see below), but it's not apparent unless you click around a little and confusing since every article lists "0 comments."

Overall, I wish best of luck to this new venture, but I think trying to limit comments will stifle that site and open it up to more criticism about playing the home "conservative" team. It's even more interesting to see more opinion about the site on another site rather than there. Still, it'll be interesting to see how just allowing traditional letters to the editor will work.

(The policy I found - for Reporting Michigan):

"... We will not allow comments on stories to be posted. Simply put, there hasn’t been a news site yet that has found a way to handle commentary in an acceptable manner.

Either vulgar and insulting comments are allowed to be posted, or the censorship of some posts is uneven at best, biased at worst.

But your voice can be heard and in your own words.

There will be an “email to the editor” section.

The rules are simple:

Use a working email and a name. I prefer a real name, but as long as the email works, if you feel more comfortable with a nomme de plume, so be it.

Don’t be profane or insulting or libelous.

Reporting Michigan reserves the right to edit entries but that is not our intention. We believe in free speech, healthy debate and the “email to the editor” is your opportunity to get your two cents in with your words, pretty much untouched. But be reasonable in length.

Also, we reserve the right to make editor’s comments notes about factual misrepresentations about Reporting Michigan. That means if you write that Reporting Michigan wasn’t at an event and we were, we will make an editor’s note at the end of your commentary to correct it."