A recent CBS “60 Minutes” segment featuring Detroit sparked some controversy this week for its depiction of the city.
Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who was featured in the segment, called it “ruin porn.” There’s no doubt that “Detroit on the Edge” takes an unnecessarily hard look at the city. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon certainly didn’t hold any punches.
“It looks like it has lost a war,” Simon said. “It could be Dresden after the Allied bombing.”
Like most national media coverage, Simon paints a bleak picture of Detroit. One interviewee’s suggestion the city is a FEMA level disaster is worth shock value alone.
However, as a lifelong resident of Detroit, I can tell you much of what is included in the report is true. There are a lot of abandoned buildings, busses come late and the police don’t always respond on time.
Not to mention the city is bankrupt. An interview with Kevin Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, is very telling. When asked about the city’s retired workers, who may lose their pensions as part of Detroit’s bankruptcy, all Orr could do was offer an apology.
A reputable program like “60 Minutes” isn’t going to overlook these harsh facts. That being said, it will also examine both sides of the story.
The segment highlighted positive aspects of Detroit, too, including it’s resurgent downtown and burgeoning urban farming movement. It also contained some positive press for Gilbert, comparing him to Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller.
That side of the report is overlooked by some of its critics. A better complaint: Why didn’t the program include even more information on the many positive developments happening around Detroit?
Construction will soon begin along Woodward on the M1-Rail streetcar project. Meanwhile, thousands of residents have been united by soccer. The semi-pro Detroit City Fútbol Club routinely draws over 1,000 spectators to its matches, and 32 neighborhoods formed teams in the Detroit City Fútbol League.
Initiatives like these are springing up across the city, and they deserve recognition, too. There are many people who have dedicated themselves to making a positive difference in Detroit. Some make generous financial contributions, like Gilbert, the Illitch’s or the Karmanos family. Others simply donate their time and effort through volunteerism or other work.
So, where is all of the positive attention for Detroit? Instead, we receive journalistic hyperbole, like a Bloomberg report claiming there are 50,000 stray dogs in the city. Not only are stories like this damaging to Detroit’s image, they are simply untrue.
The positive side of the city has largely been ignored by the national media. While “60 Minutes” offered a glimpse of Detroit’s comeback, it still left much to be desired. Detroit is on the edge of a resurgence, whether the rest of the country knows it or not.
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