Today marks the rollout of our latest local section: HuffPost Detroit, fresh off the assembly line.
We motor into the Motor City with a clear editorial mission: to provide an alternative to the knee-jerk narrative the national media love to tell about Detroit. We've seen it time and time again: a reporter helicopters in and scours the city for tales of grit and decay that reinforce the Detroit of popular imagination -- or the occasional oases of progress that defy it -- and then, just as quickly, heads out of town, conventional wisdom re-confirmed. Indeed, the passing, drive-by glance at Detroit has become a mainstream media subgenre. Not much has changed since 2009, when HuffPost's Jason Linkins called Detroit the "epicenter for a nation of journalists-turned-poverty-tourists."
HuffPost Detroit will cover both sides of the city's split-screen -- for Detroit, beyond the oversimplified myth of its past, and beyond the unimaginative visions of its future, is in fact a city of incredible contrasts.
On one side is a city for which the American dream seems despairingly out of reach. Michigan's unemployment rate was 11.1 percent last month -- two points higher than the national jobless rate -- and the situation is even grimmer for the Detroit metro area. Unemployment among African American men in Detroit is approaching 50 percent. Beyond jobs, Detroit struggles with decaying infrastructure, middle-class flight, drained municipal resources, political stalemates, and failing schools.
On the other side of the split screen is the recent influx of young people into Detroit. According to 2010 Census figures, downtown Detroit has seen a 59 percent increase in residents under the age of 35 with college degrees. Projects like "15X15" are looking to bring in more young people, with the goal of drawing 15,000 new residents to the Midtown area by 2015. And blogs like Margarita Barry's "I Am Young Detroit" are giving voice to this youthful surge, highlighting the city's young entrepreneurs, leaders, and creative personalities while providing insights into the city's political and cultural landscape.
And there are many inspiring stories of those working on solutions to the city's problems. People like Yusef Shakur, who works as a mentor and community activist in the same neighborhood he once terrorized as a gang member; Ben Falik, co-founder of the nonprofit Summer in the City, which connects Detroit youths with volunteer opportunities to beautify the city; Gabe Doss, a Teach For America teacher who went above and beyond to help a student from a troubled household get to school each morning; and Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, who last year moved his company's headquarters to downtown Detroit and has been investing in buildings for Internet startups with the hope of sparking a renaissance.
With a combination of original reporting, comprehensive curation, and a group blog, HuffPost Detroit will function as a virtual public square for the city's diverse voices. And to ensure the most comprehensive coverage, HuffPost Detroit will be showcasing stories from local Patches and AOL Autos.
Among the original stories by HuffPost reporters and editors we're featuring today: Matt Sledge covers Detroit's struggle to build a second bridge -- in addition to the Ambassador Bridge -- across the Detroit River to Canada, a project that would have consequences not only for the city's infrastructure but also for commuters, auto companies and the local economy; Alex Eichler reports on how Detroit's film industry has been crippled by the governor's repeal of a tax break; and Joy Resmovits takes a look at Teach For America in Detroit, and how it fits into the city's fractured school system.
Like all our sections, HuffPost Detroit features a group blog where some of the city's most compelling voices -- both prominent and unknown -- weigh in on the issues and ideas, both big and small, they care about most. Be sure to check out our launch day blog posts by Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim-American woman in the Michigan legislature, on the massive amount of money being spent to oppose the construction of that second bridge to Canada; Congressman Hansen Clarke on his proposed bill to boost Detroit's employment, education and infrastructure; author Josh Linkner, on rekindling Detroit's spirit of leadership and innovation; theloopdetroit.com's Kelly "K-Fresh" Frazier on the Michigan soul singer Mayer Hawthorne; and Detroit Institute of Arts Executive Vice President Annmarie Erickson's post on wealth and diversity in the arts.
HuffPost Detroit is edited by Simone Landon, who grew up in Hubbard Farms, in Southwest Detroit. Her first published article, as a fourth-grader, was a review of a Detroit restaurant, Twingos, which she wrote for a kids' magazine. Years later, she reported for WDET and the Metro Times. She joined HuffPost as news editor, working out of our New York newsroom. When she decided to move back to her hometown (adding to those youthful Census numbers), she was the perfect choice to edit HuffPost Detroit.
So please join me in welcoming Detroit to the HuffPost family. As always, your participation is central to what we do, so please use the comment section on this post to let us know what you think.