My father, a senior production engineer with the General Motors company many decades ago, had two pieces of advice as I was thinking of heading off to college (too many years ago to mention here) when I told him I might seek out a career in journalism: you will work untold hours and you won't make much money.
Of course, my mother understood the drive that motivated me as she dutifully drove me each month from Sterling Heights, then an undeveloped migrant-farm community, to the then-Pontiac Press to turn in my high school correspondent column to editors there. It was in my DNA, so to speak. Now I have come full circle in life where my storytelling inclination allows me, and a dedicated staff of writers/reporters, to bring our newsmagazine to over 75,000 homes in Oakland County with the addition this month of a new edition of Downtown for Rochester and Rochester Hills.
My dad was correct. Untold hours. Not great money. But there are trade-offs, such as the opportunity to educate the public and hopefully allow them to shape the public agenda. Priceless.
And because of the type of journalism we pursue at Downtown Publications, there is also the pride of bringing a different type of local news to residents here. Our focus is what we call hyper-local and we understand best what makes the local municipalities click because we are students of government. Yet our definition also includes looking at more substantial issues that impact our local area, something readers don't get from the other publications in the market.
Our news organization is a rare breed in that we invest the staff, time and resources in what we refer to as long-form journalism, an opportunity to tell a longer than normal story that attempts to present a broader and more detailed take on issues we judge to be critical for our readership.
One of the so-called 'perks' that are naturally part of the job as a newsperson is also knowing that, as a monthly newsmagazine, we often bring the major stories to our readers first. So we have our prideful moments, if you will, at Downtown Publications when one of the Detroit daily newspapers or a television station starts to cover a topic that we carried in our monthly publication months, and even sometimes a year or more, before anyone else recognized the importance of an issue.
Take for instance the recent reports in one of the Detroit newspapers about the Michigan House finally starting to address legislation banning the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products like toothpaste, facial cleaners and shampoos. It's a story that Downtown Publications devoted considerable space to in February of 2014 because we recognized the trend developing across the country.
We applied this same logic in May of this year as Canadian officials were nearing a decision on allowing lower level nuclear waste material to be stored underground within a stone's throw of the shoreline of Lake Huron, once again part of the chain of water resources we rely on in southeast Michigan for our drinking water.
In recent years we have tackled such topics as dangerous cargo being carried by trains through local communities; dating violence among teenagers; the gangs of Oakland County; and the rise of heroin use in the suburbs. More recently, we have focused on the racial and gender make-up of local police departments, tax free properties in Oakland County, and the cost of taxpayer-financed mailings by state lawmakers.
We take the time, in each case, to identify and seek out the experts – locally, in the halls of government in Lansing, the degreed experts at the universities in Michigan, various departmental offices in Washington D.C. and elsewhere in the country to talk directly to those who have a command of the information and data on a topic. We do the legwork, on behalf of our readers, to get the myriad of questions answered on issues of importance.
And in each case, we bring our storytelling to our readers long before anyone else in this and other markets has even recognized the issue is a developing concern. It is one of the reasons that our monthly newsmagazine is read, literally, cover to cover, and in many cases kept beyond its monthly shelf life.
Long hours. Not great money. But a real satisfaction that we are performing a service for the public that no one else provides.