Going the 8 Mile: Community Engagement in Detroit

WDET-FM has a lot to show for its efforts to engage the Detroit metro community. “Truck Stop”—a project that empowers citizens to use anonymous text messaging to report illegal truck driving in low income and historically marginalized communities—is just one way WDET demonstrates its commitment to serve and strengthen Detroit.

The station is also part of an initiative for PRI’s The Takeaway that integrates regionally focused engagement to inform the program’s national content. WDET’s participation helps the series but, perhaps more importantly, it helps the station build local relationships that strengthen its local reporting.

“We’ve been working the last couple of years to make ties in different communities, showing up and acknowledging them,” says Jerome Vaughn, WDET’s news program director. “If you only show up when there’s a shooting, there’s not going to be any trust. So we show up because it shows we do care.”

The station is now finding opportunities for community connection along Detroit’s notorious “8 Mile Road”—a stretch of Michigan highway that starkly divides the city along racial and economic lines. Partnering with a community organization named “Blight Busters,” WDET is structuring a series of community conversations using questions crafted for the purpose of discovering needs and aspirations. It’s a chance for the station to listen (which is a crucial first step of a community engagement strategy) and learn about Detroit communities that are not regular public radio listeners. According to WDET Program Director Ron Jones, building in-person relationships is necessary to fulfill public media’s mission of serving communities:

“They begin to know who we are and we see who they are, and begin to understand what’s important to them.”

Explore other stories of public media’s impact on publicmediamaps.org. Is your station doing great work? Share it with us.

 

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