Suckling at the power Teat: MLive and stenography for the DeVos Family
This morning, MLive once again demonstrated their inability to report on the DeVos Family in a critical manner.
The article, posted online today, is headlined, ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos shares qualities with his grandfather, Amway co-founder Rich DeVos. The article does as is suggested in the headline, makes the argument that Rick DeVos is following in the footsteps of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos Sr.
The glowing review of the third generation DeVos states in part:
The entrepreneurial spirit of Rich DeVos, which has had a stamp on West Michigan for decades, seems to be renewed with his grandson Rick DeVos, who launched the international art competition and the innovative seed fund.
While his grandfather revitalized downtown Grand Rapids by investing in buildings, Rick is doing it with people.
To provide further evidence of Rick DeVos’ leadership and entrepreneurial spirit, the MLive reporter uses Doug and Dick DeVos as sourced. And what do you think that Rick’s uncle and father had to say about what the ArtPrize guru is doing for Grand Rapids? Of course it was glowing and affirming.
In addition, the MLive reporter addressed Rick DeVos’ other project, Start Garden. Not surprising, this project that Rick DeVos kicked off earlier this year was also presented as nothing but a major benefit to the community.
How is it that the most widely read daily news source in West Michigan acts as a stenographer to power? What kinds of conversations do reporters have with editors about how to present such a story? Now, I don’t think for a second that MLive editors had to say to the reporter of this article that they need to paint Rick DeVos as a local hero. It is our observation over the years of monitoring media in this market that local news agencies have internalized the same values as the corporate world, not just because they are thinking about ad sales, but because MLive is a corporation.
This internalizing of the values of the system means that the reporting on powerful families like the DeVos family is positive, but there are no balancing or dissident voices. The fact that there were no critical voices about either ArtPrize or Start Garden is a clear indicator that MLive is either unwilling to be critical of local power or is blind to the negative and even destructive aspects of what the DeVos family has done.
The recent GQ article on ArtPrize was able to both look at the cultural aspect of Artprize, but provide some contextual critique of the annual event. The author of that article was also able to find critical voices of the art extravaganza, even though that author is not from this community.
There is no mention of the fact that Rick’s uncle Doug DeVos recently gave $500,000 to the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), which is the largest anti-Gay marriage group in the US. The MLive article also does not mention the kind of negative impacts that other DeVos family funding has caused all around the world. Lastly, there is nothing in the MLive story that looks at the political economy of ArtPrize, which would expose the real financial winners of ArtPrize.
MLive should not call these kinds of articles news reporting. Stories that coddle power are nothing more than stenography and free publicity for companies like Amway and families like the DeVoses.