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People Watching is not the same as being a Watchdog: MLive’s 13 Michiganders for 2013

December 24, 2012

Beginning on Sunday, MLive let its readers know which “Michiganders” we should be watching in 2013.

The MLive posting provides a list of 13 people who are most likely to “make headlines.” The posting does acknowledge that the method they used to pick the 13 was not scientific, but MLive feels their “list covers a pretty wide range of movers and shakers.”Picture 2

Nowhere in the article does the MLive reporter define what a mover and a shaker is, but it is safe to say that what MLive defines as a mover and a shaker is someone primarily from the business community and is a proponent of “development.”

Indeed, looking at the list of 13, it is disproportionately made up of business people, with a couple of politicians.

Watching or Watchdog?

The idea that news agencies should be watching people is certainly an old notion, but there is a major difference between watching, in a shallow celebrity sense, and being a watchdog, where people with power are monitored and scrutinized.

MLive, and its print sister The Grand Rapids Press, have never really been a watchdog of power, as we have noted in our news analysis section and in the many news reports over the years.

What MLive has demonstrated is a commitment to celebrity news and acting as an apologist for those in power, whether that has been the local 1% or development projects that continue to primarily benefit those who are already obscenely well off.

As an indication, look at the first two profiles already posted in the series of thirteen. On Sunday, MLive posted a profile of Grand Rapids bar owner Mark Sellers and today it posted a profile for billionaire Dan Gilbert.

In both profile, the MLive reporter presents nothing but gushingly positive information about both Sellers and Gilbert, with five fun facts about each of these two businessmen. Again, no information that would question the wealth both of these men have amassed or investigation into their financial practices. MLive readers are instead presented with a perspective, which says that both of these men are making the downtown of Grand Rapids and Detroit exciting places.

When MLive gets to Wednesday and posts a profile of Donald Weatherspoon, emergency manager for Muskegon Heights and Highland Park public schools don’t expect an investigation into Weatherspoon’s background or the very nature of the emergency manager policy that was voted down by the public in November, only to have the State Legislature overturn the public will and pass a new state law that can not be overturned by any ballot initiative.

Such a series focusing on those with power only reinforces and normalizes that these are the only people who really matter and can accomplish anything worth acknowledging. Such a series conversely says working class people and grassroots organizers and organizations don’t count and are not really relevant when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Just one more reason why we need as much independent and grassroots media as possible to counteract the celebrity and power-drunk commercial media in this community.



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