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GRIID End of the Year in Review: Part III – Watching the Grand Rapids News Media

December 30, 2019

This is the last (and third) post for our GRIID end of the year in review. In Part I, we provided a summary of some of the significant social movements active in Grand Rapids in 2019. In Part II, we demonstrate the importance of monitoring those in power and provide some analysis of the individuals, families and organizations in Grand Rapids that have the most political and economic power. 

In this final post in our end of the year in review series, we want to look at the numerous articles we posted that dissected the local news media. In many ways, monitoring the news media is similar to holding centers of power accountable, especially since most commercial media is owned by large, multinational corporations.

In 2019, we wrote dozens of articles critiquing commercial news stories. One theme that we critiqued was the local media’s propensity to run stories about how Grand Rapids is so wonderful. One example was a January article about how Grand Rapids is a hotbed for entrepreneurs. Another example was from a story that WGVU radio did in August, where they referred to Grand Rapids as a “superstar city.” A similar story was also aired in August, on WXMI 17, where they stated that 49505 was the “hottest zip code in the country.” Of course, none of these stories provide any critical assessment of the claims they make or repeat in their coverage.

A second important theme with how local news reports is their propensity to act as stenographers for the rich and powerful. For example, when MLive reported on the 60th anniversary of the Amway corporation it was as if they let Amway write the story. Another example of the local news coddling the rich and powerful, was a story on MLive where Dick DeVos was complaining about the Governor cutting funding for Charter Schools. One last example in this category was how MLive reported on the DeVos family philanthropy in a late November story. 

However, most of our critiques of local news media were centered around how local news reported on immigration issues, including the GRPD, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). One example is how the local news reported on the arrest and eventual deportation of a DACA student

A great deal of the local news reporting on immigration and ICE, also tends to center the voices of law enforcement, as we pointed out in a March 5th critique. 

The same bias was reflected in the late July coverage of a 3rd Congressional District candidate who visited the US/Mexican border and then praised law enforcement officials for their work. In late August, MLive ran a story, where they essentially reprinted the content of an ICE Press Release

Additionally, how the local news reported on the suspension of GRPD Captain Vanderkooi is reflective of how the commercial news media sees police as a force for good. 

Lastly, the local news media often fails us when reporting on economic development, as was the case with their reporting on the lack of investment into the southeast part of Grand Rapids. Even the editorial staff at MLive perpetuated structural racism in their editorial piece in late October, regarding the lack of investment in the southeast part of Grand Rapids.

To view all of the stories we posted under the category of Dissecting the Local News, go to this link

For 2020, we plan to continue to document the efforts of local social movements, shine light on what the Grand Rapids Power Structure is up to and to act as a media watchdog, documenting the bias and lack of critical reporting.

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