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GRIID End of the Year in Review for 2021: Part I – Monitoring the Grand Rapids News Media

December 19, 2021

GRIID has been doing news media monitoring and deconstruction, since we started in 1998. While we don’t do long studies on local news coverage, we continue to monitor and deconstruct local news, particularly around critical issues that are relevant for people in West Michigan.

For the year 2021, we deconstructed forty-one separate local news media stories, with numerous cases of deconstructing multiple media outlets on one story. Several of the stories we deconstructed were also based on blog posts from various far right or politically conservative entities, which we will look at in Part II of our End of the Year Review.

A great deal of the local news stories that we did deconstruct, focused on local government actions or local government agency actions. For instance, WOODTV8 ran a fluff piece about Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington in February, The channel 8 piece did not provide any critical assessment of Washington’s role as City Manager and the TV station did not seek out members of the community who had been challenging Washington since he was hired as City Manager.

Then there was coverage of the 2020 racial justice uprising in Grand Rapids, what the news media loves to refer to as a riot. In early March, MLive ran an article about some of the people facing charges for vandalism, without providing any real context for the uprising.

There was a second “riot” story on WXMI 17, just one week after the MLive story. In the channel 17 story, they interview the GRPD, business owners and a museum curator, but completely left out people who organized or participated in the May 30th uprising, particularly those that have still be organizing.

Closer to the one year anniversary of the May 30th uprising, WOODTV8 aired 6 separate stories, all of which continue to hijack a narrative away from Black Lives Matter and a narrative that centers whiteness.

Another major issue that the local news reported on had to do with the far right/reactionary right in Michigan. In mid-January, we wrote about how all 4 of the major daily news outlets, essentially provided the far right with a platform to communicate their misinformation and hate.

In late March, after a Holland restaurant owner was arrested for violating COVID Health protocols, far right supporters held a rally. The local news media reported on the rally, but instead of verifying or challenging their message, they simply provided a platform to present their ideologically-driven misinformation.

In August there was an anti-vaccine rally in Lansing, which was reported on by MLive and WOODTV8. Unfortunately, both media outlets failed to even look into which groups were behind the rally.

In late August, a group called Moms for America, held a Press Conference in Grand Rapids to denounce all the back to school mask requirements. Again, the local news provided no background on who these moms were.

One last theme we looked at in our critique of local news media, looks at how the commercial media news agencies not only act as a PR front for the GRPD and other law enforcement agencies, they report on cops by framing them as a necessary and important institution of public safety. We posted several articles that looked at how the local news media was reporting on policing and police funding:

Grand Rapids City Commissioners weigh in on Defunding the GRPD: What the MLive article doesn’t tell you

Last night’s City Commission meeting on the 2022 Budget was just the latest example of government contempt of public input

Is it possible to get the local news media to really question the GRPD? 

There were other topics that the local news media miserably failed on challenging or questioning, like what the local power structure was up to during 2021. This is a theme we will explore in Part III of our End of Year Review. In Part II, we will explore our coverage of the far right in West Michigan.

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