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Posts Tagged ‘michigan’

merlin_162547917_954e6b18-5736-43ae-9543-23e4a4360113-jumboPhoto: Chloe Aftel for the New York Times
“If we weren’t covering it, no one would know what’s going on,” said Katherina Sourine, one of
four city and government reporters at the college newspaper, the Michigan Daily.

Local papers are vital to democracy not only for the local people to manage their lives well but because big stories start locally. Moreover, if Twitter gets the news first, misinformation or incomplete information may get a firm grip on the collective consciousness.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, where local papers have followed the national trend of going out of business, the college newspaper is having to pick up the slack. And it is not the only student newspaper to do so nationwide.

Dan Levin reports at the New York Times, “Municipal committee meetings — the tedious minutiae of Ann Arbor’s local governance — do not tend to draw a crowd. On a recent afternoon, Katherina Sourine was among only a few in attendance.

“But Ms. Sourine, a University of Michigan senior, was there because she had to be. As one of four city and government reporters for Ann Arbor’s sole daily newspaper, she had biked through a steady rain between classes to take notes on the city’s plans for developing a new park. …

“Said Ms. Sourine, 21, who also plays rugby and is taking a full schedule of classes this semester, ‘It’s really hard to take time out of my day, especially when breaking news hits. But a lot of people rely on us to stay informed, not only students, but the people of Ann Arbor.’

“For more than a decade, the Michigan Daily, the university’s student newspaper, has been the only daily paper in town. After the Ann Arbor News shuttered its daily print edition in 2009 — and eventually its website, too — a staff of about 300 student journalists has worked hard to provide incisive coverage about the city’s police, power brokers and policymakers, all while keeping up with school.

“Student journalists across the country have stepped in to help fill a void after more than 2,000 newspapers have closed or merged, leaving more than 1,300 communities without any local news coverage. And several young reporters have broken consequential stories that have prodded powerful institutions into changing policies.

“A high school newspaper in Pittsburg, Kan., forced the resignation of the principal after discovering discrepancies in her résumé. After writing an article about a school employee’s unprofessional conduct charges, high school editors in Burlington, Vt., won a censorship battle against their principal.

“And when the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine resigned abruptly last month, a 20-year-old junior at Arizona State University broke the news in the school’s student newspaper, a scoop that gained international attention. …

“ ‘We’re the largest Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington because we’re the only Arizona-based news-gathering operation in Washington,’ said Steve Crane, director of Washington operations at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Despite little training and no university journalism program, the staff of the Michigan Daily has embraced its vital role. Last year, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, it published a lengthy investigation that detailed sexual misconduct allegations against a professor, leading to his early retirement. In 2014, the paper published a major scoop about a sexual assault that the university concealed to protect a football player. …

“The Daily also covers issues that matter to Ann Arbor’s 121,000 residents, such as the inner workings of the municipal government, cuts to the county’s mental health budget, and a police oversight commission that was created last year in response to the shooting death of a black woman and the violent arrest of a black teenager.

‘We’ve been given this mantle of holding the powerful accountable, five nights a week, with no department backing us up,’ said Finntan Storer, 21, the managing editor of the Daily. ‘It’s a huge responsibility.’ …

“Today, the Daily’s closest competitor is MLive.com, a news website owned by Advance Publications that covers the state of Michigan. The company regularly publishes articles about Ann Arbor, including in a twice-weekly print digest branded as the Ann Arbor News, and it employs a staff of local journalists who cover the city’s government, real estate, police and other beats. But some residents said the student paper has often more effectively covered the community.

“Unlike many college newspapers, the Daily has the financial support — in the form of a $4.5 million endowment — to sustain its breadth of reporting, said Neil Chase, the chairman of the university’s student publications board. …

” ‘In a city of 100,000 people, you have to decide if you’re going to cover a City Council meeting, a car crash, or some other local news because you only have a few people to go around,’ he said. But the Daily ‘has so many people, they don’t have to make those tough decisions.’ ” More here.

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Photo: Lisa Nolan
A child called Melissa painted artist Lisa Nolan’s portrait of her at Lowell’s Making Art with Artists program in 2015. When artists work with children, freedom to create is the name of the game.

Did you catch the National Public Radio story about a free art camp in Michigan? I read about it at ArtsJournal, one of my favorite sources.

My friend and former boss Meredith Fife Day led a similar program in Lowell, Massachusetts, called Making Art with Artists. It was amazing.

Zak Rosen at NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday interviewed one of artists behind the Michigan arts camp.

“In Hamtramck, Mich., a working class city almost surrounded by Detroit, camp is not affordable for many kids. An artist has started a camp inspired by adventure playgrounds and neighborhood artists. …

“Hamtramck is formerly a working-class Polish city. But in recent years, there’s been a huge surge of other immigrants, many from Bangladesh and Yemen. Accompanying that surge have been lots of artists who work to put community at the center of their practice, people like Faina Lerman. [Lerman and her husband have] eight open lots.

“They garden on a few of them, but that still leaves plenty of space for other stuff. And in this part of the city, there aren’t any playgrounds. So this summer, Lerman and some neighborhood artists started a free, week-long day camp. …

“Camp Carpenter does not have a stated mission. If it did, it might be, let’s just do this and see what happens. And adults are here to help, not to lead.

“LERMAN: I feel like everything is just very over structured for kids. Like, they don’t have even the space to make their own decisions or to let their minds expand to different ways of learning or gathering information.

“ROSEN: So here, the structure is intentionally loose. But by the end of the week, there is the start of an adventure playground, built in part by the campers. …

“ROSEN: One young camper, Jimmy Engalan, is learning how to use a hammer. A less patient adult may have allowed him a few whacks of the nail and then taken over — but not teaching artist Liza Bielby. …

“She watches Jimmy until he drives the nail all the way down into a wood pallet. It takes 258 knocks. I counted — 258. But he does it. …

“ANGILENA OMOLARA-FOX: I’m Angilena Omolara-Fox, and I am 11 years old. I made a pillow. I made a dress. I helped with the little fort thing over there.

“ROSEN: So would you come back to camp?

“ANGILENA: Yes, because I don’t really get a lot of chances to use tools and to make, like, things that I would like to make.”

More at NPR, here.

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Although I completely understand the indignation of civil libertarians about some Massachusetts prisoners being obliged to make business cards for state officials, I think prisoner job-training programs like Michigan’s show real promise.

Consider this Associated Press story by David Eggert about “a new program that removes soon-to-be-released inmates from the general population and assigns them to an exclusive ‘vocational village’ for job training. The idea is to send them out through the prison gates with marketable skills that lead to a stable job, the kind that will them out trouble long term. …

“Jesse Torrez, 41, is among the prisoners who were admitted to vocational housing at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, about 110 miles northwest of Detroit. There, the inmates receive full days of training in high-demand skills such as welding, machining and carpentry.

“Torrez, who is imprisoned for unarmed robbery, served two previous prison terms. Each time after release, he said, he reverted to ‘drinking and drugging’ when he could not find steady work. If he lied about his criminal record, the employer would inevitably find out and fire him.

” ‘It was just real tough, due to my past, which I created and am totally accountable for,’ said Torrez, a father of five who is hoping to be paroled in 2017 and is being trained in construction trades.

“He said he has a job waiting for him with a manufacturer. …

” ‘We see an untapped talent pool here,’ said Mark Miller, president and CEO of Cascade Engineering Inc. in Grand Rapids, which makes automotive parts, trash carts, storage containers and other goods.

“Cascade does not ask job applicants about their crimes until they have been extended an offer. Depending on the job, inmates can make between $11.60 to start and $15.15 an hour within a year.”

More.

Photo: AP
Inmate William Garrett works on a cabinet at the Habitat for Humanity Prison Build at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Mich.

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Art: David Zinn

Here’s something fun from the reliably intriguing website This Is Colossal: playful chalk drawings on Ann Arbor, Michigan, sidewalks.

Kind of makes a person want to try it.

Christopher Jobson writes, “Michigan illustrator David Zinn (previously) has brightened the streets of Ann Arbor with his off-the-wall (or technically on-the-wall) chalk drawings since 1987. The artist works with chalk or charcoal to create site-specific artworks that usually incorporate surrounding features like cracks, street infrastructure, or found objects. Over the years he’s developed a regular cast of recurring characters, including a bright green monster named Sluggo and a ‘phlegmatic flying pig’ named Philomena.”

More about Zinn here. Lots more drawings.

Update 10/10/17: John sent me another link to this artist. Check it out for more great pictures. And the coolest part is that he learned about it from his son’s Highlights for Children magazine, which my husband has beeb sending.

Art: David Zinn

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With a little creative thinking, a woman in Detroit was able to put a rundown house to good use, improve the neighborhood, promote her flower business, and help florists who focus on locally grown flowers.

Stacy Cowley writes at the NY Times, “Eleven months ago, a derelict house here that is now filled with 36,000 flowers contained far grimmer things. …

“Twelve thousand pounds of trash had to be hauled out before Lisa Waud, a florist who bought the duplex at auction for $250, could see what kind of canvas she had purchased.

“The house remains a structural wreck, but its atmosphere has been transformed. [In October] some 2,000 visitors [toured] Flower House, an art installation Ms. Waud and more than three dozen floral collaborators from around the country created on the site. Their goal is to cast a new light on the Detroit metropolitan area’s infamous blight, and on their own trade. …

“All of the plants and flowers filling [the rooms] are American-grown, a rarity in an industry that imports a majority of its wares from Colombia and elsewhere. …

“The inspiration for Flower House struck in 2012, when she saw images from that season’s Christian Dior couture show, held in a Parisian mansion filled with flowers in a rainbow of colors.

“ ‘It was stunning, and I knew immediately that I wanted to do that — but living in Detroit, I pictured it in an abandoned house,’ she said. ‘I’m trying to rebrand abandoned houses as a resource.’ …

“Ms. Waud estimated that she would need to raise $150,000 to cover the installation’s floral costs, but when she contacted her usual wholesalers, the California Cut Flower Commission, Mayesh and Nordlie, all three offered to donate their flowers.” Read about the inspiring results here.

Photo: Laura McDermott for The New York Times 
Lisa Waud, a Michigan florist, works on her room on the back side of the Flower House on the first day of the installation in Hamtramck. 

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Sindya N. Bhanoo writes at the NY Times about a surprising discovery under the waters of Lake Huron.

“A 9,000-year-old stone structure used to capture caribou has been discovered 120 feet beneath the surface of Lake Huron. Researchers say it is the most complex structure of its kind in the Great Lakes region. …

“The remarkable structure consists of a lane with two parallel lines of stones leading to a cul-de-sac. Within the lines are three circular hunting blinds where prehistoric hunters hid while taking aim at caribou. …

“The site was discovered using sonar technology on the Alpena-Amberley Ridge, 35 miles southeast of Alpena, Mich., which was once a dry land corridor connecting northeastern Michigan to southern Ontario.

“In their paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers suggest that the hunting structure was used in the spring, when large groups of hunter-gatherers assembled.”

Hard to imagine life 9,000 years ago. Anthropological archaeologists have the best fun. More here.

Photo: University of Michigan via Associated Press

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A story in today’s NY Times has some delightful pictures of Santas attending a premier Santa school. This year there is increased concern that kids’ expectations may be too high for straightened pocketbooks, and Santas need to know how to handle that.

Monica Davey writes, “Santas — including the 115 of them in this year’s graduating class of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School — must learn to swiftly size up families’ financial circumstances, gently scale back children’s Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency — ‘Can you bring my parent a job?’ …

The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, Michigan, is considered the Harvard of Santa schools. And it takes a holistic approach not only to what a Santa needs to do for children but what he needs to do for himself. “Along with training in how to store your wig, how best to answer the questions of kindergartners and how to perform on your local cable access television station, a financial planner advised the Santas …  to open pension funds and contribute as much as possible to 401(k) retirement accounts. …

“Even with the economic downturn, not all the Christmas lists have grown shorter. Some children show up with elaborate printouts, cross-referenced spread sheets and clippings from catalogs. ‘I try to guide the children into not so unrealistic things, and I do tell them that Santa’s been cutting back too,’ said Tom Ruperd, of Caro, Mich.”

It’s at times like these that homemade gifts, family activities, and donations to worthy causes start to look like more reliable ways to have a good time.

Read more here.

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