Thursday, December 16, 2010

Detroit Calling

What better way to understand a place and its people than to move into the neighborhood? Over the last year the writers of Time Inc. magazines have done just that from a five bedroom house the publisher bought in Detroit’s West Village.

The D-Shack – as the house was dubbed by Kid Rock – has been a base for the Time stable to tell the stories of what they call America’s most challenged city. Hundreds of articles have been published online and in print in Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and other titles. Aside from Time’s own people, the project has involved 11 high school bloggers from Detroit, giving these young voices a massive opportunity to be heard on a big stage. The most popular post I Don’t “Speak White” generated close to 40,000 page views.

Time Inc. is now pulling up sticks, and has guaranteed a $100k donation from the sale of the house to be divided among a group of nonprofit organizations that invest in Detroit’s youth.

Some have seen the project as a gimmick. I think it was inspired. By putting all kinds of things in the spotlight – the good, the bad, the ugly and the complex – Time’s efforts will help to provide a lens for the kind of deep and continuous reflection needed to tackle Detroit’s tough issues. Assignment Detroit may be wrapping up, but it’s great to see urban renewal projects in any shape or form, and I’d love to see more efforts like this in other challenged cities around the world.