Detroit Regional News Hub: Keeping the Media Connected to the Facts

By February 2, 2011

written by Mike Wilk

For a reporter looking for a scoop in an unfamiliar city, the process of hatching story ideas, researching facts and figures, and developing sources can be a daunting task.

The Detroit Regional News Hub, a “media outreach” website that’s part news source, part media relations firm, part reference guide and part community board, aims to make the entire newsgathering process much more streamlined and thorough for journalists working in the Metro Detroit area.

Founded in 2008 by the Detroit Renaissance organization, now known as Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional News Hub was designed to provide journalists and citizens with the information they need to understand and fairly evaluate the region while connecting them to people and organizations through social media technology and old-fashioned networking.

The News Hub operates as a collaboration of about 70 of the region’s leaders in economic development, government, community and philanthropic organizations as well as businesses and neighborhoods. The site will connect reporters to these gatekeepers and experts in the city of Detroit and its surrounding neighborhoods and counties.

“We’ve gotten to know heads of P.R. firms, chambers of commerce, heads of counties, mayors, etc.,” said Marjorie Sorge, executive director of the News Hub. “Someone will contact me and say, ‘I’m looking for this…’ and we connect them.”

In an age of diminishing print journalism and biased, ratings-driven reporting, the News Hub’s goal is to present facts, figures and resources to aide in compiling fair, trustworthy stories about the Metro Detroit region, an area that has been subject to stereotyping by the media resulting in a bit of a rough, downtrodden image, to say the least.

“We try to do things to help improve the image of the region when media come to town,” Sorge said. “We help connect them to data, facts and figures so they can write a good, balanced story.”

The website has been used by reporters for the Chicago Sun-Times and Bloomberg, and by reporters from as far away as the United Kingdom and France. The site also gets its fair share of inquiries from local bloggers and student journalists, Sorge said.

In order to keep its audience up-to-date, the News Hub utilizes various social media outlets, allowing people to post on the site’s Facebook page or follow the latest regional news and event updates on Twitter. The site boasts more than 2,500 followers on Twitter, and Tweets on topics ranging from volunteer graffiti clean-ups to local George Clooney appearances to quotes from Governor Rick Snyder’s first State of the State address.

The website maintains its own blog and allows citizens to write guest blogs on issues facing the community. It posts links to podcasts and videos, streaming its own stories from its “Detroit Unspun TV” segment.

The News Hub has also given young journalists the opportunity learn and develop their reporting skills through its Youth Neighborhood News segment, a YouTube newscast developed by young students and aspiring reporters. Sorge said they have 15 kids in the 11-18 age range that participate in the program.

The site is organized into several different subsets covering newsworthy topics, including education, business and government, among others. The site also maintains a data section, with links to the statistics and information necessary to write a detailed story. Need background information on Wayne State University’s TechTown? There’s a link for that. Writing an article about projected school populations based on age group in the year 2035? They’ve included a link for that, too.

The Detroit Regional News Hub currently sees about 2,000 hits a month and hopes to continue to draw more and more reporters and citizens to the site in the future, according to Sorge, who is encouraged by the positive feedback she has gotten regarding the site since its inception.

“There are great things going on all over the region, and there are issues all over the region,” Sorge said. “We’ll show them the good, the bad and the ugly and work with reporters to help them get balanced stories.”