When the name “Kwame Kilpatrick” and the word “scandal” were first used in the same series of news stories, there was no social media.There were no smartphone apps because there were no smartphones as we know them. Newspapers in Detroit delivered 7 days a week and the papers themselves were a lot thicker. Newsrooms in all media employed a lot more people and reported on a lot more news every day.
The Detroit media’s constant and consistent reporting on the scandals, crimes, lawsuits and other controversies involving Detroit’s former mayor, which ranged from award-winning to enlightening to, for some, annoying, began in earnest in 2005, when the Mayor denied, then admitted, the City, just beginning its financial free fall, leased a Lincoln Navigator for his wife. The now-convicted racketeer, who blamed the media for all of his problems, has kept himself in the news consistently for the better part of a decade.
Now that he’s headed to prison for potentially 20 years or more, Kilpatrick will be less of a story. But then again, almost everything in and around Detroit (save the Great Recession and its impact on the community and auto industry) has been less of a story since 2005. How will that impact news reporting, which has downsized and been changed forever by technology and the economy while staying on this one story consistently throughout?
The relatively significant Detroit media resources devoted to covering the life and hard times of Kwame Kilpatrick can now largely be redeployed. But, after so long, how will that happen? Will they focus on the new challenges in City government, with a state-appointed emergency manager taking over finances? Will they cover the court cases without Kilpatrick listed as a defendant, that have been largely ignored in recent years? Or will the journalists be given a chance to enterprise and find stories, like they did with those that ended up in indictments and convictions?
Maybe some of the resources can be devoted to covering stories that haven’t received much attention since the “good old days” circa 2005. Those are the stories that reporters just don’t have time to do anymore. Sometimes, they don’t even have time to answer an email saying they don’t have time to do them anymore.
A few times, when we have told our clients that there’s no longer as much room for what used to be their news, they say “The media’s probably busy covering Kwame.” Now they’re not anymore. At least not as much. So what will the news around here look like now? Hopefully, in some way, it will look more like it did before the Navigator and all that followed.