Detroit Free Press vs. Detroit News in the Digital Era

In this day and age, social media presence is becoming of the utmost importance for the survival of print journalism. Here is a side by side comparison of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News across their various social media platforms.

*It is important to note that the Free Press has been published since 1831, while the News only began in 1873. Differences in audience size and circulation size should be kept in mind when looking at social media numbers.*


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As you can see, the Detroit Free Press out numbers the News’ followers by more than 30,000 people. The News joined twitter about a year after the Freep, which joined in 2007. Both outlets tweet at approximately the same rate, averaging about 5-7 tweets per hour. The News tweets photos significantly more often that the Freep, yet both retweet other people about the same amount.


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The Free Press has more than twice as many likes on Facebook as the News. Within the last 24 hours, the Freep’s most popular post gathered 980 likes, and another article got 500 shares. The News fell far below the Freep, with their most popular post in the past day only getting about 170 likes and another article only getting 36 shares.


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Both outlets tend to neglect their youtube channels, but the Detroit News surpasses the Freep sweepingly on youtube, with more than 1,000 followers to the Freep’s 285. Regardless, the News hasn’t posted a video in 5 months, and the Freep hasn’t posted in 2 years.


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On instagram, the Free Press surpasses the News by 10,000 followers. The Freep has posted 1260 times, in comparison to the News’ 478 pictures.

I’ve looked extensively at the Instagram’s of each account because newspapers are constantly striving to reach the younger demographic audience. According to Business Insider:

Over 90% of the 150 million people on Instagram are under the age of 35, which makes it an attractive platform for many apparel, entertainment, and media brands focused on the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket.

Both papers’ instagrams are dominated by photos from individual photographers who work at the papers: Eric Seals of the Freep, and Brandy Baker of the News. I decided to try to contact each via twitter, just to see how available they were on social media. First, I tweeted at Eric Seals.

I looked for Brandy Baker on Twitter, and I couldn’t find her. Then I looked for her individual Instagram and couldn’t find it, either, which I found surprising since she has such a strong presence on the Detroit News instagram. I ended up emailing her, and she got back to me promptly.

I spoke with both Eric Seals and Brandy Baker about digital disruption, photojournalism, Instagram, and keeping up with a changing media market.

Here’s a comprehensive infographic of the Detroit Free Press versus the Detroit News across various platforms.

It is interesting to note that while the Freep dominates digitally over the News, they have different platforms in which they excel.

The Free Press does very well for itself on Facebook, beating out its Twitter by almost 50,000 followers.

The News on the other hand performs best on Twitter,  with more than 5,000 more followers than on its Facebook.

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While both papers support themselves through online and print ad revenue, neither have a paywall on their websites.

In the future, it would be interesting to be able to study how many people who subscribe to the paper’s print product additionally follow them on other kinds of social media, or if the print and digital audiences are totally separate.


Network News: An educated rant

Before I begin, I have a gigantic bias against network TV news, for oh so many reasons. As a journalist, I have to say that I don’t think that TV news can really be considered good journalism. I think it’s outdated and hoaky, biased, sensational, extremely stereotypical about appearance, and especially critical towards female news anchors.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I watched World News Tonight with David Muir. The episode I watched from a few days ago bounced around in topic in an almost comedic way, mixing in real news with fluff like we weren’t going to notice that half the broadcast was full of useless information (I noticed, ABC, I really really noticed.)

Here is a list of the topics, and a comprehensive explanation as to why exactly each segment was completely ridiculous.

White House Intruder: First off, this story is barely news. Especially since it’s from September 30th, which was over a month ago. And news is supposed to be recent, according to every definition of news ever. News is supposed to be…what’s the word…oh. NEW. News should be new. This story is old. Thanks ABC.

The Weather: It’s cold outside. In case you haven’t been outside in the past few days, David Muir and his shiny shiny hair want you to know that it is in fact quite chilly. Now he’s going to show you a compilation of videos of people driving in the snow, in case you don’t know what that looks like.

We’ll call this segment of the program ‘Here’s the bad shit that’s happening right now’

ISIS: And you thought your snow and that slippery commute was bad! Meanwhile people are getting beheaded. Why would you ever put ISIS directly after the weather? (Please note this is one of two stories that is actually international on World News Tonight…and the other one is about a tiger running around Paris. More on that later.)

Ferguson: Oh we are talking about real news now! What a relief. Meanwhile in Ferguson, things aren’t going well and gun sales are up 300% which is crazy and additionally the first number that they’ve given us besides the weather forecast (dream big). They also show a pretty awkward clip of the medical examiner that Mike Brown’s family hired trying to get into his car, which is locked. He just tries the handle a bunch of times and then they cut to a different clip. Thanks for the visual?

Bridge Collapse: One person died in a bridge collapse in North Carolina. Meanwhile the ebola death toll has climbed to over 5,000…but that’s not news.

Bono’s Plane: This one really gets me. BONO ALMOST DIED BECAUSE THE DOOR OF HIS PLANE FELL OF MIDAIR! LET’S HERE FROM BONO: “It wasn’t a big deal.” In fact, they add later, Bono wasn’t in danger at all! He just lost some luggage that probably fell out of the sky and actually injured people or their belongings. Let’s look at a picture slide show of Bono and listen to his music and make some lyrical puns.

Mining Disaster: A CEO of a mine that collapsed could face 31 years in prison. Here’s a video of him attacking an ABC camera because that proves that he’s a bad person and is the most important part of the story. Obviously.

Marysville Shooting: There was a shooting in Marysville but instead of actually telling you about what happened or the possible causes, we’re going to listen to a 911 call from a school teacher. Sensational. Also, it doesn’t make sense that a perfect american teenager who was on the football team and homecoming king would ever shoot his friends! How could a popular kid do anything wrong? How is that possible?

Credit Cards/Shopping/Cross Promotion: And back to the not-news portion of your news cast. We’re going to talk to the main character from one of our network’s TV shows, Shark Tank, about people stealing your credit card information. Because cross promotion is grand, and it is shopping season you know! By the way, the solution to preventing getting your credit card info stolen? Wrap it in tin foil.

Comet Probe: It’s stuck behind a cliff which could be problematic since it’s solar powered. That’s all.

Best Airport for Food and Drink: Because that’s what matters about your airports.

Tiger in Paris: …I can’t.

Puppy Thieves: You literally have to be kidding me.

And that’s the news, folks. Here’s a meme of David Muir.

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Digital Disruption in Detroit: Charlie LeDuff goes viral

When he started his career, Charlie LeDuff wanted to be a print journalist. And he started off small — small in a way that would surprise many people who know LeDuff for his big personality. His first story was an obituary of a Russian man he knew, and he used the $500 to help send the man’s body home.

“He didn’t fly home first class, like he had imagined,” LeDuff says with a laugh. “He flew home as cargo. At least he got home, though!”

After moving to Alaska, he got a job writing for the Alaska Fisherman’s Journal. After a while he grew restless, so he started applying for other jobs at different publications across America.

I didn’t get shit, zero, nothin. Except…” he tries to stifle his laughter, “except from this one little paper they call the New York Times. They were the only people who called me back.”

They told LeDuff he was “different” and that they were looking for different. LeDuff tried to act coy, telling the paper that he had a “long line of people” waiting on his response to their job offers, so the Times better get a move on. They then offered him $40,00 plus rent. He laughs sarcastically, “I thought, ‘Well, I believe I will do it, yeah.’” Thus began his career as a New York Times journalist.

He had a long and prosperous career in print journalism, winning himself a Pulitzer that gathers dust on the mantle piece of his Pleasant Ridge home. He quit the Times and moved back to Detroit, but instead of continuing a career in print LeDuff leapt into video journalism.

He now works for Fox 2 Detroit, citing the desire to prove himself and his reporting ethics as the reason for his move from ink to in front of the camera. He’s perhaps best known as a local celebrity because of the segments that he reports in that end up going viral on youtube. His reporting is non-traditional, to say the least.

Here’s one of his most recent reporting efforts about squatting in Detroit:

Or this video in which he golfs the entire length of Detroit to “illuminate” some of the issues that the city is facing, like slow police response time, vacant houses, or layoffs.

Or this video in which he takes a bath while waiting for the Detroit police to come to a woman’s home.

As you can tell, Charlie LeDuff is a little bit off the beaten path. And he left his career as a print journalist for the affordances of TV news: he can be an exhibitionist, a character, and most importantly, he can make videos that are so ridiculous that they might go viral, creating awareness for serious problems in Detroit in a not-so-serious way.

Photo Story: Dymtro Szylak’s Hamtramck Disneyland

Technological Innovation in Detroit: Affordances of iPad for Slow Roll

This summer I was sitting around watching TV when a commercial for the iPad came on. As I was watching I realized that the backdrop of the commercial looked familiar — it was Detroit. The commercial was for Apple and talked about a movement called Slow Roll, and how they use the iPad in innovative ways to organize a movement in the city. Here’s the commercial:

Although the iPad may not be the most innovative or new technology, like Google Glass or something like that, the ways in which Jason Hall uses his iPad is innovative and helps to organize a really interesting movement in the city.

“I started Slow Roll to show Detroit in a positive light. I love my city, and I wanted to help other people love it again. My iPad helped make it happen.” -Jason Hall

On their website, Apple examines all of the technological affordances of the iPad that Jason Hall uses to organize his movement. He uses a program called Penultimate to sketch out routes for the bike rides, or Phoster to create posters for social media about upcoming rides. He uses Prezi on his iPad to design powerpoint presentations to give at local schools about seeing Detroit in a positive light.

You can tell from the commercial alone that Slow Roll is heavily ingrained in social media — the backs of their shirts are adorned with a hashtag, and people are taking pictures for social media and organizing events through Facebook and Twitter — and Jason Hall uses his iPad to facilitate and foster these interactions.

Another affordance that is clearly important to Hall is portability. In one shot of the commercial, he slides his iPad into his bag and takes off on his bike. His iPad helps him to create and shape the movement that he started, and he hopes that other cities will use the same innovative technology to make a similar positive movement..

Mapping Blight in Detroit

There have been several mapping projects that have targeted the problem of blight in Detroit. A map I find particularly clear and well done is by Motor City Mapping. The data collected for the map is from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, which studied vacant structures and lots in the city in hopes of encouraging officials to begin removal  of blighted areas. Their report on blight can be read here.

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Automatically, the site’s set up is visually pleasing. On the right, you can view the totals for the whole city. On the left, you can select different neighborhoods to see their individual statistics.

Here, I have my cursor hovering over the Corktown neighborhood, as indicated by the yellowish color, as well as the name displayed in the top right.

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When I click on Corktown, it pulls up its individual statistics.

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They surveyed 839 properties in Corktown, and indicate that one should be demolished, two need to be cleaned up because of dumping, three have fire damage, and 20 houses need to be boarded up.

This information is available for each neighborhood in the city . The total numbers of Detroit on the whole are particularly eye-opening:

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A staggering 4,550 buildings are recommended for demolition, with 7,083 having fire damage, and 28,180 structures in need of boarding.

You can also narrow these numbers down by publicly or privately owned buildings, which really exemplifies that many of the buildings in need of attention are publicly owned. Here is a comparison of the publicly and then the privately owned buildings:

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As you can see, far more publicly owned buildings are abandoned, in comparison to privately owned ones.

I think the map does a good job of showing what it aimed to depict about blight in Detroit. I think that trying to add more layers to the inforgraphic would make it too complicated and more difficult to understand.