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New Grass Roots Newspaper in Flint

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A handful of writers are scraping together $600 a week to publish a newspaper in Flint. They’re up to their sixth monthly edition. They’re convinced community revitalization is linked to a feisty press. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus visited them at an editorial meeting in a bar.

TRX1: The writers down pitchers of beer inside the Soggy Bottom Bar, across the street from the Durant Hotel in Flint. They publish a newspaper called Broadside. Melodee Hagensen is the daughter of autoworkers acting as editor, even though she won’t admit it. Cuz her instincts are too anarchistic. This edition of Broadside is previewing the candidates for mayor.

AX1: “well like how much will you pay us to not run a dirty story about you? We found that you own 6 abandoned buildings. How much will you pay us not mention this?”

TRX2: Flint will elect a new mayor on August 5th. Professional cartoonist Pat Hardin and computer expert John McCarren list the questions they asked the candidates.

AX2: “What’s wrong with Flint what’s right with Flint. What’s the state of race relations in Flint. The past two mayors have had real problems with local media mainly because of their lack of transparency. And basically how are you gonna affect transparency in your administration. Another question we asked them was what would they do to keep young people in town from moving out. The students. There was some questions about land use, brownfields, the shrinking city idea.”

TRX3: For 3 days last month, Rush Limbaugh bashed County Land Bank President Dan Kildee. Kildee has said that 40% of Flint’s homes might have to be demolished. The population is now about half of what it used to be. Writer Scott Russell says blame established media for the problems.

AX3: “I’d like to start off by saying that I really admire the Flint Journal. They helped make America what it is today.”

TRX4: In May, unemployment in Michigan hit 15%. In Flint it was 27%. Flint once had 85,000 people working at General Motors. Now there are only about 6,000. Broadside is a muckraker like Michael Moore’s Flint Voice was here in the 70’s and The Uncommon Sense was before it folded in 2005.

AX4: “we’re never going to be going far enough left to really get anywhere. To really change things. So this is really a vain attempt to try to state the case for the other side. What’s the other side? The left side. Everything else in the entire world besides what Fox tells you what it is. There is endless possibility as long as you stop listening to that nursery rhyme that says free trade and deregulate.”

TRX5: Hagensen collected $680 for this latest edition of Broadside. The 5,000 copies are usually gone by the end of the month. Broadside is Flint’s only free paper. Hagensen says local coupons or flyers stacked in a coffee shop are easier to compete with than something like the NY Times on line edition.

AX5: “There is something to be said for everyone in one small community reading the same ideas at the same time. Which you don’t get from stuff on line. At all.”

TRX6: The Broadside bunch is irreverent. They risk angering their bosses at their real jobs. But they just want a better community…for regular people who want to say, farm the thousands of empty lots. People want chickens and goats though there’s no ordinance that allows it. Says Hagensen.

AX6: “I’m allowed to have a crack house why can’t I have a chicken coop. You can’t have chickens in Flint? Apparently not. Because I know you can have chickens in Chicago. Same in Ann Arbor.”

TRX7: The mayoral election in Flint has come down to Rhodes scholar Dayne Walling and former state representative Brenda Clack. Clack has campaigned in an ice cream truck. Cartoonist Pat Hardin/A Broadside writer/ jokes why not save money by getting rid of city hall making the ice cream truck the mayor’s office.

TRX8: The next mayor will follow in the footsteps of Don Williamson, a millionaire car and junk dealer convicted felon with a high school education who quit this year right before voters were poised to recall him. Pat Hardin says he himself could live anywhere in the country but people like former mayor Williamson give Flint its mystique.

New Grass Roots Newspaper in Flint

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