NYT Freelancer Shines a Positive Light on Detroit

Jennifer Conlin, 51, grew up in Ann Arbor and during her college days, spent a lot of time in Detroit. After 20 years living abroad in various cities with her AP-employed husband, she came back to Michigan with their three children in 2010. During that time, she had become a regular freelance contributor to the New York Times and upon her return, the paper started sending her to Detroit quite a bit for assignments.

Three years later, per a feature interview by Concentrate, Conlin is tooling around the area for another reason: CriticCar, a digital start-up funded by a $100,000 Knight Foundation grant. The idea is to record, at various arts events, the impressions and criticisms of John Q. Public:

Conlin says the idea was partly motivated by a desire to provide more positive and diverse local media coverage. “You can’t even watch television in Detroit any more, especially with the bankruptcy now, because it focuses on crime so much,” she says. “You just see black kids in hoodies who have robbed a bank or broken into a car.”

“But there are these fantastic young men and women who are talking about having their first experience in theater, or seeing their brother or sister at Mosaic, or seeing a dance performance for the first time.”

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