NYT reporter ‘deeply regrets’ omitting black Detroiters from story


When out-of-town journalists parachute into Detroit to write about signs of a bubbling renaissance amid the ruins, they often overlook one key element – black people.

Although African Americans make up 83% of the city’s population, they’re rarely represented when the national media attention is positive.

CorktownThe latest example came Tuesday when the New York Times published its third story in five years about Corktown’s rise as a middle-class enclave. The freelance reporter, Julie Alvin, called Corktown a “serious hotbed of new restaurants, bars, hotels and more” but failed to mention or interview anyone who was not white, critics pointed out.

“To be sure, no one is actually knocking the entrepreneurs’ hustle,” wrote Jalopnik reporter Aaron Foley, a Detroiter. “But are they the only ones opening new business? It’s been consistently proven that the city’s newest business owners come from a range of backgrounds, but only certain ones get pushed into the spotlight.”

Fed up with the omission of black people, one Detroiter took Alvin to task.

Alvin, who lives in New York City but is from Grosse Pointe, was polite and apologetic, saying she chose the subjects of the story based on conversations she had with people in the Corktown business scene.

Michael Jackman at the Metro Times wrote that the white-centric coverage is getting old.

“Of course, it’s true that Corktown is a Detroit neighborhood that has had its fair share of white residents over the years, but it still rankles us that the New York Times comes to Detroit regularly, but only visits neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown, almost exclusively covers businesses that are white-owned, white-operated and catering to whites, when Detroit is 82 percent black. You’d think you’d like some representative coverage, yes?”


Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Gregory Creswell

    When a person has low self esteem and or no self respect, they worry about skin color or gender or sexual preferences when it comes to news reports. And that tells me a whole lot about that person.

    • That’s a lotta people in this article with no self esteem, bro.

  • Denis Alfonso Rochac

    That’s some lazy journalism.

  • Gladys pipkin

    I don’t blame them. The goal is to increase the taxbase by tricking outsiders with money into re-colonizing Detroit. All the white folks done left. You gotta do something to lure them and their families back!

  • Andrea Daniel

    Though these businesses are in Midtown, there’s a hot-bed of
    Black/Women-owned SUCCESSFUL storefronts on Cass and West Willis –
    Source Booksellers, Nora, Spiral Collective, Flo Boutique, Goodwells
    Natural Foods, Avalon Bakery… just for starters.

  • bebow

    Only certain residents are selected to receive public services here, too. So, is Julie the Grosse Pointer the problem, or is she just going with the flow?

  • Billy Blake

    Is Shinola a black owned business? I’m asking I don’t know. But that’s the only business that I can remember reading about on Motor City Muckraker.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      No. Its a white guy almost billionaire, who started fossil watches and also has money tied up with dan gilbert. http://go.bloomberg.com/tech-deals/2013-08-01-the-incredible-vanishing-ceo-of-fossil-watches/

      He has a greek name, not sure if he is 100 % ethnic greek and not something else on the mothers side.

    • Dust Buster

      what about the gas station where steven utash was lynched…. that parking lot and street was filled with minorities. but then the arab owner was a minority too. and mr utash was a minority because detroit is like 83% black and every one of the 50 plus people that watched the lynching were black and as this article shows they are to be referred to as minorities…even in a city that is 83% black they are called minority

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Also I encourage aaron foley of jalopnik to seek out successful black businessmen starting neighborhood stores, no affirmative action involved, no government contracts based on race. Just cool brothas starting up car dealerships, construction companies, liquor stores, what ever. And since he is so open minded and this is not just about his race being featured, I would expect him to be super excited about also doing a long long series on asians, latinos, jews, and middle eastern people. That is assuming he is not all wrapped up in this as some sort of “black thing”.

    Make it a weekly thing and profile them.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    Cool. Complainers please list the hundreds of successful visible black business’s. This was a story about corktown specifically, I am not saying there are or are not black owned stores in cork town. I do not know who owns every story. You make this sound like its common knowledge and there are just tons of stores this girl wanted to interview the owner of some bustling store, then found out it was a black dude, and ignored the stores success. So please. List the stores.

    Then ask if this is set thing where X amount of population must be represented, why no quota for women owned, vet owned, disabled owned, middle eastern owned, asian owned, jewish owned, latin owned business’s to also be sought out and featured?

    This almost seems like a set up for a joke about the world being black and white. Where is the rest!

    If you have a hangup for quotas, wake the hell up, you skipped over 2/3 of the world.

    • paul123454321

      Doesn’t it seem strange to you that in a town that is 82% black the reporter did not include a single black owned business? Or how about that in the pictures that accompanied the article there are about 30 people visible, not a single one looks the least bit black.

    • Andrew

      you’re melting pot argument is stale. there has been a clear portrait of the dismissal of black-owned businesses in a city where black folks are far beyond majority yes still have no ownership over the detroit narrative. it’s lazy journalism for one, especially given that there are black-owned businesses in the neighborhoods in which the reporter concentrated their research; and for two, it displays a dismissal of the rest of the city where there are HUNDREDS of black-owned businesses, cooperatives, market economies, etc. in the neighborhoods that have been disinvested in and folks are making a way with bootstrap resources.

  • marco baroli

    What this Detroit News article makes clear is one, simple rule: when it’s white, property is alright; when it’s black, property is sacked.

    Sacked = blight = Ruin Porn = the need for Pacification as outlined by the “Old Man” in the fourth script for Robocop.

    But that’s tolerated in a world where Disingenuous White Liberals (DWLs) scramble to protect black people from ever being fingered for the damage they collectively create; with individual DWLs seeking immunity from charges of racism leveled at all whites by the unstable paradigm of Black-Run America (BRA).

    The ad the Detroit News noticed as being full of whites for the newly renovated (strangely, once devoid of blacks, increasing in value…) Albert building caused mass hysteria from DWLs upset Detroit might lose its blackness – the blight, ruin porn, and crime that goes with it – and grow in whiteness

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Reminds me of chocolate city quote from N.O. mayor.


      Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday apologized for
      urging residents to rebuild a “chocolate New Orleans” and saying, “You
      can’t have New Orleans no other way.”

      Bonus points for elected officials born in america who speak in double negatives.

      • Dust Buster

        where ray be now? didnt he do the kwame mayor perp walk too?

    • javierjuanmanuel


  • A.L. Cadillac

    Don’t think it was unreasonable to call it out, and thought it was appropriate that the reporter was apologetic. But the only way to combat the institutional laziness of the media continually doing these stories from ‘whiteville’ is to grab them by the arm and drag them to black owned businesses and show them the coolness there too.

    • What I did was, point her to http://uixdetroit.com/ . She said she was doing neighborhood weekly reports. I said, well visit the site I gave you and cross-reference everything so that you see what’s really there.