The city of Detroit’s new “storyteller,” hired by Mayor Mike Duggan during an election year, is now turning his attention to one of the mayor’s biggest critics – the Metro Times.
Aaron Foley, a former journalist, was hired at $75,000 a year to tell “stories of neighborhoods and their residents.” But his latest piece for “The Neighborhoods” took a much more sinister tone than his upbeat features about a midnight boxing program and a cricket field in Detroit.
In his slam piece, Foley chides the Metro Times for its racial makeup and its use of “the occasional unpaid intern of color” in what seemingly is a news story about the Metro Times possibly moving from Ferndale to Midtown. Foley, who used to criticize the mayor’s administration when he was a reporter, also portrayed the alt-weekly as financially struggling, and he poked fun at an ad campaign that featured neighborhood bars.
But what Foley omitted and inaccurately claimed raises serious questions about whether a member of Duggan’s administration is engaged in propaganda to discredit a news organization that has taken a serious look at the mayor’s spotty record on poverty, foreclosures, affordable housing, demolitions and vacancies.
For starters, Foley’s claim that the Metro Times has “a nearly 100% white reporting staff” is untrue. Included among the relatively small staff are a black columnist and hispanic assistant editor. And while investigative reporter Violet Ikonomova may not be considered a person of color, she is an Eastern European immigrant whose grandparents were in the Holocaust.
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Foley ends his slam piece by mocking an ad campaign about local bars, saying the Metro Times “has boosted its coverage of Detroit neighborhoods.” Truth is, no media publication in Detroit has covered neighborhood issues more in-depth than the Metro Times.
Foley wrote, “MT has had a revolving door of (mostly white, mostly male) top editors; its only female editor in the last four years was ousted following a clash with the paper’s Ohio management. News writers, copy editors, food writers and web editors have also come and gone, in many times only holding masthead space for less than year.”
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Foley told me he doesn’t believe it was inappropriate to use city resources to attack the media – a tactic that President Trump has employed so relentlessly.
“Refer to any coverage on the site thus far,” Foley wrote me in a message. “Diversity has been a cornerstone of what we’re doing so far. And if you look at any of the numerous interviews I’ve done in the last few weeks, I’ve talked at length about my passion of making sure that all parts of Detroit are inclusive.”
But if Foley’s sincere goal is to point out a lack of diversity, he may want to take a deeper look at downtown’s biggest employers, who happen to be among Duggan’s most generous supporters – Bedrock and Quicken Loans.
More than two dozen executives with Quicken Loans, which the federal government accused of predatory lending targeting black residents, contributed nearly $73,000 to Duggan’s re-election campaign. In early July, a federal judge ruled that Quicken Loans officers brokered illegal loans in excess of fair market value by relying on excessive home appraisals.
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Foley also downplayed an insensitive advertising campaign by Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock, which posted a banner depicting virtually all-white people celebrating downtown. Foley wrote on Facebook that he’s “going to rule this as PITCHFORKS DOWN.”
Gilbert later apologized for the ad campaign.
Tune into 910AM at 11 a.m. as I interview Foley on his slam piece.
“Muckraker Report” airs every weekday from 11 a.m. to noon.
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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.