The media landscape in metro Detroit is constantly changing. Every year, throughout the year, reporters and editors move on to other jobs or publications, retire, or, in this challenging industry environment, are laid off.
But this year, it already feels like the stage is set for some fascinating, fundamental changes to the competitive daily newspaper, business media and TV media that could have an impact for years to come.
At Franco, we watch the media environment closely because it’s important for us to know and understand the editorial philosophy of every major outlet, as well as the reporters who are on the front lines of news coverage. Understanding this helps us as we work with our clients to tell their stories.
With that in mind, here are three big Michigan media changes we’ll be watching in 2023:
Peter Bhatia, job cuts and the Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press editor Peter Bhatia recently announced his retirement in an effort to save some jobs at Michigan’s largest daily newspaper.
Bhatia arrived at the Free Press in 2017 after helping lead newsrooms that won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, including six in Portland – and he quickly earned the admiration and respect of his new Free Press colleagues.
Unfortunately, Gannett, owner of the Detroit Free Press, has been struggling financially and executed two rounds of job cuts at its newspapers across the country in 2022 and initially planned to eliminate 14 jobs.
Instead, we learned earlier this month that eight employees – including Bhatia – had accepted voluntary buyout offers. But some of these writers and editors – including Brian Dickerson, Elisha Anderson and Jim Finkelstein – were part of the heart and soul of the Free Press for many years. Their collective knowledge and tenacity will be deeply missed both inside the newsroom and in the community.
And many questions remain unanswered. Who will Gannett pick to replace Bhatia as the top editor? Will the job cuts and a new editor at the Free Press lead to a change in the way the paper covers the region and Michigan?
We don’t know – but we’ll be watching carefully.
Crain’s Detroit Business conquers Western Michigan
Crain Communications announced in August that it acquired the Grand Rapids Business Journal (GRBJ) and, in December, announced it had also acquired MiBiz. Both publications specialized in coverage of western Michigan businesses and the business community.
With these acquisitions, Crain’s Detroit Business, the publication that has covered southeast Michigan’s business community since the early 1980s, suddenly has a statewide dominance on news aimed at the business community.
Crain’s also announced recently that it has hired Mickey Ciokajlo to become executive editor of Crain’s Detroit Business and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. Ciokajlo was one of MLive’s highest ranking editors, had the respect of the reporters he managed and knows and understands western Michigan well. In other words, he is well-suited to help Crain’s understand its new market as it absorbs GRBJ and MiBz.
What does this mean for the overall tone, content and direction of Crain’s approach to business coverage in Michigan? Will Crain’s seek to simply carbon copy its successful model of business journalism and apply it to west Michigan? Or will a new, statewide philosophy emerge?
Again, we don’t know, but we’ll be monitoring closely.
Move over local TV news, let WWJ / CBS 62 take over
WWJ, known as CBS 62, believes there is room for more TV news in metro Detroit – and why not?
Metro Detroit is one of the rare major metro areas with just three TV news operations.
Over the years, WWJ’s TV station has offered some news, but has not had its own full-fledged news operation since the early 1990s. The team has been working hard for months to launch a new local TV news operation that is scheduled to launch soon.
According to trade publication Broadcasting & Cable, the station “has hired news gatherers, including a lineup of embedded multimedia journalists, is building out the newsroom set and is poised to launch.”
According to this story in Broadcasting & Cable:
”CBS News Detroit will have a streaming-first mentality and linear newscasts at 4, 5, 6 and 11 p.m. weekdays, as well as morning news in the coming months…. Multiskilled journalists will be embedded in the community they cover. There are 14 Ford Broncos, outfitted with mobile editing systems in the passenger seat, which can be accessed from the back seat. Thirteen will be in neighborhoods around Detroit and one will be in Lansing, Michigan’s capital. Reporters won’t have to visit the newsroom to produce their reports.
To our team, this sounds exciting – it’s another credible media outlet we can connect with about our clients’ news.
But can WWJ effectively take on WDIV, WXYZ and FOX 2, which have all spent decades establishing their brand?
Only time will tell.
Here’s what we do know – change is occurring across our local media market at a fast pace, and we’ll be here to help our clients navigate those changes.
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Brent Snavely is vice president of media relations at Franco. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.