Flint, MI—Local news outlets Flint Beat and Flintside have teamed up with The Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy for a story series that aims to address the issues most affecting the Flint community.
Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center, explained the purpose of partnering with local publications.
“We are working through community-based groups and the local media because we want to capture stories from residents about public concerns that are important to them,” said Townsend. “These groups and media outlets like Flintside and Flint Beat are helping us connect with people and creating events and opportunities where people can tell their stories.”
The People-Centered Oversight (PCO) series will run through April 2023 and harness the power of solutions-based journalism and neighborhood engagement to amplify the concerns of Flint residents.
Stories in the series will focus on covering the issues that residents have said affect their communities most, such as blight, gun violence and public safety. The goal of the newsrooms’ partnership with the Levin Center is to ensure that residents’ stories are shared with lawmakers responsible for oversight related to their concerns.
The Levin Center began its PCO project last summer with listening sessions spearheaded by Flint natives Chia Morgan and Jasmine McKenney. Now, the newsrooms are furthering that work through listening sessions and the PCO story series.
Flint Beat and Flintside want not only to learn about residents’ lived experiences—with media, laws and lawmakers—but also to see those stories help inform policy and prevent tragedies like the Flint water crisis.
With these goals in mind, Flintside and Flint Beat are proud to help share the stories of Flint residents and the matters that affect them.
“Flintside is excited to partner with Flint Beat to lift up residents’ voices on the critical issues of gun violence and blight in Flint,” said Paul Schutt, co-founder of Issue Media Group, Flintside’s parent company.
“At Flint Beat, we work to make sure we amplify the voices of the community,” said Jiquanda Johnson, founder and publisher of Flint Beat. “It’s partnerships like this that allow us to do the work we do with a goal to inform, impact and empower the community we cover. Collaborating with both Flintside and the Levin Center helps us develop content that the Flint community needs and that will help spark change as we all work to build equity.”
As Flintside and Flint Beat wrap up the story series, the Levin Center plans to present it to a broader audience in hopes of change.
“We want to compile the stories into some kind of compendium or deck or report that we can share with legislators in Lansing and Washington, and statewide and national media,” said Townsend. “Ultimately, we want to see lawmakers decide that the issues being raised by Flint residents need to be investigated further and maybe should be the subject of a hearing or multiple hearings or other public meetings to examine these locally-raised concerns and see what state or federal lawmakers should do to solve these problems.”
Townsend concluded, “We want Flint residents to be heard in that conversation and, most importantly, to feel that they will be heard in the future, so they keep speaking up.”