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News Hits likes to rag on Detroit's two daily papers. It's great sport, much like shooting dead carp in a bucket. But occasionally one of them will produce work worthy of note, which is what happened last week when David Josar of The Detroit News delivered the results of a three-month investigation into the workings of a Detroit City Council-appointed board tasked with granting tax breaks to the needy. What Josar found was that "the little-known Hardship Committee, comprised of all nine members of the city's Board of Review, had been using its power to grant tax breaks worth thousands of dollars to apparently well-to-do homeowners in addition to the poor.

"In some of the most egregious cases, those receiving the hardship exemptions own multiple houses, drive luxury vehicles and live in homes worth more than $500,000."

It's good stuff, and it produced an immediate reaction, as the committee's records were seized and an official investigation launched. A small-minded Free Press reported on the reaction without ever giving its competitor credit for exposing the scandal.

It's this kind of intensive, time-consuming reporting — or more accurately, the dearth of it — that our Jack Lessenberry addresses in his column this week. Without such watchdog journalism, says Lessenberry, democracy is crippled.

So, kudos to the News.

Curt Guyette edits News Hits. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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