R.I.P. Michigan Citizen

Jan 2, 2015 at 10:52 am
I'd heard some rumors that this was coming, but it's now official: The Michigan Citizen has ceased publication — though perhaps we haven't heard the last of it as an organization.

The closing of another Detroit-based media outlet is cause for sadness. Bear in mind, the editorial staff at Metro Times hasn't always seen eye-to-eye with the reporting in the Citizen over the years: Sometimes, we've felt, its reporters became victims of their own passions, or their columnists could be hired political agents grinding their professional axes. But if you wanted to lay your finger on the pulse of Michigan's progressive black intelligentsia, you could do much, much worse than peruse an issue of the Citizen.

A few months ago, when I was invited to be a guest on WDIV's Flashpoint regarding a blog post I'd written about the bankruptcy, I was seated next to the Citizen's publisher, Catherine Kelly. She is a charming and well-spoken progressive who was able to join me in giving voice to some of the main objections regarding the mainstream narrative about the bankruptcy. While Kelly is a smart and articulate person, would she be called to defend progressive views without the newspaper to give her legitimacy? 

The point is, it's easy to dismiss and disregard views that do not have an organ to promulgate them. Which is another reason to mourn the paper.

Another point, perhaps most dearly to writers and editors at Metro Times, the Citizen and MT come from similar backgrounds. MT, like other alt-weeklies, were spawned by the underground publications of the 1960s through the late 1970s, magazines and newspapers in which radical politics were given a serious airing, a tradition we'd like to think we honor to this day. Similarly, the Citizen was started on a kitchen table in 1978, two years before the first issue of Metro Times, initially a biweekly, ever hit local stands. This was at a time when mainstream publications simply didn't honor views that didn't dovetail with the status quo. In this sense, both papers have shared a common bloodline.

Finally, having one fewer voice in Detroit media makes us that much poorer. And the fact that it is a publication devoted to airing the views and news most important to black people, in a city that is overwhelmingly black, makes it that much sadder. Chances may be good that we'll hear more from the Citizen, in whatever form it may come, but for now we offer this well-deserved eulogy, and our best wishes to the paper's editorial staff.