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Texting to Stop Crime

by on June 20, 2010

This blog contains excerpts from Scott Weinberg’s CBS Radio interview with Public Radio co-host Celeste Headlee, on “The Takeaway.”

You can take the girl out of Detroit, but you can’t take Detroit out of the girl. I know you weren’t born here, but you have spent a fair amount of time in Detroit and throughout the Midwest as an NPR correspondent.

Most recently, Celeste came to Detroit for the Sourcing through Texting Summit – trying to use ordinary citizens for local information. How’d that go?

“Better than expected – although we ended up only getting a small number of texts,” Headlee says. “We were going out on the street saying, ‘Hi, I’m a reporter, text me.’ But you know, as a reporter, it’s really difficult to get authentic sources out in the community if they’re not listening to you. I think it has great potential to get people connected to their news organizations.”

In Detroit, we have the text code for crime stoppers – if you see a crime you want to report, you can text-message a code anonymously to bring a police officer to that area.

Headlee: “Detroit is my favorite city in the world, the number 1!”

“It’s really unfortunate that people choose to show only the challenges in the city. I don’t think it helps to show only the bad sides of Detroit – which are there in any urban community! There’s wonderful stuff, too, going on in beautiful areas.”

“When you’re on limited time in a news story, there is only so much you can get in there. You try to do the most just portrait you can in the 4, 5, 6 minutes you have. A hard job but you do the best you can.”

On The Changing Economic Landscape of Detroit:
Will the film industry help the ailing automotive industry?

“It can only be good for the automotive industry if they are not the sole support of this region,” says Headlee. “That puts so much pressure on them and so much of the spotlight on every business decision. And it’s not just the film industry; there’s lots of industries here that are doing quite well – the furniture industry, the incredible restaurant industry. I don’t think Detroiters even appreciate the quality of your own symphony and art museum and the zoo!”

On Racism in Detroit:
“Everything is about race in Detroit and I would have never thought that before coming here but sadly, it is. It’s an odd thing to say, but racism isn’t a racial problem!”

“We’re not understanding one another, and we’re getting very emotional and frustrated but not communicating. And, we’re not giving each other the benefit of the doubt.”

“It’s not just Detroit – it’s suburbs, too. You can tell me that you live in Birmingham and not Detroit but if I’m from LA, you live in Detroit — it’s all Detroit as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Everyone is either going to rise together or fall together and we all need find a way of understanding one another and listen.”

On Public Radio’s “The Takeaway”:
“Our listeners actually become part of the program in a really substantive way. 99% of the comments we get are articulate and well-thought-out and not at all extremist or explosive and that’s amazing.”

In a recent Detroit focus group, one participant called The Takeaway: “Straight up gangsta” because of the live bait-and-chase, pull-out-the-rug format of the show.

On the difference between Unethical and Illegal:
Headlee interviewed Senator Carl Levin about the Goldman Sachs scandal, and the Senator would not admit that there is a difference between an illegal act and an unethical one on Capitol Hill.

“Well, he did finally say, ‘If it’s not illegal, it ought to be.’ Which I found to be very telling because remember this had been going on at the same time that they were debating financial reform and the financial overhaul bill and Carl Levin is clearly going to be a strong voice in that debate.”

— This blog was written by Scott Weinberg

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