I am so honored to be Outlier Media’s newest reporter and to be back in Detroit, a city I grew up in and around. I’m the oldest of five children who grew up in Detroit, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. My father just completed his 24th year as a ramp agent at Detroit Metro Airport, and my mother will complete her first academic year as a full-time preschool teacher this month. 

I actually graduated university at the same time as my mother in 2020. That year, I worked for Outlier Media as a part-time Arabic information needs reporter. In that role, I used the language my parents taught me to connect with residents through Outlier’s text message system and deliver critical information during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. I moved to Texas after getting married in December of that year, and took on a new reporting role with the San Antonio Express-News.

To be back home is a blessing and a privilege, and to report for my city as a Report for America corps member is an even bigger honor. You can love your city and still demand for it to be better and to do better. And that’s what I will do as a city hall reporter. I was told this role is the “toughest beat” in a newsroom, and that’s because we’re expected to stay on top of government officials and relentlessly seek information. We are expected to represent residents and to know what they need from the government. 

Growing up, my mother’s English was pretty limited, and my father didn’t have time for city happenings and civic engagement because he was focused on providing for our family – something a lot of working parents can relate to. They relied on me to navigate the state’s and city’s politics. I understood the election process long before I was eligible to vote and would call the city on behalf of my parents when the water bill looked too high. When a poll worker tried to persuade my mother to throw out — not simply conceal — the sample ballot she brought with her to the polls on Election Day, I was on the phone with her explaining that state laws allow her to bring in notes or a sample ballot with her. She then felt empowered to hold onto her notes and enter the polls confidently.

Like my parents, there are so many residents who have limited understanding, access or time when it comes to keeping their eyes on local government. My mission is to consistently connect with Detroiters about information they need from the city and county, and to make it more accessible and easier to understand. My job is to serve residents and to ensure government officials are doing their part to serve those they represent. 

I am here to answer Detroiters’ questions, no matter how simple or complex they may seem. Feel free to text, call or email me to talk.

Thank you,

Malak Silmi

Malak (she/her) believes in local journalism that provides people with verified and comprehensive information. Her favorite places to unwind and pick up a new read are at Detroit’s bookstores and libraries.