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Sarah and I share a vision for local journalism that is collaborative, built as civic infrastructure, and responsive to the needs of the people it serves. We can’t do this work alone. Today we announce Detour Detroit has joined the Outlier Media team. We’re proud to join forces with Detour’s founders, Ashley Woods Branch and Kate Abbey-Lambertz, to continue building, together, a newsroom for Detroiters that can serve as a model for other communities. Outlier remains committed to discovering and filling information gaps, especially for those most underserved by traditional media. We also know our community must have deeper engagement with our reporting and products. Detour has a history of doing just that–bringing their audience and members together to better understand our shared neighborhoods, small businesses, and culture so we can all thrive in Detroit.
This union is centered on creating a stronger and relentlessly local journalism ecosystem. A strong community is an informed community. A thriving Detroit is one where information is democratized and seen as a necessity. We can see the decline of local news as the beginning of the end, or we can choose to be radical about how we work together–we’ve chosen the latter. Together with Detour, we are ready to build towards a thriving new future. We hope you will join us along the way.
Candice Fortman, Executive Director
Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Outlier Media and Detour Detroit are excited to announce we are combining our organizations in an effort to grow the future of independent local journalism in Detroit — together.
Founded in 2016 by Sarah Alvarez, Outlier Media is a Detroit-based journalism organization delivering actionable information and reporting that Detroit residents can use to meet their challenges and achieve their goals. Outlier Media uses information needs assessments, resident engagement, investigative reporting and a text messaging service to bring a new kind of accountability to the Detroit journalism landscape.
“We are thrilled that only one year after our first large investment, we are able to spread those resources to some of the best in the local news industry and our frequent collaborators, the women behind Detour Detroit,” Alvarez said. “We’re dedicated to reimagining local news for Detroit and making sure all Detroiters have access to the information and accountability they deserve. This decision moves us closer to that goal.”
Detour Detroit was founded by Ashley Woods Branch and Kate Abbey-Lambertz as one of the first newsletter startups focused on a single city. First funded through a 2018 seed investment led by Silicon Valley-based tech news startup The Information, Detour’s vision for curated newsletters for Detroit millennials – sharp but lighthearted and accessible – expanded to include equitable, community-powered reporting; award-winning audience engagement practices; and an events program focused on service for a devoted community of members. They have since grown the organization through a mix of foundation funding, local advertising and the support of more than 600 members and individual donors.
“In the last few years, watching how Outlier fulfills their mission to serve Detroiters has been a true inspiration for our work,” said Abbey-Lambertz, Detour cofounder. “It’s an honor to join forces with some of the most conscientious, collaborative and visionary people working in news to double down on that mission – for Detour’s readers, Outlier’s and Detroit as a whole.”
Going forward, the Detour Detroit newsletter, Detroit Development Tracker and other Detour products will be published under the Outlier Media umbrella.
Identified by the New York Times as an organization “rebuilding local news from the ground up,” Outlier is a trailblazer in filling information gaps and reaching audiences legacy newsrooms have chronically undervalued. Over the past year and prior to this announcement, Outlier added two staff members on the business and revenue side and four to the editorial team. Much of this growth was spurred by a nearly million dollar investment from the American Journalism Project in April 2021.
What the future holds
Woods Branch will serve as senior director of audience and growth for Outlier, a position that creates a bridge between audience, editorial and revenue; Abbey-Lambertz will manage the future of news tools and reach into the community as product strategy and engagement manager. Alvarez, who is editor-in-chief, and Candice Fortman, who is executive director, will continue to serve in their existing roles. (See the full staff list here).
In the coming months, the organization will launch a new website and membership program. It will continue to serve Detroiters with community-centered, high-quality information and events.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Outlier and Detour joining?
There aren’t many – if any – examples of this kind of hyper-local indie media merger, but we believe being stronger and working with a bigger team will help us better serve readers and make a difference in the community we love.
What reporting can we expect to see?
We will continue to turn to the residents of Detroit as our collective assignment editor, tailoring our beats to the areas our information needs assessment to identify as info or accountability gaps. Right now, that means we focus primarily on housing, utilities, transportation and city and county government. We will reassess these needs later this spring. With the Detour team on board, we can also begin to deliver journalism and events that encourage Detroiters to thrive by connecting them with the arts, culture and community that make Detroit special. As always we are dedicated to reimagining local news as an accessible utility of civic life.
Will we continue to see the kind of work Detour started in Detroit?
Ash, Kate and the Detour newsletter will still be here, with some expanded coverage and many of the reporters you’ve come to know through the Detour newsletters continuing as contributors.
What is the best way to support this work?
Sign up for Detroit Documenters and help us create civic infrastructure. If you would like to donate to support our work, you can make a tax-deductible donation on our dedicated donation page.
What is Outlier’s business model?
Outlier is currently fiscally sponsored by MuckRock Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit journalism organization. In February 2022 Outlier filed paperwork to become an independent 501(c)(3).