More than 100 readers helped us better understand what our audience needs and want from Detour’s reporting and newsletter by taking our survey last month. We released the survey shortly after Detour joined forces with Outlier Media as an opportunity for us to learn and then double down on Detour’s, and Outlier’s, mission to serve readers. We want our news coverage to reflect your needs. Our organization has changed, but those aims haven’t. 

Below, find highlights and themes we heard. Though we certainly receive plenty of constructive criticism, these responses tended toward the complimentary side. We love to hear nice things, but more importantly, your descriptions of how Detour brings you value at its best are a mandate and give us something to strive for weekly. 

If you took the survey, thank you so much for spending the time – your thoughtful comments are truly motivating us to think more deeply and do our best work. (And shoutout to Paul G., who was randomly selected to win a gift card to The Congregation!) If you didn’t take the survey – and particularly if you don’t see your experience as a Detour reader well represented by these responses – please reach out and share your thoughts. You can always email me at kate@outliermedia.org

How you read (and use) Detour

More than 86% of survey respondents said they read Detour to get up to speed on local news. We also heard that people read the newsletter to learn about Detroiters with great projects in the city, understand history and context about Detroit issues and find things to do around town. 

Chart showing responses to "I read Detour to..." Most popular response is "get up to speed on major local news."

In a similar vein, the format readers most appreciate is brief news roundups. Close to 60% of respondents also said they like explainers, FAQs and short reported articles. Features, Q&As, longer articles and opinion pieces were lower on the list. 

It’s a good thing short news rounds are our bread and butter, and in the coming months we’ll be focusing more on guides, explainers and other formats that can serve as longer-lasting resources.

After reading Detour, readers often said they send the newsletter or an article to a friend or further educate themselves about a topic. Readers have also planned outings, made donations to causes or accessed resources (like grant funding or COVID-19 tests) they learned about in the newsletter.

Chart showing responses to "In the past, after I've read Detour, I have..." The most common response was "Further educated myself."

In the past couple Detour newsletters, you may have noticed a new format we hope will make it easier to take these steps. The Detroit in Five news roundup section is still focused on getting you up to speed on local events, but now will also selectively highlight opportunities to learn more, join causes or find related resources. We want to make it easy for you to go deeper or take action on the topics you care about, and understand their significance outside of the news cycle. 


Topics you want Detour to cover

The topic readers said they most want to see in Detour is arts and culture, followed closely by activism and nonprofit efforts, as well as city government issues. We hear you! From our new home at Outlier, we’re working closely with the Detroit Documenters (and soon, with our incoming city and county government reporter) and have been bringing more insights from their public meeting notes to the Detour newsletter. 

Chart showing responses to survey question about topics readers want Detour to cover. Arts and culture ranked highest.

After handing off the Get Busy events newsletter to Kelsey Hubbell (sign up here!), we’ve also been highlighting more arts, culture, events, entertainment and community projects in the Detour newsletter. If there are particular things you’d like to see – same goes for nonprofits, activism and other topics – let us know.

We also asked some open-ended questions about what readers want us to cover and what questions we could answer. The answers, from specific story ideas to broader agendas, were incredibly instructive – and put a lot of story ideas on our to-do list. 


Questions about your community and local government 

The most common themes that came up in responses to this question were: 

  • Accountable government: What leaders are doing and how public funding is spent, elected officials’ actions and views, voting and elections.
  • Creating an equitable city: Ensuring Detroiters can remain in their homes, avoiding gentrification, environmental justice and other measures.
  • Getting involved: Things to do, neighborhood spotlights, volunteer opportunities and more.

Here are just a few of the thoughtful answers shared in the survey: 

“How do I get involved in a meaningful way? What does police accountability look like on a local scale?”

“How can we push city government to be more transparent and honest about their agenda?”

“I’d love a series about different neighborhoods that applies your style and spreads the love around.”


Stories that readers would like to see told about their community 

The most common themes that came up in responses to this question were: 

  • Community, especially stories about new businesses, “regular” Detroiters making change, other inspiring people and projects.
  • More government and elections coverage: Races, redistricting, specific city policy initiatives.
  • Detroiters and neighborhoods: Issues that affect longtime residents and a stronger focus on neighborhoods outside the greater downtown area.
  • Accountability for local government and beyond: More scrutiny of actors like large landlords and business owners, polluters and more.

Here are just a few of the thoughtful answers shared in the survey: 

“More stories about Detroiters who are doing innovative and creative things to make the city a better place.”

“How to make Detroit more attractive/liveable for senior citizens. How to improve/fix the public schools so that young adults stay in Detroit when they have children.”

“Coverage of these contested congressional races, issues of equity in the city and outlying suburbs, the increases in investor-purchased real estate in communities of color in the past year, etc.”

“How young people are doing/seeing the world right now. The need for home repairs that get homes ready for the energy transition.”


Why you read Detour

We also asked what tone resonates with readers most, and “analytical” was the most frequently selected option. The seven “other” responses reflected strong journalistic values, including several mentions each of “informative” and “honest.”

How do readers feel after reading Detour? It’s a bit of a warm-and-fuzzy question for a news outlet, but, with the levels of news fatigue and the ways (mostly national) coverage can contribute to polarization, we think it matters. Even when the news is rough, we don’t think we’re succeeding if we only leave you feeling depressed or angry. 

The answers to this question varied, but hit a lot of similar notes: 

More than 50 respondents said they felt “informed” after reading Detour or used similar words, like “educated.” About 20 mentioned some variation of feeling “connected” to their city, community or local issues. Other responses that we loved to hear: “Inspired,” “upbeat,” “grateful,” “excited,” “curious,” “fired up,” “encouraged,” “empowered,” “optimistic” and “proud of Detroit and its residents.”

We also asked how Detour is distinct from other sources readers use for news and information. Around 40 responses included some variation of “local” or “hyper-local.” That won’t be changing anytime soon, and the overwhelming response has compelled us to carefully consider how we define local. 

Several respondents talked about the value of having a news digest, with the ability to go deeper only when they’re interested. And another 20-plus people said that Detour is a distinct news source for them because it’s “conversational,” “approachable,” “accessible,” “like talking to a friend” or similar. 

We’ll always aim to make it easy – and even a little entertaining – for you to stay informed and connected to what’s happening in Detroit. 

Your news pals, 

Kate, Ash and the Outlier team