We always try to be transparent about how we make choices about Outlier’s news coverage. For our day-to-day, it’s very clear. We follow the need and work to fill information gaps, which keeps most of our reporting focused on housing, utilities and transportation. We also respond when issues arise that are likely to cause harm or just have a big impact — from COVID-19 to the United Auto Workers strikes.
We’re a relatively small and very focused newsroom. Events unfolding in the state, the country and the world at large may get the personal attention of people who work at Outlier, but that doesn’t guarantee we devote newsroom resources to those issues. Our job is to focus first on long-standing issues and harm in the city of Detroit while providing information and resources to help Detroiters meet their challenges and thrive.
The situation unfolding in Israel and Palestine is different. It’s a global concern with a significant local impact, felt particularly in the large Jewish, Muslim and Arab American communities in the city and the metro area. We are trying to figure out how best to cover the local angles and events, and we are being intentional and careful.
We’re not afraid of making people upset. We’re afraid of getting something wrong and causing harm. We don’t have reporters in Palestine or Israel, and we don’t want to contribute to the spread of misinformation or amplify hateful rhetoric.
We know the way national and international media has covered the Middle East has led to real harm in the past and is causing harm now. We are a diverse staff full of people who have been harmed by media-fueled Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism and mistreatment based on the identities we hold. We don’t want our work to dehumanize or fuel division.
This means we are going to keep our scope limited. We can respond to questions and concerns from metro Detroiters. We can amplify local events — be they protests, relief efforts, community building or policy changes. We may also be called upon to report on the effects of this conflict on residents and their families here and abroad.
We will always make choices based on the information we have. For example, up until now, when we have reported on the number of people presumed dead, a number we are sourcing from the United Nations, we have used just one collective number. We know these death tolls are likely incomplete, but we reported them in this manner to clarify that no death is more or less important. However, if there is not a ceasefire or more serious efforts to protect civilians in Gaza from Israel’s military retribution, the death toll will jump, and the losses will be even more disproportionately Palestinian. We hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we will make sure that context is included in our reporting.
We are doing our best to be careful about language. We are using guidance from the Associated Press, but we are making our own decisions, too.
For example, We have called what is happening a war. That does not negate that it started with a Hamas-led massacre and the brutal response by Israel is also a massacre. These words are not interchangeable and we’re trying to use them appropriately. Our language will evolve with events. We are not shying away from the historic context of the harm done to people living under Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories. We also respect that the Jewish homeland was created after a genocide. We won’t shy away from this history but our reporting is not going to adjudicate it.
We are leaning into this principle, a best practice called out by Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride in Poynter, that says it is best to “recognize that it is important to include the most complete version of events. Noting the long-standing suffering of the residents of Gaza does not negate the horror of the attack on Israeli citizens.”
If there is coverage you want or need, if you are concerned about misinformation or you want to talk about the language we use, we are listening. Reach out to editor-in-chief Sarah Alvarez at email@example.com.
We are hoping for peace, and we want the same for people around the world as we want for Detroit: liberated communities with healthy civic infrastructure rooted in participation and self-determination.
— The Outlier staff