The media landscape in Michigan saw a significant shift on Feb. 4 with the arrival of Michigan Capitol Confidential's new daily online reporting. As newsrooms shrink and capital coverage wanes, Michigan residents now have an alternative to the "bigger government" remedies when it comes to policy debates.
MichCapCon.com reports on the public officials who seek to limit government, those who do not and those whose votes are at odds with what they tell their constituents. It is a substantial expansion of the very successful print publication of the same name, which has been published every two months since the fall of 2007. The print version will continue to be published.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm's annual "State of the State" address more specifically the TEA Party demonstration outside was the focus of the first day's coverage. Unlike any other news source, MichCapCon.com provided both video and extensive written reports of what the residents on the steps of the Capitol were saying, rather than what the politicians inside were applauding. Managing Editor Ken Braun compared the two gatherings to a formal wedding reception and a rowdy football tailgate.
The online team was strengthened by the addition of Tom Gantert, formerly of The Ann Arbor News, Lansing State Journal and Reporting Michigan. Gantert has more than two decades of experience covering news and politics in Michigan. Former Mackinac Center intern Jarrett Skorup also joined the team as the director of online engagement, with a dual role of marketing and managing the technical end of the Web site.
Among the original MichCapCon.com stories provided to readers in its first few weeks were:
- The city of Flint, one of the nation's most crime-ridden communities, is getting more federal stimulus money for its bus line than for its police department.
- Members of the Michigan House who first took office in 2005 are getting stopped for alcohol-related driving offenses at a rate that is twice the state average.
- A member of Michigan's congressional delegation publicly swore off earmarks because of an earlier Michigan Capitol Confidential story.
- The state Senate rejected a proposal that would have saved money for local governments but was opposed by big labor.
- Increased unemployment payments in Michigan will produce a tax on hiring workers because the state will pay back money borrowed from the federal government with a tax increase on job providers.
In addition to at least one new, original story each day, MichCapCon.com provides a constantly updated "News and Views" aggregator of stories from other sources; a new "Video of the Day" selected from the Mackinac Center and other sites; and a "Just a Bill" selection from MichiganVotes.org.
In addition to visiting the page each day, readers may keep up with MichCapCon.com through a daily e-mail, RSS feed and regular Facebook page updates. Even before the daily news site launched, the Facebook page acquired more than 1,000 "fans," most of whom were getting the print publication and were eager to check out the online version.
After less than one month, the Facebook page had more than 1,700 fans, and the daily e-mail sign ups had exceeded 500. Each continues to grow steadily.
As news coverage in our state capital dwindles, it is increasingly important to have outside scrutiny of our elected officials and government bureaucracies. The MichCapCon.com team is in place to help fill that void. Readers can expect balanced, substantive reporting, aided by insightful analysis, hard data and legal expertise.