A fond farewell to Michigan Radio’s Tamar Charney and the importance of local news

Tamar Charney On the Mic

On the mic, everyone pitches in, photo by Michigan Radio

“I’ve heard many people dismiss local news as parochial ‘not in my backyard’ disputes or worse, merely coverage of the latest house fires. But there are many local stories that should, and do, become national and even international news when they are told right.
~Tamar Charney, Michigan Radio

I’ve been telling the stories of Michigan for over a decade, and one person who’s always been there digging deeper on the stories of our state that matter is Michigan Radio’s Tamar Charney. No longer, as she announced that she’s moving on to work for NPR One. Her column A farewell reflection on Flint, local news, and Michigan Radio tells why she believes that local news still matters:

…The water crisis in Flint is an example.

Michigan Radio reporters have been toiling away on this story for months. It’s taken a while for it to get traction as revelation after damning revelation came out. But eventually this ‘local’ Flint story has become international news. The problems with the drinking water have roots in racism, poverty, failures of government oversight, and our country’s aging infrastructure. These are problems shared by communities all across the nation. It’s an incident that taps into our fears about the safety of our water and of our children. It calls into question whether we can trust our government.

We look down our noses at developing countries with unsafe water. We scoff at places weighed down by corrupt and incompetent governments. We pride ourselves on our American technological know how. But here is a city, right here in the US of A, where you can’t drink the water, where government failed the people, and the technical knowledge about how to keep lead out of the water wasn’t employed.

Telling this kind of story is what Michigan Radio does. It is what local news can and should be.

There’s all kinds of cynicism about journalists. But I have to tell you, the journalists at Michigan Radio are some of the most idealistic kind hearted people I know. They got in the business because they think the world will be a better place and our democracy will work better when citizens have information. These are people committed to finding out the truth and getting answers. It saddens me that society undervalues the work journalists do and even worse, blames them for causing the problems they cover.

The Flint water problems were being swept under the rug and nothing might have been done if it weren’t for a mom, a researcher, a pediatrician, and yes, reporters. It’s a story I’m proud to say Michigan Radio has been at the forefront of telling.

In this era of vanishing local journalism, it’s good to have people like Tamar and outlets like Michigan Radio still working hard. I urge you to consider a donation to Michigan Radio.

View this photo of Tamar bigger and see more in Michigan Radio’s A Day in the Life of a Pledge Drive slideshow. You can share your photos in the Michigan Radio Photo Group as well!

5 thoughts on “A fond farewell to Michigan Radio’s Tamar Charney and the importance of local news

  1. I’m not so all knowing that I can determine if this crisis was in any way encouraged by racism, and neither does Tamar. I just cannot believe that the good people of the EPA, DEQ, or the Governor’s administration acted out of disdain for the people of Flint. I feel pity for Tamar that she does.

    On a positive note, I strongly agree that local radio is vital to a community.

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    1. I don’t want to speak for Tamar, but it’s very clear that the residents of Flint have been treated with disdain. Their complaints of over a year were repeatedly brushed off, and they were told by numerous government outlets that there was nothing wrong with their water. Was this due to race, income, or lack of political clout? I don’t know, but I wonder how much it truly matters. It’s clear that the state of Michigan has failed to protect the health of Flint’s residents in a profound and (for many) life-changing way, and I seriously doubt that this would have happened in Ann Arbor, Traverse City or any other affluent community.

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      1. I’m just as upset about this as you are, but I will not suggest the reason(s) for this are well, anything. No judgements until the facts come out. I’m certainly not an apologist for Gov. Snyder. He was good for Michigan his first term, but he’s clearly a numbers person and not a people person. What we needed for his second term was a Mike Duggan or Virg Bernero. As for the EPA and DEQ, it appears (to me) that it’s big organizations that are more interested in process than hard work.

        While it might feel good to assign blame early on, it’s not appropriate (certainly not for a person with a microphone) to speculate in a very negative way as to the causes. IMHO, that cannot be argued.

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  2. I agree Greg that their shouldn’t be a rush to convict, but I am certainly not going to say that a person who I know has impeccable integrity, has been following this story for much longer, and possessing a much greater depth of knowledge on the issue doesn’t have the right to make a statement as to what they think the problems are. It may be early for you or I to form a cogent opinion, but for the people of Flint and the staff of Michigan Radio this story has been going on since April of 2014 – almost two years. I would argue that is more than long enough to have a well-informed opinion.

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    1. My first reaction is to agree with you.

      But then, I re-read her comments and I still cannot understand how she knows that racism and poverty are part of the root cause of this fiasco. Until she can explain that, I will still disagree with her statement. And I don’t think she can. Maybe it’s in the emails. Maybe she has interviewed someone who has admitted that he or she was motivated by racism…. No, I think she has expressed an opinion.

      Maybe she can make a case for the poverty angle – certainly poverty carries many challenges, but I cannot permit myself to believe that our public servants willingly dismiss people’s needs based on their current station in life. I’m not that cynical.

      As for ‘failures of government oversight, and our country’s aging infrastructure’, I definitely agree.

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