Since 2021, the Detroit Documenters program has trained more than 300 people living in Detroit and its surrounding area to attend local and regional government/agency meetings to take notes or live Tweet what takes place during those meetings. It’s an ideal “civic side hustle” for anyone who lives in the area.
When Detroit Documenters Coordinators Noah Kincade and Lynelle Herndon — who were Documenters before they became employees of Outlier Media — solicited ideas for explainers or guides that would be beneficial for Detroiters, Sonja Stuckey had an idea. She wanted the Documenters to produce a non-partisan voting guide. She came to the discussion table with deep background research and a massive outline for how it could work. With the help of Kincade, Herndon, Malak Silmi (Outlier Media’s Report for America corps member) and several Outlier editors, Stuckey’s idea was defined and eventually turned into several manageable special assignments for her fellow Documenters.
From idea to execution, the project took about a month to complete. We announced that special assignments would be on the way. Interest in being part of the voting guide project was high; 15 Documenters signed up. They had a week to apply and a week to research, write and submit their content. This was a nice alternative for Documenters who may not be able to sign up to cover as many government meetings as they would like because of their personal schedules. Further, as Documenters are used to turning in assignments within 24 hours, having a week to complete an assignment was a generous change of pace.
Parts of the voting guide explained the importance of a primary election; helped Detroiters consider their own values and priorities; and clarified the power of public officials. The guide also taught readers how to research candidates and how to cast their ballot in person or as an absentee voter.
We consider it the project of the year — so far.
“Our Documenters are full of great ideas,” Herndon said. “It was just one that was timely and something that could be collaborated on. So, it was just perfect.”