Early this month, in the days after Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he’d be moving forward with a plan to require thousands of Detroit businesses to buy into a costly surveillance program intended to reduce crime, a sponsored post that looked favorably upon the program appeared at the top of our Facebook timeline.
The linked content—“Inside the Real Time Crime Center, DPD’s 24-hour monitoring station”—had all of the trappings of a news story. There was a headline, a byline, a mix of quotes and information. It was published at a site called “theneighborhoods.org,” suggesting it may have been the work of a community news nonprofit.
But the story was not journalism. It was written by the Detroit city government—more specifically, its “Storytelling” department.
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