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Michigan US Senator Stabenow Talks About The Importance Of Local Journalism

Debbie Stabenow
Wikipedia Media Commons

Where and how we get our news continues to evolve. WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks with Michigan US Senator Debbie Stabenow about the importance of reliable and local news that can be heard on WEMU.


Lisa Barry: Do you ever stop to take in that we're living in a time when so much history is being made? Some people may be more aware of that than others. This is Lisa Barry. And as a longtime journalist and Radio On-Air host, I've seen a lot of changes in how the news is presented. And our guests joining us right now may not remember how long I've been covering her since her days in the state legislature, but I know we have both experienced this changed from both sides. I'm talking to Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and I have fond memories of talking to you for a radio news interview. Let's say a few decades ago. But I've I've certainly seen how local journalism has changed on my end. And I'm sure that is something you could speak to as well from the other side. Senator Stabenow?

Debbie Stabenow: Well, absolutely. And this is good to talk with you again. We have, in fact, time many, many times and really important subjects so that the people in Michigan care about. So I. I do think that you are exactly right that we've seen so many changes. And what I worry about is that we've got to make sure we don't lose the local connection where and that's what WEMU is really all about, is speaking to what's happening in the community with local businesses, with families. When we look at all the ways the current crisis has been covered by the news and so on, is the local news is WEMU that can speak and does speak to what is happening in the local schools where families and businesses that are having to close and all of the things that directly relate to us, local sports, how the big news affects each of us in our community. And of course, in the larger sense, what we have right now is, you know, national media sources, social media sources that quite honestly, our opinions that are not news and it's getting more and more confusing and difficult to really wade through. What is somebody's opinion? What is the group's opinion versus fact and what is actually news? And I'm concerned about that as well. I think that really has created and encourage more and more of the divisions that we see because we're not listening to the same information in terms of facts and then forming an opinion. It's the opposite. So local news is one way to really keep this real and keep it factual and really share information that everyone needs to have and really can count on.

Lisa Barry: You make so many good points there. And one of the reasons I value working in WEMU is because there's no hidden agenda, no bottom line profit goal other than to sustain serving our listeners and if we get really lucky, enhance what we're able to do. So I appreciate you take the time to talk to us about that today.

Debbie Stabenow: Well, absolutely. And as you said, you know, I mean, I think with the big whether it's cable news or about, you know, the big news shows and so on, you know, we hear about the sensational headline because it gets more people to watch. But listen, it's all about the commercials and the profits and and people will say, well, why don't we hear the good news? Well, you know, the people feel they've got to talk about the most extreme situation in order to get people to watch their program or listen to their program. And that doesn't serve us well when there's all kinds of wonderful positive news stories going on, things in the community that we would love to know about. But somehow somebody doesn't think it's going to make a profit for them.

Lisa Barry: You use the keyword community and community and connection is what we're really all about here on WEMU. And I appreciate you, Senator Debbie Stabenow agreeing to an interview with us after what went down at the U.S. Capitol January six. You were inside the building that day and I spoke to you the next day. And I think that demonstrates the power of community and connection that that you agree to speak to our listeners about what happened and we can keep the accurate information flowing.

Debbie Stabenow: Yes. Well, and again, on that particular story, I mean, what was important is that that it really did happen and there really were about a thousand people in the Capitol, many of them very, very dangerous. That came with the specific goal of trying to overturn an American election in whatever way they needed to. And that was an attack by folks that were given a tremendous amount of misinformation. A big lie was told in certain parts of the media. Repeated over and over and over again, people who supported the former president believed that because he said it and media outlets said it, even though it's not accurate at all. So a lot of forces came together in that day. And the most important thing is that we support the officers that were there in the front lines, which I do deeply, and that we make sure this doesn't happen again.

Lisa Barry: As I said at the start of this interview, if you're aware, you realize how much history we are have been in the middle of in our lifetimes. And as you as a state representative and all the different positions you held up to Michigan's first female U.S. senator, you experience a little history yourself last week with a special dinner with our first female vice president.

Debbie Stabenow: It was really wonderful. It was really fun. First of all, I have to say that one of the meaningful things that happened here for me is that the women of the Senate, on a bipartisan basis over the years, have gotten together for dinner every month or so. And it's really just a chance to connect as women and share what's happening in our lives as well as what course, what we're interested in and so on. But it's not business. It's just a chance to connect and build trust and relationship. So our vice president was a part of that when she was in the Senate and really loved it and decided that she wanted her first official dinner at the residence, the vice president's residence, to be with the women senators. So it was really terrific. It was almost everyone was able to come, Democrats and Republicans. She put a lot of special touches into it. I could tell it really meant a lot to her, even cooking cheese puffs, which is one of her favorite things. She loves to cook and stew and cook the whole dinner, but she did cook a special cheese cup recipe that she has family recipe itself. So that was fun and it was really a historic moment. First woman serving as vice president of our country and women around the table, the majority of the 24 of us and people, women in both parties were genuinely pleased and proud to be there.

Lisa Barry: Well, you said something else very important about building trust and building relationships. And that's what we're all about here on WEMU. So Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, we so appreciate you taking the time to talk to us during our fiscal year and fundraiser and making yourself available so we can continue to provide local fact based information to our listeners. So thank you so much.

Debbie Stabenow: Well, thank you for what you do every day.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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