2019 has been a marathon of a news year. And it wasn’t just impeachment.
This past year, 101.9 WDET reported at a marijuana industry convention in Detroit, on the migrant crisis at the Southern border of the U.S., and down the street from our Midtown studios on a racial discrimination lawsuit against Founders’ Brewing taproom.
Our online audience may digest our news in different ways — streaming and reading stories at wdet.org, on NPR One, over a Google Home or Amazon Alexa or through our podcasts like MichMash and Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson, but there were some clear stories and local news events that stood out no matter the medium.
Here’s our top stories, news and issues of 2019.
TOP ISSUE OF 2019
Rising Tides Cause Flooding, Property Damage and Climate Grief
In 2019, WDET’s listeners and readers zeroed in on the dramatic effects of a warming planet.
This summer, WDET’s Pat Batcheller reported on Great Lakes water levels reaching historic highs, after fluctuating for years, threatening homeowners along Lake Erie and Lake St. Claire with flooding and property damage.
Elsewhere, WDET’s Eli Newman saw what flooding looks like in Jefferson-Chalmers, where residents saw water flowing into basements and homes. Residents said city officials were not doing enough to address the problem.
“My issue is blame,” says Caroline Hardy-Grannum, a longtime resident of the area whose basement has about two feet of water in it. “We all recognize what the canals are going to do. It has been predicted. But not what the drains are going to do.”
For people around the world, standing up against climate change became a political moment. But others, Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson found, suffered from “ecological grief” brought on by wildlife loss and environmental change.
TOP STORY OF 2019
“I don’t want the church to go away. It’s broken everybody’s heart.”
WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter reported on how Center Line’s St. Clement Church could face closure due to budget concerns. He attended mass one Sunday to hear what parishioners thought.
“It’s a beautiful church, everybody’s friendly,” Kelly Kannan said, her voice stained with tears. “Beautiful church, I don’t want the church to go away. Stay here. [The thought of it closing,] it’s broken everybody’s heart.”
It was one of our most-listened to and read stories of 2019, sparking discussions around architecture, faith, community and the preservation of historic spaces.
TOP LOCAL NEWS EVENTS OF 2019
From automotive mergers to legal marijuana and budget stalemate in Lansing, WDET’s airwaves wasn’t short on local news to bring to our listeners. Here are the top news events and trends of 2019, as determined by our audience through page clicks, listens and shares.
Gov. Whitmer’s First Term
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has had a memorable first-term, with her signature .45-cent gas tax increase to fund road improvements getting caught up in budget haggling, the threat of a state shutdown, and eventually leading to her issuing nearly a billion dollars in line-item vetoes in a Republican-passed state budget.
Waiting for Legal, Recreational Marijuana
Legalization of recreational marijuana may have passed at the ballot box last year, but it quickly became apparent that customers would have to wait for the industry to get set up.
Gerrymandering and Redistricting Commission
Despite an anti-gerrymandering ballot measure that creates a redistricting commission to draw political maps passing last year, the practice continues to threaten representation in Michigan.
First, a US Supreme Court decision passed down said that federal courts cannot intervene in partisan gerrymandering cases. The decision involved cases out of Maryland and North Carolina, but it had a major impact on a case that was waiting appeal in Michigan.
FCA Merges with Peugeot
The announcement of Fiat Chrysler’s merger with French automaker Peugeot turned heads around the world, but particularly here in metro Detroit.
One expert thinks the merger is representative of the future of the auto industry.
UAW Goes On Strike
WDET’s Laura Herberg wanted to show the human side of what a labor action looks like. She reported on what strikers do in their spare time and spoke to workers striking outside GM’s Warren Transmission Operations facility.
The strike ended up lasting a month and costing the state $18.5 million in lost income tax and wages.
Editor’s note: WDET reporters are members of the Professional and Administrative Union, Local 1979, UAW
This General Motors Worker Had Worked for 35 Years When His Plant Was Shut Down. Now, He’s Striking.
Of course, no listing of news events in 2019 would be complete without the impeachment of President Donald Trump, only the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
The President’s first stop after being impeached was Battle Creek, Mich. for a planned rally. The vote draws attention to Michigan’s Democratic Congressional delegation, specifically Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens, two red-to-blue 2018 swing districts.
But this story will continue in 2020, as the Senate tries Trump on the two articles of impeachment.