Detroit Documenters Take a Closer Look at Public Meetings

Documenter David Palmer discusses bridging the gap between public meetings and newsrooms.

Detroit Documenters is a paid program that aims to increase civic engagement by training people to take notes and live-tweet public meetings. Information gathered by Documenters is used by journalists across newsrooms in Detroit. 

Meta Stange
Meta Stange

Detroit’s Documenters have been busy covering Detroit’s city council meetings. Documenter David Palmer, an associate broker and real estate agent who works with nonprofits in Detroit, has been part of the program since 2019. He joined WDET’s Nargis Rahman to discuss his work and what it means to be a Documenter. 

Palmer has live-tweeted and taken notes on everything from Detroit’s city council meetings to subcommittee meetings on operations, neighborhood and community services, and planning and economic development. He’s also documented meetings like for the Detroit Land Bank Authority and Great Lakes Water Authority. 

“For almost every case I have been the only person in the room connected to the media,” he says.

Interested in learning more about the program or joining Documenters? Get more information »

Palmer says the meetings take place during odd times during the day, which often leaves people in the dark about city happenings. “Having Documenters attend these meetings to organize the information I think is a key public service,” says Palmer.

He explains that some public officials have become comfortable with not having the public attending meetings regularly. “When there are super large turnouts for meetings you definitely see a different demeanor from commissions and public boards when the public is there,” Palmer notes.

For Palmer, one big point of pride in his work with the Documenter’s program is his ability to support newsrooms, “Documenters is a way for normal humans and the public to get trained on basic criteria, to go out and record this information and feed it up to the journalists who can then use that as a potential seed that sprouts as a story down the line.”  

Watch the full interview:

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.