Detroit Documenters Provides the Community and Newsrooms With Meeting Information

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Documenter Jacinda Cason says one reason the Documenters program is so valuable is because it would be impossible for one person to attend all the meetings Documenters cover.

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Courtesy of Jacinda Cason
Courtesy of Jacinda Cason

Jacinda Cason is the field director of Michigan Voices. She’s also a Detroit Documenter, who has been taking notes and live-tweeting public meetings since 2018, making the information more widely available to the public and to newsrooms across Detroit. She joined WDET’s Nargis Rahman to talk about her experiences as a Documenter.

The Chicago native says she joined the program as someone who was already interested in attending meetings as a community member. She was drawn to being able to share what she learned with others on Documenters.org, while also getting paid for attending meetings. 

I’m like what a better way to get all of this on record instead of me going to the meetings by myself and having that information just help within that room, and then me maybe mentioning it on Facebook or any type of social media platform,” she says.

It’s a great medium for people who don’t have access to the meetings, don’t have time to go to the meetings or might have a scheduling conflict, that the information is out there in a different forum in a different medium for them to access the information.” — Jacinda Cason

Cason has taken notes for two Detroit charter committee meetings and one redistricting meeting. She says she’s noticed that Detroit’s political landscape is similar to Chicago.

It’s really trying to turn into a well-oiled machine where the constituents really don’t have a say in what happens to their cities and they are actually almost beholden to decisions being made for them instead of being part of the decision making themselves as taxpaying residents.”

She says being in the room and later seeing the meetings covered in the news has been concerning to her as a Detroiter. 

Going to some of the meetings and actually seeing what’s taking place and then seeing what’s reported on a news has been contradictory, very upsetting, and sometimes disconcerting when I’m like ‘but that’s not what happened’ and they are just putting a soundbite on the news,” she says.

Cason says Documenters provides a “breadth of information,” with notes, live tweets, and sometimes videos of public meetings. “It’s a great medium for people who don’t have access to the meetings, don’t have time to go to the meetings or might have a scheduling conflict, that the information is out there in a different forum in a different medium for them to access the information,” Cason says.

She says it would be impossible for one person to attend all the meetings and topics Documenters has covered, including education, budgeting, charter commissions, police commissioner, redistricting, planning, water, and more. 

If there is a subject that someone is interested in, they can just go onto the Documenters.org and look at one of the meetings and look at the subject matter of what they are interested in just so they can stay up-to-date about what’s happening,” she says.

Watch WDET’s Nargis Rahman’s full conversation with Jacinda Cason:

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Nargis Hakim Rahman, Civic Reporter

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.

Follow @NargisTheWriter

Detroit Documenters

This post is a part of Detroit Documenters .

WDET is partnering with City Bureau and CitizenDetroit on a civic journalism project to increase awareness and coverage of public meetings in Detroit. Detroit Documenters trains and pays highly engaged citizens to participate in the newsgathering process and contribute to a new public record for the city. Learn more and sign up at Documenters.org

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