Detroit Documenters, a program that trains and pays citizens to attend and document public meetings, is growing. Documenters began in Detroit in 2018 and now has grown into a community of more than 100 Documenters and multiple media partners.
Jimmy Gutierrez, Director of Audience at Outlier Media, is working to expand the number of Documenters in Detroit. Gutierrez is a former firefighter and a journalist who worked for New Hampshire Public Radio, among other projects for the past six years. He is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He says community-driven information gathering is a part of journalism and civic engagement.
“I think that you know there’s a really cool moment happening right now to readmit reimagining like journalism and bringing in residents and everyday people into the fold and learning how to report on public government, and I think that’s what the Documenters program is all about,” he says.
He says the hope is to create a strong group of core Documenters whose presence grows.
“Documenters which are incredible people that cover public meetings and take detailed notes that live tweet what’s happening really sharing like that nitty-gritty of what’s happening in those meetings that maybe people don’t want to sit through because it can be a little dense, admittedly, there’s a lot of jargon and pulling, what’s really important and what … would be helpful for people to know,” he says.
He says creating digestible information will help people stay more informed and hold elected officials accountable. He says Documenters is an opportunity to get paid and become a part of a community.
“Become a part of the public record, become a part of local journalism,” he says.
He says Documenters play an integral part in how the program will move forward.
“The goal is just to kind of let the Documenters themselves shape … what they’re learning and … what we’re providing,” he says.