When Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took office, he asked the press to help create a positive image of Detroit. What he didn’t say is how he’d respond if the media disobeyed. At least one reporter, the Detroit News’ Darci McConnell, is finding out following a string of hard-hitting stories. Recently, McConnell co-wrote a trenchant front page analysis of Kilpatrick’s first six months in office. Five days later, the mayor met with News publisher Mark Silverman to complain. Bob Berg, who ran Kilpatrick’s election campaign and still advises him, says he arranged a lunch meeting. Berg wouldn’t comment further, but according to sources, Kilpatrick was peeved about McConnell’s work. Neither Kilpatrick nor Silverman was available for comment; McConnell didn’t want to discuss the matter. News Hits’ sources say Silverman stood by McConnell and told his reporters after the meeting to keep up the good work.
Kilpatrick’s new spokesman, Jamaine Dickens, wouldn’t even confirm that the meeting took place. Dickens says the mayor is concerned about all coverage. “Basically, the media shapes opinions of any administration, not only locally but nationally. If we are going to move this city forward and recruit big business and development to Detroit, we really have to be careful,” said Dickens. “The mayor fully expects that when criticism is due, he expects the press to be all over it. We want to be held accountable for every action we take. We also want to be held accountable for the progress we make.” Though McConnell is the focus of Kilpatrick’s current discontent, it is common for him to criticize the press in his public addresses. In his State of the City address, Kilpatrick defended himself against two Free Press stories, and at a recent press conference he snapped at Freep reporter M.L. Elrick for describing the casino deal as a “disaster.” Asked if there’s a problem with the News in particular, Dickens said the daily “is a conservative paper and always will be a conservative paper, and will always view us from that standpoint.”
Yada, yada. In New Hits’ not-so-humble opinion, the mayor has nothing to complain about. He’s enjoyed a long and leisurely honeymoon, and if he thinks otherwise, he’s more naive that we imagined. Here’s a little free media consulting for the Kwamster: If you want the press to help you, try helping the press. Build some trust. Return phone calls. Provide straight answers, not platitudes. And you won’t get sympathy from any ink-stained wretches by whining to a publisher. Quite the contrary.Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org