WSW: On The Ground In Kalamazoo's Edison Neighborhood

May 9, 2018

Mural in Kalamazoo's Edison Neighborhood
Credit Fran Dwight / Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave Managing Editor Kathy Jennings says the On the Ground Project launched by Issue Media Group is old-fashioned “shoe leather journalism.” Spending a lot of time “getting to know people and what’s important to them.”

Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave is featuring stories from Kalamazoo’s Edison Neighborhood as part of the latest On the Ground Project. Issue Media Group is the parent company for Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave.

Jennings says the idea for On the Ground was first used at Issue Media Group’s Philadelphia publication. She says it’s important that the community is involved in the project so the stories present a more complete picture.

Theresa Coty O’Neill is the Project Editor for the On the Ground Project in Edison. She has been working on stories about the neighborhood’s people, businesses and culture. Coty O’Neill says Edison is diverse racially and economically. She says you can find LGBT, disabled and seniors living together on a single block. She says people in Edison seem to make an effort to get to know their neighbors and help them.

The On the Ground Team in Edison left to right - Vicki Kettner, Engagement Manager, Theresa Coty O'Neill, Project Editor and Kathy Jennings, Managing Editor
Credit Courtesy Photo / Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

One of the stories already published focuses on two women running non-profits in Edison. Pamela Jenkins started Intrepid. Coty O’Neill says it focuses on helping veterans, ex-offenders and people whose children have aged out of eligibility for many government services. Coty O’Neill says that includes financial literacy and other life skills. Coty O’Neill says Rooted was started by Kama Tai Mitchell in part out of her passion for social justice. Rooted offers doula services and birth education, as well as workshops and classes on African dance and drumming.

Rooted is located in Jericho town, which is the subject of its own story. Coty O’Neill describes it as “a little mini Seattle.” Jeb and Krystal Gast brought the three factory buildings after moving to Kalamazoo from Seattle because of the Kalamazoo Promise. It now includes artists, tradespeople and small businesses, including Fido Motors launched by Jeb Gast. Coty O’Neill says putting them all in the same place leads to collaboration and energy.

Coty O’Neill says future stories will focus on access for people with disabilities in Edison, an ex-gang member who has become a pastor and works with Urban Alliance, the Washington Writers Academy new building and change to a year-round schedule, and what the current climate surrounding immigration means for Edison’s significant Hispanic population.

Jennings says part of the on the ground project is training neighborhood residents to be “community correspondents.” Jennings says they will be given some basic journalism training, and then start producing stories for Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave. She says some already have ideas for stories they want to develop.

After Edison, Jennings says the On the Ground project will move to Kalamazoo’s Northside. She says the plan for next year is to embed a reporter in the Vine and Eastside Neighborhoods.