By Ryan Isakow
Detroit’s announcement that it will seek bankruptcy protection, the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, has received a flurry of media coverage. It’s still an open question on how the bankruptcy will affect the city, but right now we can look at how much attention Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing have received in response to Detroit’s woes.
It’s no surprise that the Governor has received more media attention than Mayor Dave Bing, but Bing’s lackluster coverage in the aftermath of the bankruptcy is strange. This is likely the result of Kevyn Orr’s appointment as Detroit’s emergency manager on March 14th of this year.
Emergency managers, which have been controversial in Michigan, have the authority to initiate bankruptcy proceedings, change budgets without legislative approval, privatize public assets, hire and fire government employees, and renegotiate labor contracts. Due to the financial power of the emergency manager, the city government has less of a role in the bankruptcy than it normally would, thus receiving little coverage. In contrast, Rick Snyder received significant national media coverage in March, both in response to the emergency manager appointment and Michigan’s controversial “right to work” law coming into effect. While national coverage of him during the bankruptcy isn’t as high as in March, it is ten times as high as Mayor Bing.
State news coverage shows a similar, but more obvious decline in attention for Mayor Dave Bing. The fact that his state level coverage in July is the lowest in 6 months speaks to the radical change the emergency manager appointment had on reporting in Detroit. Surprisingly, thus far Governor Snyder has received less state coverage during Detroit’s bankruptcy than he did during his high profile fight over Medicaid expansion in May and June. While we do expect those numbers to rise as bankruptcy proceedings go forward and state government gets more involved, it’s also an indication that state coverage so far has focused more on local issues and the City of Detroit itself, rather than individual figures involved in the process.
That’s not to say Governor Snyder hasn’t received attention lately – he’s gone from 127 in the TrendPo rankings the day before the bankruptcy to 27 today. Dave Bing has gone from 654 to an unimpressive 605 in the same period. Detroit is electing a new mayor this November: will they be able to reclaim media coverage and standing, or is the Detroit Mayorship going to continue being ignored in favor of gubernatorial politics?
*National news data is an aggregation of national news stories from major publications. State news data is an aggregation of news stories from major state papers.