Media Clichés: Detroiters Have 'Grit and Resilience' in a 'Gritty' City

April 16, 2015, 3:42 PM by  Alan Stamm

Another day, another national site extolling Detroit as an up-from-the-ashes miracle. 

On Instagram and its website Thursday, Microsoft "kicks off a series about entrepreneurship in the Motor City." Part One is about Zak Pashak, a Detroiter since 2010, and his Detroit Bikes company -- "part of a lively entrepreneurial scene crucial to the revival of Detroit."

"Detroit's mix of grit and opportunity" is a beacon for "tech startups, investors, artisans, foodies, shop owners and transplants," Microsoft says.

That echo, and the vastly more sophisticated spread in May's National Geographic, are preferable to the past media drumbeat of "largest municipal bankruptcy."

Microsoft focuses on Detroit start-ups to reinforce a new branding campaign with the slogan Do More, the tech giant's version of Just Do It. Microsoft is "celebrating people who break boundaries, achieve their goals, and #DoMore every day," it says.

The firm earns a point for writing about people helping "the revival of Detroit," rather than those supposedly "saving Detroit" -- a phrase ruled out-of-bounds by local urban affairs scholar Patrick Cooper-McCann in an epic tweetstorm Feb. 4.   

However, Part One suggests Microsoft will supply tasty ingredients for a Revive Detroit Drinking Game.

Tell us if this seems too easy:

► When a news site writes abut Detroit with the phrase "comeback city," "underdog" or " grit and opportunity," take a shot.

► When a site shows cyclists pedaling past Michigan Central Station, street art or the Heidelberg Project, make it a double.

► Take just a half-shot or add mixer for references to Gilbert, Cooley, Shinola and craft distillers -- too common for full pours.    

Blood alcohol content would barely rise while reading Susan Ager's magazine takeout posted this week, as she consciously avoids downtown's biggest landlord, Corktown's restaurant ringmaster and Midtown's "Where American Is Made" startup. A few clichés may sprout among the 4,200 words, but barely enough to blur vision. ("Detroit Is Cool Again" is an editor's headline creation, mercifully absent from the text.)  

The former Freep columnist, a Metro Detroit native, is interested in "the small players who are creating a new city." So she talks with a Slow Roll rider, rather than with widely profiled co-founder Jason Hall. 

Behold, a miracle is observed by a Seattle writer: "Entrepreneurs play a key part in Detroit’s recovery."

Microsoft staff writer Vanessa Ho, by contrast, went to universities in California and has worked in Seattle since 1992. She quotes Dan Gilbert associates Josh Linkner and Gabe Karp in her 1,100-word piece, which is accompanied by a shot of bikers at a brick wall mural.

Also present are toss-one-back phrases for Revive Detroit Drinking Game players:  

  • "A lively entrepreneurial scene crucial to the revival of Detroit."
  • "The scene includes [people] drawn to Detroit’s mix of grit and opportunity." ("Grit" appears twice and "gritty" once.)
  • "Entrepreneurs play a key part in Detroit’s recovery."
  • "There’s a real culture of encouraging each other and teamwork."
  • "A comeback story of a once-great city."
  • "Reintroduce manufacturing to the city."
  • "Detroit’s woes [are] fueling an underdog mindset."
  • "We’re like the Rocky Balboa of cities; we’re fighting for life and glory. . . . We’re like streetfighters.” -- Josh Linkner

We invite amendments or tweaks to the rules, and especially welcome links to game-worthy articles.

And remember: Drink responsibly, even when reckless writing is consumed.

Read more:  Microsoft News Center

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