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Quite the World, Isn't It?

Finally Time for a serious journalistic look at Detroit

Here's hoping that a rumble of interest in Detroit could lead to some serious journalistic inquiry about the city.

Bill McGraw, an old acquaintance in Detroit, reported in the Free Press this week that Time magazine has spent $99,000 for a house in the West Indian Village neighborhood, a cluster of gems on Detroit's east side. It's one of the last of the city's grand old neighborhoods still standing.

Time's plan: To use the house as a base of operations for a year or better to spotlight Detroit across its publications. When the project is over, McGraw reports, Time will donate the house to charity. That may not be so altruistic as it sounds - the house was vacant for two years when Time bought it, and real estate in Detroit is even harder to sell these days than cars.

Still, Detroit (above in better days, from the Library of Congress's American Memory archive) is a compelling and intimately American story, the tale of a city that rose on industrial innovation and shrewd marketing of the American Dream of the open road, and is now in collapse -- after 40 years of decline -- into a shell. It has been ravaged by globalization, drugs, unstable tax base and epic political corruption.Tom Wolfe couldn't have invented the place.

Yet it survives. Detroiters are some of the most resilient people I've ever met (Margaret and I lived there for a decade, and our sons were born there). It really deserves broader examination and exposure - far beyond the local papers' solid jobs of presenting the city to itself (even with their limited circulations). Now if I could only persuade my agent there's a book in it: Detroit: The Rise and Fall of a Great American City.
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