The conversations we have about our community impact our collective well-being. Telling complete and complex stories is vital to advancing racial, social and economic justice. To achieve equity, our news and information ecosystem must be diverse.

The Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative (SMJC), funded in part by KZCF and the Solutions Journalism Network, brings together 12 regional media outlets to change our community narrative. With a focus on issues affecting mental health, SMJC takes a solutions-oriented approach to journalism, telling the stories of how communities are addressing challenges, rather than spotlighting deficits.

“If we’re only telling stories of crime and poverty when talking about communities with majority BIPOC members, we are perpetuating narratives that cause harm,” said Sarah Lee, KZCF vice president of Marketing Communications. That harm can cause economic and philanthropic disinvestment, further injuring those who are already marginalized.

Due to the collaborative’s innovative approach to reporting, it has encouraged BIPOC community members to prioritize their mental health and seek mental health services when needed. The collaborative has also inspired greater trust between reporters and the community members featured in their content. This reimagined vision of storytelling empowers partners who might normally be competitors to share ideas and sources. Articles are also offered in English and Spanish.

“These efforts are all in service to the people of Southwest Michigan, many of whom are in virtual news deserts,” said Melinda Clynes, SMJC project manager and editor. Jesus Grillo, journalist and co-publisher of New/Nueva Opinión, said the project “fosters an environment of reflection and continuous learning that enhances the quality of the information generated.”

The collaborative strives to cultivate more diverse sources and newsrooms, promote equity in coverage and build trust between the media and the community. SMJC is listening, learning and reporting to help foster a happier, healthier Kalamazoo.

To read all of the stories from our 2022 Annual Report, click here.