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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Numbers games

Why media shouldn't accept Detroit statistics at face value.

Journalists tend to love numbers. As subjective as anyone's perceptions may be, numbers tend to give the perception of objectivity. If a reporter writes that a band is popular, then the editor wants to know how many records they sold last quarter, or how many people showed up at their last show, or how many girls screamed and fainted when the musicians walked by.

And when someone publishes a Top 10 list, we absolutely go crazy. Even when a list is much longer we'll pick the Top 10 just to make it manageable. And when some study comes up with statistics about a city, it can become gospel truth in people's minds.

Detroit's been on the receiving end of numerous lists and studies that play into perceptions about the city. Those conclusions seem to verify perceptions people already have so there is little motivation for anybody to question them. For instance, in October Forbes magazine listed Detroit as the most dangerous city in the nation, based on an analysis of FBI crime statistics. The rest of the media ate it up.

About a year ago the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund released a report claiming in one bullet point that 47 percent of Detroiters are functionally illiterate. This was actually a rehash of a 1998 report from the National Institute for Literacy. Still the media ran with this "new" data, and CBS Detroit, Fox Nation, the Huffington Post and even African-American news website The Root piled on — as did the UK's Daily Mail. Forbes magazine reported it too, then backtracked and ran a story questioning the report and pointing out that the "statistic" has been a staple of white supremacist websites for at least a decade. 

Danny Devries, a data analyst at Data Driven Detroit (D3), took on the myth in a December D3 staff blog post after a caller repeated it to him while he was on WDET-FM's The Craig Fahle Show in December.

"I had seen this 47 percent functional illiteracy rate bouncing around the media for a while," Devries wrote in an e-mail to me recently. "That number just seemed so high. I did some digging and realized the methodology for determining the illiteracy rate for Detroit just wasn't accurate. There was too much extrapolation to determine a specific rate for Detroit based on a national survey from 1993 of 26,000 people. All of this isn't to say that functional illiteracy isn't an issue, but it deserves fair treatment. Throwing around this '47 percent' number isn't doing anyone any favors."

The question is why did these arguably responsible newsrooms take the bait like a big, fat bass going after a juicy nightcrawler? Mostly they took it hook, line and sinker. Devries got into that in his D3 blog post in December.

"Dissecting the origin of this statistic is more about the poor data literacy of some of our news agencies than it is about Detroit's literacy rates," wrote Devries. "Many of them referred to the report as a 'new study,' missing the important detail that the research is far from new. The 47 percent Detroit literacy rate is the result of a 1998 analysis by the National Institute for Literacy, performed on data from the National Adult Literacy Survey, published in 1993. That's right: those 'alarming new statistics' are based on data almost two decades old. Almost all of the media coverage neglected to communicate that fact."

Apparently the cutbacks in newsroom funding are having an effect on the reliability of information reported. But where is reliable information on the adult illiteracy rate in Detroit? The truth is that we don't know. Even the original data from 1993 came with a warning that the information was only reliable at the county level. The most useful information I could find came from the National Center for Education Statistics, which reported in 2003 that the functional illiteracy level for Wayne County is 12 percent. The only way Detroit could be at 47 percent illiteracy while the county is at 12 percent would be if there was zero illiteracy in Wayne County outside of Detroit. By comparison Washtenaw County's functional illiteracy rate was reported to be 6 percent; Oakland's and Macomb's at 7 percent each. The entire state of Michigan came in at 8 percent.

So let's get back to that Forbes list. Is Detroit the most dangerous city in the country? As commendable as Forbes was in debunking the illiteracy rate myth, they regularly fall into the same trap with statistics. For some perspective, let's consider a report by Zack Taylor, a Toronto-based planning consultant who wrote a study ("Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics: A Critical Examination of City Ranking Studies") on the shortcomings of highly publicized city rankings. Taylor's conclusion for journalists is "Be skeptical" when publicizing these rankings. After all, people believe this stuff and it becomes the basis of opinions that can turn into municipal policies.

Is Detroit the most dangerous city in the nation? Not so says a D3 blog post titled "Apples to apples, Detroit ranks 17th not first in crime, or ten reasons not to trust top ten lists." Among the things pointed out here is "Forbes uses the FBI's Uniform Crime Report data in exactly the way that the FBI advises it should not be used: to rank locales." It goes on to point out that the FBI data is incomplete, particularly because cities voluntarily report these statistics and some cities aren't included, like Chicago. So if Chicago happened to be the most dangerous city in the country no one would know based on the Forbes list or the FBI list.

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