I said that a portion of the money from this book would go to the Flint community, where it was due. I promised to reveal more about what that looked like, once I figured out the details. But I struggled a lot with how to do this. As a journalist, it’s important to be independent!
I didn’t want to create a conflict-of-interest, or even the appearance of a conflict — to give readers any inkling that I might have, say, paid someone to talk to me. Or that I promised favors. Also, I want to continue reporting stories about Flint, and I don’t want to do anything to compromise my ability to be a credible, independent, trustworthy journalist.
I hemmed and hawed. I sought advice. And, after much thought, I finally decided how to make good on this tithe: I gave, and will continue to give, to the Flint Public Library.
It is a vibrant, purposeful place. I saw firsthand how integral it is to the community, especially children. It was a terrific resource as I was writing The Poisoned City — from its collections to its programming, from its water resource table to the oral histories gathered when StoryCorps recorded at the library. Also, it’s just a pleasant space to be. It was easy walking distance from the home where I was a guest, so I spent a lot of time working in this wonderfully refreshing hub. (I snapped the photo above at the library in the summer of 2016, when I was in deep.)
The library is a profound pivot point between historic Flint and future Flint. And its mission is an extension of my journalistic one: It makes facts, knowledge, and ideas accessible to the public. It believes that a free press and an informed citizenry are an essential civic good.
I may be forfeiting my ability to do any reported stories about the library, but I am okay with backing all that it represents.
I don’t want to turn this into a self-serving promotional gimmick. But it also feels wrong to not be straightforward and clear on what happened with the promise made long ago. So here it is. Out there.
Below, you’ll see that the library did a write up about this in their recent newsletter. I’m glad that they were the first to tell it.