I’m Kate Davidson and I am delighted to be joining Changing Gears as our Ann Arbor based reporter. Ann Arbor is just lovely this time of year. For one thing, it’s cooler than Washington D.C., where I grew up. (When we moved to D.C. from Buffalo, my brother was four. He greeted the sweaty capital by stepping off the plane and promptly fainting.)
Until my things arrive, I’m staying in temporary university housing, where kids criss-cross the yard in the morning, practicing martial arts. They defy neighborhood naps with trumpet practice.
Ann Arbor has always had the reputation of being a place apart from the rest of the Detroit area. A local landlord summed it up this way:
“Ann Arbor – twenty-eight square miles surrounded by reality.”
But that reality is exactly what Changing Gears is about. And I need your help to understand it.
For the past five years, I’ve produced news and feature stories for Weekend All Things Considered at NPR. I’ve also reported, edited and directed for the network. My field work took me across the country, from the Gulf oil spill, to the Appalachian foothills, to the cornfields of Kansas. Before joining NPR, I spent a year in Arizona producing a radio documentary called Saints and Indians. It explored the complex experiences of American Indian children who grew up in white Mormon foster homes across the West.
But the day-to-day life of the Manufacturing Belt is new to me. Much of my focus will be jobs and job redesign. Michigan has long had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country – now more than 13%. That’s a devastating reality, but it’s not the only one.
What do you think I should see? Who or what should I visit? Are there people in your towns, factories or schools who have a story to tell about economic transformation? Email your suggestions to changinggears[at]umich.edu with “Michigan stories” in the subject line.
Thank you. I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear your thoughts and, hopefully, to meet many of you in the coming years.