In 2014, former WDET digital editor Terry Parris Jr. launched CuriosiD, a reporting series powered by listeners' questions. It was modeled after the then novel WBEZ series Curious City. After Parris left to work as an engagement editor at ProPublica, I took up the reigns as project lead of this new endeavor. During my tenure at WDET I oversaw our audience engagement, created a style guide for reporters, trained news staff to create multimedia stories, and reported and produced several stories myself.
One of my favorite episodes was an attempt investigate a uniquely Detroit experience: spotting a large ornate game bird called a ring-necked pheasant darting across the city streets or grazing in city’s vacant lots.
One WDET listener wanted to know what the deal was with these creatures. Where did they come from? Why are there so many in Detroit? After tracking one down with the listener and telling the story of how the birds came to Detroit, I created a google form for listeners to submit their pheasant sightings. People have submitted over 100 entries in the years since. The entries populated a spreadsheet that I linked to a Carto map. It was a great way to visualize this unique Detroit story. People still submit their entries to this day, and others have built upon the dataset.
A high school-age listener wanted to know how the Detroit area became a center for Arab immigrants in the U.S. As with just about anything in history, the story of the origins of this community is a complex one.
I attempted to answer this quesiton by consulting historical experts, community leaders and families whose ancestors were some of the first known Arab immigrants to the Detroit area. Feedback from audience members both in and outside of this community was very positive, and one of the most rewarding experiences was learning several years later that a local middle-school history teacher was using my feature as part of her curriculum.