2022 Excellence in Newsletters, Single Newsletter finalist

Detroit Documenters

About the Project

The tagline for Detroit Documenters says “Powered by Outlier Media,” but we could argue that the Detroit Documenters program powers Outlier Media.

The Detroit Documenters is a group of highly engaged citizens who Outlier employees train to take notes at local government and community meetings. Those notes are then put through an editing and fact-checking process with reporters and editors at Outlier and other news outlets around the city who are part of a collaborative editorial network. The notes publicly available to journalists and others who want to find a rundown of what took place at local government meetings.

The Detroit Documenters weekly newsletter is written by the program’s two coordinators, Lynelle Herndon and Noah Kincade, both of whom were Documenters themselves before being hired by Outlier to run the program. (The program has trained more than 300 participants since 2021.) Each newsletter begins with an introduction offering a glimpse of what the newsletter contains, including a nod to the scoop of the week. Next is a quote of the week from a city official or resident, usually something compelling, amusing or absurd spoken during a public meeting. The scoop of the week is a deep dive into what the Documenters’ note-taking uncovered for the week. After that, depending on what the Documenters’ notes show, city news and regional news topics are summarized and presented in digest format on matters concerning transportation, politics, police, housing, development, etc. Links to the full version of meeting notes for the week are included, along with the name of each Documenter who covered the meeting. Because the Documenters are so active in the community, the newsletter also provides a list of current trainings and events available to them, including events hosted by Outlier, town halls and learning opportunities. The newsletter also includes a section that is “Just for Documenters” to build community within the group; this often includes a section for trainings curated just for Documenters.

The newsletter has almost 850 subscribers and it is consistently high-performing. Our metrics show that the Documenters newsletter is often the most-read and most-clicked on Outlier newsletter product.