Driven By Mission
Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR affiliate, broke the Flint Water Crisis story in December 2015, about a year-and-a-half after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Kent State alumnus Vince Duffy, ’86, the station’s news director, led the investigation.
“We were there at the very beginning,” Duffy said. “We were there when they switched the water. We were told by state officials that everything was fine, but we continued to dig and continued to dig.”
Michigan Radio’s digging led to the production of “Not Safe to Drink,” a radio documentary about Flint’s water, broadcasted nationally in December 2015. After the launch of the documentary, Duffy formed a team of six Michigan Radio reporters who produced nonstop coverage of the crisis. Duffy was responsible for managing and editing their stories.
Two years later, Michigan Radio continues to report on the city. Duffy said that working at a public radio station, he feels responsible for educating and informing the public about issues that affect them, regardless of how long that takes.
“We’re still covering Flint,” Duffy said. “We’ve been there since the beginning and we’ll be there until the end.”
Duffy got his start in public radio working at WKSR, a Tennessee public radio station, and later interned with Kent State’s public radio station, WKSU.
“I just fell for public radio news,” Duffy said. “I was doing news that was in-depth and covered important issues.”
Despite Duffy’s love for public radio, challenges do exist, he said, especially when it comes to funding.
According to Pew, 61 percent of nonprofit news organizations begin with a start-up grant of at least $100,000 and then move to other revenue outlets like organizational or individual donors.
“There’s always some concern about funding,” Duffy said. “For lots of public radio stations, you’re concerned about making sure you raise enough money to operate in the next year.”