STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Why we collect story ideas from readers

This week we're bringing you a story on a place teenagers in Flint go to listen to bands and find a sense of community.

This place landed on my radar not because I discovered it myself through exhaustive research, but because like a lot of the best stories-in-waiting, somebody told me about it.

Not all tips turn into stories, but many do, particularly for me.

That's because it's my job to collect insight from the community via the Public Insight Network and follow it to see if there's a story there. Oftentimes there is something I can push to another reporter or pursue myself.

For example, this week I was at a meeting with about 200 Community Action agency workers. Their suggestions for stories included; giving voice to single dads raising kids on limited incomes, exploring how former prisoners can successfully re-integrate in family life, and how big of a role untreated mental health issues play in keeping parents and children in poverty.

The people who spoke up thought these were stories that are under-covered in the media but make a big difference in children's lives and their likelihood of success.

These are all good ideas and I'm currently pursuing a few other reader suggested stories, one on military families and one on why the frameworks social service workers use to understand poverty might matter to parents and kids they work with.

Not all of reader ideas make it into stories that get on the air, but all of them inform the reporting we do. They make us ask questions a little differently, research a new angle, or include a voice we hadn't thought of before.

Without these ideas some of these stories would probably still get covered, but not as quickly, and not with the authentic voices of readers, voices that make stories more personal and more interesting.

We're always looking for more of these stories. Send your story suggestions to us and see where it goes.

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