Strays in the City: A closer look at Detroit’s dog epidemic

On a laundry list of municipal problems being heartily mismanaged in the City of Detroit, welfare for stray dogs has historically fallen to the bottom. This was until recently. In 2015, a whistle-blower pushed the archaic ran city facility back into the limelight. A look into the stray dog epidemic in Detroit and multiple efforts being made to combat it, including recent municipal restructuring.

Warning: Some images may be graphic


 

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In 2012, Detroit made national headlines once again. Not for the typical reasons: crime, poverty, or failing city infrastructure, but for the number of stray dogs roaming the streets. Rolling Stone’s Mark Binelli reported 50,000 stray dogs roamed the city. (An estimated 360 stray dogs per square mile of the city.) The problem with that report? It was wrong.

According to the American Strays Project, developed by the World Animal Awareness Society, based upon preliminary data there are at most 3,000 stray dogs in the City of Detroit, closer to 1,000. This isn’t to say their isn’t a problem – far from it.

Direct attacks, communicable diseases and traffic hazards are just some of the hazards posed by the still very high number of strays in the city.

The issue is a complex one, layered by a fiscally stressed city government, as well as families. “Fiscal stress leads families to abandon their domestic dogs; the dogs find shelter in abandoned buildings and food sources in urban wildlife and garbage; the dogs breed in the wild thus producing a growing number of feral animals,” says Laura A. Reese in her 2014 report “The Dog Days of Detroit: Urban Stray and Feral Animals.”

The complex and frankly problem is being combated with a variety of attempted solutions. There are many organizations working in the city to try and improve conditions for dogs in Detroit. The Michigan Humane Society is building a new animal care campus in the city. The campus is long overdue; the MHS current Detroit facility is a former piston ring factory built more than 100 years ago.

A large push for improved welfare for dogs in the city comes from Detroit Dog Rescue, the only no-kill shelter operating in Detroit, regulated by the Department of Agriculture.  The rescue also tries to work with dog owners in the city of Detroit to encourage responsible dog ownership. In the new year, the rescue plans on hosting regularly low-cost vaccination clinics for residents.

For years, DDR had a rocky relationship with the DAC with city officials threatening to seize dogs from the organization. Still, they kept pressing on. Shelby Sniffen became involved with DDR three years ago when volunteering as a foster.

In 2014, the organization was accredited and allowed to open a brick-and-mortar shelter in the city and by October 2015, after months of negotiation, DDR was allowed to finally begin pulling dogs from the Detroit Animal Control facility. The first 10 dogs pulled from the DAC were affectionately named Squad 10. The dogs were ill, to say the least. Kristina Rinald, DDR’s Executive Director says this sadly isn’t uncommon for dogs coming out of the facility. 

By December, most of the dogs are still in medical boarding. However, some of Squad 10 made their first appearance at an adoption event on Dec. 6 sponsored by 96.3 WDVD.

 

The DAC fell under harsh scrutiny this year after a former animal control officer, Brittany Roberts filed a whistle-blower lawsuit, producing photos of horrendous conditions inside the facility. The 18-page complaint contained horrendous photos from inside of the facility, some depicting dead and dying animals. Online reports cite that the DAC euthanized about 75 percent of the 3,869 dogs it sheltered in 2013, the most recent data available.

Since then, protests have spurred outside of the DAC facility, demanding new management and upgraded facilities. Some of the most recent of which were today:


 

In October, the operations of the DAC were restructured under the city’s health department. The department headed by Executive Director of Public Health and Health Officer Dr. Abdul El-Sayed who took his position as the head of the health department in October. This ultimately makes a lot of sense. “It’s not an animal problem, it’s a human problem,” says Al-Sayed.

With new hands at the wheel, El-Sayed has plans to improve the conditions at the Detroit Animal Control. He discusses the decision to incorporate DAC with the Health Department and future plans to improve conditions in the facility:

What comes next for the city of Detroit and the thousands of stray dogs roaming it’s streets are still unknown. However, it’s safe to say that conditions are improving. Shared responsibility by multiple organizations paired with a restructuring of municipal facilities hints towards better days ahead.

For more information on adoption facilities near/in Detroit:

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Photo Story: DDR Adoption Event

For my final photojournalism assignment (and one of my final college assignments ever) I really wanted to highlight something I genuinely cared about: the welfare of stray dogs in Detroit.

I have been following the efforts of the Detroit Dog Rescue for months. As Detroit’s first and only no-kill shelter, they made history in October by coming to an agreement with the Detroit Animal Control and finally were able to pull dogs out of the city’s facility.

The first ten dogs pulled from the facility were affectionately named Squad 10, and these dogs were sick. Kristina Rinaldi states that nearly half of all the dogs they have pulled from DAC, not just Squad 10, are ill and in desperate need of treatment.

While most of Squad 10 is still in medical boarding, some of the members made their first appearance at an adoption event on Sunday, Dec. 6 at Bark  Avenue Play & Stay in Roseville. The adoption event was hosted by DDR in partnership with 96.3 WDVD. The event was one of the most successful in DDR history, with 15 dogs finding forever homes.

This photo story is just the beginning. Inspired by the efforts of DDR, expanded on the project and spoke to other sources. Soon I was able to create a full investigative piece on the multiple efforts being made to improve welfare for dogs in Detroit. Stay tuned for the full multimedia story.

 

 

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The many Faces of Anonymous: a review

When I received Gabriella Coleman’s “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The many Faces of Anonymous” in the mail, my initial reaction was shock – this book is big. With a whopping 481 pages, including copious citations and references, Coleman has produced the single most in-depth, well-researched text on the nefarious organization known as Anonymous.

By the second page of chapter one, I was enticed. Unlike other “bullshit academics,” Coleman personally connects with the hackers and trolls behind Anonymous, as seen by her conversation with notorious troll Weev, Andrew Auernheimer. I half-expected at this point to be pulled into a dramatic chain of events with most circumstantial or situational evidence to back up lofty claims, however, Coleman continually brings the text back to its core: researching and understanding anonymous, even reminding Weev that she knew more about him that he thought.

Coleman consistently follows up her personal anecdotes with hard facts displaying the incredible power and sizable hierarchy of the loosely organized organization. Her immersion into the murky world of Anonymous seems to give her an understanding of the organization no one else has quite grasped.

Even so, Coleman’s biggest downfall, in my opinion, ultimately comes from her attachment and vested personal interest in the story. The text itself doesn’t remain purely academic, as one may suspect, due to her close proximity to subjects she writes about. It’s in this way that some of the passages lack and begin blurring the ethical lines. At times, Coleman seems more interested in staying on the good side of her sources rather than remaining unbiased.

However, it’s important to note that Coleman’s connection with her subject is often what got her the exclusive information found in the text, such as her conversations with anonymous-hacker-turned-informant, Sabu. By sharing these secrets with her, her subject showed trust in her, and gave her information other academics and journalists didn’t have access to, such as their private, very personal histories that ultimately led them to the Anonymous world.

But, still, It’s difficult to think of the content as a super-credible, academic source when Coleman describes her emotions while interviewing subjects. “I waited for what felt like an eternity for his response,” she writes while describing a conversation with the now well-known Anonymous kingpin, Sabu. “To me it seemed like the world had stopped, the sweat drops freezing halfway down my back. But in reality, he replied almost instantly.”

Overall, the text was an easy read and presented complex issues in a conversational, sometimes downright funny tone. It’s impossible to say Coleman’s commitment to her research isn’t impressive. However, sometimes, her close proximity to her subjects blurred the ethical lines for a supposed anthropological text. While I personally enjoyed her first-hand accounts and emotional investment in her research, I can see how this could be jarring for readers looking for a cut-and-dry Anonymous report. I definitely would recommend the read to a friend, but with a small disclaimer.

Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi speaks to Coleman about her research:

Also see: Gabriella Coleman’s other texts, and Reddit AMA.

Learning to capture sports

This Sunday afternoon, I did something entirely out of my comfort zone, in just about every aspect: I photographed my first sports game. Admittedly, I’m not the sportiest girl. During my entire 5th grade basketball career, I didn’t score a single basket. But, I was determined as a photojournalist to capture the essence of the game – even if I didn’t know exactly what was happening during plays.

I was nervous as I entered the Matthaei Center to attend the Wayne State University women’s basketball game. Right away I began thinking back to what I learned in class. I knew I needed to turn my shutter speed up, 1/500 was the lowest I would be able to shoot to really get these ladies in focus. Despite the glaring lights, my shots were turning out dark, so I bumped my ISO up to the highest setting. In hindsight, this wasn’t my best idea as just about every one of my photos were super noisy, but the photos were at least properly exposed.

Once I set my camera to the proper setting, I began scoping where I could shoot. I tried to “circle the wagon” and get a wide variety of angles, however, I was held back by where I was allowed to shoot and where security would blocked my access. None-the-less, I climbed bleachers and ran around the doors to get to the other side of the court during timeouts. I definitely circled the wagon, maybe a bit too much. I ended up with over 600 shots.

Overall, I learned quite a bit during the experience, and was able to at least pull a few good shots which I think captured the essence of the tense, well-matched game. The WSU Warriors would ultimately beat the Lawrence Tech Blue Devils 82-72.

 

 

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Payton Bichmeier plays defenseduring a basketball game at Mattaei Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.
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Head coach Carrie Lohr reacts during a basketball game at Mattaei Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.
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Lawrence Tech Blue Devils leap for a basket during a basketball game at Mattaei Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.
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The WSU dance team takes to the court during half-time at a basketball game at Mattaei Center at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Can journalists use social networks to express opinions or advocate for causes?

The short answer is “not really.” Unfortunately.


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When I decided four years ago to pursue a career in journalism, I honestly didn’t take into consideration how much my personal online presence would need to be pulled back. I, like most liberal millennials, have some strong opinions when it comes to certain topics, be it politics, religions, or whatever other topics you’re not supposed to discuss over dinner. However, now I also can’t, or shouldn’t, discuss any of these opinions over social media at the risk of losing my credibility as a journalist.

Currently, because I am only a freelance journalist, I am not held under any specific rules or regulations by my employers. However, given that I am actively pursuing a full-time job in journalism once I graduate, I am still cautious about what I post. According to Eric Carvin, social media editor of the Associated Press, “It’s usually best to avoid the most controversial topics no matter what, though there might otherwise be some wiggle room.”

However, when it comes to Carvin’s employer, there isn’t much wiggle room for expressing opinions, at all. A 2013 AP employee handbook stated, “AP staffers must be aware that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. AP employees must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum and must not take part in organized action in support of causes or movements.”

This isn’t uncommon. Other major news organizations  have adopted similar policies, including the New York Times, which tells employees, “Be careful not to write anything on a blog or a personal Web page that you could not write in The Times –­ don’t editorialize, for instance, if you work for the News Department. “

The Wall Street Journal is no exception either, explaining to employees in a 2009 bulletin, “Sharing your personal opinions, as well as expressing partisan political views, whether on Dow Jones sites or on the larger Web, could open us to criticism that we have biases and could make a reporter ineligible to cover topics in the future for Dow Jones.”

According to the Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, “the highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.” One of the ways in which to do this is to, “avoid conflicts on interest.” By making a social media post containing an opinion or act of advocacy with your name attached, it creates a conflict of interest as your name is also attached to material which is meant to be, by definition, unbiased. If journalists are considered biased, their work will be judged the same.

In today’s internet-obsessed age, it’s difficult to give up your identity on social media profiles as they become almost extensions of ourselves. However, as we’ve learned, nothing is really private, even if your account settings say so, and anything you post online as a journalist can be considered a reflection of your publisher. Because of this, unless you’re an advocate journalist, working for an advocacy-driven news organization, you’re opinions can’t be made public, and thus cannot be posted on social media profiles.

To see why these policies are often out-of-date, check out this article by social media expert JD Lasica.

Sister Pie bakery preps for the busy Thanksgiving Season

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Lisa Ludwinski

On a rainy, early morning, the warm lights of Sister Pie bakery illuminate the corner of Kercheval and Parker Street, in Detroit. Inside, owner Lisa Ludwinski preps for the morning, directing her team of assistants with a surgeon’s precision. Over the last three years, she’s gotten this down to a science.

Ludwinski founded Sister Pie during Thanksgiving 2012, baking out of her parent’s kitchen in Mildford. After winning the $50,000 grand prize in the Hatch Detroit contest in 2014, she was able to open her brick-and-mortar location in West Village, Detroit. Sister Pie uses locally sourced, all-natural ingredients to make unique, often seasonal pies and other baked goods such as scones, muffins and galettes. Staples like Salted Maple, and buckwheat chocolate chip cookies continually please customers, turning Sister Pie into a Detroit original overnight. A week and a half before Thanksgiving this year, she’s busier than ever, but you could never tell by her attitude.

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Ludwinski unloads a try of blueberry jam muffins after they’ve cooled.

Find out more at http://www.sisterpie.com

8066 Kercheval Ave, Detroit, MI 48214

(313) 447-5550

Capturing features photos in WSU’s new student center

Comedy hypnotist Erick Kand puts his volunteers into a deep trance using repetitive commands and soothing music.
Comedy hypnotist Erick Kand puts his volunteers into a deep trance using repetitive commands and soothing music during a hypnotist event on Tuesday at the WSU student center. // WSU PJ Lexi Trimpe

Finding an enterprise feature photo, meaning a sporadic, unplanned image that can tell a story, is easier said than done. Especially when you’re working full-time, attending school full-time (and in the middle of midterms week), and the weather just happened to turn terrible overnight. When assigned with the task of finding a enterprise photo, I didn’t take those various factors into consideration.

Finding significant time was the first hurdle I encountered. I headed out late Sunday afternoon to Corktown once I finished my mountain of homework and laundry. I figured with the Lion’s game playing, I should encounter some fans walking the street, or taking photos in front of the train station. Instead, I encountered a mostly dead strip, with bicyclists unwilling to stop even if I hailed them down. I headed to Two James Distillery to drown my frustrations, and snap a few craft cocktail photos, something that is more of my forte.

The next week kicked off midterms for my other classes, leaving me with time on Tuesday night to scour campus for a shot. It was even colder this evening and I was losing daylight fast. This was the last opportunity I had to snap the shot before my class on Thursday, I needed to find some students fast. But, where? After $26.5 million in renovations, hopefully the Student Center.

To my elation, I was right. The basement of the student center, which used to be dimly lit and seldom saw students, was packed. I followed the sounds of hip hop music playing down a corridor and found students playing ping pong and pool in a new rec room. Because WSU is a commuter school, I was shocked to see so many students interacting with each other and relaxing on campus. One student name Ahmed doesn’t even live on campus. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Civil Engineering and retreats to the basement of the student center to blow off steam by playing ping pong. From the corner of my eye I saw an undergrad resident student named Irvin winning a game of pool.  I found a story.

Previous to this, I was a pretty staunch proponent of the amount of money spent on the student center. It was perfectly fine in my opinion. But, after seeing this, I saw how the renovations have led to students have a clean, safe place on campus for students to relax, especially during stressful exam weeks.

After this, I knew what I wanted to focus my event feature photograph on — what was happening around the student center. With all this new space, what sort of events are they hosting? I began searching for events that fit my crazy midterms-week school schedule.

What found could be more visually appealing – a hypnotist show in the student center on Nov. 4.  figured this would be perfect. I got in early, set my meter, and the captured the show.

What I learned most from this lesson is that feature stories are all around us, even in places we may visit frequently. If you look for them, you’ll find them. Anytime, any day. And most importantly, always, always, always, remember your shutter speed. If you shoot below 1/125, you’re going to have a bad time.

Undergrad student Irvin Phillips shoots the winner point in a game of pool in the newly renovated WSU student center.
Undergrad student Irvin Phillips shoots the winner point in a game of pool in the newly renovated WSU student center on Oct 28. // WSU PJ Lexi Trimpe
WSU students John Mandwee, Gabrielle Hoults, and Ali Shahin "speeding away from police" while hypnotized.
WSU students John Mandwee, Gabrielle Hoults, and Ali Shahin “speeding away from police” while hypnotized by Erick Kand at the hypnotist event on Tuesday night. // WSU PJ Lexi Trimpe

Gallery: College Night at the DIA

Area students are offered a free chance to check out 30 Americans at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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On Oct. 23 the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted College Night, encouraging area students to visit the DIA free of charge and view the newest exhibition, 30 Americans, which opened on Oct. 18. Over 400 students from Oakland University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Macomb Community College, Lawrence Technological University and Wayne State University students attended the event organized by the DIA. Students were treated to games, snacks, live music and a dance party which kicked off at 9:30pm.

The event not only gave students an opportunity socialize and network with individuals from surrounding colleges but provided a valuable opportunity to experience culture in the city and explore the history of race relations in the US through art. Overall, the event was well received by students, and the addition of the dance party (and cash bar) contributed to a fun night in the city, especially for the students unaccustomed with the happenings in Midtown, Detroit.

Camera Controls: the basics

A new journalist in 2015 is expected to be able to competently and quickly take photos to accompany their stories. Long gone are the days of “just writers” and “just photographers.” To be able to effectively shoot my own photography, I have to know how to use my camera, and I mean really know. For this week’s assignment, I took to the streets (and my office) with my Canon T3i and took some of these photography basics, utilizing concepts like shutter speed, F-Stops, and ISO.

ISO: 100 Aperture: 16 Shutter: 1/100
Blurred Action ISO: 100 Aperture: 16 Shutter: 1/100
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Extreme Perspective: ISO: 3200 Aperture: 4.0 Shutter: 1/200
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Visual Element of Choice, Graphic: ISO: 800 Aperture: 4.5 Shutter: 1/60
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Panned Action: ISO: 100 Aperture: 16 Shutter: 1/100
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Rule of Thirds: ISO: 400 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/15
shallowdepthoffield
Shallow Depth of Field: ISO: 3200 Aperture: 4.5 Shutter: 1/50
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Silhouette: ISO: 1600 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/100
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Stopped Action: ISO: 200 Aperture: 7.1 Shutter: 1/640
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Wide Depth of Field: ISO: 200 Aperture: 4.5 Shutter: 1/100
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Window Lighting: ISO: 100 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/160

Learning to Code: Animating my name

I’ve always wanted to learn how to code, and I mean really code. I remember the days of basic HTML and feeling so smart for knowing how to type a line break. However, these days, I’m all but lost in the coding world. With the help of codeacademy.com I was able to learn the basics, and animate my name! 

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The hardest part about learning code, in my opinion, is just not knowing where to begin. Before I began this lesson, I honestly didn’t have the slightest idea of how coding works. I appreciate how the lesson begins by explaining the language of JavaScript, and how it reads as commands to a computer. By then establishing what strings are, I was able to do basic arithmetic and counting, and see the computer react to my code – which was embarrassingly exciting. Once I saw it respond to multiple 2*2, I knew what I was doing what actually working.

From there, I learned about Booleans, which absolutely terrified me at first, and onto variables. Variables I found easiest to understand, as they are pretty straight forward. Variables include things like my name, “Lexi” and eventually will contain the colors that I used, giving the strings case sensitive names.

Arrays are where it really started getting exciting. I could easily figure out how to change the color to just blue, but once I figured out arrays, I was able to link my name to a variety of rainbow colors, which was identified by numbers in the arrays. My biggest problem at this step was remembering to type “var” to begin the variable which would connect the lettercolor string to my array of colors.

When it came time to change the bubble shape and add in the “bounce” string, I felt like a full blown code monkey, and even better yet, I was able to look back at the code I created and understand the commands each line were translating to the computer. Although I still have some questions on how it knew what “bounce” meant – when I changed bouncename to bouncebubbles, I felt so accomplished.

Altogether, I think I will continue to use codeacademy.com to learn more about coding. The tutorials are easy to understand, and it only took me about 20 minutes to learn a basic animation code – something I would have expected to take hours.