James Robertson lives in Detroit. He walks 21 miles each day to get to work, from his home in Detroit to a factory in Rochester Hills, a suburb. Twenty one miles? Think about that. At an average gait of 5 mph, that’s a little more than 4 hours of walking.
Imagine he’s at work at least 9 hours. Add four hours of walking. That’s 13 hours a day. Not to mention how spent he must be each night after walking through rough parts of Detroit in rain or freezing winter.
The reaction has been appropriately positive. Robertson was already something of a role model for his co-workers, and readers responded to the story generously, donating $70,000 and counting to help him get a new car. That’s great for Robertson. But this isn’t a feel-good story—it’s a story about policy failures, structural economic obstacles, and about what it takes to keep working despite those challenges. Robertson is no doubt deserving, but it’ll take larger changes to help other people who face similar struggles.
I’m sorry, what? It’s not a feel-good story? It’s a story about policy failures? I might as well say that this Atlantic article isn’t a story about policy failures. It’s an example of how biased opinion in “reporting” attempts to take a fascinating story about one man’s honorable work ethic and twist it into a piece about the need for more infrastructure.
This is what’s wrong with “the Media.” This isn’t news anymore. This is a soapbox to whine about whatever agendas the author and corporate media company hope to push forward.
Let’s think through this real quick.
Walk through this with me. This man lives in Detroit. He chooses to work in a factory in a nearby suburb. His privately owned vehicle dies, and he can’t afford to replace it. So he chooses to walk the 21 mile round trip to get to work each day. I want this man speaking at my local high school!
Let’s not only focus on how the jobs aren’t near the people who need them. Show me people like Mr. Robertson who are willing to do what it takes to take care of their families. Whether that’s walking across town or inventing a hyper localized business plan that solves a uniquely local problem, we need to honor people with initiative to get things done. That is what this country was built upon.
“But if only the city had better infrastructure, people like James Robertson wouldn’t be faced with the difficult decision to walk 21 miles a day just to work!”
We Need to Inspire Again
Seriously. People like James Robertson solve problems and get things done. People who aren’t like James Robertson sit on the stoop all day and watch the world pass them by. Or they sell drugs. Or they drink. Or they do any number of unproductive things instead of doing what it takes.
If we shared MORE stories, we could inspire more people to make the hard choices like James Robertson. If we wanted to be agents of social change, we could tell better stories. And not taint the great stories we already have.