Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Memphis on High Ground with Editor Madeline Faber

Portrait by Crystal Cason

As the managing editor for the weekly digital magazine and website High Ground News, Madeline Faber gets to focus on what’s next for Memphis — all things growth and innovation.

That also means writing about where growth and innovation have been stymied.

“I think we have the reputation of being a good news factory, which is inaccurate. High Ground News writes from a perspective of solutions-based journalism where we try to address fresh ways that people are approaching Memphis’ issues and disparities.”

Faber engages with neighborhoods that sometimes get left out of the development conversation, covering the “strengths and struggles” and getting residents’ perspectives on the future of their own communities. It’s great content that leads to a clearer, truer, fuller picture of Memphis.

Learn more about Madeline and High Ground’s work in our Q&A below:

As someone who grew up here, what was high school you’s opinion of Memphis?

I didn’t feel a strong desire to leave Memphis for college. Once I got to high school and was able to drive around, I felt like I unlocked the city. I found all of these exciting things that Midtown offered that I couldn’t find out in the suburbs. I ended up graduating from Christian Brothers University, and I love the school’s priority on community service. Now, in the work that I do, I’m able to unlock other neighborhoods and learn about the distinct identities and strengths that contribute to a rich overall picture of Memphis.

As a journalist who has worked for multiple Memphis publications prior to High Ground, what effect did those experiences have on how you view the city? Did it help you to gain perspective that you didn’t have in both good and bad ways?

Being a business and real estate reporter, I learned a lot about how to fit in to Memphis’ good old boy network, where people give opportunities to those within their socio economic cliques. That unofficial model of doing business is outdated and impedes our city’s progress.

Once I started digging into the attitudes and policies that exclude minority and women-owned businesses from the greater economy, as well as the data that indicates their wealth gap, it put a different shade on everything else I wrote.

A cover story I wrote on this issue, “Fenced Out” garnered an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. People really responded to a narrative that reflected Memphis’ underlying issues.

The new building construction, the promotion, the acquisition — these are events that we love to write about because they physically indicate the city’s progress. But if these occasions don’t include the greater population, we aren’t truly moving forward.

Please share about the impetus for the On The Ground initiative and the impact of that type of reporting.

On The Ground is a program within High Ground News that I believe represents some of our most impactful work. We embed journalists in a Memphis neighborhood for four months. At our temporary media hub, we write articles, publish videos and photo essays and host in-person events all about the strengths and struggles of this neighborhood. After that limited engagement wraps, we continue to write articles and in some cases have a presence in the neighborhood.

The Humes Prep Tigerettes performed a majorette routine at the Klondike Smokey City community expo, hosted by High Ground News. (Bill Moyer/High Ground News)

Our previous engagements have taken place in Frayser, Binghampton, Soulsville and the North Memphis neighborhoods of Klondike and Smokey City. Right now, we’re in the middle of an engagement with ZIP 38126, which is located just south of Downtown. We’re working with residents there to write about the expected impact of the South City development.

Based on what we’ve heard from our neighborhood partners, this highly-focused engagement offers residents and stakeholders an opportunity to talk about where they believe their neighborhood is headed. We don’t parachute in to these neighborhoods to write about crime. We build relationships with the people and organizations who make their neighborhood a great place to live. We’re there to amplify their concerns and demands for change.

A moment of joy at the Booker T. Washington High School graduation, held at the Orpheum Theater. High Ground News covered the graduation as part of our engagement in ZIP 38126/South City. (Andrea Morales/High Ground News)

I’m especially excited about a planned 2017 launch of a citizen journalism program where we give neighborhood residents a crash course in what they need to write about what’s going on around them. After graduating from the course, we’ll publish the writers’ stories and work with them as On The Ground correspondents.

How can people support High Ground’s work?

If you like what you read, please share the story. And if you don’t like what you read or believe there’s something out there we’ve neglected to cover, please contact me.

People can also attend our occasional in-person events. We have two event series. One focuses on entrepreneurship in our community and one amplifies neighborhood voices during our On The Ground engagement. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for soon-to-be announced event dates.

What are you into when you’re not working? What are you enjoying most about the city lately?

Well, this weather first of all. I think summer brings people together whether it’s on the lawn of the Levitt Shell or neighborhood block parties.

Follow High Ground on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and subscribe to their digital editions. Every Wednesday High Ground sends out a bundle of their latest stories and every other Friday they send out an exclusive multimedia edition that brings Memphis’ neighborhoods to life with sound and color.

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