Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards, and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her M.A. in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are making up lyrics to songs and singing them to their adorable baby girl.  

Ways To Connect

Dani Davis

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the final installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast and Luke Winslow-King and Ben Benjamin.

Update 4:37 p.m.

Independent bookstores are waiting to see what kind of impact Borders’ bankruptcy will have on business. Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Nicola Rooney, owner Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.

Rooney expects business to pick up at her store now that one of the Borders in Ann Arbor is slated to close. She said Borders’ financial problems are not emblematic of the book business in general:

"No, it’s not the death knell of bookstores by any means. They did a lot of things wrong over the years…and at any time there were things they could have done differently that they did not, and this of course from someone who knows maybe two percent of what was really going on inside, because you never know the real story," said Rooney.

Rooney blames Borders's problems on its poor website strategy, and frequent management changes.

Update 12:07 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reports that of the stores slated for closing so far, four are in Michigan:

  • Dearborn
  • Utica
  • Grosse Pointe
  • Ann Arbor - the Arborland location.

Guerra spoke with Ann Arbor resident Jack Love about the bankruptcy:

"I’m sad. They’re nice places to go, pick up a book, look through it, of course Borders has more than just books: coffee, book readings, public gatherings," said Love.

Guerra says Love partly blames himself for Borders’ financial problems - he’s a book fiend who buys most of his books online at Amazon.

Update 11:58 a.m.

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog has posted a list of the top Borders creditors - Who's Owed What in Borders' Bankruptcy.

Not surprisingly, book publishers top the list. Penguin Putnam Inc. is at the very top. They're owed $41,118,914.

Update 11:33 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody just spoke with Rob James, the president of EXP Realty Advisors. EXP specializes in real estate valuations for companies in bankruptcy.  James told Carmody that "no doubt about it" the Borders store closings will have a ripple effect in the retail industry:

"It's going to put a lot of strain on the shopping center industry and its going to hurt a lot of landlords," said James.

Update 11:07

Here is the list of stores Borders plans to close

Update 11:00 a.m.:

The company has released a list of stores it plans to close. We'll have that list posted shortly.

The Wall Street Journal reports the company has secured a loan that will keep the company going while it goes through bankruptcy reorganization. From the WSJ:

The Ann Arbor, Mich., company also said it has lined up a $505 million loan from GE Capital to fund its operations while in bankruptcy. Access to such a loan is subject to court approval.

In its bankruptcy petition, Borders listed assets of $1.28 billion and liabilities of $1.29 billion as of Dec. 25.

Borders' five largest unsecured creditors are the book publishers Penguin Putnam Inc., Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster Inc., Random House and Harper Collins Publishers.

AnnArbor.com has some extensive coverage of the bookseller's bankruptcy filing, including a live blog. Nathan Bomey of AnnArbor.com reports on some of the scenarios that could unfold during the bankruptcy reorganization. They also highlight some of the missteps in Borders history. From AnnArbor.com:

Among the company's biggest mistakes was allowing Amazon to manage its online sales from 2001 to 2008.

“They never really harnessed the power of the Internet,” said David Dykhouse, a manager of Borders’ Arborland store from 2002 to 2007. “As someone once said, the Internet is the comet that killed the dinosaur. I’m afraid Borders is one of those dinosaurs.

8:09 a.m.

Borders Group is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization after a long struggle to stay afloat. Borders had a difficult time keeping up as the book and music businesses changed beneath its feet.

The 40-year-old Ann Arbor company plans to close about 30 percent of its stores, or about 200, over the next few weeks. The company will receive $505 million dollars in so-called debtor-in-possession financing from GE Capital and others to help it reorganize.

Borders has recently delayed payments to its vendors, landlords and other creditors. Big-box bookstores have struggled as more people buy books online, in electronic form or at grocery stores or discounters such as Walmart.

Michigan artists had a good night at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Detroit rap star Eminem, who was nominated for a record 10 Grammy Awards, took home two top honors: Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Album. Brother and sister duo BeBe & CeCe Winans won Best Gospel Performance for their song "Grace." Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Orchestral Performance went to University of Michigan composition professor Michael Daugherty for his piece, "Deus Ex Machina."

You can find the complete list of Grammy Award winners here.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

Michigan artists will be well-represented at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 13. Here's a brief list:

  • Detroit rap star Eminem has been nominated for a record 10 Grammy Awards this year, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
"RoboCop" photo: Orion Pictures (c) 1987

Ealier this week, a guy in Massachusetts sent this Twitter message to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

"Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky's butt. He's a GREAT ambassador for Detroit."

Mayor Bing's response? Thanks, but no thanks.

"There are not any plans to erect a statue of Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion."

But Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf and others are running with the idea. Paffendorf says the idea touched a "funny bone," and sparked "the kind of interest and intrigue in Detroit, and an interest in what Robocop means to Detroit."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The state Board of Education voted in favor of raising the “cut scores” or cut off scores for what’s considered "proficient" on the state’s standardized MEAP test.

Susan Dynarski is an education professor at the University of Michigan:

"The cut score that the state has defined as indicating proficiency in math is currently set such that 95% of third graders are above that score. By moving up that score, 34 percent of third graders will be defined as proficient."

Dynarski says the new scores will give parents and schools a more accurate representation of how well students are doing and what areas need improvement:  

"The idea of the cut scores is to provide a signal about what proficiency is and what you should be aiming for, and if you set the bar at a higher level, the idea would be then that they’d be aiming for that higher level."

The new cut scores, which are still to be determined, will go into effect for the 2011-12 school year.

Dani Davis

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the second installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast Luke Winslow-King and The Red Sea Pedestrian.

Photo courtesy of UMMA

Always wanted to check out the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but couldn't afford a ticket? Well, you're in luck. Google's new "Art Project"launched this week, and it allows people to virtually explore some of the most famous art museums in the world, like the Van Gogh Museum.

You can take 360-degree tours inside the museums. On select paintings, you can zoom in so close as to see cracks, lines and brushstrokes. 

Of the 17 museums included in the project, 13 are in Europe. The remaining museums are in New York and Washington, D.C: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick Collection, and the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian.  Check out the full list here

Joseph Rosa is director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art. He thinks the project is a nice way to bring art to the general public, but he wishes more American museums were included. Rosa says Michigan, for example, has a lot offer -  from the DIA in Detroit to the GRAM in Grand Rapids - and he adds that UMMA has "the best collection of Korean art outside of Korea."

Rosa says if UMMA was asked to participate in the Google Art Project, the first piece he'd include would be Picasso's Young Woman with Mandolin:

"It's amazing; one of his earliest paintings. And when people come to our website or friends and the first thing out of their mouth is: 'You have that?' And I don't want that to be the response from people. They should be: 'Wow, you have that! That's fabulous.' So for us it's demystifying what a university art museum can be."

The Google Art Project is in its pilot phase, and more museums may be added to the project in the future.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A  new Harvard University report say high schools need to do a better job preparing students for whatever career path they choose…whether it’s becoming a doctor or an electrician.

The "Pathways to Prosperity" study finds that America’s education system is focused too much on college prep and not enough on alternatives, like vocational and career and technical education (CTE).

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the release of the report on Wednesday:

The Pathways to Prosperity study envisions a new system of career and technical education that constitutes a radical departure from the vocational education of the past.

The need for that transformation is pressing.  I applaud your report’s frank discussion of the shortcomings of our current CTE system and its call to strengthen the rigor and relevance of career and technical education.

I am not here today to endorse the specifics of your policy recommendations. I want instead to suggest two takeaway messages from your study and the Department’s reform efforts.

Secretary Duncan's two takeaways?

  1. CTE, the "neglected stepchild of education reform," can no longer be ignored.
  2. CTE needs to be re-imagined for the 21st century.

Patty Cantu is director of the CTE office for Michigan’s Department of Education. She's not surprised by the report:

"The pendulum swings this way in education a lot. We focus on one area, and then we say, oh, that’s right, we have this other important thing and just as valuable thing that we also have to take into consideration."

Cantu says the head of Michigan's Department of Education, Mike Flangan, is very interested in "not only embracing academic rigor, but also the rigor of [the state's] career and technical education program."

The report says students should be able to choose career paths early, like they do in Europe. Secretary Duncan says "we can’t just copy the vocational education systems of other high-performing countries. But we can learn from them about how to build rigorous educational and work-experience programs with strong links to high-wage, high-demand jobs."

User: Sultry / creative commons

Wayne State University is developing a new, free program to help artists market their ideas better. It's called the Artrepreneurship program. That's right: a hybrid of art + entrepreneurship.

Wayne State University got a $25,000 grant from the Coleman foundation to start up the new program, which will mostly consist of a lecture series and the occasional workshop.

Homeless shelters from Grand Rapids to Detroit are gearing up for a busy couple of days this week.

The major winter storm that's headed our way is expected to dump around a foot of snow across the state, and temperatures will be around 20 degrees for the next several days.

The city of Lansing is coordinating with its homeless shelters to make sure no one is turned away. Joan Jackson Johnson directs the city’s Community Services department: 

"What we’re doing is providing any extra resources the shelters may need -  from food to blankets. We’ve authorized one shelter to go out and purchase some emergency air mattresses for their shelter because this is their first time expanding for the overflow population."

Johnson says they’re prepared to house people in a hotel if they run out of room at the shelters.

Danis Davis

The Cost of Creativity

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the first installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast: Ben Benjamin and Luke Winslow-King.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools wants to open a public boarding school for the 2012-13 academic year.  But first the district  needs to find a charter operator to run the school.

Jennifer Mrozowski, a spokeswoman for the district, says the boarding school will serve high school students:

Clyde Stringer

Writer Bill Harris, a Wayne State University professor of English, has been named the 2011 Eminent Artist by the Kresge Foundation.

The award is given out to one Detroit artist every year. When writer Bill Harris found out he won the award, he was pretty surprised. No one had contacted him during the nomination process. In fact, he's not even sure who nominated him.

Harris was born and raised in Detroit and has been a fixture of the city's literary scene for decades. He's written plays, prose and poetry. The city is so much a part of him that he’s been told he writes with a ‘Detroit rhythm. ’

The Cost of Creativity - A Radio Documentary

Jan 28, 2011

The Cost of Creativity

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks to the following Michigan musicians, whose songs are featured in the documentary:

Ben Benjamin, Luke Winslow-King, Midwest Product, and The Red Sea Pedestrians.

Artists at Work (video)

Jan 28, 2011

Photo courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Today’s Artpod is all art and fashion. There’s even a guest celebrity of sorts. (Hint: "Make it work!") You can listen to the podcast here.

We'll talk with Michael Rush, the founding director of the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Plus, we'll meet the man behind Motor City Denim and hear why an auto supplier is now getting ready to make jeans. According to a press release from the company, the line "will begin arriving in stores in early 2011."

Kyle Norris / Michigan Radio

On today's Artpod, we'll take a look at why sales of the ukulele are doing so well.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

When times are tough, and people are losing jobs, making music can be a comfort. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris sits in on a ukulele jam at Oz's Music in Ann Arbor, and talks to the folks at Elderly Instruments in East Lansing to see how the little instrument is selling.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

A new type of incubator is open for business at the University of Michigan. It’s called a “venture accelerator,” and it’s located in the  sprawling research complex Pfizer built before it left Michigan a few years ago.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Board of Education will meet Tuesday to go over a proposed settlement with Robert Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager.

A Wayne County judge ruled last month that the Detroit school board is in charge of academics for the district, not the district’s financial manager. But both sides have to come to an agreement on how to implement the ruling, since Bobb’s team implemented several classroom reforms while the lawsuit was pending.

Anthony Adams is the school board’s president. He says it’s in the district’s best interest to keep most of  Bobb’s reforms in place:

Nate Luzod / Creative commons

Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and its striking musicians are headed back to the bargaining table.

The players have been on strike since Oct. 4.

DSO management and the musicians have submitted new proposals to a federal mediator. Both sides’ proposals revolve around a $36 million compensation package. That dollar amount roughly splits the difference between the two sides’ previous proposals and was suggested by U.S. Senator Carl Levin and then Governor Jennifer Granholm last month.

G.L. Kohuth

Michigan State University will unveil a new exhibit on Monday that uses art and sound to explore Martin Luther King Junior’s dream of racial equality.

Mike Lovett

Michael Rush takes the reins as founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University this weekend:

"Personally I think this is the most extraordinary opportunity in contemporary arts in the States right now."

The contemporary art scholar moved from New York to East Lansing to kick start the new museum.

Listen to an excerpt of his conversation with Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra:

Rush's first day on the job is Saturday, Jan. 15, though the museum isn't set to open until spring of 2012.

flickr - user paintitblack22

Update Thursday, 9:57 a.m.:

DSO management wrote to us saying the information provided below regarding the DSO contract proposal was dated. We've updated the copy to clarify that this was one of management's original proposals.

Update 6:45 p.m.: 

At today's press conference, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians urged management to return to the bargaining table. They say the strike is hurting area businesses, especially restaurants.

David Zainea co-owns the Majestic Cafe in Midtown, and he says business has taken a big hit since the musicians went on strike Oct. 4: 

"We’re down almost 25% in the course of three months."

The musicians said they wanted to use the suggested proposal U.S. Senator Carl Levin and then-governor Jennifer Granholm had issued as a roadmap. 

That proposal called for a $36 million, 3-year contract that would require sacrifice from both sides. 

DSO management issued a statement this afternoon saying they would submit a proposal to the federal mediator "detailing how it would spend $36 million over three years once it secures additional, sustainable funding that would both close the gap between its position and the union's and support the enhanced communal and educational activities that are now even more important for the orchestra to revive and thrive."

DSO board chair Stanley Frankel had originally said he took the Granholm-Levin recommendation seriously, but:

"A $36 million compensation package is beyond what every consultant and our Board have said is feasible."

Photo courtesy of Andrew Moore

Photographers from around the world parachute in to take pictures of Detroit’s abandoned landscape. Some call it journalism or art, others call it ruin porn. On today's podcast, we talk with photographers about how and why they use Detroit as a muse.

You can see some of the photographers' photos of Detroit here.

Listen to the podcast:

Photo courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

Erin Stead won the 2011 Caldecott Medal for her wood block and pencil illustrations in the children's book, "A Sick Day for Amos McGee." The book was written by her husband, Philip.

When Erin Stead found out she won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, she was shocked:

"I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t see this coming!"

So shocked she had to call her editor to verify the news. "A Sick Day for Amos McGee," the first book Erin Stead has illustrated, is about a zoo keeper named Amos McGee:

A new report says repealing the federal health care law will cost Michigan consumers and small businesses a lot of money.

PIRGIM, the consumer advocacy group that issued the report, says individuals could see their premiums go up by 20% by 2016 if the repeal goes through. The repeal would also increase the cost of offering employer-based health insurance over the long term by more than $3,000 a year.

Meghan Hess is with PIRGIM. She says rolling back the law "would also terminate the establishment or expansion of over 184 community health centers across the state, and these community health centers help fill gaps in access to care, giving more people the ability to seek preventive care instead of going to the emergency room."

Attorneys General in Michigan and at least twenty other states have filed a lawsuit challenging the health care law.

Photographing the so-called 'ruins' of Detroit

Jan 9, 2011
Photo courtesy of Andrew Moore

Art vs. ruin porn
Photographers from around the world parachute in to take pictures of Detroit’s crumbling, abandoned landscape. Some call it journalism or art; others call it ruin porn.

Graph courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Michigan and several other states have had to borrow money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits. And now, the federal government wants states to repay.

Unemployment benefits are funded by Michigan businesses through a payroll tax.  When the recession caused the state’s unemployment rate to skyrocket (as high as 15% at one point), the state had to borrow more than $3.8 billion to pay jobless benefits.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A Borders bookstore in Farmington Hills is set to close Friday, Jan. 7.

Borders Books is starting the New Year by closing the Farmington Hills store and at least 16 other stores nationwide. A Borders spokesperson says more closures could be announced in March.

The Farmington Hills store is plastered with bright yellow "Going Out of Business" banners. Books are up to 80% off, and everything has to go in the next two days.

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