WUOMFM

Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV 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 master's in broadcast journalism from Fordham University in New York. When not working on a story, you can find Jen practicing her tap steps and hanging out with her husband and their two hilarious kids.

Ways to Connect

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Update March 14th, 10:14 a.m.

Tony Dearing is AnnArbor.com's chief content officer. He posted a comment over the weekend on AnnArbor.com about the layoffs. Here's what he wrote:

While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don't discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things -- including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage -- that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.

We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we're seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.

user: Re_ / creative commons

On today's Artpod, we'll look into the health and safety concerns that surround a Michigan small business called Glittersniffer Cosmetics.

Bridget Bodnar filed the report for Michigan Radio. The story generated a lot of buzz on the Michigan Radio comment page, and got picked up by AnnArbor.com as well.

Bodnar talked to about a dozen women who used Glittersniffer Cosmetics, including one woman who said the eye makeup "started to burn and itch and I just wanted to rub, and dig my eyeballs out of my face they hurt so badly.”

Nate Luzod / creative commons

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians said last week they would return to the stage if management agreed to binding arbitration. But management has yet to agree…so the musicians are still on strike.

Roland Zullo is a labor specialist at the University of Michigan. He says binding arbitration is all about persuasion; which side can best convince a panel of the merits of their bargaining proposals:

"If management looked at their proposal carefully, weighed it against what’s happening elsewhere in the industry and saw that they were on weak ground, they might refuse arbitration."

Zullo says it would "be good for the public" for management to accept binding arbitration "and get the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back up and operating again."

In a statement, a DSO spokeswoman said management proposed several ways to return the musicians to work.

Carlota Soc / creative commons

A mail processing center in Flint may be slated for closure next month. The United States Postal Service may move the city’s mail sorting and processing to Pontiac.

Shannon LaBruyere is with the U.S. Postal Service. She says if the closure goes through, 113 jobs will be affected; half would be relocated to Pontiac, half would be offered other positions likely outside of Michigan.

"They will be the people who bear the brunt of the change. Our customers, from our preliminary assessments, won’t see any change in the service they receive."

USPS will hold a public meeting to discuss the possible Flint closure on March 23 at the city's Holiday Inn Gateway Centre.

The Postal Service lost $8.5 billion last fiscal year and plans to close 2,000 post offices nationwide this year. LaBruyere says USPS would save "$6.5 million dollars per year" by moving Flint operations to the Michigan Metroplex in Pontiac. 

A Washington Post article in February says President Obama's 2012 budget recommends about $11 billion in relief to help stem losses at the Postal Service:

The losses stem in part from hefty personnel costs not borne by other federal agencies. One is a requirement, imposed by a 2006 law, that it set aside money each year to cover the costs of future health benefits for its retired workers.

In the Obama administration's first substantive attempt to address the Postal Service's fiscal woes, the budget would allow the agency to pay $4 billion less toward future retiree health benefits than otherwise required. The mail agency would have to pay about $1.5 billion of those costs in fiscal 2012 and make up the difference in later years.

The budget proposal also adjusts the size of the annual payments by taking into account the size of the workforce, which has shrunk to about 583,000 full-time employees since the law passed in 2006.

User thinkpanama / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Public School district received a $231 million dollar loan from the state. 

The loan will help the district with "employee payroll and vendor payments," according to Steve Wasko, a spokesman for the district. He says the loan won't help with any of the district's long term financial problems:

  1. $327 million budget deficit.
  2. $161 million dollars in budget cuts if Governor Rick Snyder's proposed education cuts go through.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek filed a story for NPR about the district's $327 million budget deficit. Here's an excerpt:

With Detroit's public school district facing a $327 million budget deficit, the state-appointed Emergency Financial Manager has proposed closing half the district's schools and putting up to 60 kids in a classroom.

Robert Bobb admits that his deficit elimination plan could be disastrous for students — he calls it "draconian" — but he may have no choice but to implement it.

In January, he gave the plan to the state of Michigan, warning that it's the only way for Detroit Public Schools to "cut its way out" of its deficit. The state's department of education says that's exactly what Bobb should do.

"We're working through some very difficult and challenging budget situations," Bobb said last week. He backed away somewhat from one of the plan's most staggering provisions: 60 kids in some classrooms. But he says class sizes will go up as the district closes about half its schools.

The plan also calls for replacing individual school principals with regional ones, and cutting all general bus service.

Lots of Michigan districts take out short term loans in August to help pay employees and vendors because districts' fiscal year is out of sync with the state’s fiscal year. The Detroit Public Schools district borrows twice a year for cash flow purposes - in August and March.

Kim Phillips / Flickr

A coalition of environmental groups wants to stop a nuclear power plant in Ohio from renewing its license.

The operating license for the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio runs out in 2017. By that point, the plant will be 40 years old. First Energy, the company that owns the plant, wants to renew the license for another twenty years.

That’s the last thing Michael Keegan wants. He’s with the environmental group, Don’t Waste Michigan. Keegan and others went before a panel to challenge the license renewal:

"We have solar, wind and in combination we have replacement power available now which can be put in place prior to 2017."

Reporter Tom Henry with the Toledo Blade was at the proceeding and filed a story. Here's an excerpt:

The first half of the proceeding was focused on projections for wind power, solar power, and a combination of the two as possible offsets for nuclear power. The afternoon was devoted to a FirstEnergy document known as a Severe Accident Mitigation Analysis, one in which utilities are obligated to show how they would respond to dangerous nuclear scenarios.

Arguments in favor of renewables appear to rely on the viability of harnessing wind, solar, and other sources for later use through a technology known as compressed air energy storage, judges said. [Adam] Polonsky [of Washington-based Morgan Lewis Counselors at Law, which has represented FirstEnergy on nuclear issues for years]  conceded it has potential and should be explored.

"But that doesn't mean it is a reasonable alternative to a 908-megawatt reactor," he said, referring to Davis-Besse's generating capacity.

The panel now has to decide whether the environmental groups can move forward with their petition to intervene.

To date the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to deny a license renewal, though several applications are still pending.

In Michigan, the license for the Fermi II Nuclear Plant is good through 2025.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Earlier this week, the DSO striking musicians say they’re willing to come back to work without a contract if management agrees to binding arbitration.

Greg Bowens is a spokesman for the musicians:

"It was a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision.  Something we would have thought was un-thinkable a week ago today. They are trying to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike under the conditions management had previously imposed."

On today's Artpod, we'll look at what kind of role social media played during the five month labor dispute between the two sides.

Dani Davis

Creative types from across the country will convene in Detroit next month to talk about how artists can help revitalize post-industrial cities.

Matt Clayson directs the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and is one of the people behind the “Rust Belt to Artist Belt” conference.

He says the conference will focus on the creative supply chain many post-industrial cities like Detroit have to offer:

The musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra voted today to return to work without a contract.

Greg Bowens is the musicians spokesman:

"It was a very difficult, gut-wrenching decision; something we would have thought was unthinkable a week ago today, and that is they are trying to extend the hand of friendship in an effort to end the strike under the conditions management had previously imposed."

Bowens says the exact conditions under which the musicians would return will be revealed at a press conference this afternoon.

Management still has to agree to the idea.

The musicians have been on strike since October fourth.

Bowens wouldn't give details on why the musicians voted to go back to work without a contract, except to say this:

"Look, the Max M. Fisher Theater is spiraling out of control financially. Artists are turning down left and right the opportunity to perform there because they don't want to be a part of this strike.

The musicians understand that it's an important part of the economic engine for Midtown, and so they want to do everything they can in order to let the music play."

flickr user Bernt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

About a dozen law students from Detroit and Windsor will have a chance to work together on environmental legal issues.

The law schools at Wayne State University and the University of Windsor will team up this fall to create North America's first  transnational environmental law clinic.

screen shot / DSO facebook fan page

As the fight between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and musicians drags on for the fourth month, another fight of sorts is playing out on facebook.

Before the strike vs. now

The DSO  facebook fan page used to function like a typical fan page - stories about visiting conductors, upcoming concerts, and news about the orchestra’s Tiny Tots series.

But as the strike progressed, management has turned the DSO facebook fan page into a strike-update page, posting about negotiations and contract proposals. (The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have their own facebook page and post their viewpoints there.)

Some, like DSO Executive director Anne Parsons, describe the DSO facebook fan page as "a pretty active place to be." DSO conductor Leonard Slatkin commented on the page's level of "vitriol" at one point in a Detroit News Article.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Motown sound will take center stage at the White House tonight.

More than 100 students will be at the special musical event, including several from the record label’s hometown of Detroit.

Detroit-native Augustine Cox loves music. The 17-year old says she's known she wants to go into the music business since she was in second grade; she wants to be a performer or a music producer.

When Cox, who goes to Birch Run High School, found out she was picked to go to Washington, D.C. for a Motown tribute concert at the White House, she was thrilled. She grew up listening to "the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson." Cox says she listens to today's music, too, "but when I want to hear real music and real passion, I throw on a Motown CD."

Her current fave? The Best of Michael Jackson.

Nate Luzod / Creative Commons

Now that the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have rejected management’s final proposal, many are wondering: What’s next for the organization?

Management 'suspended' the orchestra's current season, and doubts are swirling around the 2011-12 season.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder wants to cut state funding for K-12 schools by about four percent, or roughly $470 per student.

School districts across the state are now combing through their budgets to see where those cuts could be made.

Tom Goulding is deputy superintendent for West Bloomfield public schools. He says the proposed cuts, which amount to $3.2 million for Goulding's district, don't come as a complete surprise, but they're still "problematic" just the same:

"For example, that type of a cut, if you looked at certain departments or services, could wipe out our K-12 transportation system; not that it would, but the dollars are equivalent to that. Or, based on our total payroll to make up the $3.2 million, it would mean approximately an 8.5% pay cut for each employee working for our school district."

Goulding says neither of those options would go over well in his district.

Photo courtesy of the Heidelberg Project via Facebook

Two Detroit arts organizations are one step closer to turning their artistic visions into reality.

Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC), a national arts organization, awarded $50,000 to the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, and $100,000 to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).

Heidelberg will use the money to build an outdoor public art project on Detroit’s east side. MOCAD will use the money to create an outdoor space for art and community engagement.

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.

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