Lester Graham

Investigative Reporter

Lester Graham is with Michigan Watch, the investigative unit of Michigan Radio. 

He was formerly the Senior Editor of The Environment Report/Great Lakes Radio Consortium, the environmental news service based at Michigan Radio, starting with the service in 1998. 

He has been a journalist since 1985.  Graham has served as a board member of Public Radio News Directors Inc., and also served as President of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. He is a member of the Radio-Television Digital News Association(RTDNA), Society of Professional Journalists and other professional groups. 

Graham received more than 100 awards at the state, regional, national and international levels for journalistic excellence, including four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards, two of them at the network level.

Twitter: @MichiganWatch

Facebook link

email:  llgraham@umich.edu

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Wed October 15, 2014

Truth Squad calls foul on ad for Supreme Court candidates

Incumbent Supreme Court candidates David Viviano and Brian Zahra are supported by a radio ad paid for by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The bottom of the ballot is often ignored. That’s where the non-partisan races are located and includes candidates running for Michigan Supreme Court. Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad recently reviewed a radio ad being aired on behalf of two of the candidates running for the three open seats.

Incumbent Justices David Viviano and Brian Zahra were both put on the court by Gov. Rick Snyder.

A radio ad sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce makes this statement:

“Viviano and Zahra use common sense on Michigan’s Supreme Court. They’re rule-of-law judges.”

That statement colors the rest of the ad.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon October 13, 2014

How much can a governor really affect job creation?

Politicians like to take credit for improving the economy, and challengers like to blame sitting officials for damaging it. In the race for governor in Michigan there have been plenty of both those kinds of accusations. Lester Graham with Michigan Watch examines how much politicians can really affect the economy.

Outside a Michigan WORKS! employment office, I asked a few unemployed people if they thought any state politician could make a difference in creating jobs.

Davina Carey has been out of work since June. “Hopefully," she said, laughing. "I mean, I don’t know.”

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Truth Squad rules "flagrant foul" on teachers' union ad, warns Snyder campaign

Kids hold cardboard signs asking for money for schools while rich CEOs puffing on cigars, drinking champagne, and laughing drive by in a limo in this online ad from the MEA.

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine has had a busy summer looking at ads in the race for governor. The close race between Republican Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer has meant many ads on TV and online. Some are just not true. Others are slightly misleading. We went over a couple of them with the Truth Squad’s editor.

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Investigative
7:30 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Truth Squad rules "fouls" in ads for Snyder and Schauer

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine is handing out "fouls" to Democrats and Republicans. Political groups are airing ads on behalf of the candidates running for governor in Michigan.

First let’s look at an ad put together by the Democratic Governors Association. In it a school teacher, Kim Stanley, ties together three separate issues.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon September 15, 2014

After Detroit bankruptcy, is there enough money?

Monument to Joe Louis in downtown Detroit.
Credit user memories_by_mike / Flickr

The pieces are falling into place for Detroit to eventually emerge from bankruptcy with a lot less of its budget-servicing debt. But the city of Detroit’s budget could still be a house of cards. Many of its revenue sources are not stable.

Bankruptcy does not mean Detroit escapes all of its money problems.

It’s heavily dependent on a city income tax. If another economic dip is around the corner, that source of revenue would shrink.

Casino taxes are stagnant.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Truth Squad: no fouls for Land attack ads, but not the "whole truth," either

The Truth Squad at Bridge Magazine reviewed a couple of TV ads put on the air by Republican Terri Lynn Land’s campaign for U.S. Senate. But, there’s a pretty substantial gap between the "truth" and the
"whole truth."

These two TV ads from the Land campaign attack the Democratic candidate, Congressman Gary Peters.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue August 26, 2014

What’s news, what’s fake news, and do all voters know the difference?

This online site has the appearance of being a news website or a news blog, but the Republican group responsible for it says voters know the difference between fake news and a political attack piece.

A Republican group is attacking Democratic congressional candidates, using online sites that resemble news websites. One of those 20 websites is called the “South Michigan Update.”

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Watch for more political sparks over student testing in Michigan this year

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Testing students to assess their progress in school could get a lot more political before the year is out.

Legislators and the Michigan Department of Education clashed this year over a test to assess Common Core state standards. If the past is any clue, lawmakers with the help of the governor could simply take away the Department of Education’s authority and give it to a state agency more friendly to their point of view, such as Treasury. Gov. John Engler made exactly that kind of move several times during his time in office.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Fri August 22, 2014

Truth Squad calls foul on Snyder statement, warns Schauer

Democrat Mark Schauer is running his first campaign TV ad in his effort to become governor.

Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad is reviewing the ads and claims in the race for governor between incumbent Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer.

Democrat Mark Schauer is airing his first campaign TV ad and the Truth Squad has a couple of issues with it. First, there’s this statement:

“Rick Snyder’s economy might work for the wealthy, but it’s not working for the rest of Michigan.”

Now, that’s pretty standard political positioning, but Ron French with the Truth Squad says it’s unlikely, if not impossible, that only the wealthy are benefiting from the improvements in the Michigan economy since Rick Snyder took office.

“For one example, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11 percent to 7.5 percent. The Truth Squad questions whether it’s only the wealthy who have gotten jobs during that time,” French said.

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Politics & Government
3:48 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

Truth Squad rules a "flagrant foul" on outside ad in race for governor

'Foul' called by the Truth Squad on the Democratic Governors Association ad.

Several political campaigns during the primaries got very nasty. Things haven’t been quite so nasty in the governor’s race … yet.

Most of the ads we’ve seen about Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer have not been ads the candidates bought. Outside groups produced them and aired them.

The Democratic Governors Association paid for an ad attacking Republican Gov. Snyder.

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Politics & Government
6:18 am
Thu July 31, 2014

Truth Squad calls "flagrant foul" in 3rd District race

Screen capture of the Ellis TV ad. Truth Squad called a "flagrant foul" on the ad.

Bridge magazine’s Truth Squad has been reviewing political ads in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District's Republican primary campaigns.

The Third Congressional district stretches from north of Grand Rapids to south of Battle Creek. The incumbent is Justin Amash, a libertarian and Tea Party favorite. He’s being challenged in the Republican Primary by Brian Ellis, who has backing from many business leaders and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

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Politics & Government
7:00 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Truth Squad calls "fouls" on 4th Congressional District TV ads

Bridge magazine’s Truth Squad has been reviewing political TV ads in Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District Republican primary.

Paul Mitchell’s campaign ran an attack ad against Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, which included this claim:

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Politics & Government
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

Long-term Democrat challenged in Michigan's 13th Congressional primary race

Democratic Congressman John Conyers Jr. talks with Michigan Radio's Lester Graham. Conyers is facing a challenge in the 13th District primary.

Primary elections in Michigan will be held on August 5. Voters in parts of Detroit and Wayne County will decide between two Democratic candidates in the 13th Congressional District. The incumbent is John Conyers Jr. The challenger is The Rev. Horace Sheffield III.

Before we start talking about 2014, let me take you back 50 years:

“In your heart, you know he’s right. Vote for Barry Goldwater.”

“Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

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Politics & Government
11:02 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Civil rights groups want to meet with Detroit officials about water crisis

Civil rights groups are asking to meet with Detroit officials about a controversial water shut-off campaign.

The ACLU and the NAACP want to meet with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to find a “fair, humane, and meaningful review process,” which would include adequate notice and a hearing to determine whether individual water customers can’t or won’t pay their bills.

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Economy
9:01 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Mayor to announce "Detroit Homecoming"

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit is going to hold a little get-together to persuade former residents to come back home.

Mayor Mike Duggan wants former Detroiters to visit the city for a homecoming. The idea is to attract people who wrote off their relationship with the city. The "Detroit Homecoming" is aimed to bring them back for a visit, a little flirtation. After all, Detroit should be getting through its messy bankruptcy by then. It will be a little brighter, with thousands of  new LED streetlights. The parks are being mowed.

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Investigative
4:40 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Detroit sells $1 million worth of vacant homes

The city of Detroit says it’s sold $1 million dollars worth of vacant homes that will be fixed up and occupied. Nearly 70 auctioned properties have been sold.

These are purchase commitments from bidders, not cash in hand, but reaching the million-dollar mark gives Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Land Bank some bragging rights.

Of the 16,000 properties the city owns, 2,000 are salvageable. At an open house of properties to be auctioned last month, Mayor Duggan said the city would start putting up two houses a day for auction.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Thu June 26, 2014

You won't believe how much less Detroit will spend on streetlights

Dave Martin wiring one of the thousands of LED streetlights being installed in Detroit neighborhoods.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city of Detroit is functioning under bankruptcy. Until recently, almost half the streetlights of Detroit were dark. Thousands of new streetlights are replacing the old broken ones.

I caught up with one of several crews installing streetlights in neighborhoods around Detroit. James England is the foreman.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Detroit struggling to get enough buses on the road

Detroit bus riders complain they still have to wait too long too often. Relying on the system to get to work on time is at best difficult.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. Mayor Mike Duggan suggested he’d get a lot done in six months. We’re nearly there and took a look at progress with mass transportation in Detroit.

One out of every three Detroit households doesn’t have a car. They rely on the bus system. But it’s broken.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Detroit Mayor Duggan's blight elimination effort

Thirty percent of the structures in Detroit are considered blight.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. One of the biggest problems facing Detroit is the huge number of abandoned houses, buildings, and vacant lots. Here's a look at what’s changed in the six months since Mayor Mike Duggan took office.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan not like past mayors

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

This week Michigan Radio and our media partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy and the leadership of Mayor Mike Duggan.

At the beginning of the year, Mayor Duggan said to watch what happens in six months. We’ll review the changes throughout this week, but we thought we’d start with a look at the mayor himself.

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