Dell Deaton's New Hat
With his newspaper clients disappearing, he started his own opinionated website.
by Sheila Beachum Bilby
Published in April, 2019
Saline photographer and marketing professional Dell Deaton works from an unassuming suite of offices on Michigan Ave. His photographs provide the main decor at D2 Enterprises, and a gallery showroom is well stocked with his fine prints and commemorative postcards for sale.
Deaton, fifty-six, wears many hats, including divorce counselor and online expert on watches worn in James Bond movies. And for at least thirty-five years, he's sold photos and news copy to local newspapers and wire service outlets. But lately, he says, his clients have been "going out of business, over and over again."
One of those was the Saline Reporter. Five years ago, Digital First Media merged Saline's weekly newspaper with six others into a single countywide publication--only to shut down entirely a year later. (Digital First also owns the Detroit News--and as the Community Observer went to press, was attempting a hostile takeover of Detroit Free Press owner Gannett.)
A year ago, Deaton and his wife Janet launched their own online publication: SalineJournal.com, a self-described metro magazine devoted to in-depth looks at business, tourism, and history in the Saline area.
"First and foremost, Saline Journal is providing a voice that is not the corporate voice of Saline," says Deaton. "We're not the insider voice. We're not the voice that tells the story that Saline City Council wants to tell.
"What we do is try and connect the dots," says Deaton. "We try and talk about the big picture." He is the Journal's editor and his wife is its publisher; three staffers help with background research, fact-checking, technical website upkeep, and assembling "references" that link to related stories or photographs. He says the site gets 3,000 unique viewers monthly.
The Journal isn't Saline's first online news source. For almost seven years, Tran Longmoore's SalinePost.com has provided broad coverage of local government, school, business, and community news.
"The focus of both publications are very different," says Saline mayor Brian Marl. "We're very blessed to
have both of them cover news events and economic activities in the city of Saline."
Deaton wrote for the Post for free in 2017--and D2 advertised on its website--before he left to start the Journal in early 2018. Around that same time, Deaton became an investor in the planned Best Western Premier Hotel, now under construction just half a mile east of Deaton's office.
Every story on the Journal site features a prominent ad reminding readers that the hotel will open in 2019, and the site gives regular updates on the hotel's construction, touting its potential economic benefits for other local businesses. In one recent article, Deaton predicted that once it opens, "the effective Saline nexus will actually migrate from four-corners to a point just off the TCF Bank parking lot."
Asked if he owes it to readers to disclose his personal financial interest in the hotel, Deaton replies: "I'm not even saying that I'm covering it from an objective standpoint. I am covering it from a different standpoint."
Ultimately, Deaton says, "I would suggest probably that the vast majority of people who read Saline Journal don't know that I'm an investor." He adds: "Nor probably cares."
But, he says later, "If your question is do you think that I'm objective about it, my answer would be yes. I think that I am. You would have to judge me by what it is that I write."
[Originally published in April, 2019.]
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