By mass-texting local residents, Outlier Media connects low-income news consumers to useful, personalized data

By drawing on a hefty database of information compiled from city and county public sources and automating initial responses, Alvarez has built the one-woman-show of Outlier Media into a resource for low-income news consumers in Detroit in search of tangible, individualized information. In 13 months, Alvarez has sent messages to about 40,000 Detroit cell phone numbers in her quest to reach “as many Detroiters as possible”; between 1,200 and 1,600 Detroiters have used Outlier to search for information on an address. (Opting out from Outlier’s messages is always an option as well.) She developed the system as a JSK Fellow after reporting for Michigan Public Radio.

“Even though the journalism was very good, I was not satisfied with covering low-income communities for a higher-income audience. I wanted to cover issues for and with low-income news consumers,” said Alvarez, who came to journalism after working as a civil rights lawyer. “I covered issues that were important to low-income families, but I was not a housing reporter. Using Outlier’s method and delivery system, it’s such efficient beat development. I learned so much about housing so quickly. You can talk to hundreds of people in a week instead of just talking to a few.”

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