November 29, 2022
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Arjun Thakkar Joins WKAR as new politics and civics reporter

Read Time:7 Minute, 43 Second

WKAR has a new voice on the airwaves bringing you the latest in mid-Michigan political news.

Arjun Thakkar is joining WKAR as a new politics and civics reporter after stints at the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Michigan. He’s also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan.

Arjun spoke with WKAR’s All Things Considered host Sophia Saliby about transitioning to covering politics in mid-Michigan.

Interview Highlights

On what he’s covered at Bridge Michigan and the Detroit Free Press

During my time at Bridge, you know, Michigan was kind of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of businesses were reopening during that summer. So I wrote a couple enterprise stories there that were pretty interesting. … During my time at the Free Press, I was a data journalist. So I worked a lot on, you know, analyzing different state and government data. So I looked at abortion trends in the state and the number of abortions that were reported to the state over the years, and how those trends have changed, as well as a story about weather, temperature and precipitation trends in the state. So that was really interesting getting to look at numbers and find ways to convey them through, you know, visualizations and images.

On what he’s following ahead of the midterm elections

At the U.S. House of Representatives level, I am closely following Michigan’s 7th congressional district race. Elissa Slotkin is running for a third term in the new district against Tom Barrett, that’s going to be a very competitive race from from what both campaigns are communicating to us. So that’ll be very important to watch going forward, and it could determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the local level, the City Council Ward 1 race is also going to be very important for the Eastside residents of Lansing. And of course, statewide, you know, there are three ballot proposals. I’m very curious to see how voters respond to them.

On what being Capital area reporter means to him

I think a lot goes on in mid-Michigan, you know, we have the state Capitol. There’s a there’s several different large cities. There’s Michigan State University of course. And it’s really important to communicate that with our listeners and help inform them about the issues that matter to them. That’s kind of the role of journalism and especially public radio. We want to be a service to the community. And I’m hoping that I can do that by covering a lot of the local political issues in the area.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: We have a new voice on the airwaves bringing you the latest in mid-Michigan political news. Arjun Thakkar is joining us after stints at the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Michigan. He’s also a recent graduate of the University of Michigan. He is our new politics and civics reporter as well. Arjun is here with me now. Thanks for joining me, and welcome to the news team.

Arjun Thakkar: Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Saliby: What brought you to WKAR?

Thakkar: Yeah, I’ve lived in Chicago, most of my life, a suburb of Chicago. And I went to University of Michigan for undergrad. And you know, after four years in Michigan, doing a few internships at different publications, I realized that I know Michigan news and Michigan politics better than my home state. I’ve always loved following different political developments at the local level, the state level and even in the national level within Michigan. And I’ve always loved following that.

And I had been to Lansing before, through my work with Bridge. And I thought that it was an interesting place to work, I thought there was a lot going on in the area that was super interesting. And I’ve always admired public radio and wanting to get involved in in that kind of sphere. I’m really happy to be here now in doing a lot more different work than what I’m used to in print.

Saliby: Are there any stories you’re especially proud of writing in your time at the Free Press or Bridge?

Thakkar: Yeah, I think a few stories come to mind. During my time at Bridge, you know, Michigan was kind of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of businesses were reopening during that summer. So I wrote a couple enterprise stories there that were pretty interesting. I talked about movie theaters that were forced to close because of the restrictions due to the pandemic. And they were just starting to reopen and just starting to begin screenings again. That was a super interesting experience talking to theater owners seeing the kinds of impacts they had on their communities. I also spoke with owners of a few different restaurants that were able to expand outdoor dining during the pandemic. And that was also really exciting talking to those owners, seeing how their communities were changing, evolving in response to the pandemic.

During my time at the Free Press, I was a data journalist. So I worked a lot on, you know, analyzing different state and government data. So I looked at abortion trends in the state and the number of abortions that were reported to the state over the years, and how those trends have changed, as well as a story about weather, temperature and precipitation trends in the state. So that was really interesting getting to look at numbers and find ways to convey them through, you know, visualizations and images.

Saliby: You’re joining us at a busy time for politics just a few weeks out from the midterm elections. What big races and issues are you watching?

Thakkar: You’re right, it is a super busy time. I almost wish I started here a couple of weeks earlier, there’s a lot going on. At the U.S. House of Representatives level, I am closely following Michigan’s 7th congressional district race. Elissa Slotkin is running for a third term in the new district against Tom Barrett, that’s going to be a very competitive race from from what both campaigns are communicating to us. So that’ll be very important to watch going forward, and it could determine control of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the local level, the City Council Ward 1 race is also going to be very important for the Eastside residents of Lansing.

And of course, statewide, you know, there are three ballot proposals. I’m very curious to see how voters respond to them, having to do with, you know, term limits and campaign finance disclosure, expanding voting access, as well as abortion, right to abortion in the state constitution. And I’m just ultimately curious to see how the issues of the economy and abortion affect voters’ outlook in the state.

Saliby: Beyond the election, what other stories are you excited to cover in mid-Michigan?

Thakkar: Well, I’m always curious to cover issues that are important to residents. And I know that public transportation and public transit is super important for residents, it can affect how people go about their day how people commute to and from work, or wherever they want to go spend their time in the day. So I’m very curious to, you know, work on some few stories, talk to residents that are impacted by the transit situation in the Greater Lansing area.

I also think the environment and covering climate change and different environmental issues is also very relevant to readers. I know in the area, there’s a lot of great nature areas to go and hike through and rivers to go walk along. So I’m sure that that’s a huge priority on residents’ minds.

Beyond that, I also know public safety is a growing concern around the country and especially can be a concern in local communities. So I’d love to keep communicating with police departments and and local advocacy groups and see what kind of work is going on to reinforce public safety in the area.

Saliby: And briefly in these last few seconds we have: how do you see your role as a political reporter for the Capital region?

Thakkar: Well, you know, as I said, I think a lot goes on in mid-Michigan, you know, we have the state Capitol. There’s a there’s several different large cities. There’s Michigan State University of course. And it’s really important to communicate that with our listeners and help inform them about the issues that matter to them. That’s kind of the role of journalism and especially public radio. We want to be a service to the community. And I’m hoping that I can do that by covering a lot of the local political issues in the area.

Saliby: Arjun Thakkar is WKAR’s new politics and civics reporter. Thank you for being here.

Thakkar: Thanks for having me.





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