PART OF the power of local journalism is to illuminate a crucial issue over the longer term, well after the national spotlight has left town. And it is with that sense of purpose that Michigan journalist Mike Thompson stayed focused last year on the Flint water crisis.
“Flint was the big story for about two months early last year, but then the TV trucks moved on,” Thompson tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. What didn’t soon leave Flint was the problem — neither the pipes nor the political system had been cleaned up, as water containing dangerously high levels of lead poisoned some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“I kept on drawing about the water scandal, and continue to do so,” says Thompson, editorial cartoonist at the Detroit Free Press, who over the weekend was announced as the winner of a 2017 RFK Human Rights Journalism Award for a series of cartoons commenting upon the Flint scandal.
“My goal is to keep the issue front and center until it is finally resolved,” Thompson says. “What’s happening in Flint is a harbinger for the country. Need help? Too bad, you’re on your own. You can see this sentiment clearly reflected in the Republican health-care bill.”
The RFK Journalism Awards honor reporting that addresses social justice and human-rights violations. Thompson’s winning portfolio reflects both those coverage areas.
“Flint is the crossroads where so many social-justice issues meet: race, poverty, income inequality and a political system that is unresponsive to the plight of struggling people,” says Thompson, whose cartoons have also been recognized by the Overseas Press Club and the National Press Foundation.
Thompson will be among the RFK Award winners in 13 media categories saluted in a May 23 ceremony at the Newseum.
“It’s my job to highlight issues like the Flint water scandal,” Thompson says, “and to keep up the public pressure to make sure the residents of Flint are not forgotten.”
Here is Thompson’s full series of Flint cartoons from his winning entry: