Max Johnston

Assignment Editor/Politics & Education reporter

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.

Interlochen Public Radio

The race for Grand Traverse County's 104th district could decide which party controls the Michigan House of Representatives.

Kendra Carr / Interlochen Public Radio

More than just the presidency is at stake in November's general election. Grand Traverse County's 104th District in the state house is one of four seats that Democrats want to flip to get a partisan majority.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

The small town of Idlewild in Lake County was once called the “Black eden” of Michigan. For decades it attracted thousands of Black musicians, entrepreneurs and families every weekend.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Northern Michigan is mostly white and rural. If you’re Black, like Dilla Scott and her three children, life Up North can be hard.

They say they’ve been harassed over their 30 years living here. They’ve endured, relying on each other and their faith in God.

But now the arrest of a family member has shaken their conviction.

And they are wondering if it is time to go.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Jill Biden, wife of Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, spoke in Traverse City on Tuesday.

A crowd of over 100 people wearing masks and sitting six-feet apart listened outside Right Brain Brewery as Biden called for early in-person and mail-in voting.

“We have to show them we’re not gonna sit by and just watch what happens. We’re going to decide what happens by voting today,” she said.

Biden said her husband would unify the country if elected. Chasten Buttigieg, Traverse City native and husband of former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, also spoke.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Most school districts Up North have returned to in-person learning in the past few weeks, and several are already seeing COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Just days before Traverse City students return to in-person learning, the district announced a student athlete has tested positive for COVID-19.

Students across the state are going back to school this week, and most Up North will return to in-person learning. Kingsley Schools started in late August and had a student test positive for COVID-19 during the first week back.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker at a campaign event in Traverse City Friday. In his speech he said he views winning Michigan as key to securing President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.

In documents filed in federal court Friday, U.S. prosecutors say they want to take State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) to court before he leaves office.

Inman is accused of trying to sell his vote on a piece of legislation in 2018. He’s still facing two corruption charges after a partial acquittal and mistrial last year.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Many northern Michigan schools will return to in-person instruction this fall. That has some parents and teachers worried about transmission of the coronavirus.

Morgan Springer

Former Grand Traverse County Jail Administrator Todd Ritter was in district court virtually Friday facing four felonies and one misdemeanor. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has charged him with embezzlement, larceny, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty.

Tom Swift

After Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle was caught using, and later defending, a racial slur, local officials are arguing about the county’s response. 

Morgan Springer

Traverse City Area Public Schools will offer in-person instruction for students this fall, but the first two weeks of school will happen online.

Max Johnston

Unofficial election results are in for Michigan's August Primary. The following results are subject to change as more information comes in.

1st Congressional District

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) ran unopposed in Tuesday's primary. His Democratic challenger is Dana Ferguson, who won the party's nomination. Michigan's 1st Congressional District is comprised of the entire Upper Peninsula and parts of northern Lower Michigan.

101st State House Seat

Dan Wanschura

Clerks across the northwest lower Michigan region say they’re getting a lot of mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s primary.

“We have more than doubled the number of absentee ballots that have been cast for this election compared to the August 2016 election,” Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Secretary of State has pushed for voters to use absentee ballots. As of July 28, the state has given out 1,977,116 absentee ballots. For context, by July of 2016 the state had only given out 546,032.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan’s primary is Tuesday, August 4. Voters across the state will head to the polls or mail in their ballots on state and national office and local proposals.


Executive Office of the Governor

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has toughened the rules that require masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. Her latest Executive Order says businesses must deny service to people who refuse to wear masks indoors. It also says customers must remain at least six feet from others outdoors.  

Traverse City will buy body cameras for its police officers. The final price tag, make and model is still being researched, but the City Commission approved to spend up to $100,000 dollars on the cameras at a virtual meeting Monday night.

Executive Office of the Governor

A few weeks ago, IPR reported on the problems facing rural schools in northern Michigan before next fall. Now, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has provided a roadmap for them to reopen.

But there is still a lot of uncertainty on what next school year will look like.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff says his officers will undergo more implicit bias training after the killing of George Floyd.

Dan Plasman

Since the killing of George Floyd, a group of activists has drawn thousands of people to protests in Traverse City. They’ve also gotten elected officials to consider putting body cameras on local police officers.

But they say they’re just getting started.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Michigan schools are preparing for some of the deepest funding cuts in nearly three decades. Some small rural school districts Up North hope to avoid layoffs or cut programs.

They’re more worried about the basics, like bussing, hiring and cleaning.

JJ, FLICKR

More Traverse City Police officers may wear body cameras this year. After the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis Police, the Traverse City Commission is considering spending up to $100,000 from the city’s general fund on outfitting their officers with cameras.

The proposal was brought up to commissioners at a meeting Monday night. Mayor Pro Tem Amy Shamroe introduced it.

“It’s kind of becoming more of a tool both for the citizens and the officers themselves to have that extra layer of protection and evidence gathering,” Shamroe said.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

White supremacists were behind rumors that a protest over the killing of George Floyd would turn violent, according to the Traverse City Police Chief.

“The ‘alt-right’ was saying they were ‘alt-left,’” Chief Jeff O’Brien told city commissioners Monday night.

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