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.

Conner Desilets / Interlochen Public Radio

Former State Representative Larry Inman is close to being a free man after a federal judge dropped the two remaining corruption charges against him: extortion and soliciting a bribe.

“Getting the news that it’s over after everything I’ve been through, it’s like a state of disbelief,” Inman said.

Michigan House Democrats

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula used to be represented by Democrats in Lansing and Washington, DC.

Now there’s one left: Sara Cambensy from Marquette represents the 109th District in the Michigan House of Representatives. The UP Democrat attacks her governor and sometimes votes with Republicans.

That is what kept Rep. Cambensy in office, but she might be the last of a dying breed.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2018. But you still can’t buy any in Traverse City even though 12 dispensaries are open, and ready to sell it.

So they are are suing the city, hoping they'll be able to cash-in on what could be a big tourism season this summer.


Thursday on Stateside, Michigan State Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) discussed how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the Upper Peninsula. Also a look at the difficulties recreational marijuana shop owners have had opening up in Traverse City. Plus, after a long year, a West Michigan tulip festival blooms again.

This episode was hosted by Interlochen Public Radio's Assignment Editor Max Johnston.

Today on Stateside, we talk about the plan to convert Ford Field into a regional mass vaccination site. Also, a rapper and activist discusses how music can help young Black men and boys tell their stories and work through trauma. Plus, on this unusual St. Patrick’s Day, we'll hear about the history of Michigan's Irish immigrants—from Corktown to Marquette.

Kaye LaFond

Fifteen members of Congress, including five republicans from Michigan, are asking President Joe Biden to support the Line 5 oil pipeline.


The U.S. Coast Guard is breaking up ice that’s thinner than usual on northern Michigan’s lakes and rivers.

Coast Guard Director of Vessel Services Mark Gill says a warm winter with a late blast of arctic air in January and February meant vast -- yet thin -- ice coverage.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In January, U.S. Representative Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) voted against certifying President Joe Biden’s victory, even after the insurrection attempt.

Rep. Bergman was direct when asked if he had any regrets.

"The short answer is no," he said.

And the long answer?

"Hell no."

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is investigating a criminal complaint against Grand Traverse County Commission Vice Chair Ron Clous. He displayed a firearm during a constituent’s public comment in a virtual board meeting in January.

Becky Dornoff

In October Danielle Dornoff came home with mild Covid symptoms. She also has a heart condition so her mother Rebecca took her to the hospital.

She's one of eight adopted children Becky and her husband Michael have at home, all with special needs.

Not long after she tested positive for Covid and was admitted, Becky and Michael weren't far behind.

Grand Traverse County

The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners didn't punish Board Vice Chair Ron Clous Wednesday for pulling out a gun during a constituent's comments last month.

Grand Traverse County

The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Thursday after Co-Chair Ron Clous pulled out a rifle during a constituent's public comment last week

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave her third State of the State speech Wednesday night. Because of the coronavirus pandemic it was the first delivered virtually, with the Governor speaking from her Lansing office.

In it she called for bipartisan solutions to the coronavirus.

Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners

Ron Clous, vice chair of the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners, showed off a rifle as a constituent voiced concerns about guns during a virtual meeting Wednesday.

During the public comment period, a resident expressed concerns that members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence in the state, had attended a previous meeting.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Millions of people are relying on food pantries during the pandemic. In rural spots Up North, that means long lines at cash-strapped facilities.

And that can be especially hard for people with diabetes.

As part of IPR's new series Our Lives Have Changed, meet a man whose life has been upended by the demand on food pantries.

Congressman Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) is safe and sheltering in place in the nation's Capitol during violent clashes between far-right protestors and law enforcement, according to a spokesman.

On social media Bergman denounced the attacks from far-right supporters of President Donald Trump.

U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) says he will object to the certification of the November election results this week. He’ll join several other Republicans from both chambers that will challenge the results due to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Conner Desilets / Interlochen Public Radio

In a flurry of action at the end of the Legislative Session in Lansing Monday, State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) was let back into the Republican caucus in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Northwest Michigan Health Services

The first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine went out to healthcare workers in the state this week. It’s expected to get to northern Michigan by the weekend.

As of Tuesday, over 16,000 people in northern Lower Michigan have COVID-19. Meanwhile 300 people have died Up North since last Spring.

Interlochen Center for the Arts

The Iron Pig Smokehouse in Gaylord and Friske’s Farm Market in Antrim County have repeatedly defied health and safety protocols during the pandemic despite enforcement from their local health department.


After a lot of action in the Spring, the state legislature has been quiet on COVID-19 for months. Instead many have focused on legal and political battles.

Now legislators on both sides say that gridlock over the pandemic is likely to continue.

Kaye LaFond




Line 5’s days may be numbered. 


Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the twin pipelines running along the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac must stop carrying oil and gas by May of 2021. 


Interlochen Public Radio

Update 11/13/20: Traverse City Area Public Schools will keep the middle and high schools listed below closed through Friday, November 20, according to the district.  

Traverse City Area Public Schools will close East Middle School, West Middle School, Central High School, West Senior High School, and Traverse City High School for the rest of the week due to COVID-19. However, all elementary schools will remain open.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Update: Antrim County has released new unofficial results that show Donald Trump took 56 percent of the vote Tuesday. Other Republicans near the top of the ticket did better than the President. Senate candidate John James received 57 percent of the vote and Congressman Jack Bergman took 60 percent. County officials say the initial problems with the count stemmed from a procedural error on Election night. 


There may be a problem with Antrim County’s ballots. According to unofficial results posted by the county clerk, democrats in several races got the majority of votes there.

Taylor Wizner

According to unofficial election results, voters approved a plan to pay for improvements to Benzie County schools. The proposal passed with more than 700 votes as of Wednesday morning. Voters knocked it down in three previous elections.