DETROIT – The John C. Lodge Freeway, which was first built in the 1950s and named after the former mayor in 1987, connects the city of Detroit to the suburbs, ending in Southfield. That was the inspiration behind native Detroit media personalities Jemele Hill and Kelley L. Carter founding Lodge Freeway Media: to connect the world to stories about people of color, specifically women.
“I’m from the suburbs and Jemele is from the inner-city,” said Carter, who hails from Southfield. “Obviously, the Lodge is the freeway that connects those two cities, so, we wanted something meaningful. We knew from the onset that we wanted something that represented Detroit and the metropolitan area because it means so much to both of us. We really wanted people from to Detroit know where we were going for with that name.”
Lodge Freeway Media is a production company that will focus on telling stories on women of color through films, docuseries, television, and print. As career storytellers who push the envelope, Hill and Carter are combining their skills and interests into a form where they control the content and narrative.
“We first started talking about doing projects together last spring,” said Carter. “We incorporated our business officially in August. It was just something we were going to do in the future. We didn’t know how far or immediate that was going to be, but we knew that we wanted to do some work together and we had ideas and stories that wouldn’t be related to ESPN. But things got moving a little bit more quickly than we expected and a year later, everyone else found out what we had cooking.”
Hill and Carter have been best friends since their college days at Michigan State University and spoke in-depth on career change and their new endeavor, in front of thousands at the Masonic Temple at TedxDetroit on Wednesday. Hill recently departed ESPN, leaving behind a 12-year career that saw her and former co-host Michael Smith headline shows such as, ‘Number Never Lie’, ‘His & Hers’, and ‘SportsCenter’ to being critical of the head of the White House and others in this country who choose racism over equality. Despite what some may think of Hill, she had a great run at ESPN, and will continue her excellence with Lodge Freeway Media and other opportunities.
She is already set to narrate LeBron James’ upcoming documentary series “Shut Up and Dribble.”
“Outside looking in, I would say that I was crazy, too,” said Hill, on leaving The Worldwide Leader in Sports. “ESPN is one of the most powerful brands in sports, not just in this country, but in the world. This is my 21styear as a career sports journalist…I think there are two or three times in life where we can see a pitch and hit a homerun. Right now, as I’m staring at the next phase in my career, I’m seeing a fastball straight down the middle.”
Kelley, who has been with ESPN since 2015, and is the senior entertainment writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated, recently signed a multi-year deal to remain with ESPN. And despite her bestie choosing to go another route, supports Hill’s decision, views, and outlook on the next chapter of her life. She compared their relationship to that of Lucille Ball and Ethel Mertz: capable, creative women who support each other and whose wildest successes and wackiest failures always happen side-by-side.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Carter. “I know that ESPN was such a special place for her and it is a special place for me too. But, I’m excited to see what’s coming next for her. One thing about Jemele is that she always marches to the beat of her own drum. She will be okay wherever she lands.”
From her time with the Detroit Free Press covering MSU football and basketball earlier in her career, to her many roles talking sports on ESPN since 2006, sports has always been associated with Hill’s name. But she is much more than that. She is intelligent, creative, an activist, and not afraid to put people in their place. When Lodge Freeway Media finally gets rolling, she and Carter will be stepping into a new world they both admitted scares them, but one they have committed their entire careers forming. After years of finding out the who, what, when, where, and why of others, Hill has finally discovered her own why.
“My why boils down to a few very simple things,” said Hill. “My why is my commitment to creativity. My why is my commitment to storytelling, particularly telling stories about people and women of color, as we continue to grow and rise in our voices. My why is also my commitment to my God, my family, and this city where I’m from and raised me.”