Local News Coverage

The following question deals with the difficulty of sustaining a local newspaper, specifically the Ann Arbor News.

5:  Do you think in Ann Arbor the quality has dropped, or they’ve cut costs too much, that we don’t have that hard-hitting journalism that goes after government officials or local corporations?

A:  Yes, I think the quality has gone down, we’ve lost that. It was a very strange situation. We have Ann Arbor, MI, which is a place where people are very interested in the news, well-educated, you’ve got the University, you’ve got other things in the city. The idea that you can’t have a daily newspaper in a city like Ann Arbor is very hard to believe for me. And that’s what we were told when the Ann Arbor News was folded. We were told, “No, we just could not sustain it.” So, the staff was laid off, and then some of them were hired back to AnnArbor.com at lower levels of compensation, and people were brought in who were complete ameteurs, inexperienced, naive in a lot of cases, and if you look at AnnArbor.com, some of what they run are basically press releases. Without any kind of skepticism or going deeper to find out what’s really behind it. So, yes, we’ve lost all of that.

  • Since I was raised in Ann Arbor, I grew up reading a daily print copy of the Ann Arbor News, and I totally agree with Mr. Collings’ amazement of the fact that this city was not able to sustain a daily print newspaper.  If a city of this caliber can’t keep one alive, who can?  Mr. Collings wrote a blog post for his Blog, Capturing The News, on the one-year anniversary of the demise of the Ann Arbor News.  In it, he calls the new form, AnnArbor.com, more of a “community bulletin board,” and I would say that is a very apt description of the role it serves in the city.
  • Even though AnnArbor.com retained some familiar faces from the Ann Arbor News, it certainly did not retain anywhere near the budget or staff of what the Ann Arbor News had.  I have noticed that the amount of their original content in their Thursday and Sunday print editions is nowhere near close to the amount of original reporting the Ann Arbor News had in each daily print edition.  Their print editions are also much more aggregation focused than what a normal full-time newspaper company would do.  It has entire sections that are drawn straight from the AP or the nytimes.  To me, this does not seem like a model that will work in an affluent city such as Ann Arbor because it does not motivate an Ann Arbor News subscriber to pay for a low-budget production of what they are used to.
  • Time Magazine penned an insightful piece in 2009 when Ann Arbor News was converted into an experiment known both online and off as AnnArbor.com.

About tommyheld

UMich Ford School of Public Policy 2011 Alum, '13-'14 WorldTeach English teacher in China
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