On Sept. 2, 2014, The Ann Arbor Chronicle will observe the sixth anniversary of its launch.
That’s also the last day on which we’ll publish regular new reports.
The website will remain live, with its archives freely accessible at least until the end of 2014, possibly longer.
There may be a special project or two that we will wrap up and eventually insert into the archives.
The event listings will remain live, and it’s our intent to maintain them into the future.
When a business effectively closes its doors, it’s always fair to ask at least two questions: Why at all? And why now?
The second is easier to answer, so I’ll handle it first.
Sept. 2 is significant because it’s a wedding anniversary date – for me and Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan. For the same sentimental reasons that Sept. 2 served well as a launch date, it will also serve as a splendid time to shut things down. Choosing that same date makes for a neat, tidy six-year archive, ending on the exact day of an Ann Arbor city council meeting. It also makes the math easy: Six years of The Chronicle, as a fraction of 25 years of marriage, translates into exactly 24% of our married life consumed by this publication.
And The Chronicle did consume nearly every waking moment of those six years. That’s a significant factor in our decision to shut things down at all. Could we continue to make the finances work out? Yes, The Chronicle paid its bills with enough left over for us to earn a livelihood. And financially speaking, I think our approach could have been sustained into the indefinite future. That’s because of advertisers – who understood that coverage of local government and civic affairs like The Chronicle’s makes Ann Arbor a better place to do business. And it’s also because of the voluntary and generous financial support of readers – who believed that The Chronicle’s approach to local journalism made Ann Arbor a better place to live.
But even at that level of support, a sustained future would also continue to rely on two people committing not just 40, 60 or 80 hours a week, but virtually every waking moment to the enterprise. We’re hardly unique in that respect. It’s not unusual for a small, independent business owner to rely on an all-consuming personal effort to make the finances work.
In past columns I’ve compared this kind of labor to running a marathon – with one key difference: There is no finish line. You can never really finish. But as a practical matter you will quit running one day. And if you never decide to stop, then when you do stop, it will be because you are dead. So we’re setting an end date as a kind of artificial finish line. We’re not planning to sprint for that line. But for the next month we’ll keep running full stride through the tape.
I’d like to stop before I am dead, because there’s more I’d like to do in life than add to The Chronicle’s archive. As one example, I’d be happy to bore you to death with a few thousand words about a possible design for a pedal-powered rotating steel-bristled brush for sidewalk snow removal. But now is not the occasion for that. It’s summertime, for crying out loud. And anyway, in the shorter term, I need to develop an approach to earning a livelihood that doesn’t depend on a machine that I have not yet built.
So while I am sorely tempted to bore you – and certainly I’ve yielded to that temptation often enough over the last half dozen years – I think it’s more of an occasion to express gratitude. Because of the generous support of advertisers and readers, I’ve had the privilege of writing about a narrow slice of one American city for the last six years. Not many people get a chance to do that.
Note: The annual Bezonki award festivities will still take place – on Friday, Aug. 15 – and you’re invited. The open house will run from 6-8 p.m. at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth in Kerrytown. There will be teeter-tottering and general merriment. Publisher Mary Morgan will follow up with a final word on Sept. 2, after the city council meeting ends. That will be our final report filed from the hard benches of city hall.