Launched in September 2008, the Ann Arbor Chronicle is an online newspaper that focuses on civic affairs and local government coverage. Although we’d likely be classified by most folks as “new media,” in many ways we embrace an ethos that runs contrary to current trends: Longer, in-depth articles; an emphasis on factual accuracy and thoroughness, not speed; and an assumption that our readers are thoughtful, intelligent and engaged in this community.
There’s a lot of truth to the idea that “The world is run by those who show up.” Why does that matter? In the relatively short time we’ve been covering the meetings where official public business gets conducted, we’ve witnessed a fair amount of revisionist history. Such is the nature of politics, and maybe of human nature as well. People are more comfortable with a narrative that’s clean – but democracy is messy. And unless you’re a witness to what happens – or have a witness, by proxy, like our publication – it’s virtually impossible to speak confidently and challenge the veracity of events as described by whoever was in the room at the time.
Covering meetings in the detail that we do also provides context. To the extent that people have their discussions in these public venues – which is, ideally, where they should be taking place – we capture that deliberation, and show how decisions are reached, recording the dissent as well. While there is a great deal of posturing in any forum, there are also many instances of candid, authentic conversation. Rather than eliciting these differing views by having officials whisper in a journalist’s ear, it’s far better to thrash it out during a public meeting, for any citizen to see – or to read about, later, in The Chronicle.
There’s also the hope that just by showing up, we can “move the pile” a little. This is a phrase borrowed from football – the idea that an organization like ours can exert influence incrementally, by observing and reporting and connecting the dots in a steadfast, thoughtful, non-sensationalistic way. We don’t yet have the resources to pick up the whole pile and toss it around – the “pile” being, in some cases, the culture of an organization or the status quo. But by paying attention and shining a light on things we feel need to change, we believe it’s possible to nudge our local government toward a better place. [For even more detail about our philosophy, a good start is a briefing memo about The Chronicle prepared at the invitation of a working group on media and governance at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.]
Though our bread-and-butter is civic affairs, The Chronicle’s regular columnists and freelancers are like our rich dessert – both nourishing and tasty. We’re fortunate to have a remarkable roster: Laura Bien on local history, Domenica Trevor on books, and John U. Bacon on sports (or Hemingway). David Erik Nelson‘s biting, insightful commentary takes on everything from Wall Street to Facebook. And, of course, there’s the gift of the inscrutable Bezonki, conjured up each month by Alvey Jones.
So thanks for stopping by – welcome to The Ann Arbor Chronicle!
Want to know more? Or have your own thoughts about what The Chronicle should cover? Let us know.
Sign up for our weekly Chronicle email: Every Monday, we send out links to news stories and features that have been published in The Chronicle during the previous week. To sign up, email Mary Morgan at email@example.com.
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And just for kicks, here’s a song by David Bloom, inspired by The Chronicle: “Off I Go To The County Board.”
The Ann Arbor Chronicle is a member of the Michigan Press Association, the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, the Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, and Think Local First of Washtenaw County.
In The News
- Crain’s Detroit Business – March 23, 2014: “Money is the bug that crashes local digital news efforts“
- NetNewsCheck – Sept. 24, 2013: “Local Online Pubs Still Toughing It Out“
- Jon Udell – Aug. 1, 2013: “Why I Subscribe to The Ann Arbor Chronicle (Part 2)“
- The Ann Magazine – July 2013: “Chronicling government requires hard work and a dash of idealism“
- Christian Science Monitor – Nov. 11, 2012: “A news future in feisty upstarts?“
- Jon Udell – Oct. 30, 2012: “Why I Subscribe to The Ann Arbor Chronicle“
- Columbia Journalism Review – Sept. 20, 2012: “Audit Notes“
- Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab – Sept. 19, 2012: “Four Years Later, The Ann Arbor Chronicle Is Still Weird & Wonky – and It’s Growing“
- “How The Ann Arbor Chronicle Creates Value” – section in the 2012 book “The Newsphere: Understanding the News and Information Environment” by Christine M. Tracy.
- American Journalism Review – September 2011: “Hyperlocal Heroes“
- Poor Mojo’s Newswire – April 7, 2011: “Even When the Press Fails, We Win“
- The Quill (Society of Professional Journalists) – Feb. 2, 2011: “Michigan’s Morphing Media“
- Poynter Institute, The Biz Blog – Sept. 17, 2010: “In Hyperlocal News, Where’s the Urgency?“
- Technically Journalism – Aug. 17, 2010: “Three Things a Citizen News Site Can Teach Us“
- Crain’s Detroit Business – July 19, 2010: “Passion Is What Helps Pay for The Chronicle“
- PBS Newshour’s Patchwork Nation series – Dec. 8, 2009: “Media Landscape Shifts Online in a Wired Town“
- Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab – Sept. 11, 2009: “WordPress, Twitter, the Elks Club: 10 new routines at a news startup”
- London Sunday Times – Aug. 23, 2009: “That’s All, Folks! See You Online”
- PoynterOnline – Aug. 17, 2009: “Ann Arbor Entrepreneur Went Online-Only Before Her Former Paper Did”
- Time – Aug. 17, 2009: “Ann Arbor Kills Its Newspaper – To Save It”
- PoynterOnline – July 14, 2009: “Newhouse’s AnnArbor.com Enters a Crowded Field Next Week”
- Current – April 2009: “Businesses We Can Be Passionate About”
- Online Journalism Review – Feb. 26, 2009: “Recession? Local News Sites Are Hanging Tough”
Also, check out The Chronicle’s page on the Lucy Ann Lance Show website, with archived audio files of past interviews with Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan. Or catch the interviews each Saturday morning on WLBY-1290 AM.