Stories indexed with the term ‘’

Milestone: Integrity – and a Sense of Place

Last month, news broke that owners of the New Orleans Times-Picayune are planning a major restructuring of that publication. The message arrived in Ann Arbor with an eerie familiarity. The same folks owned the former Ann Arbor News, a newspaper they closed in order to create a new company called

A place is more than a mark on a map.

A place is more than a mark on a map. These marks denote places called Ann Arbor (green), New Orleans (blue) and New York (pink).

The familiar part of the news includes severe staff reductions at the Times-Picayune and a shift in focus to online delivery, cutting back its printed edition to three days a week.

David Carr of the New York Times reported that changes at the Times-Picayune apparently would be modeled after the transformation in Ann Arbor. The Newhouse family – whose media holdings include the publications in Ann Arbor and New Orleans, among dozens of others nationwide – had made Ann Arbor its testbed for this approach in 2009.

Residents of New Orleans have my deepest sympathies.

The decisions about the Times-Picayune are disturbing, even if considered independently of other Newhouse operations. But especially disturbing is the idea that might serve as a model for anything.

The news from New Orleans coincided with an ultimately successful effort by The Ann Arbor Chronicle to push to correct a shockingly flawed analysis related to fire protection that had been originally reported by Ryan Stanton back in May of 2011. Within days of publication last year, Chronicle editor Dave Askins alerted Stanton to the likely source of the factual errors in Stanton’s piece.

Askins correctly analyzed the Ann Arbor fire department’s reports that Stanton had misinterpreted, and soon after that The Chronicle published that analysis. It wasn’t until this week, though, that’s “chief content officer,” Tony Dearing, wrote a column acknowledging the fact that the response times reported by Stanton were inaccurate. But Dearing’s accounting of’s errors is misleading and incomplete – in part because it fails to take responsibility for obvious reporting mistakes, blaming sources instead.

In that respect, Dearing’s column continues a pattern of disingenuous communication by with the community it purports to serve.

I realize there’s a certain etiquette I’m violating in calling out the leadership of another publication in this way. What I hear on a regular basis about the community’s perception of the quality of reporting and editorial oversight at ranges from idle snark to complete outrage. But our Midwestern culture exerts a firm pressure to make nice and get along. And for some community members, a certain fatigue has set in, along with a sense that it’s not worth the energy to rehash these things – it’s time to move on. To some extent I actually agree with that. It would be nice to move on.

But a polite culture and need to look forward do not justify turning away from some real problems with’s basic approach to community service. That’s especially true as the Newhouses roll out the Ann Arbor model in other markets.

What’s more, given the marketing resources of’s New York-based owners, there’s a risk that a funhouse-mirror version of reality will become accepted as accurate, and could inappropriately influence public policy in a way that causes long-term damage to this community. That’s unacceptable.

In this column, I’ll explain how the fire protection saga unfolded, what it reflects about and the state of traditional media, and the importance of being grounded in the community you cover. [Full Story]

Column: History Repeats at

When we first heard about the layoffs at last Thursday – starting with cryptic comments on Facebook, quickly spreading through the Ann Arbor News diaspora and then the broader community – I had a sickening sense of déjà vu. It was two years ago this month that the out-of-state owners of our town’s daily newspaper announced their plans to close the business, tearing apart the lives of its workers, fraying some of the Ann Arbor community’s fabric, and drawing national attention for the decision’s fearlessness or folly, depending on your view. layoff list

Redline highlights are those staff whose names have disappeared from the staff roster.

I wrote about their decision at the time from a personal perspective. Even though I had left the News the previous year to co-found The Chronicle, it was still a place that employed many friends and colleagues I respected. Watching that organization get dismantled was emotional, for many reasons.

Although we began to hear about the layoffs on Thursday last week, we decided not to write immediately about that news. In part, we reasoned that it should be’s story to tell first, and I held out hope that executives at would be straightforward in letting the community know about their decision, and the rationale behind it.

I also hoped they would wrap into their coverage the news that three other key staff members – news director Amalie Nash, higher education reporter David Jesse and point person for reader interaction Stefanie Murray – had all been hired by the Detroit Free Press. All three left at the end of February. All had previously worked for many years at The Ann Arbor News, and had been initial hires at

Considered separately, either the set of layoffs or the three departures would have had a significant impact on the organization. But with both events taking place within two weeks, it counts as the most dramatic personnel change since’s launch. [Full Story]

Healthcare, Tourism, Food and Online News

David Canter, former head of Pfizers Ann Arbor research campus

David Canter, former head of Pfizer's Ann Arbor research campus, is now director of healthcare research at UM's William Davidson Institute.

An eclectic mix of speakers at Wednesday’s Morning Edition breakfast talked about healthcare in developing countries, commercials promoting tourism in Michigan, computer security, the upcoming Ann Arbor Restaurant Week and an update on the venture that will replace the Ann Arbor News.

Russ Collins, the event’s emcee and executive director of the Michigan Theater, also noted that they were now installing a state-of-the-art 3D projector, just in time for the May 29 opening of Disney-Pixar’s animated film “Up” – which features, he noted, “a hyperactive nine-year-old named Russell.”

David Canter, former head of Pfizer’s Ann Arbor research campus, kicked things off with comments about the University of Michigan’s acquisition of that site. [Full Story]