The Ann Arbor Chronicle » local media it's like being there Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:59:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Column: The Chronicle’s Last Chapter Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:55:20 +0000 Mary Morgan I always start a novel by reading its last chapter – I like to know how things turn out.

A small slice of a large shelf of books about the history of Ann Arbor at the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library. The AADL will be archiving the more than 10 million words that were published over the course of six years of The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

A small slice of a large shelf of books about the history of Ann Arbor at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library. The AADL will be archiving the more than 10 million words that were published over the course of six years of The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

For those of you like me, who also flip to the end: This is the final word from The Chronicle.

We launched this publication six years ago with no clear ending in sight. It was a jumping-off-the-cliff moment, with the hope – but certainly no guarantee – that we’d be creating something special, even transformative. There were many times along the way when I doubted our choice to take that leap. Recall that 2008 and 2009 formed the nadir of the economic recession, and in hindsight I marvel that we were able to thrash out a livelihood.

I marvel because at that time, no one was clamoring for in-depth reports on meetings of the library board, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, the park advisory commission or any of the other public entities we began covering. We wrote detailed 15,000-word articles on city council meetings, in an era when traditional news media considered 500-word stories too long for the attention spans of its target demographic.

Over 10 million words later, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and proud too that we’re bringing it to a close on our terms. Dave Askins wrote about that decision in his Aug. 7 column. I’d encourage you to read it, if you haven’t already.

Since that announcement, we’ve received a flow of well wishes, understanding and support – the generosity of spirit that has fueled us these past six years. Many readers also shared personal anecdotes about what The Chronicle has meant to them. That’s been meaningful for us, too, because this publication has been a very personal endeavor since its inception.

My two favorites are these: We learned that The Chronicle’s coverage of the Ann Arbor planning commission was used as flirting material with an urban planning grad student – and that couple is now married with a child. And the family of Peter Pollack – a landscape architect who died in 2010 – is including The Chronicle’s description of his legacy in a collection of materials they’ve gathered for his grandchildren, so that the next generation will learn about this remarkable man when they grow up. (We had tucked an obit for Peter into one of our regular city council reports.)

I cherish these kinds of connections that are now intertwined with The Chronicle’s own legacy. We set out to create an archive of community history, and The Chronicle itself is now a part of that history.

The Chronicle’s mission centered around giving readers the tools they needed for a deeper understanding of our local government, providing context and guidance as they navigated often baffling bureaucracies. Our hope was to make the inner workings of our city and county more accessible. Many people embraced this approach. Maybe they hadn’t been clamoring for The Chronicle’s public meeting coverage, because they hadn’t known what they could be missing.

So one question we’ve heard often since announcing our decision to close is this: What will fill the void?

We don’t know – but we have some ideas.

Although The Chronicle has been a useful resource, it was an attraction primarily for people who already have an interest in local governance. What about all the rest – the more than 80% of voters who didn’t bother to participate in the most recent primary election, for example?

Is it possible to shift our community’s culture? To educate, inform, cajole the majority of residents – of all ages – into caring about what happens at city hall and in the county boardroom? To make Ann Arbor a model of civic awareness and engagement to which other cities across America aspire?

Is it feasible to create a community where of course you would flirt over planning commission reports? Where the passing of a man like Peter Pollack would cause the whole city to pause and give thanks for his life of civic service?

Again, we don’t know. But I’d like to spend some time thinking about ways to catalyze that kind of cultural transformation.

There’s a literary technique called in medias res – starting in the middle. Perhaps The Chronicle was just such a thing, the middle of a community narrative that’s leading to an entirely unexpected conclusion.

So even while The Chronicle’s chapter of the community’s book is coming to a close, we’ll also be thinking about a possible sequel.

I do like to know how things end. But beginnings are even better.

Mary Morgan is publisher of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. She and Chronicle editor Dave Askins co-founded the online publication on Sept. 2, 2008. The Chronicle will not be publishing regular reports after Sept. 2, 2014.

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The 2014 Bezonki Awards: A Celebration Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:05:26 +0000 Mary Morgan For the past four years, The Chronicle has honored some remarkable people in this community with our annual Bezonki awards.

Bezonki, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Three of the six Bezonki awards, crafted by local artist Alvey Jones and named after his comic strip that’s published monthly in The Chronicle. (Photos by Ben Weatherston.)

This year, we celebrated the 2014 winners with an open house on Aug. 15. The event was admittedly bittersweet, coming a week after our announcement that we plan to close this publication on Sept. 2, 2014.

But the awards are forward-looking, as well as an opportunity to recognize and honor the foundations that are being built to make our community strong. And this year’s winners are exceptional: Ryan Burns, the energy behind Ignite Ann Arbor; Linh and Dug Song, a couple committed to community-building; the Finding Your Political Voice program at Arrowwood Hills Cooperative; Mary Jo Callan, a leader in Washtenaw County government; developer Tom Fitzsimmons; and Jeannine Palms, on behalf of the many groups she’s a part of in the Buhr Park neighborhood.

Like the individuals and organizations that receive these awards, each of the six physical Bezonkis is unique, made in part with bits salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News – a nod to our profession’s past. They were crafted by local artist Alvey Jones, whose Bezonki cartoons are published monthly in The Chronicle.

The awards are unique in another way. Until this year, each winner of a Bezonki has been a steward of the physical award for a year. Winners in the past year hand it off to the next year’s winners. Our hope has been that the awards create connections year after year between people in the community – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.

You can learn more about our past winners in The Chronicle’s archives. They’re an amazing group.

But as The Chronicle comes to a close, we have a new charge to this year’s winners. We’ve asked that they take responsibility for passing along their Bezonki to highlight the great work of others, as they encounter it in the coming months or years. We further asked that they convey this same message to the next steward of Bezonki, whoever that might be – so that the awards continue to create positive connections throughout our community. We’ve created an Ann Arbor LocalWiki page to keep track of the lineage.

Or maybe they’ll just stay on the shelves of this year’s winners – that would be fine, too. They deserve it.

2014 Bezonki Awards: Ryan Burns

Among many other things, Ryan Burns is the driving force behind Ignite Ann Arbor, an event that’s been held eight times since 2009. It’s been described as a more democratic, less arrogant form of TED talks – funny, friendly five-minute talks by local residents sharing their expertise and insights. Ryan has created a popular venue for showcasing our community, in all its adorkable charm.

He’s an engineer who’s also on the board of A2Geeks, a nonprofit that promotes the local tech community.

Ryan received the Bezonki from Paul Courant, one of last year’s winners – an economist, former University of Michigan dean of libraries and provost, and a geek in his own right.

Paul Courant, Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns, right, with 2013 Bezonki winner Paul Courant.

To Ryan Burns: In recognition of his efforts to highlight the creative energy of this community, reminding us that almost everyone has something to teach, and something to learn.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Trevor Staples (2011), Ann Arbor District Library digital archiving team (2012) and Paul Courant (2013).

2014 Bezonki Awards: Linh & Dug Song

Linh Song and Dug Song have official job titles – Linh is executive director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation and teaches international social work at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. Dug is a tech entrepreneur who among other things is co-founder and CEO of Duo Security. He also created the Tech Brewery, an incubator for technologists, entrepreneurs and start-up technology firms.

But it’s their deep commitment to their community that makes this couple truly remarkable, on top of their professional accomplishments. In addition to raising a family, their volunteer work spans support for the new Ann Arbor skatepark, to helping organize their neighborhood’s Memorial Day parade, to serving on boards for several nonprofits.

It’s their support of the Neutral Zone that connects Linh and Dug to last year’s winner, Lisa Dengiz, whose community work includes co-founding that nonprofit for teens.

Linh Song, Lisa Dengiz, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Linh Song and Lisa Dengiz with Quynh Song.

To Dug and Linh Song: In recognition of their individual and joint efforts that help make our community stronger, smarter and a more creatively playful place to live.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Summers-Knoll School (2011), Roger Rayle (2012) and Lisa Dengiz (2013).

2014 Bezonki Awards: Finding Your Political Voice

“Finding Your Political Voice” is a program located at the Arrowwood Hills Cooperative on Pontiac Trail in Ward 1. Its goal is to educate residents about issues and candidates, and to develop informed voters who can participate in their community at the local, state and federal levels. This year, for example, they hosted a forum in June for candidates in the Aug. 5 Democratic primary for city council.

The idea of giving people the tools they need to become engaged citizens is one that The Chronicle embraces. This kind of grassroots education could be a model for other neighborhoods throughout the city.

James Daniel accepted the award on behalf of the program. He received it from Linda Diane Feldt, one of last year’s winners and another terrific community builder.

Arrowwood Hills Cooperative, Finding Your Political Voice, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: James Daniel, Linda Diane Feldt and Patricia Byrd, a former city councilmember.

To Finding Your Political Voice: In recognition of their contributions to create more informed voters and better citizens to improve our community.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Paul and Claire Tinkerhess (2011), Jim Toy (2012) and Linda Diane Feldt (2013).

2014 Bezonki Awards: Mary Jo Callan

Whenever someone mentions a cool project that involves Washtenaw County or Ann Arbor city government, Mary Jo Callan is usually involved or leading the effort – affordable housing, funding for nonprofits, fostering the local food sector, creating ways to invest in our local economy, and much more.

As director of Washtenaw County’s office of community & economic development, she is the least bureaucratic bureaucrat we know – someone who works to answer “yes” when asked for help, within the confines of a sometimes maddening labyrinth of federal, state and local regulations.

Mary Jo’s leadership in the county is one way she’s connected to last year’s winner, Derrick Jackson, director of community engagement for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Mary Jo Callan, Derrick Jackson, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Mary Jo Callan and Derrick Jackson.

To Mary Jo Callan: In recognition of your patience, good humor, intellect and mastery of navigating the political terrain to make this community a better place to live and work.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Matt Yankee and Jason Brooks (2011), Jeff Micale (2012) and Derrick Jackson (2013).

2014 Bezonki Awards: Tom Fitzsimmons

It’s fair to say that Ann Arbor generally isn’t in love with developers. We’ve sat through countless meetings that draw concerned residents, protesting developments either downtown or in the neighborhoods. Despite that, Tom Fitzsimmons has consistently brought forward projects that not only don’t draw residents’ ire – they’re often praised.

When the planning commission reviewed his latest project, a condominium development on Kingsley Lane, not one person came to speak against it at the public hearing. We can tell you: This is not the norm. Maybe it’s because Tom grew up here that he’s managed to quietly imbue new buildings with the characteristics of existing Ann Arbor that people love. That’s no small feat.

Tom received his Bezonki from the 2013 winner Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, a nonprofit that’s doing significant work to improve our community.

Tom Fitzsimmons, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Tom Fitzsimmons (second from right) with his Bezonki award. He received the award from board members of the nonprofit Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.

To Tom Fitzsimmons: In recognition of his ability and willingness to create new developments that honor the context of the past – and not totally piss off the masses.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Yousef Rabhi (2011), Anna Ercoli Schnitzer (2012), Ann Arbor Active Against ALS (2013).

2014 Bezonki Awards: Jeannine Palms

When we told Jeannine that she’d be receiving a Bezonki, she immediately asked whether it instead could be awarded to everyone involved in projects that have strengthened the Buhr Park neighborhood. Here’s what she wrote: “For me, seeing a team or a group, instead of just an individual, working in various capacities to make a difference in their community would allow others to see themselves being involved. They don’t have to take a lead role; they can be part of a team. Also, if those who are already part of the team are recognized, they get a chance to be acknowledged and appreciated in a larger framework. They may be inspired to do more!”

We hope it’s clear from that why we’re honoring Jeannine – as well as all those involved in the Cobblestone Farm Market, the Buhr Park Children’s Wet Meadow Project and its new extension, the Buhr Food Forest.

So on their behalf, Jeannine received the Bezonki that was given last year to Dan Ezekiel, an educator and activist who knows the power of a collective effort. Dan couldn’t attend our open house, so 2011 Bezonki winner Yousef Rabhi – current chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners who worked on the Wet Meadow Project when he was a kid – gave Jeannine the award.

Andy Brush, Yousef Rabhi, Jeannine Palms, Mary Morgan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bezonki winner Jeannine Palms (second from right) with Andy Brush, Yousef Rabhi and Mary Morgan.

To Jeannine Palms and all the volunteers who’ve contributed countless hours on the Buhr Park Children’s Wet Meadow Project, the Cobblestone Farm Market, and other efforts in the Buhr neighborhood: Thanks for making our community a better place, and for showing us how the power of one is magnified when people join together for a common cause.

Previous stewards of this Bezonki: Vivienne Armentrout (2011), Common Cycle (2012) and Dan Ezekiel (2013).

Scenes from The Chronicle’s 2014 Bezonki Reception

Our Aug. 15 festivities were held at the Zingerman’s Events on Fourth space and included teeter tottering, a song by our friend Chris Buhalis, treats from Hello! Ice Cream, and a masterful interactive experience from Donald Harrison of 7 Cylinders Studio – the Chronicle of Bezonkia, using images from artist Alvey Jones.

Here’s a window into The Chronicle of Bezonkia:


And here’s a sampling of images from the event. Unless otherwise noted, photos of the evening are by Ben Weatherston.

Zingerman's Events on Fourth, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Kara Carter and Aiyana Ward – staff of Zingerman’s Events on Fourth –hang a Chronicle banner before the start of the Aug. 15 open house. (Photo by Mary Morgan.)

Chris Buhalis, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Musician Chris Buhalis sang one of his songs, Kenai Dreams. The lyrics resonated with us: “…my own/ wheels are spinning but it won’t be long/ like a thin white cloud/a wisp and man I’m gone…”

Yousef Rabhi, Donald Harrison, Alvey Jones, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Yousef Rabhi prepares to enter the Chronicle of Bezonkia, an interactive multimedia experience from the creative minds of Donald Harrison and Alvey Jones. (Photo courtesy of Donald Harrison.)

Tom Bray, Donald Harrison, 7 Cylinders Studio, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

From left: Tom Bray and Donald Harrison. (Photo courtesy of Donald Harrison.)

Dave Askins, Mary Morgan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Dave Askins, Chronicle co-founder and editor. To the right is Chronicle publisher and co-founder Mary Morgan.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle, teeter totter

A sticker with The Chronicle’s logo is affixed to a portable wooden teeter totter made by Chronicle co-founder and editor Dave Askins.

Russ Collins, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Russ Collins on the teeter totter with his grandson, Brooks Goodson. In the background is Hello! Ice Cream’s vintage truck, which was on hand to provide treats to The Chronicle’s guests.

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Ending It: 6 of 1, Half-Dozen of The Chronicle Fri, 08 Aug 2014 02:37:34 +0000 Dave Askins On Sept. 2, 2014, The Ann Arbor Chronicle will observe the sixth anniversary of its launch.

Chronicle carton.

Chronicle carton.

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.

Thank you.

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.

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Washtenaw: Media Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:26:41 +0000 Chronicle Staff Jim O’Rourke, publisher of Digital First Media’s Michigan Group – which owns Heritage Media – announced that the local weeklies owned by Heritage in Washtenaw County will be consolidated into a new weekly print publication called “Washtenaw Now.” Those publications include the Ypsilanti Courier, Saline Reporter, Chelsea Standard, Dexter Leader, Manchester Enterprise and Milan News-Leader. The change will begin on April 10. [Source]

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Milestone: Five Years of Chronicling Mon, 02 Sep 2013 11:38:17 +0000 Mary Morgan Since we launched The Chronicle in 2008, we’ve met many remarkable people.

Jimmy Ragget, Common Cycle, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jimmy Raggett of Common Cycle, a nonprofit that won a Bezonki award last year, brought his kids Cole and Cooper to The Chronicle’s Aug. 9 reception. (Photos by Leisa Thompson)

And for the past three years, we’ve thanked a few of them with our annual Bezonki awards.

This year’s winners are an extraordinary group: Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office; community activist Lisa Dengiz; teacher and environmentalist Dan Ezekiel; the nonprofit Ann Arbor Active Against ALS; Paul Courant of the University of Michigan; and Linda Diane Feldt, an author and holistic health practitioner who’s one of The Chronicle’s most prolific and poetic Stopped.Watched contributors. I’ll tell you more about them in a bit.

We honored these folks at a reception on Aug. 9, when they received the physical Bezonki awards. Each of the six Bezonkis is unique, made in part with bits salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News – a totem of our profession’s past. They were crafted by local artist Alvey Jones, whose Bezonki cartoons are published monthly in The Chronicle.

The awards are unique in another way. Each winner of a Bezonki is a steward of the physical award for a year. Winners in the past year hand it off to the next year’s winners. This year the hand-off took place at the Aug. 9 reception held at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth. Our hope is that the awards create connections year after year between people in the community – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.

At our annual receptions, we also hope to introduce attendees to new experiences. And we try to have some fun. We’re an online publication, but this year we tipped our hat to journalism’s heritage by making “pressman’s caps” out of newsprint. So in the photos below, you’ll see many of our guests wearing their own. [If you'd like to make one yourself, you can download the instructions here.]

This year we also invited local artist/inventor Michael Flynn to display his “cooperative phonograph” to our event – a four-foot stainless steel spinning disk that’s truly a work of art. Using a card as the “needle,” you can pick up sounds from the ridges that he’s cut into the disk’s edge. One of the tracks was a repetition of the phrase “Love is all you need.” That’s fitting, because as we celebrate five years of Chronicling, Dave Askins and I are also celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary today. It’s getting better all the time.

But on Aug. 9, the main point of our reception was to honor a few of the many people who help make this community a special place. So please join me in celebrating the 2013 Bezonki winners!

2013 Bezonki Awards: Derrick Jackson

I first met Derrick Jackson when he was director of elections for Washtenaw County. At the time I didn’t realize that he also had been a case study in making every vote count. He ran for the Ypsilanti Township board of trustees in 2004, and lost by one vote. He shares that one-vote distinction with former Bezonki winner Yousef Rabhi, who is now chair of the county board of commissioners.

Today, Derrick is director of community engagement for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, where he brings his background in social work to bear on helping change the culture of our local criminal justice system.

Derrick is connected to last year’s winner, Jeff Micale, through their elections work – Jeff oversees Ann Arbor’s absentee voter count board.

Derrick Jackson, Jeff Micale, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Derrick Jackson, holding his 2013 Bezonki award, which was presented by last year’s winner, Jeff Micale, for his work overseeing Ann Arbor’s absentee voter count board.

To Derrick Jackson: In recognition of his humor, grace and thoughtful civic engagement, both professionally and personally, to make our community safer, stronger, and more compassionate.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Lisa Dengiz

Lisa Dengiz is one of those people in this community who helps reduce degrees of separation. If you don’t know her directly, you almost certainly know someone who does, and who will quickly describe how much they admire and respect her work. She’s probably best known as co-founder of the Neutral Zone teen center, and more recently as the founding board chair for the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation, which gives micro-grants to groups and individuals.

Lisa was nominated for a Bezonki by Joan Martin, who worked with Lisa 25 years ago to start the Ecology Center’s pesticide task force. It’s that work to protect our environment that connects her to last year’s winner, Roger Rayle, who’s a leader of Scio Residents for Safe Water and member of Washtenaw County’s Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD).

Lisa Dengiz, Dave Askins, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Lisa Dengiz receives her Bezonki from Chronicle editor Dave Askins.

To Lisa Dengiz: In recognition of her tireless, creative contributions to build organizations that help our community excel in serious and seriously awesome ways.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Ann Arbor Active Against ALS

This group of volunteers began their work inspired by one person with Lou Gehrig’s disease – Bob Schoeni, known to many as Coach Bob. Ann Arbor Active Against ALS is a cause, to raise money to fight ALS. What’s remarkable about A2A3? For this organization, “cause” is not a noun – it’s a verb. It causes people to do remarkable things. Like lift 1,000 pounds, run a virtual marathon on a treadmill, pedal a bicycle between the Michigan State football stadium and the Big House, interrupt a perfectly pleasant 5K run by eating a Twinkie, then proving to former city parks director Ron Olson that the Twinkie really is “all gone” before continuing, or dive into the English Channel and swim across, then back again.

They received the Bezonki from last year’s winner, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, one of the most active people I know. She’s a tireless advocate for the disabled community, for diversity of all kinds, and for fighting discrimination wherever she finds it.

David Lowenshuss, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

David Lowenschuss, a board member with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, receives his Bezonki from last year’s winner, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer.

To Ann Arbor Active Against ALS: In recognition of their creative efforts to raise awareness about ALS by causing people to be active. Their work is an inspiration, reminding us that action is the best response to adversity.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Dan Ezekiel

Dan Ezekiel’s commitment to the environment and his community has taken many forms over the years, from helping start Recycle Ann Arbor in the ‘70s, to his day job as “Mr. Ezekiel,” the science teacher at Forsythe Middle School, to his tenure as a founding member of the city’s greenbelt advisory commission.

You might also see Dan riding his bike around town – he likes to describe the location of greenbelt properties in terms of how long it would take to get there by bike. It’s that cycling connection that links Dan to last year’s winner, the nonprofit Common Cycle.

Dan was out of town on the night of our awards presentation, so his Bezonki was accepted by Barry Lonik, a local land preservationist.

Jimmy Raggett, Barry Lonik, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Last year’s Bezonki winner – Jimmy Raggett of Common Cycle – presented the award to Barry Lonik, who accepted it on behalf of Dan Ezekiel.

To Dan Ezekiel: In recognition of his lifelong commitment to the Ann Arbor community. His work has helped residents understand their impact on the environment, and their role in protecting its land and resources for future generations.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Paul Courant

Paul Courant‘s accomplishments and influence play out on the national and international stage, though he’s grounded in this community. As an economist, scholar, and former University of Michigan provost who recently stepped down as dean of libraries, Paul brings an eclectic perspective to bear on looking at problems and trying to fix them. He’s also extremely funny.

A couple of years ago, I attended a talk that Paul gave as part of TEDxUofM. He told the crowd that he got interested in public policy because he’s interested in making things work better – and that government, judiciously applied, can be a vehicle for doing that. Paul is retiring as dean of libraries but will continue teaching. I also hope he’ll consider how he might judiciously apply his own time in local government.

Paul is connected to last year’s winner, the Ann Arbor District Library’s digital archiving team, in an obvious way – they all miss card catalogs.

Paul Courant, Josie Parker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Paul Courant with Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library. She presented the award to Paul on behalf of last year’s winners, the AADL’s digital archives team.

To Paul Courant: In recognition of his intellectual curiosity and international reach, his thoughtful insights on questions of public policy, and his belief – despite occasional evidence to the contrary – that government can be a force for making our lives better.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Linda Diane Feldt

The Chronicle includes a regular feature that we call Stopped.Watched. Anyone can contribute these brief vignettes, which are simple observations of what’s happening in our community, logged as people move about in the routine of their daily lives. By honoring Linda Diane Feldt – who has raised these items to an art form – this Bezonki is also a nod to all of our Stopped.Watched correspondents, and a thanks for stopping and watching the world as it passes by.

Linda’s powers of observation are reflected in much of her work – as a writer, teacher, urban wildcrafter, holistic health practitioner and more. You may have seen her walking around the city, usually with her dog Nala, stopping to talk to the many people who know her and the many people who will know her soon. Her compassion and deep sense of community are inspiring.

Her Bezonki was presented by last year’s winner, Jim Toy, a long-time activist for the LGBT community – the Jim Toy Community Center, located in Braun Court, is a tribute to his lifelong work. And in one of those unintentional connections that I’ve come to expect from the Bezonkis, it turns out that Linda was a student in a class that Jim taught decades ago at Community High School.

Jim Toy, Linda Diane Feldt, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jim Toy, who won the Bezonki last year for his lifetime of advocacy, presents the award to Linda Diane Feldt.

To Linda Diane Feldt: In recognition of her ability to see the poetry in the seemingly mundane, to elevate the beauty of our everyday lives, and to share her observations with the rest of us along the way.

Scenes from The Chronicle’s Bezonki Reception

You can read more about last year’s Bezonki winners here, and follow this link to learn about the 2011 recipients. And if there’s a person or organization that you think should be recognized in 2014, please let me know.

Meanwhile, here are some additional photos from our Aug. 9 reception, taken by my former Ann Arbor News colleague, Leisa Thompson.

Michael Flynn, Chuck Bultman, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Architect Chuck Bultman tries out the “cooperative phonograph” by local artist Michael Flynn, who’s standing in the background.

Alvey Jones, Domenica Trevor, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alvey Jones and Domenica Trevor made pressman hats out of copies of The New York Times at The Chronicle’s Aug. 9 reception. Trevor writes a book column for The Chronicle. Jones is a partner in WSG Gallery and creator of the Bezonki comics, which run in The Chronicle on the first Sunday of each month.

Russ Collins, Michigan Theater, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater.

Lisa Dengiz, Alan Dengiz, Paul Saginaw, Eileen Spring, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bezonki winner Lisa Dengiz with her husband Alan Dengiz, Paul Saginaw of Zingerman’s, and Eileen Spring, executive director of Food Gatherers.

Peter Eckstein, Jeff Gaynor, Yousef Rabhi, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local economist Peter Eckstein, Jeff Gaynor, a teacher at Clague Middle School, and Yousef Rabhi, chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

Jim Toy, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, Bert Schnitzer, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Two Bezonki winners from 2012 – Jim Toy and Anna Ercoli Schnitzer – with Bert Schnitzer, a retired University of Michigan professor.

Andy LaBarre, Declan LaBarre, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre with his son Declan.

John Kotarski, Theresa Tinkle, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

John Kotarski and Theresa Tinkle. Kotarski serves on the Ann Arbor public art commission. Tinkle is a University of Michigan English professor.

David Erik Nelson, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local author David Erik Nelson, who writes a monthly column for The Chronicle.

Bezonki Awards, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The Bezonki Awards, handmade by local artist Alvey Jones.

Rhonda Foxworth, Kevin Merrill, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rhonda Foxworth, vice president at the Bank of Ann Arbor, and Kevin Merrill, director of communications for the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment.

Lucy Ann Lance, Mary Morgan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Radio talk show host Lucy Ann Lance (1290 WLBY) and Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan.

Tom Bowes, LInda Diane Feldt, Peter Honeyman, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Tom Bowes and Linda Diane Feldt with Peter Honeyman and Lynn Chamberlain. Tom is a permaculturist and energy educator. Peter and Lynn both work at the University of Michigan. Peter, who is also a frequent Stopped.Watched contributor, is director of the center for information technology integration (CITI). Lynn is a research associate at the School of Education.

Jeff Micale, Mary Beth Damm, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jeff Micale, who won a Bezonki in 2012 for his work with the city of Ann Arbor elections, with his wife Mary Beth Damm.

Paul Courant, Bob Shoeni, James Hilton, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Paul Courant with Bob Schoeni of Ann Arbor Active Against ALS and James Hilton, who is replacing Courant as the University of Michigan’s dean of libraries.

Andy LaBarre, Derrick Jackson

Andy LaBarre talks with Stacey and Derrick Jackson.

Mary Morgan, Dan Smith

Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan and Dan Smith, a Washtenaw County commissioner.

Kristin McGuire, David Lowenschuss, Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Kristin McGuire and David Lowenschuss are board members with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.

Chris Lord, Don Hewlett, Michael Appel, Ruth Kraut, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local poet Chris Lord and Don Hewlett. In the background are Michael Appel and Ruth Kraut, who writes a column on education issues for The Chronicle.

Mary Morgan, Dave Askins, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Chronicle co-founders Mary Morgan and Dave Askins, who celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary on Sept 2, 2013 – the 5th anniversary of The Chronicle.

Alvey Jones, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alvey Jones winds down the Bezonki reception with the New York Times.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government and civic affairs. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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Milestone: Why You Keep Running a Marathon Fri, 24 May 2013 16:59:51 +0000 Dave Askins The Chronicle’s monthly milestone column is by custom published on the second day of the month. It’s a chance for us to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.

My shoes from the Oct. 26, 2003 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.

My shoes from the Oct. 26, 2003 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.

It’s not June 2 yet, so today’s publication means we’re jumping the gun a bit. That’s due in part to a selfish, practical interest I have in not writing separate emails to every reader who inquires: Where is your coverage of the Ann Arbor Public Schools? We’ve suspended that coverage for the indefinite future – but obviously not because we don’t think education is important.

When The Chronicle first launched back in 2008, we didn’t offer any coverage of the local public schools. Mostly through sheer good fortune we found independent freelancers – first Jennifer Coffman, and then Monet Tiedemann – who were able to provide coverage of AAPS to Chronicle readers.

It is not easy to find writers who believe that The Chronicle’s approach to coverage – through detailed reports of public meetings – is a worthy endeavor. And among those who believe it’s worth doing, it’s not easy to find writers who can actually meet the standard. And among that smaller group, it’s not easy to find those who are able to reconcile the economics of the compensation we offer with the sacrifice of time and effort.

It is really not easy to find a writer who is willing to sit through a school board meeting that lasts until 3 a.m.

The Chronicle’s publisher and I can absorb a certain amount of flux in available resources, but we’re past capacity. The size of our organization means that when a single person isn’t able to continue in a particular function, it can mean the end of the coverage that person was providing. So for the immediate future, we won’t be able to continue schools coverage.

And for the medium to longer term, I don’t anticipate being able to restore schools coverage unless our revenues through voluntary subscriptions and advertising were to dramatically increase and show evidence of sustaining that increase.

Ultimately, providing sustainable regular coverage of a public body will require more than the good fortune of finding people who, for a while, can wedge The Chronicle into their lives based on the compensation we can offer.

Isn’t some schools coverage better than none at all? Perhaps so. In this column, I’ll lay out my thoughts on that in terms of a metaphor familiar to regular readers of The Chronicle’s milestones: marathon running.

I have completed two marathons in my life. Neither was a pleasant experience. First let me orient you to the universe of marathon times. The world record for completing this 26.2-mile race is a little over 2 hours. For recreational runners, any time under 3 hours is impressive.

In my first effort, I crossed the half-marathon mark at around an hour and a half. So I was roughly on pace to complete the whole race in about 3 hours. That is, I anticipated running an impressive time. It’s what I’d systematically trained for.

I finished at right around 4 hours. I’d become a straggler.

What went wrong in the second half? Post-race analysis suggested this free nugget of marathon running advice: Always measure your training mileage accurately.

The point is that in the second half of that marathon, I learned the same thing I’m sure literally millions of other runners have learned – about the psychology of grinding through a task when it becomes apparent that you cannot sustain the pace you thought you could when you started. Also you learn: Running marathons is stupid. You forget this before you register for the next one.

Finishing becomes a goal unto itself.

And we live in a culture where the stragglers who finish the marathon long after the crowds have disappeared are celebrated nearly as often as the winners. Spectators at marathons do not shout to the stragglers: “Think about stopping! Think about stopping!” Instead, they lie to you: “Looking good! Looking strong! You can do it.”

Or some spectators will not lie to you, like the one guy who was offering “encouragement” near the Lincoln Memorial during the 2003 Marine Corps marathon. He yelled something like, “This is not supposed to be a stroll in the park! It’s a marathon run. Run like you mean it!” Thanks, dude – I really meant that last painful stride.

Even for a marathon staged in a large city like Washington D.C., long stretches of the course are bare of spectators who could encourage you to keep running. Marathon stragglers have to tell themselves stories inside their own heads to keep forward progress toward the finish line. Most of those stories involve knowing where the finish line is. What if there is no finish line? What kind of story do you tell yourself?

Covering any of the public bodies The Chronicle reports on is like running a separate marathon unto itself – with no finish line. The Ann Arbor city council is a marathon. So is the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Likewise the Ann Arbor park advisory commission. The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is another marathon. And so on.

Sometimes, I think, it makes more sense to just stop running a marathon. Because sometimes running a marathon is stupid.

A few months ago we stopped running the University of Michigan board of regents marathon. That actually glided to a comparatively graceful stop. First we ended our comprehensive meeting reports, but continued with the Civic News Tickers filed from the regents meetings. Then we ended the Civic News Tickers, too.

And so this month, regrettably, we stop running the AAPS board of trustees marathon – for now and likely the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t project being able to resume that coverage without some unforeseen increase in voluntary subscription and advertising revenues.

It’s only through the generous support of individual readers and advertisers that we were able to offer AAPS board meeting coverage for the time that we did.

And we hope to be able to use that support to continue running our other marathons.

The Chronicle’s marathon is supported in part through regular voluntary subscriptions. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle, please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.

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Milestone: Monthly Reminders Sat, 02 Feb 2013 14:57:19 +0000 Dave Askins The Chronicle’s milestone column was originally conceived as a monthly feature – an opportunity for either the editor or the publisher to relay housekeeping news to readers, or offer opinions on topics related to media and journalism. It was also conceived as a monthly reminder to readers that actual human beings who live among them are reporting, writing and editing this publication.

Blue overlay reminder notice

Screenshot of blue overlay reminder notice. After it’s been closed – by clicking the “close button” in the upper righthand of the overlay – it should not appear again as a reader continues to navigate through The Chronicle’s site.

The monthly milestone column was also a vehicle for reminding readers that it takes regular financial contributions from readers like them to sustain this publication. As we look to transition this from a monthly to an occasional column, we’d like to maintain a monthly schedule of reminders to folks: If you perceive a benefit from The Chronicle to yourself and the broader community, then please consider contributing financial support so that benefit can be sustained.

So, to maintain a regular monthly reminder, especially in those months when we don’t publish a milestone column, we’re trying out a blue overlay – which should have appeared on your screen if you visited the website today (Feb. 2, 2013). In some ways, it’s an awful and ostentatious way to greet Chronicle readers. But to make it go away, just click in the upper righthand corner on the “close button.” It shouldn’t appear again for the duration of your visit.

Of course, instead of clicking on that “close button,” we’d prefer you clicked on the SUBSCRIBE link. Or failing that, we’re hoping that the blue overlay might remind you to review your check register for the last time you wrote out a check to The Chronicle.

And of course, if you’re already sending your regular financial support to The Chronicle, we’d like you to interpret that blue overlay as a thank-you. We hope it will encourage you to mention to your friends, co-workers and acquaintances that you voluntarily subscribe to The Chronicle, and suggest they do the same.

Dave Askins is editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. For the first four years of publication, a milestone column was published every month in The Chronicle. Now the column is only an occasional feature. When the milestone column does appear, it’s on the second day of the month – to mark the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch. It’s an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

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Milestone: Four Years, But Who’s Counting? Sun, 02 Sep 2012 13:33:27 +0000 Dave Askins Today, The Ann Arbor Chronicle celebrates the four-year anniversary of its launch.

Fridge cards

Samples of postcards – sent out in a mailing a few months ago to encourage voluntary subscriptions – are temporarily preserved on the refrigerator “scrapbook.”

Judged against the developmental milestones of human four-year-olds, The Chronicle can now be expected to command a vocabulary of at least 1,500 words, express itself in relatively complex sentences, use words that relate one idea to another, and express number and space concepts.

Over the last couple of weeks, as University of Michigan students have streamed into Ann Arbor for the start of the fall semester, I’ve wondered what this four-year-old kid called The Chronicle will be doing when it reaches college age.

And should I perhaps be thinking about starting a college fund?

Funding for The Chronicle is, of course, one theme we typically highlight in these Monthly Milestone columns – as a reminder that part of our funding comes from voluntary subscription dollars contributed by readers.

That’s a reminder to some readers to translate a good intention into action. And it’s a hearty thank you to those who already send in regular contributions in the form of a voluntary subscription.

This month, I’m putting The Chronicle’s funding in the context of a public art millage that the city council has placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.

But to start off, I’ve tallied up some summary statistics on the items published in the first four years. 

Some Publication Stats

As of a week ago, the total number of items published in The Chronicle was 10,404. That includes 711 full-length reports of public meetings in the Meeting Watch section. It also includes 1,253 briefs, mostly filed directly from public meetings, published in our Civic News Ticker section. We’ve published 411 opinion pieces, a figure that includes those of our regular columnists.

And according to the little word-counting widget that Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs installed on The Chronicle’s website, all of those different articles add up to 6,207,171 words.

That grand total also includes 3,498 Stopped.Watched. items – short observations contributed by “correspondents” as they go about their ordinary lives. Based on those items, an out-of-town reader might conclude that Liberty Street is where most of the action is – because 741 of the Stopped.Watched. items involve that corridor. A bit more geographic diversity would probably be a worthy goal for those items.

For any readers who are intimidated by the word “correspondent,” filing a Stopped.Watched. item is really as simple as sending an email (, a text (734.645.2633), or an @replied Twittered message (@a2chronicle).

How Small Numbers Matter

To support publication of all those items, The Chronicle relies on advertising revenue as well as voluntary subscriptions.

In Ann Arbor’s local news market, a large number of relatively small contributions could add up to a sizable operating budget for a local publication. To see how this is at least feasible, consider that the city council voted on Aug. 20 to put a public art millage on the Nov. 6 ballot – to test whether Ann Arborites are willing to be taxed at a rate of 0.1 mills to support art in public places.

A rate of 0.1 mills works out to an average of something like $10 a year for the owner of a $200,000 home. The public art millage will likely face little organized opposition – partly because it’s hard to imagine that a large number of people would be willing to contribute even $50 to an anti-millage campaign. That amount is just a bit more than the average property owner would pay over the course of the four-year millage.

But the public art millage is estimated to generate around $450,000 annually. So small amounts do add up.

Worth noting, however: The Chronicle doesn’t have the power to levy taxes.

Voluntary Subs

So we’re especially indebted to readers who voluntarily subscribe. When The Chronicle launched, these voluntary subscriptions were not part of the business plan. We implemented the voluntary subscription program in response to readers who asked us specifically to give them a way to support this enterprise financially.

Some readers do not have the economic means to write a check for $480 a year, $240 a year, $120 a year, or even $12 a year without weighing that carefully against other vital needs. So it’s gratifying when The Chronicle survives their balance test.

It’s the subscription dollars of that kind of reader we have in mind when we weigh what to spend The Chronicle’s money and time on. And that’s partly why we have a commitment to focusing the vast bulk of our time and resources on reporting, researching, editing and writing local news. We estimate that less than 10% of The Chronicle’s effort is allocated specifically to revenue generation – things like ad sales, voluntary subscription pitches, marketing and promotion.

Surely some effort at revenue generation is justified – because readers can’t be expected to intuit our desire that they send in a voluntary subscription. Indeed, when I voluntarily contribute to an enterprise I think deserves my support, I’d like to see that organization make a basic effort to broaden its financial support. These milestone columns serve part of that function. Also a part of that effort was the postcard mailing we sent out a few months ago – samples of which are shown in the photo included in this column.

Even the small percentage of our effort that we invest in revenue generation might strike some readers as too much. But it’s almost trivial compared to other media organizations – which can allocate as much as 50% of their staff to advertising positions. Certainly a sales staff that size might be necessary, if the product that’s being sold is itself primarily a marketing platform, not the actual “thing of value” that is supposed to be holding up that platform.

Our pitch to voluntary subscribers is not “You can express your opinions to thousands of other people in the comment section!” And likewise, our pitch to advertisers is not, “You can use the marketing power of The Chronicle’s media platform to sell more widgets than you ever dreamed possible!”

Instead, the pitch to both kinds of financial supporters is basically the same: The Chronicle’s coverage of local civic and government affairs makes Ann Arbor a better place – to live and to do business.

With The Chronicle’s four-year anniversary today, it’s become clear that this approach to funding local news coverage can work – for at least a while. But it currently depends in large part on two people (its publisher, Mary Morgan, and editor, me) putting virtually every waking moment into the effort.

So if it’s going to work for a long, long while, we’ll need to convince the community to increase its financial support of the enterprise.

For today, however, in celebration of our four-year anniversary, I will focus on doing some of those things that other four-year-olds can also do: turn somersaults, gallop, catch and throw, bounce a ball …

… and hop on one foot.

The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

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Milestone: Celebrating Our Community Thu, 02 Aug 2012 18:11:27 +0000 Mary Morgan As The Chronicle approaches its fourth anniversary, it’s time to continue a new tradition that we began last year – the annual Bezonki awards.

Bezonki Award

One of six Bezonki awards created by local artist Alvey Jones for The Chronicle. (Photos by Barbara Tozier.)

A year ago, we looked for a way to recognize some of the many people who make this community special. The Chronicle’s inaugural Bezonki awards were given to an amazing, eclectic group – and this year’s recipients were equally inspiring: Roger Rayle; the digital archives team at the Ann Arbor District Library – Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jacki Sasaki; Anna Ercoli Schnitzer; Jim Toy; Common Cycle; and Jeff Micale.

You’ll read more about them below. They are representative of so many others who work to make this community a better place, in ways that are well-known in some cases, or that more often play a critical but less high-profile role.

The physical awards were fashioned by local artist Alvey Jones, creator of the inscrutable Bezonki cartoons published monthly in The Chronicle. Each of the six Bezonkis is unique, and captures this community’s quirky attributes. The awards embody a nod to the past – some of the parts were salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News – and a wink to the future.

There’s another twist to these awards. We ask that each winner of the Bezonki be a steward of the physical award for a year. They then pass it on to the next year’s winner – that happened at a July 27 reception held at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth. Our goal is for the awards to create connections between people in the community year after year – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.

That’s actually one of the things that has been most rewarding for me since we launched The Chronicle – crossing paths with so many remarkable people that I might not otherwise have met. So the Bezonki awards are also an opportunity to thank the many people who have supported us along the way – as advertisers, subscribers, commenters, contributors or Chronicle readers and enthusiasts. We thank you all.

And now, I’m delighted to introduce our 2012 Bezonki winners!

2012 Bezonki Awards: Roger Rayle

What he does: Roger has volunteered his time and energy to be a watchdog for the community, tracking the impact of 1,4 dioxane contamination discovered decades ago at the Gelman Sciences site, now owned by Pall Corp. He is a leader of Scio Residents for Safe Water and member of Washtenaw County’s Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD). The amount of hours he has spent on this effort is staggering.

Roger Rayle, Saul Vielmetti

Roger Rayle, left, receives congratulations from Saul Vielmetti, a student at Summers-Knoll School. The school, which had been a 2011 Bezonki recipient, recently relocated to a new building and the award is packed up as part of the mood. Head-of-school Joanna Hastings brought a temporary stand-in created by one of the S-K students.

Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his rigorous, relentless, often thankless effort in tracking the environmental impact from the decades-long Pall/Gelman groundwater contamination. His voluntary oversight of the regulators has given our community its best shot at protecting our environment for future generations.

2012 Bezonki Awards: AADL Library Digital Archives Team

What they do: This four-person team at the Ann Arbor District Library – Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher and Jackie Sasaki – is tasked with putting the Ann Arbor News archives and other publications online. The Old News site provides an amazing collection of material, representing thousands of hours of work. In addition to archives, it also includes original interviews with people who’ve played a role in our community’s history, like former Washtenaw County sheriff Doug Harvey and local business owners Charlie Schlanderer and his son Chuck.

Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jacki Sasaki.

Ann Arbor District Library digital archives team, from left: Andrew MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jacki Sasaki. Amy is holding the Bezonki.

Why the AADL team is Bezonki-worthy:  In recognition of their contribution to the preservation of our community’s history. Their efforts make the rich historical archives easy to access and navigate, and fun to explore.

2012 Bezonki Awards: Anna Ercoli Schnitzer

What she does: Anna is the disabilities librarian with the University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library, and she is a tireless advocate for the disabled community, for diversity of all kinds, and for fighting discrimination wherever she finds it. She is also one of our best Stopped.Watched. contributors, keeping her eye on what’s happening around town.

Anna Ercoli Schnitzer

Anna Ercoli Schnitzer is given a stand-in Bezonki – the real one was still with Yousef Rabhi, a 2011 winner who will be passing the award to Anna later this week. Anna was cheered on by many of her supporters who attended the event.

Why she’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of her advocacy – not for helping those with disabilities, but for helping find the abilities in all of us. Her work with the University of Michigan and in the community goes beyond a vocation – it’s a passion that benefits us all.

2012 Bezonki Awards: Jim Toy

What he does: Jim Toy is another activist – who for decades has advocated for the rights of the LGBT community. Among many things, he helped establish the University of Michigan’s Human Sexuality Office (now called the Spectrum Center) and retired in 2008 as diversity coordinator of UM’s Office of Institutional Equity. You might recognize his name from the Jim Toy Community Center, located in Braun Court.

Accepting the Bezonki award on behalf of Toy were Sandi Smith and Linda Lombardini, partners in life and in their business – Trillium Real Estate. Smith currently serves on the board of the Jim Toy Community Center and Lombardini has served on the board in the past.

Sandi Smith, Linda Lombardini

Linda Lombardini, right, holds the Bezonki for Jim Toy, who could not attend the event. Lombardini and Sandi Smith, left, accepted the award on his behalf. Linda is 2011 past president of the Jim Toy Community Center board, and Sandi is the board’s current vice president. Sandi read a short poem that Jim had asked her to share: ”Speak the Truth to Power’s face: Justice, Truth, and Love embrace!”

Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his activism, energy and sheer guts and stamina in advocating for LGBT rights for more than 40 years. He’s been grounded in our community, but has served as an inspiration for generations in Michigan, the nation and the world beyond.

2012 Bezonki Awards: Common Cycle

What they do: A lot of people have ideas for things they think would make this community a better place. But far fewer people actually work to create their vision. The folks at Common Cycle did that – you’ve probably seen them at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, where the nonprofit sets up shop to repair bikes for free. Their long-term goals include a shared workspace for workshops, build-a-bike programs for kids, and a bike-sharing program for the community.

Jimmy Raggett, Vivienne Armentrout

Jimmy Raggett accepts the Bezonki on behalf of Common Cycle from Vivienne Armentrout, one of last year’s winners. Jimmy is co-founder of the nonprofit and vice president of the board.

Why they’re Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of the vision they have transformed into reality – seeing a need, finding a solution, working to bring that solution to life and keeping it alive. In a community that talks a lot about alternative transportation, they’ve made a tangible contribution to that effort.

2012 Bezonki Awards: Jeff Micale

What he does: On election days, The Chronicle typically visits polling stations throughout the city to watch the election in progress. While the election results get the attention, it’s the people who work behind the scenes that make these elections possible. We end our day at the Ann Arbor absent voter counting board, which for the past several years has been overseen by Jeff Micale.

Dave Askins, Jeff Micale

Chronicle editor Dave Askins gives a Bezonki to Jeff Micale, who supervises the Ann Arbor absent voter county board. Several of Jeff’s fans from the city clerk’s office were on hand to celebrate.

Why he’s Bezonki-worthy: In recognition of his work on behalf of voters in this community, through the vital role he plays in helping the gears of our democratic process grind smoothly. His calm, good-natured competence and intelligent professionalism in a pressured environment reminds us of the hundreds of people it takes to ensure it’s possible to cast a vote in a free society.

It’s appropriate to end this column with Jeff – we’ll be seeing him again soon, at the Aug. 7 primary election.

Scenes from the Reception

Here’s some additional photos from the reception.

Chalk Art

Chalk art by local artist David Zinn, commissioned by The Chronicle, on the sidewalk in front of Zingerman’s Events on Fourth, where the Bezonki award reception was held.

Close-up of a Bezonki award, created by local artist Alvey Jones

A detail shot of one of the Bezonkis, created by local artist Alvey Jones.

Dave Askins, Jennifer Coffman

Dave Askins with Jennifer Coffman, who has been covering the Ann Arbor Public Schools board meetings for The Chronicle since early 2010. Jennifer is returning to a teaching position in another district, and Monet Tiedemann will now be covering AAPS for The Chronicle.

A crowd scene from the July 27 Bezonki reception.

A crowd scene from the July 27 Bezonki reception.

Dave Askins, David Erik Nelson

David Erik Nelson, right, displays his ability to dramatically hold a card in each hand. Nelson writes a monthly column for The Chronicle – “In It For the Money.” Watching him in wonderment is Chronicle editor Dave Askins.

Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan

Publisher Mary Morgan thanks supporters for helping The Chronicle reach its fourth anniversary.

Four Bezonki awards.

Four Bezonki awards.

Chalkboard listing 2011 and 2012 Bezonki winners

A chalkboard at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth lists 2011 and 2012 Bezonki winners.

The Ink-Stained Wretch, a Chronicle cocktail

The Ink-Stained Wretch, a cocktail created for The Chronicle by the folks at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth. In the background is a bouquet from Pot & Box.

Artist David Zinn works on his Sluggo the Reporter creation.

Artist David Zinn finishes his Sluggo the Reporter creation.

Toolkit for artist David Zinn.

Toolkit for artist David Zinn.

The Chronicle relies in part on regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of local government and civic affairs. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle. And if you’re already supporting us, please encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to help support The Chronicle, too!

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Milestone: Integrity – and a Sense of Place Sat, 02 Jun 2012 16:01:31 +0000 Mary Morgan 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.

Fire Safety: A Story of Flawed Reporting

Before I launch into the fire department response time analysis, let me acknowledge that not every reader will have the stomach for this level of detail. If you’d rather not read about “notify times” and “en route times,” or what it finally took to convince that its initial reporting might have been inaccurate, then skip to the next section.

The story, which Dearing finally acknowledged last week was in error, was written by Ryan Stanton and published in May of last year – just before the Ann Arbor city council considered an annual budget that called for a reduction in firefighter positions. The story served the basic editorial stance of By decreasing fire department budget resources, the Ann Arbor city council was impeding firefighters’ ability to cover the distance between their stations and the scenes of major fires in a timely fashion.

To support that narrative, Stanton presented his readers with travel times for four major fires that he claimed exceeded the national travel time standard of four minutes for a first-arriving company.

Certainly, if a fire department typically records travel times that exceed the national standard, it indicates that the number of staffed fire stations in a geographic area is not sufficient. So the travel time is an appropriate place to focus for an investigative enterprise that seeks to answer the question: Are fire department resources adequate?

To start with a general observation, Stanton’s story was unfortunately vague with respect to its terminology – using “response time” instead of “travel time.” He did not explain explicitly to readers that “response time,” as used throughout his story, was meant specifically to refer to the “travel time” – the time interval from the station to the fire scene. But given the story’s use of the “travel time” standard of four minutes, it’s evident that Stanton’s use of “response time” throughout his piece is, in fact, a reference to travel time.

At a city council meeting, a day after publication of that story, Barnett Jones – who then served as the city’s chief of safety services – publicly called out Stanton for mistakes in the story, including inaccurately-calculated response times. In a scolding email that Stanton subsequently sent to Jones, justifying his story’s report of response times, it’s also clear that the intent of Stanton’s story was to present travel times to readers.

Tony Dearing also admitted in a May 2, 2012 meeting with Chronicle editor Dave Askins that the intent of Stanton’s story was to calculate and present travel times to readers. That’s a point of common ground, actually – the idea that a relevant data point for measuring the adequacy of a fire department’s resources is the “travel time.”

After hearing Jones’ remarks at the May 16, 2011 city council meeting, that same evening Askins gave a cursory review to the records that Stanton used to write his story. He then emailed Stanton, also that same evening, pointing out to Stanton the likely source of his error.

To understand the significance of that emailed message, it’s important first to understand the difference between a time point – like “en route time” or “notify time” – and a time interval, like “travel time.” It’s time points, not intervals, that are recorded in fire department records. To get an interval from the fire department records, you have to do a calculation – in this case, starting from the time point recorded as “arrival time” – the time a fire truck arrived on the scene.

How do you calculate the travel time interval? The plain language of the National Fire Protection Association standards would lead a reader to conclude that it’s the “en route time” that should be subtracted from “arrival time” to calculate “travel time.” But in his email to Jones, Stanton justified the same conclusion in a different way – by citing an unnamed authority from Massachusetts: “I calculated the response times based on how an NFPA representative in Massachusetts told me I should calculate them, which is to clock the 4-minute travel time starting from the first vehicle’s ‘en route’ time.”

And to be fair to Stanton, all other things being equal, you should be able to look at some city’s fire department reports, pick out the “arrival time” and the “en route time,” perform the clock arithmetic and get an accurate travel time. Of course, that assumes the “en route times” in the reports are accurate.

But even at first glance, it’s evident that the Ann Arbor fire department reports show “en route times” that are likely inaccurate. That’s because they’re recorded as identical, down to the second, with another time point recorded as “notify time” – the time the alarm was given.

Ann Arbor Fire Department Report

Ann Arbor fire department report for Sept. 16, 2010 fire reporting, illustrating the identical time point recordings for "notify time" and "en route time."

From the fire department reports, it’s not hard to reach at least a tentative conclusion that the fire department is only interested in the sum of the two intervals, which would be possible to calculate if it’s the “notify time” that’s accurate. That’s what Askins pointed out to Stanton in the email he sent the same evening as the May 16, 2011 council meeting:

In the AAFD reports, the times recorded for “enroute time” and “notify time” are identical. That may be the source of the confusion. I’d guess that “notify time” is accurate and filled in from call-center information, and that “enroute time” is just systematically copied from “notify time” into that slot.

Stanton’s emailed reply to Askins blamed Stanton’s sources:

If that’s the case, their reports are wrong and they’re blaming me? They knew I was calculating response times, and they give me bad data? How unfortunate.

I won’t venture to speculate what the fire department knew about Stanton’s reporting or intentions. But it’s clear that before he wrote the story, Stanton did not ask anyone locally a question that yielded an accurate description of the information contained in Ann Arbor fire department reports. Instead, he asked a question of someone in a place called Massachusetts.

The right question to ask of the local Ann Arbor fire department would have been: Which one of these two time points is accurate, and what is the actual value of the other time point? That way, you could calculate a “turnout time” interval for the fires as well as a “travel time.” The “turnout time” is the interval between the alarm and the start of the travel time interval. That’s an important interval, because it measures how quickly firefighters can get into their gear and onto their trucks. But at their May 2, 2012 meeting, Dearing admitted to Askins that had not attempted to calculate a “turnout time” for any of the fires.

For one of the fires that tried to analyze, the answer was already included in a screen shot taken from the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) screen, which was among the materials provided by AAFD to Stanton for his story. That screenshot showed different times for the CAD analogs of “notify time” and “en route time” – which the AAFD reports systematically show as identical. But Stanton apparently did not incorporate the information from that screen shot into his reporting.

Not long after initial publication of Stanton’s article, corrected the time for the one fire that had included a CAD screen shot. The note of correction, however, claimed it was “based on new information provided to” When Askins confronted Dearing at their May 2, 2012 meeting about the disingenuousness of calling the CAD screen shot “new information,” Dearing insisted that AAFD had provided a new, corrected report to – and that’s correction was based only on that new AAFD report. When Askins pointed out that the corrected “travel time” in Stanton’s story matched exactly the time indicated in the CAD screenshot, Dearing admitted that it did – but he still insisted that the correction was based only on the “new information.”

Calling that a case of “new information” masks Stanton’s failure to notice existing information, and it’s a misleading accounting of the admitted error. But it gets worse, partly because that’s where staff apparently stopped working as reporters. If you got one fire wrong, what about the three others?

It was only after a series of emails and a voicemail to Dearing that he finally agreed recently to meet with Askins. Among the facts that Askins had suggested Dearing review with Stanton was basic geographic information about the fires. In fact, that geographic information was included in a spreadsheet that Askins recently sent directly to Dearing, after publishing a link to it several months earlier as part of two different Chronicle reports. The spreadsheet contains CAD data for all four fires that tried to analyze – data The Chronicle was able to obtain through unofficial channels, because we continued to report on this topic. That CAD data allowed us to have confidence in our published conclusion about the four fires:

The time interval that seemed much longer than it should be (based on national standards), and that provides the greatest opportunity for improvement is the interval between the time a call comes to a station and the time a firetruck starts rolling to the scene (turnout time). That is to say, the other time interval – the travel time from fire station to fire scene – did not look like the place where the AAFD could improve most.

Why did Askins want Dearing to take a look at geography here? It’s not just because a “sense of place” is generally important for journalists serving a community. It’s because when it comes to calculating travel times, it’s an obvious question to ask: What was the distance traveled, and is it plausible that a fire engine would take that long to get there?

Fire scene locations plotted on a map used by Ann Arbor's fire department to model travel times for fire department response. The two fire scenes are significantly inside the green area that indicates a four-minute travel time, but's reporter did not question the accuracy of the travel times he calculated for those fires. He calculated both times inaccurately to be over four minutes. Four minutes is the national standard.

Yet at their meeting, Dearing told Askins that Stanton’s initial reporting had not considered geography.

Dearing also admitted that he himself had up to that point not considered the travel distance – even while claiming that he’d reviewed everything in detail, both with Stanton and with fire chief Chuck Hubbard.

Only when Askins showed Dearing where the fire scenes were on a map in relation to the fire stations did Dearing finally appear to take seriously the possibility that he and Stanton had been wrong about travel times all along.

At their recent meeting, Dearing finally admitted the obvious to Askins – that no, it was not really plausible that a fire truck would take 4 minutes and 9 seconds to travel roughly half a mile in the middle of the night. Also not plausible is that a fire truck would take 6 minutes and 15 seconds to travel roughly 1.1 miles, in the early morning hours when no traffic would be anticipated. Dearing told Askins: “You’ve given me more work to do.” It’s work Askins had already done.

To make any claim of being honest and forthright with his readers, Dearing’s column admitting the errors needed to include the geography of those fire responses – but Dearing’s column is silent on that subject. Including the geography would have made it clear not just that got the travel times wrong, but that the reporter and editor had no one to blame but themselves for getting those times wrong.

Instead, what Dearing’s column offered his readers was the same kind of disingenuous explanation that published with the initial correction of Stanton’s story – that there was “additional information” and that they “were told” something that turned out not to be accurate. From Dearing’s column:

Since first reported last year that the department was struggling to meet response time standards, a great deal of additional information is now available, and based on that information, we owe the community a more complete and accurate analysis of this issue than we have offered to this point. … Our original reporting was based on reports supplied to us by the city, which listed en route times. We were told that en route times represented travel times.

This “additional information” was already available – and that’s why The Chronicle had already published it, starting with the city council meeting report published within days of Stanton’s initial story, followed with later analyses.

An Aside: Some Thoughts About Awards

It’s worth noting that Stanton’s article about fire safety won a first-place award from the Michigan Associated Press for investigative reporting. And yes, I spewed my coffee when I heard about that.

Though the Pulitzers might be the most notable exception, journalism awards can be a rather incestuous affair. For the Michigan Associated Press, for example, only publications that pay to be members of the AP are eligible for the awards.

Michigan AP Award for Best Editorial

A Michigan AP award I won a few years ago. I adorned it with some sort of bone, to make it into a more interesting trophy.

I speak here from my experience as a contest judge during my tenure at the Ann Arbor News. In many contests, submissions are shipped off to judges in another market for review. The judges are typically overworked editors who have scant time to spare on this task.

It’s difficult to get a sense of an article that lands in your lap without context. There might be a cover letter with some explanation provided, but of course those are submitted by the organization hoping to win an award. Frankly, in many cases there’s little to distinguish one entry from another – and I’m sure that was the case for many of the awards that my colleagues and I won while working at The News.

Certainly there’s no time or inclination to vet the award submissions for accuracy, though it’s typically required that any correction made on an article should be noted in the submission materials. So the process relies on the integrity of each publication to be forthright about the quality of its submissions.

In this case, given that Dearing’s column outlining problems with the analysis wasn’t published until well after the awards were handed out, there’s no doubt that the judges were unaware of that full context.

We’ve asked AP’s regional bureau chief if Michigan AP will be reviewing its award to the fire response story, but haven’t received a reply. I’m not holding my breath – is a member, and The Ann Arbor Chronicle is not.

New Model of Doing Business?

I should pause here to note that my criticism of is not based on some self-righteous belief that if a mistake is made it must be because the reporter wasn’t conscientious. It’s not possible to do this job – or any job – without error. Even the most meticulous, conscientious reporter will screw up from time to time. We make our own share of mistakes. Corrected Chronicle errors are easy to spot in the text – because “deleted material” is denoted with red strike-through text and added material is denoted with blue text. The result is not pretty. Believe me, it’s not fun to make such an ostentatious accounting of our mistakes, but we do.’s approach to errors is different. Dearing has simply added a note to the top of Stanton’s article. The errors that remain in the text are apparently left to readers to sort out for themselves.’s approach to correcting Stanton’s story is part of an ongoing pattern – failing to be forthright with the community. It’s a pattern that I’ve noted previously.

In a March 13, 2011 column “History Repeats at,” I described how some news about a round of layoffs at had not been shared with the Ann Arbor community. The layoffs were eventually acknowledged, after a reader posted a question about the dismissals a few days after the fact, on a section of the website called the Community Wall. The response was a two-paragraph comment from Dearing that started off with the corporate-speak of “personnel issues are an internal matter and we don’t discuss them publicly…” He continued by acknowledging that ”I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage.”

As I wrote at the time, his explanation was insulting – who on earth would view cuts to local reporting staff as a way to focus on local news coverage? It was also evocative of a column written by former Ann Arbor News editor Ed Petykiewicz in December 2008, a few months after we launched The Chronicle. In the wake of buyouts at the newspaper and a shrinking staff, Petykiewicz claimed that the newspaper would be focusing more on local content – and just four months later, the announcement came that the News would close. Perhaps Dearing and Petykiewicz were both looking at the world through a common Newhouse/funhouse mirror of reality – I don’t know.

The misrepresentation of basic reality is shown on the business side as well. When the Newhouse family closed the Ann Arbor News in 2009, the narrative relied crucially on the idea that the newly-formed business to replace the News was a “startup” like any other startup. No one in the community really bought that story, so there was no surprise or objection when the executive leadership subsequently accepted an award from the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, honoring businesses that had been members for several decades.

An early marketing campaign for also tried to highlight longevity. Responding to criticism about the inexperience of their reporting staff – because many of the senior editors and reporters at the Ann Arbor News were not rehired by – the company took out billboards trumpeting the collective experience in journalism of its entire staff, measured by adding up each employee’s years of experience. Since then, turnover has been frequent. Many of the original staff are no longer there, including most of the initial key hires, and the experience level of reporters has continued to drop.

That means even fewer people remain at who have deep connections to the community, with a sense of history and context. But here’s the thing: It’s easier to operate under those conditions when these qualities don’t really matter.

What does matter in the age of “churnalism” is the ability to quickly push out spot news, rewrites of press releases, rewrites of other publication’s articles, “instant analysis” – an oxymoron if there ever was one – and other fodder to drive site traffic, and in turn generate ad revenue.

Highlighting drama and conflict has always been a staple of mainstream media, and provocative, misleading headlines are nothing new. Some readers of like to grouse about the bottom-feeding nature of the comments left on articles, but in many cases the comments seem like simply an amped-up version of the stories themselves. When a publication trades on fomenting artificial controversy, is it really a surprise when the comments written there reflect the community’s lowest common denominator?

That kind of storytelling approach to journalism, which relies on identifying characters in conflict, comes with inherent dangers. In last month’s Chronicle milestone column, Dave Askins laid out the perils of that approach, and contrasted it with The Chronicle’s emphasis on description, analysis and explanation.

There are many problems with storytelling as a way to convey news and information, but chief among them is that the reader must rely on the integrity of the storyteller, because facts don’t play a prominent role. You rely on the writer having a deep understanding of the topic, its history and context – and a strong sense of place. Absent that integrity, all you’re left with is a hollow collection of words.

Implications for Community

So should be the “model” for the future of the New Orleans Times-Picayune? From my perspective and for much of the community, the model isn’t working well in Ann Arbor. I conveyed that sentiment to Steve Myers, managing editor of, for an article he wrote following the Times-Picayune announcement.

Ann Arbor is a community that’s relatively small, relatively wealthy, highly educated, with a high percentage of people who have access to the Internet. For those who don’t, there’s a strong library and school system to help pick up the slack.

These same conditions don’t exist in New Orleans.

A book has been circulating among local business and government leaders called “Economics of Place,” published by the Ann Arbor-based Michigan Municipal League. The ideas in it aren’t new, but they’ve been packaged in a way that seems to resonate with people who are looking to articulate what they like about where they live.

A newspaper – online or printed – can play a crucial role in reflecting and bolstering that sense of place, and in leading the community to an even better version of itself. But it can’t do that with a superficial, false understanding of the community it serves, or by misleading readers.

That’s true in Ann Arbor, in New Orleans – and anywhere else.

Mary Morgan is publisher and co-owner of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.

It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider subscribing voluntarily to The Chronicle to support our work.

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