Crew from Detroit’s ABC affiliate, Channel 7, is interviewing people on the street for promos to run about the station’s coverage of news, weather, etc. “I never watch it” is probably not what they’re looking for. [photo]
Last weekend, President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at the University of Michigan’s spring commencement to an audience of more than 90,000 people, including more than 8,000 graduates.
The event also included national, regional, and local media organizations, who were eventually allowed into Michigan Stadium. But I don’t think most members of the media really listened to his address.
For example, I didn’t see any of these headlines, which could have been attached to an accurate account of Obama’s speech:
Obama Lambastes Media for Sound-Byte Coverage
Obama Takes Aim at Media for Stoking Conflicts
Obama Puts Blame for Coarse Discourse on Media
Obama Erupts But Does Not Confirm Ties to Volcano
The fourth alternative is based on a kindergartner’s question to the president, which Obama reported as part of his speech. That one is admittedly a stretch. It’s included for the benefit of an audience of two, perhaps three, local Ann Arbor readers who might crack a smile when they read it. [For those of you who don't know, Ann Arbor is building a "volcano" in the center of its downtown.]
The other three, however, are legitimate candidates for a headline that summarizes what the president’s speech was “about.” The venerable New York Times tried out at least four different headlines for a single online story on the Obama speech. But none of the NYT alternatives – nor those of any other media coverage I saw – identified as a significant theme of Obama’s speech the culpability of the media in the kind of “over the top” public debates that Obama said “coarsens our culture.”
That’s because I don’t think media organizations were paying attention to all of Obama’s speech the way they would have if they’d approached it like they were cutting up fish.
Editor’s Note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s 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.
On Saturday, along with more than 90,000 other people, I was in Michigan Stadium amid the spectacle of the University of Michigan commencement, with the heightened drama surrounding the presence of President Barack Obama.
Despite standing in the rain for two hours, I was glad to be part of the orchestrated pageantry – it’s a perk to living in a city that’s got the pull of a major university, while still being small enough to score access to something that draws national attention. As the day wore on, the event also helped further crystallize for me some aspects of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s journalistic mission. And because this is our publication’s 20th monthly milestone message, it seems a good occasion to reflect on that.
The most obvious point of clarity on Saturday was the difference between what The Chronicle typically does and what other media oranizations do – whether they are traditional or newly-emerging enterprises. The second observation is linked to some advice in Obama’s speech: Pay attention.
Our monthly milestone message, written by either the editor or the publisher, is an occasion to touch base with readers – to bring folks up to date on any new developments with The Chronicle and to engage in a bit of self-reflection as a publication.
Self-reflection once a month is healthy. But self-reflection that persists for a whole month – which has been a natural consequence of the continuing community conversation about the closing of The Ann Arbor News so that AnnArbor.com could be launched – threatens to become a distraction.
Yet here we are at a monthly milestone – a fitting and proper time to reflect on significant questions like: Where does The Ann Arbor Chronicle fit in a media landscape without The Ann Arbor News? In last month’s Tenth Monthly Milestone Message, Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan analyzed that media landscape in terms of pie. As in: Is there enough pie to go around? How big is the media pie?
But given a choice between pie and cake, I prefer cake. In particular, I prefer chocolate cake with white icing – those are more or less traditional newspaper colors, now that I think about it.
But I’ll eat a piece of pie, if there’s not a piece of cake to be had.
As far as media choices go, residents of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County these days don’t have a choice just between pie and cake – Mary Morgan lists out various media alternatives in last month’s milestone. And as it turns out, the 8,061 residents of Washtenaw County in 1882 had a few choices as well.
For nearly two hours on Thursday afternoon, three people leading the new online venture formed to replace the Ann Arbor News fielded questions at a public forum, trying to assuage concerns over news that shocked this community when announced last week.
“Community” and “local” were two words frequently repeated by Matt Kraner, Laurel Champion and Tony Dearing of AnnArbor.com, which is gearing up for a late July launch. “Local journalism is not dead in Ann Arbor,” said Champion, current publisher of The News who’ll be executive vice president for the new company. “We’re just serving it up in a very, very different way.”
Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. last Thursday, a vigil organized by Michigan Peaceworks and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice had people filling all four corners of Liberty and Main streets in downtown Ann Arbor. The vigil was organized to call attention to the military violence in Gaza, with organizers calling for an immediate ceasefire. When I arrived around 6:45 p.m. it was apparent from the signage and the shouts that some of the demonstrators had taken a more strident position than the vigil organizers had likely hoped for.
It was late on a Saturday night earlier this month when the Google alert showed up in my inbox: “Editor’s column: The Ann Arbor News is changing; you can help us,” by Ed Petykiewicz.
At last, I thought, Ed has finally written a column about what’s happening at The News. That’s great! So I clicked on the link, and pulled up … a blank page on MLive.
I groaned – the mess that is MLive strikes again! – and I put my head in my hands: This technical glitch reflects so much of what’s wrong with the News’ business model, and shows how far they have to go in addressing this and all the other challenges they face. Maybe, I thought, Ed’s column will confront some of these realities. I’d just have to wait for the newsprint version on Sunday morning to read it.
“I’ve never seen reporters so excited as when they’re talking about their Twitters,” remarked Gil Klein, moderator of a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor. The discussion was part of a nationwide tour of similar events hosted by the National Press Club as a part of the organization’s 100th anniversary. Klein, director of the National Press Club’s Centennial Forums, mentioned the micro-blogging platform Twitter in the current context of the tremendous period of innovation in the field of journalism.
But the consensus among panelists …
People working at The Ann Arbor News are facing some life-changing decisions today: This morning, management at The News and all seven other newspapers owned by the Newhouse family in Michigan announced a massive round of buyouts and plans to consolidate some operations in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
If you’re looking for any random excuse to uncork champagne, here’s one: Today marks the 1-month anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle.
It’s been a wild, gratifying, exhausting month. A shout-out to those of you who’ve generously helped us spread the word about our publication, who’ve offered words of support and encouragement … or who’ve made a financial sign of support by buying ads. There’s no guarantee that we can make this a financially viable business, but if we can, it will be thanks to individuals at local companies and organizations who think we’ve got something worth paying for, and who are willing to take a chance on a new venture like this.
For me, the experience of leaving an institution like …