Stories indexed with the term ‘voluntary subscription’

Milestone: Relays Without Batons

We’re roughly midway through The Chronicle’s fifth year. That means in September we’ll mark a half-decade of publication.

May Day Medley Columbus Indiana 1988

Commemorative May Day Medley mug.  (Columbus, Indiana 1988)

At that point, we will likely write a column with some reckoning of total words, or total number of public meetings covered, or some other statistical breakdown.

And even though we will say, “It’s a half decade,” those numbers will not mean we are half way there. Because there is where the finish line is. And in this race The Chronicle has been running, there is no finish line.

In that respect it is not like a marathon – when you know at the start that if you settle into a sustainable pace, you will eventually finish. But for a race that has no finish line, what does a sustainable pace even mean?

Here at The Chronicle, a sustainable pace means that the business is financially stable enough to cover the freelance writers, basic business expenses and the livelihoods of a full-time editor and publisher. But The Chronicle is not sustainable in an important sense. It requires a full-time effort from two people – and here I don’t mean 40 hours, or 60 hours, or even 80 hours a week. I mean basically every waking moment.

So The Chronicle is not sustainable in the sense that it’s a business that could be sold to someone else to carry on – unless that someone else were two people who are willing to run down a race course that offers a simple livelihood with few water stations and some occasional cheers.

To pound this running metaphor completely into the ground, The Chronicle is not sustainable in the sense that it could passed like a baton to the next runner in a relay. And that reminds me of a relay race I ran a quarter century ago in my hometown of Columbus, Indiana.

It was called the May Day Medley.  [Full Story]

Milestone: Monthly Reminders

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. [Full Story]

Milestone: Four Years, But Who’s Counting?

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.  [Full Story]

Milestone: Getting on Board With Taxis

Editor’s note: 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.

Taxicab Meter Ann Arbor

This taxicab meter reads "VACANT" – just like two seats on Ann Arbor's taxicab board.

This little taxi ride is going to start where Mary Morgan’s milestone column last month left off – she drew a comparison between news media choices and transportation choices.

This column also will deliver readers to a destination that asks them to consider applying for a mayoral appointment to Ann Arbor’s taxicab board.

If you’d like to take a shortcut, then go ahead and download the application form for the city’s boards and commissions, and return it to the mayor’s office. The address is printed right on the form.

But the longer route will include some discussion about who’s paying the fare for this media cab we call The Ann Arbor Chronicle.

Last Friday evening, Mary Morgan and I ordered an actual cab to cover the 3/4 mile from our Old West Side neighborhood to the near edge of downtown Ann Arbor. Who on earth orders a cab to cover that short a distance? A journalist who needs a piece of art for a column involving taxis, that’s who. The trip required a detour from the planned route. That’s because Washington Street between Ashley and Main was closed for the FoolMoon festival – which we were headed downtown to see.

The taxicab driver circled around to have another go at it from Huron Street.  And he told us he’d knock a quarter mile off the final distance on the meter. He could exercise that discretion, because taxicab drivers function essentially as independent contractors, who lease the vehicles from the taxicab company each night.

There’s a limit to a cabbie’s discretion. I’m guessing he wouldn’t earn a livelihood if he decided just to let passengers ride for free, for as long as they liked, and expect that they might later send him an equitable fare. Yet if operating The Chronicle were like driving a cab, that’s what the voluntary subscriptions part of our business model would look like.  [Full Story]

Parking Deal Talks Open Between City, DDA

Almost a year ago, the city council appointed members to a committee that was to talk with a corresponding committee of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board about amending the contract under which the DDA manages the city’s parking system.

The two groups are known as the “mutually beneficial” committees, reflecting the language of a January 2009 city council resolution that called upon the DDA to begin a conversation about revising the parking contract in a “mutually beneficial” way.

On Monday morning, for the first time in public view, members of the DDA board and the city council met to discuss the contract.


The two mutually beneficial committees (starting at the far right of the frame, proceeding clockwise around the table): Carsten Hohnke, Margie Teall – both city councilmembers; Sandi Smith, city councilmember, but representing the DDA; Christopher Taylor, city councilmember; Roger Hewitt and Russ Collins, both on the DDA board. (Photo by the writer.)

The basis of these further discussions was a term sheet that had been produced in late April by some members of the city council and the DDA working outside of either body’s committee structure.

That term sheet had been the good faith basis on which the DDA board, on a 7-4 vote in May, voted to amend the parking contract. That unilateral amendment amounted to a payment from the DDA to the city of an additional $2 million that had not been required under the existing contract.

The specific outcomes of Monday’s meeting between the two committees were: (i) staff for the DDA and the city would be asked to develop a list of policy points that would need to be addressed in order for the DDA to assume responsibility of enforcing parking rules, but not other codes; and (ii) the DDA would be asked to develop a detailed plan by Sept. 13, 2010 describing the role of the DDA in the development of city-owned surface parking lots within the DDA district.

The planned schedule for meetings between the two committees will be the second Monday morning of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the DDA offices on Fifth Avenue. Members of the council’s committee are Margie Teall (Ward 4), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5). Representing the DDA are Sandi Smith, Russ Collins, Roger Hewitt and Gary Boren. [Full Story]

21st Monthly Milestone

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.


Rough notes for the first rough draft of Ann Arbor history.

In this month’s milestone message, I’m going to explain what we do here at The Ann Arbor Chronicle. And I’m going to do it in a way that is intended to inspire additional voluntary subscriptions to our publication.

About 47 years ago, in a speech delivered in London to correspondents for Newsweek magazine, Washington Post publisher Philip Graham called journalism the “first rough draft of history.” The contention that journalists are writing history – even just a first rough draft – is pretty high-minded talk. Writing any draft of history certainly sounds sexier than the sheer drudgery of taking notes through a six-hour city council meeting seated on hard pew-like benches and condensing that material into a few thousand words for Ann Arbor Chronicle readers.

That’s an aspect of the job Graham meant in the first, less famous part of the “rough draft” quote [emphasis added]: “So let us today drudge on about our inescapably impossible task of providing every week a first rough draft of history that will never really be completed about a world we can never really understand …”

I think that digital technology allows journalists the possibility of providing a far better first draft of history than was previously possible. It’s better in the sense that it can be more comprehensive, and more detailed than the drafts that were constrained by printed newspaper column inches.

But seriously. Why does Ann Arbor need someone to write down its history? Do we here at The Chronicle really imagine that 100 years from now anyone will care that some new parking meters got installed in front of the Old Town Tavern? Nope. I don’t. Not really. Well, maybe. Okay, no. Not, really.

Sure, in an unguarded moment, I’ll indulge in the reverie that Ann Arbor’s 2110 version of Laura Bien will be mining The Chronicle archives and writing – for some next-century information distribution system – an article called “The Man Who Loved Parking Meters.”

More useful than 100-year-old history, however, is the history of five years ago, a year ago, or even a month ago. Because it’s the things that were said and done one month ago or one year ago that matter for elected officials making policy decisions, and for voters making choices at the polls.

So this month’s milestone provides a couple of examples demonstrating that The Chronicle is a pretty decent  source of recent local history – a better source than the recollections and conversations of our local political leaders. [Full Story]

18th Monthly Milestone

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.

Almost a year ago, on March 23, 2009, Advance Publications announced that it would shut down The Ann Arbor News later that year. Ann Arbor Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan wrote a column about that announcement: “Why We Grieve The Ann Arbor News.”

James "Jay" T. Hamilton's book, "All the News That's Fit to Sell" is available on (Image links to Amazon)

It would be fitting and proper to think back and reflect, ponder, and meditate again on the closing of The Ann Arbor News. But in that column, Mary writes about “moving toward a future in which the landscape of [her] life has unalterably shifted.”

So this month’s Milestone is more about moving forward than looking back. And that’s one reason we’re throwing Chronicle readers a curve ball: Flouting the usual alternating batting order for editor and publisher, I’m stepping to the plate two months in a row to take a hack at the Monthly Milestone.

To make this column easier to read, I’ll tell you what’s coming – I’ll be concluding with a straight sales pitch. [If you're not a fan of baseball then, for crying out loud, be a fan of spring ... spring training games start in a few weeks.]

The pitch I’ll make is informed by a trip I made to Washington D.C. a couple of weeks ago. At the invitation and expense of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, I attended a session of the working group they’ve established there on media and governance. It’s a group that includes representatives of the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission – they’ll be putting together a report for Congress on existing and new media, and their role in providing information on governance issues.

I shared with the group our experience here at The Ann Arbor Chronicle. But greater than any value I provided to them, I’m certain, is the value I took away from the meeting. This column is mostly what I learned from Duke University professor of political science and economics, James “Jay” Hamilton, who had also been invited to address the working group. [Full Story]