Farewell, Ann Arbor News

Paper to cease publication in July, replaced by new online venture
Yesterday's Sunday edition of The Ann Arbor News

Sunday's edition of The Ann Arbor News.

Ann Arbor News publisher Laurel Champion, visibly emotional, told newspaper employees this morning that the paper would cease publication sometime in July, to be replaced by a different company and online publication.

The news shocked employees, who had anticipated cutbacks but not the decision to fold the company.

Champion told employees that the new entity – AnnArbor.com – will be separate from MLive.com, though details are still being worked out. According to an article about the changes posted on the Ann Arbor News section of MLive, the company will be led by Matt Kraner, former Cleveland Plain Dealer chief marketing officer. Champion will serve as executive vice president. Tony Dearing, who served as head of the News’ Ypsilanti bureau in the 1990s, will be “chief content leader” – the equivalent of the entity’s top editor.

Dearing contacted The Chronicle this morning, saying that AnnArbor.com would be taking a very different approach in terms of reaching out to the community and to other local media. He said that he and Kraner would be meeting for the first time with News employees this afternoon at Campus Inn, where they would talk in more detail about the organization.

In a letter to readers published today, Champion said that she, Dearing and Kraner will be holding two public forums in April to talk to the community about these changes: On Thursday, April 2 at 2 p.m. at Campus Inn, 615 E. Huron St., and on Friday, April 3 at 10 a.m. at Weber’s Inn, 3050 Jackson Ave.  [confirm dates]

At the morning staff meeting, Champion told employees that the new product would also include a print publication twice a week, on Thursdays and Sundays. She said the structure of this new venture was unique to Ann Arbor, and not something that was being rolled out at other publications in the Michigan chain of newspapers owned by the Newhouse family.

When the Ann Arbor News closes in July, they’ll be vacating the downtown headquarters, an Albert Kahn-designed structure at southwest corner of Huron and Division streets. Champion told employees that the building was not for sale at this time, but that the new venture would have offices elsewhere. There was also no word on the status of the News’ printing press in Pittsfield Township, which opened in 2001.

Employees were told that they’ll be able to apply for jobs at the new business, but those jobs will be open to non-News employees as well. Details about the types of jobs, salaries and other information won’t likely be available until mid-April.

News employees who did not accept a buyout offer made last fall will be offered severance – one week for every year served. That amount is half of the most recent buyout offer. People who accepted the buyout still have not been given departure dates, so it’s unclear if they’ll remain working at the paper until it ends publication. Champion also said that pension contributions from the company will be frozen in mid-May.

This news comes just days after the newspaper’s long-time editor-in-chief, Ed Petykiewicz, announced his plans to retire.

Other coverage: Former News sports columnist Jim Carty’s blog, Paper Tiger No More.

Section: Business

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  1. March 23, 2009 at 10:13 am | permalink

    This was expected but still comes as a shock. I hope the Chronicle will be able to expand its coverage and help fill the void.

  2. By Vivienne Armentrout
    March 23, 2009 at 10:14 am | permalink

    Doesn’t that printing plant also print the locally distributed New York Times?

  3. March 23, 2009 at 10:22 am | permalink

    It is a sad day indeed. 174 years of history in that building. I wish the best to all the employees that are affected.


  4. By Dave Askins
    March 23, 2009 at 10:24 am | permalink

    Re: [2] and printing of the locally distributed New York Times.

    Yes, that’s where it’s printed, along with the Jackson Citizen Patriot.

  5. By Lehigh
    March 23, 2009 at 10:39 am | permalink

    I am saddened by the news, but not surprised. What’s surprising is that other papers in the state *aren’t* shuttering completely, while the Ann Arbor News is. It’s also not clear why Ann Arbor is completely abandoning the Ann Arbor News name. I can see not wanting to piggyback onto MLive, but does the Ann Arbor News brand have to say goodbye? Something’s fishy — did Booth get paid by Kraner/AnnArbor.com to close down the News?

  6. March 23, 2009 at 10:40 am | permalink

    I also hope the Chronicle can expand, while keeping the same excellent quality!

  7. March 23, 2009 at 10:50 am | permalink

    Wow. The pace of change is moving too fast for me today.

    I hope the city and DDA can find something constructive to do with the Ann Arbor News building. It would be a shame to have it torn down, but what is an urban planner supposed to do with a big block of concrete with no windows?

  8. By My two cents
    March 23, 2009 at 10:54 am | permalink

    CNN.com is even talking about this

    link to CNN

  9. March 23, 2009 at 11:09 am | permalink

    RT @DanielLiterary: U of Michigan Press announces that most of their publishing will now be digital only: http://tinyurl.com/cb3vhs

    the day the music died …

  10. By Bob Martel
    March 23, 2009 at 11:12 am | permalink

    Just shocking! I suppose that this is the shape of things to come. I hope that the web site is a big improvement over the MLive site because that is about the worst site that I’ve ever seen!

  11. By it's a miracle
    March 23, 2009 at 11:17 am | permalink

    Jeff Jarvis has been consulting on this project and writes about it on his site, Buzzmachine.

    link to Buzzmachine

  12. By Ron
    March 23, 2009 at 11:58 am | permalink

    It never ceases to amaze me how some business people, claiming the best in experience and education and using all the buzzwords, could not see this coming.
    My question with this and similar moves: How do you provide more local coverage — with some degree of institutional memory — with a fraction of the reporting force?

  13. By Balanced
    March 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm | permalink

    I have found the “Chronicle” to be less afraid to include the local Arab and Muslim community in its coverage.
    This was particularly noticed during the Palestine human rights protests a couple months ago, and in City Council coverage. Thank you.

  14. By Sue Lackey
    March 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm | permalink

    I thought when I first read this I understood what was happening, but now wonder: If AnnArbor.com going to be owned by Booth/Newhouse? It is, at any rate, a sad thing. I recall a former publisher telling me the News supported local economic development because ‘unlike other businesses, they couldn’t pick up the Ann Arbor News and move it somewhere else.’ Guess not.

  15. By Alan
    March 23, 2009 at 12:30 pm | permalink

    Newspaper business people saw this coming as far back as 1994. As this piece by Prof. Clay Shirky outlines explicitly, they made every contingency they could think of to maintain the old order and prop up their business model. They also determined the worst-case scenario, in which people by-passed or ignored “walled garden” sites, would not pay for content, and pirated their content. This has come to pass.

    link to Clay Shirky

    He wrote: “The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!” The details differed, but the core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift. As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by skeptical responses.”

    And the unthinkable occurs.

  16. By Judy Dooley
    March 23, 2009 at 1:19 pm | permalink

    My daughter is a paper carrier for the A2News and she will be really bummed out by this announcement. I wonder what the impact will be on her and the other children who deliver the News.

  17. By Robert Goldstein
    March 23, 2009 at 1:37 pm | permalink

    The combination, in one day, of the news of the closing of the News and the essential abandonment by the University of Michigan Press of print publication of scholarly books is, and should be, a real blow to our self-image as a cosmopolitan city (along with the continuing decline of Borders and Shaman Drum bookstores). In all cases, while the general state of the economy has certainly been a factor, a considerable degree of blame also has to be placed on the leadership of the companies involved.

  18. By Dave Askins
    March 23, 2009 at 1:42 pm | permalink

    Re: [17] The reference to the abandonment of UM Press of print publication of scholarly books.

    See [9] above for a link to more discussion of that or here for another one.

  19. By Mark
    March 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    It’s sad. Despite the thinness of the recent issues, it has been a ritual to sit down with the paper before dinner, or during breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s also very bad for a lot of reasons, one of which is the dialog that is kept up within the community.

  20. By Cheryl Zimmerman
    March 23, 2009 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    I am upset and saddened by the news. I hope the economy will get better and the “Ann Arbor News” will be once more.

    The online news is good, but people should have the option to choose read the news from a newspaper, online or both!

    I wish the best to anyone at the A2 News who lost their job because of this…

    Another one bites the dust!

  21. By MB Lewis
    March 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm | permalink

    My sons have been A2News paper carriers for 10 years and it has gotten downright embarrassing lately to leave that thin bundle on porches (with the obituaries on the page next to the comics, need we say more…). Still, I’m surprised. And I’m disillusioned that the new venture looks to be headed up by paper moguls. What chance does that leave for full embrace of interactive technology? Gonna have any NYTimes-style “My Brackets” for NCAA March Madness? I wish I could believe there’s any chance of it being forward-focused, not just more old-think.

  22. By Leah Gunn
    March 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm | permalink

    This news, combined with no more publication in paper format of the Free Press is indeed sad news. However, we will always (I hope) have the Chronicle – which is a very fine and comprehensive news source (I almost called it a newspaper). I certainly hope this will increase the readership of the Chronicle.

    The Ann Arbor News did a lousy job of covering local news anyway, and their recent pitiful efforts were not of much help.

    I will miss “Frazz”.

  23. By Robert Goldstein
    March 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm | permalink

    My Ann Arbor News just arrived. . . without a mention of this news. I realize that the paper may have gone to press before the official announcement, but since the announcement was made early this morning, how much planning would it have taken to have gotten this in the paper? Instead, the News is scooped on its own demise by other news sources. . . just another sign of how badly it has been run.
    On the U of M Press front, the U of M Record, the official staff weekly, has a long article today which largely disguises through the most amazing circumlocutions, the actual news: that the press is basically abandoning printing books (in favor of on-line publishing). This really means the end of the press, since no scholar with a choice (and there are plenty of other scholarly presses out there that will still be publishing books) will bring their manuscript to the U. of M. Press henceforth. Especially given the University’s fixation on prestige (they actually have plaques all over the U of M Hospital proclaiming their pride that U. S. News & World Report ranks the Hospital as among the best in the U.S. [!!!]), this is a truly astounding decision since no really top-flight University (i.e. Oxford, Cambridge, California, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Chicago) lacks a top-ranked press. The U of M Press has long languished in relatively obscurity, but this is really the end.

  24. March 23, 2009 at 3:44 pm | permalink

    Like others have said, I still enjoy the paper despite its shrinkage. I also will miss hearing my screen door open at about 4:30 (and the subsequent semi-hysterical barks by my dog) as the paper is gently placed near my door.

    I have to wonder…what’s next to go???? :(

  25. March 23, 2009 at 4:29 pm | permalink

    A day we mourn the loss of a great oak that has fallen; it required the sweat of generations of brows and more than 100 years to nurture and grow, it provided shade and beauty and served as a guidepost on the trail of Americana, a place where the community gathered to decide millage elections, how we feel about mayors, and Little League teams. Felled by businesspeople playing the cards they were dealt in a game far from A2. Brave new world.

  26. By Tony Hsiao
    March 23, 2009 at 5:47 pm | permalink

    Very sad to learn of the closing of the Ann Arbor News, and it’s print edition. I grew up in Ann Arbor and attended college at the U of M, and though it has been many years since I lived in Ann Arbor as I now reside in Boston, I still have very fond memories of the city, and continue to visit once a year as I still have family there.

    The newspaper is a voice for a community, not only to inform, inspire, and challenge, but also to act as a bridge to all that affects local citizens. As a young boy growing up, my first real paying job was delivering the Ann Arbor News many decades ago, and
    I have many fond memories of those days.

    This is just one more nail in the coffin on newspapers across the ccountry who are struggling to stay intact and, losing the voice of a local paper diminishes a community. I will mourn it’s closing, and my deepest sympathies extend to all the employees and their families who helped make all of us a part of their family through their diligent reporting, probing, humor and integrity. This is a sad day for all of us, and the Ann Arbor News voice will be sorely missed.

  27. By Ken Olson
    March 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm | permalink

    I will miss the Ann Arbor News and even its recent ultra-thin size.

    After hearing the news earlier today I made a plan to read the official story waiting in print for me on my front porch at home. No story! I then revised my plan to read it online anywhere except MLive. I chose the Chronicle which I had recently bookmarked.

    Thanks for making a highly-readable online news source for Ann Arbor.

  28. March 23, 2009 at 7:06 pm | permalink

    I do not mourn the Ann Arbor News. Its local coverage has been in decline for years, and reprinting wire service stories that are widely available online is not the proper role of a local publication. It is time to say goodbye.

    On the other hand, I treasure the Ann Arbor Chronicle. It’s local coverage and color are excellent and much appreciated. I think I will visit the tip jar after I click Submit. I will have to be convinced that AnnArbor.com can compete.

    I’m curious about the impact on the landfill and the Recycle Center. Maybe the Chronicle will investigate. Shuttering newspapers across the country should be a boon to the nation’s forests.

  29. By Marvin Face
    March 23, 2009 at 7:41 pm | permalink

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Jones, it’s time”

  30. By Tom Whitaker
    March 23, 2009 at 8:13 pm | permalink


    Hang on there, Fred. That’s limestone and granite and the windows that were once there on the first floor can be easily replaced.

    I, for one, think it would make one hell of a police and courts building. A great purchase for the City with the parking lot that comes with it behind City Hall. Stop the bulldozers and let’s make a deal!

  31. By Sad Carrier
    March 23, 2009 at 8:13 pm | permalink

    It is a very sad day
    I have not even been told and I have been a carrier for 18 years I was told from online articles and people calling me while I was out delivering
    VERY SAD they have not even told us carriers.

  32. By Henrietta
    March 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm | permalink

    It’s very sad to see the Ann Arbor News go. But the void will hopefully be filled by new publications like the Ann Arbor Chronicle and the Ann Arbor Voice.

  33. March 24, 2009 at 12:24 am | permalink

    What was explained to me, by closing the Ann Arbor News it is no longer bound by their no-lay off policy which doesn’t matter in Ann Arbor. But they still need that in place at their other publications. The no-lay off policy was an agreement to prevent unionization.

    They can also use this shut down to extract concessions from employees at other papers and will likely get more employees to accept early buy-outs at their other papers because they have shown if you don’t take the buyout, you can get screwed.

    It was always argued before that Newhouse/Advanced wouldn’t throw the name away, not only in A2 but in other cities as well.

    They have shown they can and will ditch the name and it demonstrates the name no longer has any value or good will.

    Newhouse/Advance have also tipped their hand that they likely will never be able to sell one of their Newspapers to another media company because the name and reputation apparently has no value.

    Apparently Subscriber, research, morgue, and contacts will all transfer to the new organization.

    It doesn’t appear that Newhouse/Advance is taking a financial stake in the new organization but that is unknown.

    If true, that means that these parts of the newspaper also have no real value either except possibly as a write down. But it isn’t like their isn’t a shortage of things they can write off already.

    That is the stunning part of this announcement. Basically in one day, Newhouse/Advance have shown all their cards and declared their publication name, subscribers, content, morgue and the rest of the stuff inside the building has no value.

    People keep saying the Ann Arbor News is going out of business, but they aren’t. the death is in name only.

    They will still print two issues a week. They hope to still retain the legal news and public notices business, one of the few revenue sources right now for the paper.

    They aren’t likely to give up the printing plant, someone still needs to print the two issues plus the weekly circular for AnnArbor.com. The plant is also printing a number of other regional publications and sources are saying they haven’t retired the debt on the plant, so why throw that away.

    They might, but didn’t they also get some tax breaks? If they did, they may have to spend some cash to close the print shop and cash being short you want to do what you an to keep cash.

    More interesting is what is going to happen to Business Review and will the mlive folks that are here in Ann Arbor stay in Ann Arbor?

    Remember the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

    – Steve

  34. By Dan Ezekiel
    March 24, 2009 at 5:57 am | permalink

    I will miss the Ann Arbor News a lot. Reading it has been a daily ritual for me for more than 40 years. I briefly delivered it as a boy. I learned a lot from that job, and the money was very handy.

    The News has had many fine writers through the years; I especially remember Doug Fulton, the outdoor editor, who was so helpful in providing publicity when we started Recycle Ann Arbor many years ago. Even the poor writers were entertaining. I can’t remember his name, but there was a columnist who used to publish an illogical, poorly crafted right wing rant every week. I didn’t agree, but I loved reading it.

    Many skilled and interesting writers will be jobless as a result of this move; I think of Geoff Larcom, Jo Mathis, and Judy McGovern. I frequently disagreed with its editorial choices, but felt that one who read the paper daily was basically aware of local issues.

    I wonder what my carrier will do. I think he has several routes, he jogs to deliver the paper. Several of my students are carriers; the money is very handy for them and their families. It seems very sad to me to see a paper that has lasted over 150 years unable to survive now.

  35. By Mark O'Brien
    March 24, 2009 at 7:43 am | permalink

    My wife and I sat at the table last night and discussed the state and fate of the Ann Arbor News. There are so many aspects of a newspaper that it is a crime for a city like Ann Arbor to not have a local paper. Local news well-covered, local sports for those that care, the obituaries, legal notices, events, advertisements, and of course, the comics. I am very internet and computer savvy, but I don’t read online ads, and there is another aspect of a paper that online reading doesn’t match — there stuff on the page is right there in print, and no technology is required at the user end to read it (or not). Whereas online reading tends to be focused on things that are of direct interest, with a newspaper, one may find things of interest just because the proximity of the articles or because we tend to scan a page and then go back to things that catch our eye. That does not happen when I look online. As much as I like the Chronicle and online sources, they supplement, and do not replace a printed paper.
    So, maybe what Ann Arbor needs is a weekly version of the Observer. The Washtenaw County Journal, to be known as Waco Jo. It would have the news for AA, Chelsea, Ypsi, etc., and of course, ads and the things we expect in a local paper. I’m betting that someone can make a go of it. Locally owned and operated, not by some large outside corporation, which seems to be one of the problems in so many things.

  36. March 24, 2009 at 11:13 am | permalink

    It seems like the roosters coming home from the Petykiewic era, where the right-wing editorial stance offended many in our town.

    I know several folks who stopped their subscriptions after the AA News endorsed Bush in 2004 and were disgusted with other right-wing stances.

    The demise was inevitable but Petykiewwic’s being out of touch with his community hastened it – hope he took a big fat buy out with him.

  37. By Vivienne Armentrout
    March 24, 2009 at 11:25 am | permalink

    A practical question: what will happen to the archived files that the News possesses? They have obvious historical significance. The AADL still keeps microfiche files and Tony Dearing replied to an email informing me that some sort of continuity will be maintained for online archives. But what about original photographs and very old files containing material of archival interest?

  38. By Linda Diane Feldt
    March 24, 2009 at 11:26 am | permalink

    Well here is a totally independent suggestion I’ll make without consulting Mary and David. You can put that AA News subscription money into the “TIP JAR” on the right hand corner of this page. Why not “subscribe” to the Ann Arbor Chronicle? You may be appreciating the value of this news source more than ever. Make it meaningful, and start supporting it financially. If you can’t afford to, perhaps you know a business you can encourage to place an ad. We have to actively support the good things we like.

  39. By My two cents
    March 24, 2009 at 11:54 am | permalink

    Although I do love the chronicle and subscribe, it does not take the place of local newspaper for me.

    I read the chronicle for the in-depth detail that it gives to meetings and city /government issues. The AAnews covered EVERYTHING in town from the high schools events, crime reports, state/national stories etc.

    The chronicle reports all the details of what goes on at meetings/events and explains to you all the minute details or rules that one might not know about. The AAnews would give a summary that would gloss over much detail but still keep you aware of the topic.

    While I do appreciate the detail in some of the articles, sometimes if the topic is not of that great of interest to me, a summary is better. The AAnews would allow me to keep up on things that were not that important to me at the moment, but would keep me informed anyway.

    The Chronicle has a nice niche but would have to dramatically change to fill the gap that the AAnews is leaving.

    I would hate to see the chronicle change into a broad-based reporting web newspaper. I like the niche that they serve now.

    I will miss the AAnews and hope that someone else starts up a new newspaper for the area so we can keep the Chroniche as it is.

  40. By Jerry Weaver
    March 25, 2009 at 6:15 pm | permalink

    The Ann Arbor News employed people of distinction and class. They work very hard, I know this as I manage a business directly across Division St. I’m wondering why Newhouse did not approach the labor force with a proposal to modify wages and benefits before making the decision to close the paper.

    I genuinely regard this as a HUGE loss for our city and those who interact with the News employees. Just wondering if someone might cherry-pick current staff and produce a real newspaper again. The Chronicle does on-line just fine!

  41. By Cindy McCain
    March 25, 2009 at 7:07 pm | permalink

    What a sad day!

    When I started at The Ann Arbor News, I remember being told that during the depression, they gave their employees groceries when they couldn’t afford to pay them. During most of my time there, The News felt like a large family. We rejoiced and grieved with our fellow employees over events in their lives. We were proud to say that we worked for The Ann Arbor News and looked for ways to make it “the best paper of our circulation size in the country”. Morale was high and people generally felt good about their jobs. Before I left, however, it was becoming a dysfunctional family – morale was low and employees were paranoid. To heck with ‘job for life’ – loop holes were found and people were being let go. We speculated on who would be next.

    Yes, newsprint is up and advertising revenues are down but our family began to leave home a while ago.

    RIP Ann Arbor News

  42. By Dan Ezekiel
    March 25, 2009 at 7:34 pm | permalink

    Just as Linda Diane Feldt put in a plug for the Chronicle’s tip jar, I’d like to mention that WEMU’s pledge drive starts Friday.

    This public radio station in Ypsi (89.1 FM) is a local treasure. They are the only public radio station that covers local news, they run long live interviews with local officials and environmental leaders, they sponsor Top of the Park and many local music and arts events. They publicize the Michigan Theater, through Cinema Chat with Russ Collins on Thursdays.

    Like all institutions that rely on donations, WEMU is hurting in this economy. The fund drive might be another place to put the money that would have been used for one’s AA News subscription!

    PS: I have no connection with WEMU, except for being a constant listener…

  43. By J Noel
    April 1, 2009 at 3:29 am | permalink

    Wow, it’s April 1st and I feel like I’m the victim of the biggest April Fools joke ever! I stumbled across the link to the Chronicle on Jim Carty’s blog. My head is spinning partly because I’ve been in Ann Arbor since ’74 and was caught off guard by the announcement last week of the Ann Arbor News’ change/migration and now because I didn’t know about the existence of the Chronicle!

    You see, I jumped at the invitation to offer suggestions to AnnArbor.com and was very surprised when Tony Dearing phoned to say he thought my suggestions were things worth pursuing. (How to provide access to those w/o ready access to the Web.)

    I kept sending suggestions and asked questions too: Tony Dearing answered most questions and Laurel Champion answered one. So I cannot fault them for their obvious energy and responsiveness. But, after reading the Chronicle’s farewell – and especially the informed readers comments here, I’m having to reorient and re-think a number of things.

    Oh, and now I know where Mary Morgan went! Hi Mary- like many others, I missed you after you “disappeared” from the Ann Arbor News.

  44. By Chris Sobieniak
    April 3, 2009 at 9:46 pm | permalink

    >>It’s also not clear why Ann Arbor is completely abandoning the Ann Arbor News name. I can see not wanting to piggyback onto MLive, but does the Ann Arbor News brand have to say goodbye? Something’s fishy — did Booth get paid by Kraner/AnnArbor.com to close down the News?

    This is why I’ve never trusted the media since ’99! To them, it’s one less outlet to worry about, while to others, a loss of what they’ve came to know and love for a long time. I’m only glad the only big change the Toledo Blade did recently was shrink it’s width (though it’s sad to see how odd it is to hold it now). They already got rid of their paperboy crew when they reconfigured their delivery system 12 years ago (me having to give up my route thanks to it).

    I wish I knew what else to say about this matter, but I’ll leave it at that since I know my opinions don’t really matter to you guys any further than it is.