Column: Why We Grieve The Ann Arbor News

Before a sense of hope must come a mourning of loss
Mary Morgan, Ann Arbor Chronicle publisher

Mary Morgan, Ann Arbor Chronicle publisher

It’s Monday afternoon and I’m sitting in a terminal at Detroit Metro airport, waiting for a flight to Texas to be with my father and sister.

News of my mother’s death and the planned closing of The Ann Arbor News came inside a 12-hour span. The two events are orders of magnitude apart in their emotional impact on me, but in an odd way I find myself processing both and finding a metaphor for one in the other.

My mother was ill for a long time. Once a woman who loved to sing, she became unable to articulate the simplest concept. She grew to be fearful of even the shortest trips outside her home, though once she’d been eager to travel – so much so that all our family vacations when I was young were camping trips, far before it was popular. Piling us into a station wagon hauling a pop-up camper was the only way my parents could afford to see the country.

By the time she died, my mom was a shadow of her former self. And for the people who knew her only in the final months of her life, I’m sure it’s hard for them to imagine the woman I knew, and loved.

All of this was on my mind when word came about the decision to close The Ann Arbor News. And what I’ve heard from people in the aftermath of that decision looks very much like grief.

For the people who work at The News, or those who work at any of the hundreds of other struggling newspapers nationwide, it’s a grief linked to the uncertainty of their livelihood, for sure. But for the many journalists who are deeply committed to the idealistic goals of their profession – that the very foundation of a democracy relies on an informed public, which a free press serves – the closing of a newspaper is a frightening symbol. For them, it’s not a business. It’s a calling – even when it sometimes fell short of that idealistic goal.

But what about the rest of us, those who are no longer linked to traditional media, or never were? What are we grieving? It’s the loss of something that’s been part of our lives as long as we can remember. Of something that’s been entwined in our daily routines, often thoughtlessly. Of opportunities missed, of potential unrealized. Of witnessing a long, sad, sometimes maddening decline – and feeling powerless to do anything about it.

Of course not everyone is sentimental about the closing of The Ann Arbor News – one blog headlined its post with “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead.” I believe this animosity stems at least in part from an us-versus-them mentality. Over the years the News had grown inarticulate about its vision, and fearful as well. I’ve heard people at the News described as arrogant, and no doubt there was some truth to that, for some. But more recently, whatever arrogance newsroom leaders had was replaced by fear and a kind of desperation – not an eagerness for what the future was bringing as it barreled toward them, but a resentful apprehension. They felt embattled and under-appreciated, too – and all of this contributed to a destructive bunker-mentality that only exacerbated their alienation from the community.

These were the death throes. Yes, the economy is brutal and advertising revenue has been leeching away. Despite the economy, I believe the newspaper could have survived if its leaders had better engaged and embraced this community – not as sycophants or vacuous boosters, but as people with a vested interest in the lifeblood of Ann Arbor, its politics and government, arts & culture, schools, businesses, nonprofits – and in the people who live and work here every day, who, like us, call this patch of Michigan home.

Maybe their new venture, backed by the resources of the Newhouse corporation, will do this. Based on the community meetings they’re holding to help shape what the new online publication will be like, it sounds like they’re going to give it a shot.

I also wonder what this means for The Ann Arbor Chronicle – all day long people have been asking us that question. We have a clear vision for what The Chronicle does well – eyewitness, first-hand accounts, whether it’s a public meeting or a fun community event. And we’re committed to covering the community where we live in a way that reflects what it is, quirks, warts, and all. With the news yesterday, expectations from some readers of what The Chronicle could be and should be have risen dramatically. And so have our own.

But just for a little while, I’ll pause to indulge in unabashed nostalgia. Because when The News ceases to publish in July, I will miss it. Whatever takes its place – the new business promises to publish a print version on Thursdays and Sundays – it will almost certainly not look or feel like a daily newspaper. That model has been broken, at least in the minds of the number crunchers, and perhaps they’re right.

Almost everyone I talk with has stories of their own about visceral ties to their local newspaper. For me, I’ll miss the tactile, physicality of newsprint: its grime, its tempting outdoor smell that teases our cats to pounce, its transience. I’ll miss its clutter – how, spread across the floor, the newspaper evokes the messiness of the lives its reporters cover. I’ll miss the thunk it makes when our carrier pitches it onto our porch steps.

And perhaps above all, I will marvel at how I’ve become like my mother, whose stories about growing up with an outhouse and no running water seemed apocryphal to me, as newspapers will be to kids born today.

We can’t help but grieve. Yet it’s exhausting, and can’t be sustained at its most heightened level. I take comfort in that. So today I’m grieving, but tomorrow or the day after I’ll feel more hopeful. I will still miss what’s gone, but will remember why I loved it, and I’ll hold that part with me.

They’re boarding my plane. As I get ready to pack up my laptop and go, I feel as though I’m leaving something precious behind, and moving toward a future in which the landscape of my life has unalterably shifted. I don’t know what the future will be in this new place. But I don’t feel I’m alone.

Mary Morgan, publisher of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, was a 12-year veteran of The Ann Arbor News. Most recently she served as opinion editor there, and before that was editor of the News’ business section. She and Dave Askins, Chronicle editor, launched this online local news publication in September 2008.


  1. March 24, 2009 at 7:58 am | permalink

    Very nice, Mary, beautiful and thoughtful.

    Condolences for your Mom. My thoughts are with you and your family at a tough time.

  2. March 24, 2009 at 8:46 am | permalink

    Dear Mary,

    My heart goes out to you during this most difficult time. Loss of one’s mother, it seems to me, always comes as a shock, no matter how much emotional “preparation” preceded it.

    As always, I am in awe of your consistent ability to write with honesty, clarity, and compassion. What you have written today, both about your beloved mother and the demise of the Ann Arbor News, is sensitive and beautiful. Your readers need you more now than ever!

    With deepest sympathy to you and your family,

    Judy White

  3. March 24, 2009 at 9:06 am | permalink

    Although I truly feel bad at the lost of an institution and employer, I have to say I am more concerned over the persons I saw targeted this weekend at Meijer’s by the Ann Arbor News. Two gentlemen were very aggressively selling subscriptions to the news, and many of the elderly people I saw signing up were not those who would generally get their news from the Internet. What happens to the people who bought subscriptions on Saturday/Sunday? If I were to feel real remorse, I’d want to know why the Ann Arbor News was selling subscriptions within 24 hours of announcing their closing. I’ve asked them publicly on twitter several times about this and have been ignored. If they want my true remorse, they will nullify all subscriptions sold in the last 7 days.

  4. March 24, 2009 at 9:07 am | permalink

    Beautifully written. I am so, so sorry about your mom.

    Much love,
    Patti S.

  5. March 24, 2009 at 9:07 am | permalink

    Great article, and right on point.

    “Over the years the News had grown inarticulate about its vision, and fearful as well…. They felt embattled and under-appreciated, too – and all of this contributed to a destructive bunker-mentality that only exacerbated their alienation from the community.”

    Anyone who witnessed the sycophantic coverage of Ypsilanti city elections over the past few years knew where the News was headed.

    Anyone in Ypsilanti who read the News’ editorials in favor of the city income tax and the “same-old-same-old” city council crowd knew that the News’ leadership had lost all touch with our community.

    It’s very sad to see Washtenaw County lose its only daily newspaper. Fortunately, we have local weeklies to pick up the slack in Ypsilanti, Saline, Milan, Dexter, and Manchester. Also, we are blessed to have two excellent electronic media sources in the Ypsilanti Courier and Ann Arbor Chronicle.

  6. March 24, 2009 at 9:20 am | permalink

    What a lovely piece, tying two parts of your life together. I will miss the AA News as well, despite it’s recent lack of quality. It seems to me local news should be covered by local people with an interest in the community. I am so sorry about your mother.

  7. March 24, 2009 at 9:24 am | permalink

    Thank you so much for that, Mary. Really comforts the loss and exhaustion I feel. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  8. March 24, 2009 at 9:25 am | permalink

    Mary, you are such a good “reporter” of life, both the community and the personal. This time marks a new beginning, a new adventure for all of us in many ways. I look forward to the Ann Arbor of the future. You will play a more meaningful role as it evolves. Peter

  9. March 24, 2009 at 9:33 am | permalink

    Thank you for this. You expressed many of my feelings about the News that I couldn’t seem to get my head around. I will miss it, too. My thoughts are with you and your family. -Myra

  10. March 24, 2009 at 9:34 am | permalink

    Mary, many condolences on your mother.

    To paraphrase Ronald Regan — something I never recall doing previously — “We didn’t leave our hometown newspaper, our hometown newspaper left us.”

    I recall moving to Ann Arbor three decades ago and exulting about the local paper’s quality, compared with the substandard rag in the similar-sized town I’d just left.

    I recall restaurant reviews by Constance Crump and jazz reviews by Michael G. Nastos, writers who shared passion for their subjects and the ability to verbalize it to their readers.

    I recall visiting our sister city of Juigalpa, Nicaragua, in the 1980s — accompanied by both a News reporter and photographer who sent back daily articles and photos, and authored a News special section on the trip after our return.

    Can we imagine the News of the last decade supporting that? Or do we recall their failure to endorse a Presidential candidate last year as the final chapter in their abrogation of participation in the life of our community?

    The point is this: the occasional excellent journalist and prize-winning article aside, the paper of recent years became a shell of its former identity. Although many Ann Arbor long-timers and former employees share regret at its passing, it no longer resembles that which we recall.

    With regrets, it’s time for it to go.

  11. By Liz Margolis
    March 24, 2009 at 9:38 am | permalink

    Mary, Thank you for these words and condolences on the passing of your mom. As a life-long Ann Arborite I simply can’t imagine this city without the Ann Arbor News. I too will miss the ability to actually experience a newspaper in the traditional sense. While traditions change I think this town will be worse for not having a daily or even weekly publication. But The Chronicle gives us all hope that issues of this community will not be lost. Take care.

  12. By Peg Eisenstodt
    March 24, 2009 at 10:05 am | permalink

    Mary, I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s death. Although I didn’t know her, she no doubt was wonderful and fun – she raised a daughter who’s both. My thoughts are with you.

    As for the demise of The Ann Arbor News, I am very sad and stunned. I’ve lived here for over 30 years and have read it almost every day. A community like Ann Arbor – any community for that matter – needs a local newspaper. Whether people usually agreed with the News’comments or not,it has always brought us information about so many topics – City Hall, the County, U of M, EMU, WCCC, local businesses, non-profits, the arts, and on and on. The News started conversations amongst residents and letters-to-the editor would flood the editorial page with comments about everything from raising chickens in back yards to thanking a stranger who helped during a car accident to praise (or not) for local candidates running for election. Who will continue to bring important and sometimes controversial topics to our attention? How will we know how our local tax dollars are being spent? Where will we read about the deaths – and lives – of local people, some well-known and others barely known? And when local news begins showing up elsewhere, what will we be able to believe and who will confirm information? What about residents who don’t use computers? Where will they get their news? The ramifications of the News’closing are just beginning to sink in and, today, I find myself pretending it isn’t happening…

  13. By Mark
    March 24, 2009 at 10:09 am | permalink

    I am so sorry to hear about your mother, Mary. Hopefully the time spent with your family will be full of happy memories of her life.

  14. By Leah Gunn
    March 24, 2009 at 10:18 am | permalink

    Mary – please accept my deep sympathy on the death of your mother. She must have been quite a wonderful woman to have raised a daughter like you. It is a tough time for you, I know, and I keep good wishes in my heart for you.

  15. By Judy Tell
    March 24, 2009 at 10:31 am | permalink

    The relationship between a newspaper and its hometown is like that of a longstanding marriage–full of admirable, precious moments reflected on its pages. Other moments of angry accusation. Mundane moments. Heroic ones. A full spectrum. We love what we see. We want to fix what is broken.

    A newspaper knits together a community, defined by its physical location, in shared experience. The internet knits us together by interest. The strength and weakness of the printed product is its breadth and the sheer serendipity of stumbling across a gem you weren’t expecting. The strength of the internet is the ability share these gems with our personal networks. The reader’s personal, private discovery is lost. The ability to participate in community dialog is gained.

    I loved working at the Ann Arbor News and I loved living in Ann Arbor. And like the journalists who are working today to publish your paper while the sword of Damocles hangs over their heads, I loved being a journalist. The death of the Ann Arbor News is a dramatic illustration that there is no way home. We can only move forward, creating our way as we go.

  16. By Linda Diane Feldt
    March 24, 2009 at 11:08 am | permalink

    Mary, Thank you for sharing the news of your mother’s death. I hope that you will take as much time as you can and need to grieve and process that loss. If it feels right to do some of that publicly over the next few months as well, there are many of us who would welcome your insightful writing.

    The news of the Ann Arbor News was expected, really, but even expected news can be a shock when it finally materializes. Where will we get our news? There are a number of other publications from the UM Record and Daily to the Ann Arbor Observer, The Co-op Connection, Crazy Wisdom Journal, NAP News, and so many other small newsletters and publications. Bit and pieces, special interests and focuses. They may all step up to fill a gap. The online sources from blogs and more professional sites such as this one are also extensive and deeply helpful to me. There are mail lists, there are hundreds of sources.

    We will get news, we will even have some investigative reporting by bloggers and others. Figuring out how to use them is more of the issue I would think. It can be overwhelming.

    Community trainings of how to find good quality news online would be a reasonable answer to the loss of the Ann Arbor News which was sort of a filtered “bloglines” in some ways anyway. Senior centers in particular may welcome volunteers to help bring their clientele up to speed.

    Making wireless more available help fills the gap, librarians ready and willing to help people set up news feeds and get used to using them. We can make this transition. And it is a habit really hard to break. I’ve probably over 14,000 Ann Arbor News papers over the last 38 years.

    I value the profession of journalism, as well as news carrier, and everything (everyone) in between. I’m sorry for your loss as well. But as journalists reinvent themselves I also think we’ve seen some great new ways of approaching reporting and education. And the Ann Arbor Chronicle is certainly one of the wonderful examples of that.

  17. March 24, 2009 at 11:56 am | permalink

    Dear Mary,

    This is a beautiful piece you have honored your mom and the death of the Ann Arbor News beautifully. I wish you all the healing that time can provide and strength for you and your family during this difficult time.

    The Ann Arbor community is so lucky to have you and Dave creating this great place for all of us to get information and the weight on your shoulders might feel great, but I have no doubt it will serve us well to have your writing leading the online journalism for our city.


    Karen Moorhead

  18. By Betsy Gross
    March 24, 2009 at 12:14 pm | permalink

    Dear Mary,
    My condolences on the loss of your mother. Hopefully, the time spent with family will be a source of comfort to you.
    As a 23+ employee of The Ann Arbor News, I am saddened over the demise of this paper. For the many friendships created there, for the connection to the community and unrealized potential. Your insight and professionalism are greatly appreciated with The Chronicle and is a means of connecting for all of your readers. Thank you!

  19. By Rob Kirkbride
    March 24, 2009 at 2:05 pm | permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. My thoughts are with you. I also share many of the same feelings about the loss of the AA News. I will fondly remember my time as a reporter there. It really was a family. Thank you so much for your thoughts about the newspaper industry. While there is much pain yet to come, I share your view that there is a bright future for journalism online. The Fourth Estate will not die. It will rise again, bigger and better than ever on this amazing worldwide stage. The Ann Arbor Chronicle is a shining example of this. Thanks for carrying the journalistic torch. I’m proud to have worked with you at the News and proud to still call you a colleague.
    Rob Kirkbride

  20. March 24, 2009 at 2:38 pm | permalink

    “Community trainings of how to find good quality news online would be a reasonable answer…”

    Sure, but that solves a problem that’s rapidly vanishing anyway: computers and Internet service will continue to become cheaper and easier to use, and new generations are growing up with it.

    The long-term problem is funding original reporting.

  21. By jcp2
    March 24, 2009 at 3:12 pm | permalink

    In addition to Bruce’s point of funding reporting, there’s also the issue of delivering it to readers not necessarily seeking it. Coming across a random interesting and thought provoking article through serendipity is a lot harder to do online, when that story is not “forced” into your perception simply by being next to something you are already browsing through in a physical layout.

  22. March 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm | permalink

    Mary and Dave, Thanks for this and all you do a the Chronicle. My condolences Mary to you and your family on the loss of your mother.

  23. March 24, 2009 at 4:13 pm | permalink

    Oh Mary. So very, very sorry to hear about your mom. Your column nailed it; I just wish life hadn’t handed you such an apt metaphor. – a

  24. By Carol Kamm
    March 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm | permalink

    Mary – So sorry to hear about your Mom. Your writing sums up exactly the mixed feelings I’ve had the last two days. All the best. –Carol

  25. March 24, 2009 at 4:28 pm | permalink

    Dear Mary, thank you for your insights in respect to the deaths of your mother and the Ann Arbor News. Ironically, the comment I have heard most frequently in the last two days has been, “What will we do with no obituaries?” Older people, in particular, depend on a printed daily newspaper.

  26. By Barney Klein
    March 24, 2009 at 5:06 pm | permalink

    Mary, That was beautiful.So sorry about your mom.
    As for the newspaper industry? It’s the end of the world as we know it and I don’t feel fine.

  27. By Mark Peyko
    March 24, 2009 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    It’s a very sad day for Ann Arbor.

  28. By John Kidle
    March 24, 2009 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    Well said.

  29. March 24, 2009 at 8:16 pm | permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother!

    You’ve written a really beautiful, meaningful piece expressing so much of what so many of us are feeling about the demise of the News. The gradual decline of the News certainly wasn’t helped by the economy but its gradual disengagement exacerbated the situation. You’ve connected the dots most meaningfully here.

  30. By Tim Robinson
    March 24, 2009 at 8:52 pm | permalink


    I’d like to join everyone in expressing sympathy for your loss.

    I worked at the News from 1992-97, as a part-timer in sports. I now work at the paper in Howell, and enjoying the furlough week. But that’s another subject. My point is this: The News, specifically Geoff Larcom and Dave McVety, hired an ex-Domino’s Pizza manager and taught me from the ground up, enduring the occasional mistakes and errors and giving me the tools to change careers and have a career that has been very rewarding, at the very least.

    Its passing means, among other things, one less opportunity for people wanting to break into journalism, let alone newspapers. It also means one less voice. If it lost its way, there was always the chance that a turnover could bring in fresh blood and get it back on track. Now that chance is lost, and the captains of this particular Titanic are letting everyone else go down with the ship.

    I hope the pain of your loss is soothed by the memories of the good times on those camping trips and the many reasons you loved your mother.

    Tim Robinson

  31. By Sarahbear
    March 24, 2009 at 8:53 pm | permalink


    I’m so sorry about your mom. I’m thinking of you.
    And I’m thinking of everyone at The News in a metaphorically similar sort of way.
    And you are awesome, by the way. :)

    Peace & love…

  32. By Jeff Gaynor
    March 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm | permalink

    As with the others, Mary, I wish to express my sympathy on your personal loss, as well as my appreciation and admiration for your writing of our common loss.

  33. March 25, 2009 at 1:04 am | permalink


    Losing a parent is always sad, even when it is the end of a life fully lived, and it’s clear that the flesh can no longer keep pace with the spirit. My condolences. Blending the loss of the News with the loss of your mother was artful, and it was artfully done.

    I echo many of the above comments about the virtues of newsprint – but also the comments about the News’ self-inflicted wounds. Thanks to you and Dave for doing your part to fill in the gap. I look forward to reading more of your coverage of Ann Arbor in the coming days.

    John Floyd

  34. By Rina Miller
    March 25, 2009 at 6:47 am | permalink


    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother, and wish you strength in these coming days and weeks.

    This is indeed a time of grieving, for you, your family, your extended family at The Ann Arbor News, and for the community.

    We’ve been witness to the slow, painful demise of The News from the inside, and now from the outside. It’s rather like watching a traffic accident in slow motion: You see it coming but can’t stop it.

    I wish management had listened to so many of us who suggested years ago that we needed to shepherd our own online product. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but at least we could have tried to save The News.

    Now the staff is being cast off like last year’s shoes. The sad part is that they fit so well. There’s still plenty of tread on those soles; some new laces and a little buffing would bring the luster right back.

    You and Dave are filling an important void in Ann Arbor. I wish you every success.


  35. By jcrn
    March 25, 2009 at 9:51 am | permalink

    I just wanted to let you know how sorry I was to hear of your mother’s death as well as the end of the newspaper. Even though I didn’t read the paper regularly (not being from the area), I am going through what some might call anticipatory grief as I face a mother’s decline and inevitable death, so that part jumped out at me.

    Having the paper – and a job – to face might have lessened the blow for you. I can’t say, of course (grief is its own territory and very personal), but my heart goes out to you during this difficult time.

  36. By Cheryl O'Brien
    March 25, 2009 at 11:53 am | permalink

    My heart goes out to you in your time of loss, you have my condolences and deepest sympathy.

    Keep up the great work that you and Dave are doing with the Chronicle.

    Kind regards,

  37. By Pete Mooney
    March 25, 2009 at 12:24 pm | permalink

    I want to also express my condolences over your loss.

    And I feel sadness as well about the loss of the A2 News. I’ve read the paper since I was six, and fondly remember writers such as Constance Crump (mentioned above), Jane Mayer, Jeff Mortimer, Jason Whitlock, Christopher Potter and many others.

    One thing I’m not clear on is the way the story is being presented. The Flint Journal is described as staying open, but with fewer days of publication and a website. The A2 News is described as closing, but will have a website and 2 days of publication. What is the difference? Is it because the news is leaving its building, and potentially hiring new staff? Will the published edition be called the News (I hope so for nostaglia’s sake if nothing else), and if not, why not?

  38. March 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm | permalink

    Mary, Please accept my sincerest condolences for your loss. You have expressed, with grace, the meaning of profound grief.

    To my former colleagues from The Ann Arbor News, many who have written the Chronicle in recent days, I share your sense of loss at the passing of The News (where we made so many memories). To current employees I extend my best hopes for the future. While I lament the closing of the physical presence of some of my best memories, you face something much more daunting. You’re all in my thoughts.

    I also wish Tony Dearing all the best in his efforts to rekindle the remnants of The News into its new format. I recall Tony as being a competent and dedicated editor who knows and admires this community. I hope he’s given a fair chance to make this effort work.

  39. By Judy Foy
    March 25, 2009 at 3:54 pm | permalink

    Mary -
    You put us in one of those chairs near the gate… a reminder of sudden transition for most of us. You allowed us to know an entire arc of sadness that, in a sense, begins and ends with loss. Thanks for sharing youself and, in the end, leaving us the solace we still can have, with each other.
    A prayer for your family.

  40. By Leisa Thompson
    March 25, 2009 at 5:43 pm | permalink

    My heart goes out to you, my friend. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and touching piece. If it was in print, it would have been soaked by my tears.
    love you.

  41. By Ruth Kraut
    March 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm | permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. And I’m sorry about the Ann Arbor News too. Keep up the good work at the Chronicle.

  42. March 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm | permalink


    My condolences to you and your family. I didn’t know your mother, but I do know that she raised a loving, thoughtful and compassionate daughter.

    Thank you for the beautifully-written and heartfelt piece.


  43. March 26, 2009 at 11:35 am | permalink

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    I still remember the first day I went to work at The Ann Arbor News. It was December, 1979, and I had just been hired as a copy editor after eight years working for the Brighton Argus. I barely knew what a copy editor did, but a great guy named Jeff Frank had hired me and I was excited to be moving up from a weekly newspaper to a real daily.

    What sticks in my mind was the look and feel of the place. The building, which was designed by the architectural great Albert Kahn, was a little outdated even then, but to me it throbbed with all the excitement of something out of Perry White and the Daily Planet, or Clark Gable and Jimmy Cagney in those great movie depictions of reporters in the 1930s.

    Simply put, the place had character, from its big, old-fashioned entrance on Huron all the way up the wide, curving inside staircase to the the third-floor newsroom.

    And the newsroom itself! It was noisy and smoke-filled, bustling and radiating energy, and packed with all sorts of characters: Curmudgeonly old pros, energetic young would-be Bob Woodwards, editors, typists, reporters, photographers, and aides.

    It was quite a change from The Brighton Argus, where a grand total of 10 of us — advertising staff included — put out a newspaper every week from three rooms on Grand River, just west of what is now Stout’s Irish pub.

    In 1979, newspapers were just beginning to incorporate computers, but The News wouldn’t make the switch for another year or so. Things were still done the old ways: For national and international news, there was the teletype, a clackety-loud contraption housed in a little cubicle just off the newsroom. Our own reporters would type up their stories and hand them to copy editors for mark-up. We’d read through them, striking out words here and there, sometimes inserting them, correcting mis-spellings, etc.

    We also had to write headlines for the stories on separate pieces of paper. To make the headlines fit, you had to consult a “cheat sheet” that listed all the type sizes and the “counts” for various sizes of type. We had to count our headlines — small letters and capitals I and L were one count each, all other capitals were 1 1/2, except for W and M, which were two, and spaces were half-counts.

    Of course, the really longtime copy editors had no need for the cheat sheets. They had it all memorized, and the really good ones could just look at a headline and tell whether it would fit.

    Then we’d give the stories and “heds” over to the typists, who would type them on a different kind of paper and hand them back to us. We’d read through them again, mark up typos and corrections, and hand them back. The typists would do their thing again, but this time they’d send them to a machine that produced inch-wide tapes with all sorts of holes punched in them. When fed into another machine, these tapes would produce the stories on a special paper that the folks in the composing room would glue onto the pages.

    Now, all of this is done on a computer screen. The typists, the aides, the composing guys in the back room — who, I discovered, were some of the sharpest copy editors in the place — were all swept aside long ago by this thing I’m typing these words on.

    And now, The Ann Arbor News itself is almost gone. It was announced Monday that The News, which has served Ann Arbor since 1835, will stop publishing in July. It will be succeeded by, which will focus on Web content and publish a print news product on Thursdays and Sundays.

    The grand old building, all its interior character pretty much gutted over the past 30 years to keep up with the changing demands of the newspaper business, will be put up for sale.

    And a great many people, some of whom I still count as friends, will lose their jobs.

    Such is America in the first decade of the new millennium, as we struggle to adapt old, reliable industries to new world realities. It is a time of upheaval, and adaptation, and stress. A time when it is not at all clear that we’re headed in the right direction.

    But such times come and go. And as a wise person once said, “This, too, shall pass.”

    It’s just that such passings are always difficult, and sometimes a little heart-breaking.

  44. By Doug Fisher
    March 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm | permalink

    Much love to you and your family.

  45. By James D'Amour
    March 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm | permalink

    Mary, our heartfelt sympathies for your loss. I’m sure words, as eloquently you write them, describe your feeling right now…and yes, the closing of the Ann Arbor News must hurt with added punch.

    Agreed with Joel Goldberg and others here. What is left of the News today certainly isn’t what it was from years, so my opinions are bittersweet. Agreed also with Peg Eisenstodt and others here on who will fill the Ann Arbor News’s shoes? In many ways it is still the “town center”.

    Perhaps the A2 Chronicle can indeed rise to this challenge?

    With this hope and again hearfelt sympathies wishing you all the best…

  46. By Jessica Rodriguez
    March 26, 2009 at 9:58 pm | permalink

    Thank you for your thoughts on the closing of the News and your beautiful tribute to your mother. May you find peace through continued writing.
    I support what you all are doing at the Chronicle wholeheartedly and can’t wait to see more success for you.

  47. By Janet Storm
    March 27, 2009 at 10:23 pm | permalink


    I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear about your mom. I know the last few years have been rough on you and your family and I sincerely hope the days to come will bring you happy memories and peace.

    I appreciate your thoughts on the News. Like you, I grieve the loss of The Ann Arbor News and hope the dawn will bring more hopeful days.

    Love to you,


  48. By David Horowitz
    March 28, 2009 at 4:25 pm | permalink

    This was beautifully written and made me wish I knew your mom.

    I also wish you every success with The Chronicle.

  49. March 28, 2009 at 5:43 pm | permalink

    I am sorry to hear about your mother.
    And, as one of the many former “Newsies,” I am personally sorry to hear about the approaching death of The AA News — not to mention the demise of daily print newspapers in the entire state of Michigan. Your piece is very good but I am not as optimistic as you about the future Web product.
    That said, I am impressed with The Chronicle and hope you do well.

  50. By Juliew
    March 29, 2009 at 9:21 am | permalink

    Thank you Mary, for putting into words what so many of us are feeling. I’m so sorry for your huge personal loss and sorry for the loss to our whole community.

    When I heard about the News closing, so many images flashed through my head. I remembered walking out to get the paper as a little girl, sitting with my dad doing crossword puzzles, reading about the accomplishments of my friends’ parents, then my friends, then their children. I remembered the marriage notices, the birth notices, and the obituaries. I remembered walking to the News to place my father’s obituary–the only time I was ever inside the building. I remembered finding the copy of the News in the attic of our house, placed by the workers who had finished the house the week before Christmas almost 100 years ago. The Ann Arbor News has been a part of our city for a very long time. It is inconceivable that it will no longer be around.

    I will miss the News. In many ways, not so much the News as it was recently, but the News that could have and should have been. I am a voracious consumer of online news, but still love to sit down with the paper, knowing that around the city, thousands of other people are looking at the same information, the same cartoons, the same articles. It is nice to say “did you see that in the paper last night?” and know that people knew what I was talking about. I like trading sections with my husband over a leisurely Saturday breakfast. I like reading the house sale prices and the restaurant food ratings and the hundreds of tiny bits of information that are in a local daily newspaper. I like having a reference for “today’s news”–rather than an ongoing rolling set of information.

    I don’t know if I believe that newspapers are really gone. I could see it going several ways. I think a good local newspaper that is part of the community could still thrive, although I don’t know if a daily printed and delivered version is a reality anymore. I honestly don’t think the internet put newspapers out of business, I think the newspapers did it to themselves. Newspapers had grown and changed radically over the years, but in the last few decades, they started believing they were invincible. They didn’t react to the internet, they didn’t grow and change and embrace new technologies. They scoffed at blogs and Craigslist and online versions. They stayed static and immutable behind their big facades, and that is what caused their demise. I do know there are a lot of great writers out there and a lot of good work being done. Hopefully out of all of this can come something better, maybe someday, even The Ann Arbor News.

  51. By Stan Bidlack
    March 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm | permalink


    Thank you for this wonderful piece.

    Your Mom and the Ann Arbor NEWS were both lucky to have had someone like you in their lives. I wish you and the CHRONICLE the best luck ever in the coming months.

    Stan Bidlack
    Eugene, Oregon

  52. By Pete Mooney
    March 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm | permalink

    Sorry, I realize this is off topic, but I assume you are the Stan Bidlack from (or formerly from) the Huron High School faculty — if so, I really enjoyed taking English from you in 1983-4.

  53. By Mary Morgan
    March 30, 2009 at 11:31 pm | permalink

    I wanted to thank everyone for your support and kind words, and for the stories some of you have shared and your own reflections about the impact of these changes. One of the things I value most about The Chronicle is the connection I feel to people who take the time to read and respond with their own insights and observations. I’m especially touched by your responses here, and I thank you for helping me through what’s been at times an overwhelming, surreal week.

  54. March 31, 2009 at 1:26 pm | permalink

    Mary, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I understand what you have been through. I hope that your mother didn’t suffer. Also know that time will help heal you. The world is a much better place because of the outstanding job your mother did raising you!

    Your above store is still being talked about at the barbershop, so I know that your readership is going up even now as I write this. No one knows what the future will bring, hard times or not, but one thing that is very clear to me right now is the value of a locally owned newspaper. You have in effect, restored to the community a high level of journalistic value and it is the locally owned independent business that sticks it out no matter what, so with that said, I have high hopes for you and the Chronicle as you continue your path of outstanding journalism in Ann Arbor. Please let me know if there is anything that I can do for you, not just today, but in the future too.

  55. March 31, 2009 at 3:35 pm | permalink


    I can only add my sincere sympathy to the above wonderful tributes from so many at this sad time in your (and our) lives.

    You are most definitely not alone.

    Heartfelt good wishes!


  56. By Cathy Gendron
    April 2, 2009 at 11:03 am | permalink

    I want to add my condolences as well. No matter what the circumstances, losing your mother is a life-changing event. My sympathy to you and your family.

    The news of the paper’s demise brought back a flood of memories and prompted several former colleagues to touch base after many years. I’ll miss the daily ritual of leafing through the paper with my husband. But most of all, I am sad to see the gradual disappearance of an entire industry.

    Best wishes to you,

  57. April 7, 2009 at 8:46 am | permalink


    I must be one of the last to read your moving essay on the demise of the A2 News and the loss of your mom. So let me add my belated condolences. Last September, I spent a week saying good-bye to my own mother. Despite four years of decline on her part and “pre-grieving” on mine, I’ve discovered there is no way to prepare, no way to defend against the pain and grief–which are both fierce and enduring.

    My heart goes out to you. And my appreciation as well, for your wonderful insights about the importance of journalism, the tangible pleasures of a newsPAPER, and the impossibility of ever fully replacing that experience with online versions (even those as good as the A2 Chronicle).

    All the best.