Column: History Repeats at

Communication lacking about recent layoffs, departures

When we first heard about the layoffs at last Thursday – starting with cryptic comments on Facebook, quickly spreading through the Ann Arbor News diaspora and then the broader community – I had a sickening sense of déjà vu. It was two years ago this month that the out-of-state owners of our town’s daily newspaper announced their plans to close the business, tearing apart the lives of its workers, fraying some of the Ann Arbor community’s fabric, and drawing national attention for the decision’s fearlessness or folly, depending on your view. layoff list

Redline highlights are those staff whose names have disappeared from the staff roster.

I wrote about their decision at the time from a personal perspective. Even though I had left the News the previous year to co-found The Chronicle, it was still a place that employed many friends and colleagues I respected. Watching that organization get dismantled was emotional, for many reasons.

Although we began to hear about the layoffs on Thursday last week, we decided not to write immediately about that news. In part, we reasoned that it should be’s story to tell first, and I held out hope that executives at would be straightforward in letting the community know about their decision, and the rationale behind it.

I also hoped they would wrap into their coverage the news that three other key staff members – news director Amalie Nash, higher education reporter David Jesse and point person for reader interaction Stefanie Murray – had all been hired by the Detroit Free Press. All three left at the end of February. All had previously worked for many years at The Ann Arbor News, and had been initial hires at

Considered separately, either the set of layoffs or the three departures would have had a significant impact on the organization. But with both events taking place within two weeks, it counts as the most dramatic personnel change since’s launch.

Community Wall “Reporting”

But the only “reporting” on the website – as of Sunday afternoon – was a brief post on Saturday by a reader called glacialerratic. The reader posted a comment on what calls its Community Wall, a place where anyone can post pretty much anything. It included a link to a Friday Michigan Radio report about the layoffs, which itself is scant on details.

It was this Community Wall post that prompted a response by Tony Dearing – the firm’s chief content officer, or what’s traditionally called an editor-in-chief – in the comment thread. Here’s what he wrote, in its entirety:

While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don’t discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things – including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage – that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.

We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we’re seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.

That’s just insulting – to those employees who were laid off, to those shell-shocked employees who remain behind, and to the Ann Arbor community, which deserves better.

First off, a “personnel issue” is when your employee gets fired for looking at porn on a work computer. It doesn’t apply to the departure of more than a dozen people – whether they quit or were laid off. Their departure will fundamentally change what gets done at the publication, and how. The fact that most of these departures were from the newsroom has an even more direct impact on the publication. has marketed itself relentlessly over the past 18 months as being all about the community. It’s hard to trade in that currency while not being straightforward about decisions that readers actually care about – namely, how you’re reporting the news.

Dearing’s statement that they’ve reorganized is also specious. A look at the current staff directory shows no changes to the organization of the list. The only difference is the disappearance from the page of some people’s names who’ve been laid off.

To confirm exactly who’s missing, and what parts of the publication they worked for, we retrieved the Google cache of the staff page and “diffed” them out – those now missing from the page are highlighted in red: staff list highlighting departures. That list includes: Ed Vielmetti, the publication’s lead blogger; James Dickson, a general assignment reporter; photographer Lon Horwedel; two support staff for entertainment – Renee Tellez and Chrysta Cherrie; Pam Stout on the community desk; sports clerk Kaleb Roedel; and sales manager Lisa George.

If the idea of the “reorganization” is to focus more sharply on local news as Dearing contends, it’s not clear how eliminating a general assignment reporter (who in a traditional newsroom would fill in the gaps on local news) would serve that sharper focus. Perhaps even more puzzling is the decision to eliminate lead blogger Ed Vielmetti – whose name was the only one at that many members of the community even recognized.

Of those who are now missing, only the job of news director – formerly held by Amalie Nash, who’s now an assistant metro editor at the Detroit Free Press – is posted on the popular employment website. The implication is that isn’t making other replacement hires at this point, though that’s unclear. Current K-12 education reporter Kyle Feldscher believes he will be covering David Jesse’s former University of Michigan beat only until a replacement hire is made.

Back to the Future

Dearing’s comment on the Community Wall was disturbingly evocative of a column written by former Ann Arbor News editor Ed Petykiewicz in December 2008, in the wake of buyouts at the newspaper and a shrinking staff. An excerpt [emphasis added]:

In the coming weeks, your News will begin to focus more on local people, local issues and local events.

Some of the changes include more stories about local government, increasingly local flavor in sections such as our Food pages and more columns from our staff.

Over time, we’ll add stories and columns by area residents, who will provide additional and varied views of our communities.

You’ll continue to find a mix of local, state and national news in your newspaper, but our ongoing evolution puts us on a decidedly local path that we’ve discussed for years. It’s what we do best. [.pdf of Petykiewicz's full column]

As it applies to local coverage, Dearing’s Wall comment sounds exactly like the doing-more-with-less motif in Petykiewicz’s piece.

In response to Petykiewicz, I wrote a column that asked a simple question: How can you provide more local content with fewer local reporters?

It’s hard to argue against more local coverage. Yet it prompts the question: does this just mean more local relative to non-local content, or does it mean more local coverage in absolute terms? The staff of the newsroom, during my 12 years there, at least, has been focused exclusively on covering local people, issues, and events. The state, national and international news was picked up through wires services that The News subscribes to. If we see a reduction in wire-service content – not an unreasonable move given that these are costly services – then of course we’ll get “more” local content, relative to everything else. But providing “more” local content in absolute terms requires the folks who’ve always worked exclusively to provide local coverage to provide even more of it.

The brute reality is that there will be fewer people in the newsroom after the buyouts. So how can there be more local news in the paper if there are fewer people to do the reporting? Ed doesn’t address this, so we’re left guessing.

For all the talk about how would be dramatically different from The Ann Arbor News in its interaction with the community, Dearing’s comments are all too familiar. We’re still left guessing.

Just a Business?

In my weekly interview on Lucy Ann Lance’s Saturday radio show this past Saturday, she asked why is different than any other private business. Why should a news publication be obligated to disclose their management decisions, any more than, say, Tios or Google?

I wasn’t very articulate in my response to Lucy Ann, so I’ll give it another shot here. There is absolutely a difference between a publicly traded company, where certain disclosures are required by law, and a private business like Advance Publications, a privately held Newhouse family company that owns For private companies, there are no legal obligations to disclose internal staffing changes or to release financial information.

But a news publication, I believe, should be held to different standards – especially one like, that has tried so desperately to be embraced by the community. If your stated editorial mission is to respond to the community and give readers what they want, you ignore at your own peril some basic communication about these radical staff changes – communication that thus far has been almost completely lacking.

Most readers aren’t idiots. It doesn’t serve your interests well to treat all of them as if they were.

If you accept the premise that readers aren’t idiots, then you should trust that they’ll be well aware of the economic climate, and understand the business constraints at play. While I disagree with many of the decisions made by Steve Newhouse and other executives concerning first The Ann Arbor News and now, I certainly understand what it’s like to operate a business in this economy. Since we launched The Ann Arbor Chronicle in September 2008, I have new appreciation for the challenge of managing cash flow – it’s a worry for me every single day.

As a small online-only publication that focuses on coverage of local government and civic affairs, The Chronicle doesn’t have the corporate resources to buy billboard ads or rent two floors of a downtown office building or hire more than two dozen people to staff its advertising department, as has. Our plan was to start modestly, stay true to our mission, and hopefully grow our revenues steadily – through voluntary reader subscriptions and local advertising, including many businesses and institutions that support us mainly because they believe in what we do.

We didn’t anticipate the incredible upheaval caused by the closing of The Ann Arbor News, which has made the market significantly more competitive, and confusing for readers and advertisers alike. I’m proud that we’ve been able to establish a reputation for solid, in-depth coverage of the workings of local government, and I hope we continue to have the wherewithal to support our unique journalistic venture, and to grow. has a more mainstream business model, one that seems cast from the same mold as traditional newspapers. It relies on driving traffic to its website – a variation of the old “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to gaining readers, or what’s known these days as “churnalism.” Their new weekly “Best Of” poll – asking readers to vote for different categories, like best brewpub or best grocery store – is designed to achieve the same goal. Advertisers are “partners” – not because they support the publication’s journalism, but because works with them to develop ad campaigns like the Groupon-esque “Real Deal.”

For all of that energy put into the advertising and marketing end of the business, the news of last week’s layoffs indicates that isn’t meeting its revenue or profit goals. The company hasn’t disclosed what those targets are – I wouldn’t expect them to; we don’t disclose details of our financial performance, either. But I would expect a bit more candor about their general outlook, starting with more openness about their staff changes.

In September of 2009, I participated in a panel discussion at the Kerrytown BookFest with Dearing and others, talking about the future of local media. When pressed about what kind of timeline the new would have to prove its financial viability to its owners, Dearing indicated some urgency – he ventured that they’d have about two years from their launch in July 2009 to prove the viability of the model.

If that timeline holds, then this recent retooling could reflect an effort to reduce expenses before the start of the next financial quarter on April 1 – the final quarter they’ll have on the books for an evaluation at their two-year anniversary mark.

I don’t believe the Newhouses will just give up this market – despite the struggles of, they still hold essentially a monopoly in the state’s most stable, affluent community.

But this community has been blindsided by their business decisions in the past, and it still stings. Whatever the future holds for them, they owe it to the residents of Ann Arbor to be upfront about what’s coming. Or, in this case, what’s already been done.

About the writer: Mary Morgan is publisher and co-founder of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, which launched in September 2008. She previously worked for The Ann Arbor News for 12 years, where her positions included opinion editor and business editor.


  1. March 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm | permalink

    Thanks for the background information and for framing this so well. It’ll be interesting to see how things shape out in terms of’s coverage.

  2. By Bob Martel
    March 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm | permalink

    Agreed, Mary, this episode is very disappointing all around.

  3. By sally m
    March 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm | permalink

    How’s the Freep doing? Does anyone know why they made 3 hires? Also, it’s satisfying to see that Morgan’s reporting and analysis stands the test of time so well that she can quote herself from two years ago. Brava, Ms. Morgan.

  4. March 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm | permalink

    By “most readers aren’t idiots,” I presume that you really mean to say “some readers are idiots”.

    I prefer the formulation that Dan Gillmor has given, which is to say that “my readers know more than I do”. More often than not if you write the story based on this assumption, you can appeal to the intelligence and deep background that some readers have about stories that they only share when you write about what they know a lot about. Not every reader will know more than you do about every topic you write about, but collectively if you are good at cultivating an audience there will always be someone to add to the story.

  5. By cosmonıcan
    March 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm | permalink

    Mary, Dearing did respond to this yesterday but it was buried as a response to the third comment on this article on Saturday [link]. He followed up this morning with more tap dancing. Sorry no new info, I just see a different timeline here.

  6. March 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm | permalink

    I’m confused about the exact extent of the firings. Your staff list shows eight firings. But the coverage by other media says 14. Are their firings that do not appear on the staff list?

    Also, I think both the Chronicle and should stop hiding behind the true, but irrelevant, claim that their financial information is “proprietary”. Not revealing financials means to most readers that things are not going well.

  7. March 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm | permalink

    Re: [5]: “Mary, Dearing did respond to this yesterday but it was buried …”

    The initial comment on that thread you reference, cosomonican, appears identical to the reply Dearing made to the Wall post, which is referenced in the column. I missed the followup from Dearing made this morning when I searched the site earlier this afternoon.

  8. March 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm | permalink

    Does anyone still read the Com?

  9. March 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm | permalink

    Jeff Arnold, who covered Michigan Hockey, Football, and other sports, was also dismissed. I never realized this, but some of those positions were part-time salaried jobs, according to one of the fired staffers.

  10. March 13, 2011 at 10:15 pm | permalink

    Thank you Mary, for this comprehensive and thoughtful article. As usual, you are spot on. We are fortunate to have you and the chronicle in our community.

  11. By Anon
    March 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm | permalink

    I will miss Ed V. I wish him the best.

  12. By Stephen Cain
    March 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm | permalink

    Nice column, Mary, intelligent, well-written, and on point. I was a reporter at The News during most of the ’80s and ’90s, knew, liked, and respected Tony Dearing. While he never came off as a boat rocker, I find it hard to imagine the Tony of the 1990s engaging in the corporate-speak of 2011. Sad.

  13. March 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm | permalink

    Thanks Mary, I had picked up bits and pieces on social media sites, but nothing this comprehensive. Someone posted a link and I saw Ed was gone. What a bummer!

    I agree in what you said,” has a more mainstream business model, one that seems cast from the same mold as traditional newspapers.”

  14. March 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm | permalink

    In answer to #6, there were some non-reporter cuts as well (at least one person in advertising, I think maybe a graphics person…)

    In answer to #7, it seems that Tony Dearing’s comments were removed from one article, but not from another article that got posted. I have no idea why.

    I think it’s time for a different model, which I write about here: [link]

  15. March 13, 2011 at 10:47 pm | permalink

    And I forgot to say–thank you, Mary and Dave, for recognizing and acting on quality journalism.

  16. By Duane Collicott
    March 13, 2011 at 10:53 pm | permalink

    Ed Vielmetti was the best thing they had going for them. The difference between his work and the rest of the writers is extensive. Ed would actually do journalism work – looking deeper into a story, digging down into the news that’s in there somewhere but not obvious, instead of just copy-pasting from press releases.

    Also, I think that calling a “News publication” is a bit generous. From my angle, it’s just a current-events blog. Other than Ed’s work, that is. That was news.

  17. March 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm | permalink

    This is a great article, Mary! Right on re: the lay offs being insulting…as some of my kiddos* would say, the whole thing is, “totally bogue” and that is the word that I think best fits.

    I thought I read somewhere that they also fired paid bloggers except for the faith and pets sections. I have a friend who writes for the pets section and I certainly want her to get paid, but I wonder why these two areas, specifically?

    (* other kiddos would have some more colorful words. So would their teacher)

  18. March 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm | permalink

    @15 Some friends and I were talking about this very issue tonight…about the actual journalism involved in Ed’s articles. I liked how he went beyond the “OMG 50000 inches of snow!!” and gave actual information that could be digested and then pulled out for later use. I will miss that!

    Sorry, I’m talking about him like he’s dead.

  19. By Jim Carty
    March 13, 2011 at 10:59 pm | permalink

    Well done, Mary, comprehensive and thoughtful.

  20. By Janet Storm
    March 13, 2011 at 11:10 pm | permalink

    Thanks Mary, for a thoughtful look at a painful situation. I feel badly for my ex-colleagues who lost their jobs and almost as sorry for those who remain in a newsroom that must be full of stress and tension.

    Even if ordered by corporate not to comment on the layoffs, it seems odd that the Com didn’t at least write about the departure of three staff members who did so much. Has lack of communication become the norm there? As the T-shirts said when the Ann Arbor News closed its doors forever, “No News is bad news.”

  21. March 13, 2011 at 11:22 pm | permalink

    Ed is not dead. He continues his eclectic and data-ridden blog at [link]

    I miss his stuff too. Hard to choose between the FOIA pursuits and the in-depth data on various subjects, including weather.

    We’ll be hearing from him again, I’m sure.

  22. March 13, 2011 at 11:47 pm | permalink

    I’m not dead yet, I’m just resting: [link]

  23. March 14, 2011 at 12:32 am | permalink

    While covering D2 state swimming finals at EMU on Saturday, I got this news from one of the .com’s freelance photographers. (She wasn’t very happy about it.) I’ve had plenty of professional encounters with Lon Horwedel, so I was saddened to hear of his dismissal. In the few years I’ve been professionally active in the area, I’ve always enjoyed working alongside Lon, and I’ve always appreciated his work. The .com dumped a valuable asset.

  24. By Mary Ann
    March 14, 2011 at 4:41 am | permalink

    This past weekend there was no reporter from at the UM Hockey game. When an inquiry was made, I was told that Jeff Arnold, a part timer reporter covering UM Hockey, was also laid off. This team finished No. 1 in their conference, also ranked in the top 5 in the nation, but no reporter could cover them. How sad.

  25. By Mary Morgan
    March 14, 2011 at 6:46 am | permalink

    Re. Jeff Arnold: Though his name remains on their staff roster (as of early Monday morning), I’ve confirmed that Jeff Arnold is also among those laid off. He too had been a former Ann Arbor News staffer for many years, has written as a freelancer for other sports media (including ESPN and Sports Illustrated), and is known to many – especially in the local sports community.

  26. By Dante
    March 14, 2011 at 8:36 am | permalink

    “is when” is atrocious grammar, and so what if the owners are out-of-state? It’s their business and their jobs to do with as they wish.

  27. By Dante
    March 14, 2011 at 8:42 am | permalink

    Additionally, they in no way, shape, or form “essentially hold a monopoly”

  28. By Jen Eyer
    March 14, 2011 at 9:15 am | permalink

    I spoke about the restructuring on the Lucy Ann Lance show Saturday (3/12) morning: [link] (starts at -10:40)

    -Jen Eyer
    Community Director,

  29. By Pam Stout
    March 14, 2011 at 9:25 am | permalink

    @TeacherPatti–There are no paid bloggers for the Faith section at, except for the community staff position that was eliminated.

  30. By Ypsi Reader
    March 14, 2011 at 9:28 am | permalink was founded under false pretenses (i.e. that the Ann Arbor News was no longer viable, which was demonstrably bunk) and has followed that model ever since. Poor quality overall (though there have been exceptions) and duplicitous communication will be their undoing.

    Dearing says they’re “growing.” Hmm, I wonder how he measures growth? Word has it their paid circulation has dropped significantly. Now we’re seeing their staffing levels dropping. If they’re “growing,” it would be interesting to see evidence. But apparently Tony’s not interested in evidence.

  31. By Steve Thorpe
    March 14, 2011 at 9:29 am | permalink

    The usual thorough and balanced piece. Advance’s web strategy in Ann Arbor seemed deeply flawed from the beginning and I think they underestimated the readership and what content they wanted. One personal aside to Mary … the use of blue and red in the annotated staff list rendered it invisible to colorblind folks (and I’ve got the FAA card I’m forced to carry to prove it) like me. Any future content you don’t want me to see, use that motif! On the other hand, an estimated 6 percent of we feeble males share the trait, so you may want to shift to puce and ebony. Enough whining. Thanks again for a great piece.

  32. By mr dairy
    March 14, 2011 at 9:31 am | permalink

    I want to know the exact date that it was decided that businesses, from the local .com news enterprise all the way to Westinghouse, have no responsibility (honesty,integrity and a human connection) to the community in which they reside and can do anything they want as long as it satisfies the shareholders and the bottom line.

  33. March 14, 2011 at 9:34 am | permalink

    I’m going to have to disagree with the comments about Ed Vielmetti. When I made some initial posts over there (I believe in response to some foolishness about the site promoting only attractive women in its mention of hires), Mr. Ed and Co. fell for one of the oldest tricks in Internet comments. If someone disagreed with a comment, they would post an inappropriate response and keep doing so until the entire response chain was deleted.

    Also, Ed was not very thorough when he copied-and-pasted information from a now-defunct political blog. In essence, he did exactly what some of you are praising him for not doing — he just copied and pasted without getting any additional info. The blog he got his info from was packed with comments from borderline crazies with no credibility, and he made no effort to discover that piece of information.

    Regarding the overall picture here — no one should be surprised. Dearing and others were, not surprisingly, quite arrogant from the start. As with many newspapers, they hired poorly and apparently did little to keep important personnel.

    I’m sure people still involved in that endeavor or those in other newsrooms will continue to fall back on their usual ploys — assuming all readers are dumb and that anyone who ventures away from journalism couldn’t hack it or just “didn’t have the ink in their veins.” These are tired beliefs that continue to keep journalism on the downward spiral.

    It is amazing that a field with an ample supply of available personnal frequently manages to unearth the worst, hire them, and then express surprise when they fail. The surprise fades, however, by doing much digging into pay, work conditions, flexibility of the employer, and the ability of the employees to adapt. All of those areas rate poorly in today’s journalism world.

    Finally, I should mention I am posting this from a mobile device, so a letter or two may have dropped. Just wanted to mention that, as in the past, insecure/inadequate pseudojournalists have used those flaws as a launching pad for any number of silly claims, followed by the Charlie Sheen-type “WINNING!” cries that mark today’s Internet world, where a lot of people are running victory laps, but few of them are actually close to winning anything.

  34. By Alan Goldsmith
    March 14, 2011 at 10:51 am | permalink

    Jack Lessenberry had it right from day one.

  35. March 14, 2011 at 11:26 am | permalink

    Re: [31] and highlighting invisible to the color blind

    Our apologies.

    With Thorpe’s help I’ve swapped out the pure red for a lighter color, which he’s confirmed is legible to the colorblind.

  36. By Steve Thorpe
    March 14, 2011 at 11:28 am | permalink

    Follow up to my earlier comment: Talk about customer service … Mr. Askins went in and changed the color values on the attached list and even I can now read it. Very impressive and thanks again.

  37. March 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm | permalink

    After reading the Tony Dearing pull quote I immediately thought, “That sounds exactly like what they said 2 years ago”, so I had a good chuckle when I reached the “Back to the Future” section and found that I’m not the only one with that impression.

  38. March 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm | permalink

    Wenalway (at 33) refers to an exchange which was noted here [link]

    You can read an interview with Robert Knilands here [link] and, fortunately, I don’t have to read all of the comments anymore.

  39. March 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm | permalink

    Great job of digging that out of the rubbish, Edvard.

    So, you have been booted now. Should I now emulate you and run around spouting misinformation about the reasons? Or should I use some sense and take into account that you were likely in a no-win situation, mostly through no fault of your own?

    I choose Option B. But that does not preclude my celebrating your demise.

    Cue the knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: You chose poorly, Edvard! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

  40. March 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm | permalink

    I know there’s not much in the way of sports coverage here at the Chronicle (which is fine: I appreciate this site’s unique and important focus), but also notable is that these cuts are reducing high school sports coverage to the bare minimum. As one who spends a lot of time covering high school sports — and as a fan and proponent of high school athletics — I find that to be very sad.

  41. By Scott Ogilvy
    March 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm | permalink

    They’re probably going to replace these salaried positions with ‘community contributors’ or some other nonsense that allows them to benefit from free labor.

  42. March 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm | permalink

    Re: [40] For Chronicle readers who are not familiar with Burrill’s work, here’s a link to the typical kind of textual and photographic coverage he provides for the Chelsea Bulldogs during football season: [link]

  43. By Mark Koroi
    March 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm | permalink

    What is Ed V’s future going to be?

    Has he been picked up by another employer?

  44. By TeacherPatti
    March 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm | permalink

    (29) Pam, thanks. I guess that’s why none are being let go! And it dawned on me that you are one of those let go which really sucks cuz I always liked your stuff (not at all embarrassed to say that I remember your name b/c I love stout beer and so it always stuck in my head)

  45. By Pam Stout
    March 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm | permalink

    Thanks Patti!

  46. By David Bishop
    March 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm | permalink


  47. By Slider
    March 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm | permalink

    The .com hadn’t updated its staff list in more than six months, so that’s why the list highlighted with this article didn’t add up to 14.

    @Burrill: The .com laid off almost the entire high school sports coverage team, so it is safe to assume prep coverage with be mostly non-existent. This has been immediately apparent: Five local boys basketball teams won district titles on Friday (Huron, Ypsilanti, Gabriel Richard, Manchester and Central Academy), but the .com covered just one of them. It also offered no coverage on Saline’s boys swimming state championship on Saturday.

  48. March 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm | permalink

    This part I just don’t understand:

    “Although we began to hear about the layoffs on Thursday last week, we decided not to write immediately about that news. In part, we reasoned that it should be’s story to tell first…”

    Getting the story first is second-only to getting it right, IMHO.

  49. By DrData
    March 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm | permalink

    Getting rid of the high school coverage is a mistake. That’s part of what local is.

    Back when the A2News existed as a daily paper, all I ever read was the local coverage, including sports. I didn’t care whether Huron won or lost but you could see the children of your friends/neighbors winning events – even the local swimming competitions, etc. In the way old days, there were even stories about city league teams.

    If, is going to do local reporting they need to do a better job of it. They can’t even get street closing reported until after they have happened and their city council/AAPS etc. reporting is like a Twitter feed (really short and depending on the author, also including typos often seen in Twitter feeds).

    I liked Ed V.’s contribution to the as he provided useful links, although I bet he deleted one or more of my replies for straying from the story.

  50. By Peter Couch
    March 14, 2011 at 5:28 pm | permalink

    Daily deal fatigue
    Minneapolis Star Tribune – John Ewoldt – ‎55 minutes ago‎ [link to Ewoldt's column]

  51. By Steve
    March 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm | permalink has been a rookie enterprise since its inception and its no wonder; a lack of leadership has sunk its ship (columns by area residents? has this person lost his mind?).
    It was hatched at a time that newspapers were blaming the Internet for their collective drop in readership, when the real blame was a sad habit of overlooking the news in deference to “community” stories; puff pieces on the local school districts, articles on parades, festivals and other soft news that catered to a small but vocal sub category of reader. Readers did not leave newspapers, either dot-coms or the paper version – it’s the other way around. To revive: bring in some experience reporters (10 years), stock the rest of the staff with less experienced but proven writers, give them some real money and quit expecting 25 percent profit margins, and, oh yea, deliver the news. Cover U of M trustees with reckless abandon, file open records requests every week, cover crime from all angles and stop taking the cops word for everything and forget any idea of a 40 hour work week.

  52. March 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm | permalink

    Thank you for such a thorough report on this disappointing news.

    I wonder how many others might have been cut or left before these recent departures. In January, I received an email from Christine Segal, who had been my ad rep at Ann Arbor News for years and then at, indicating that the Advertising Department was being downsized and her accounts were being reassigned. At the time, I thought maybe just the ad staff was being cut, but now I wonder if it was just the beginning of downsizing the entire staff.

  53. March 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm | permalink

    It’s just so sad to see this happening to local journalism. What really killed it, of course, was Craigslist — classified ad space was by far the most expensive space in the paper, inch for inch, and it was practically pure profit. Newspaper managers figured they’d have their 25 percent margins forever, that there would be thousands of eager young j-grads willing to work for nothing forever, that people would want to get their local news once a day and get their hands dirty doing it forever. I hold no special claim on what the answer is… I just feel incredibly lucky to still be working in a corner of journalism that I love. And I still find it incredible that a city as rich and smart as Ann Arbor can’t support a local daily newspaper.

  54. By Patrick Rady
    March 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm | permalink

    I think that it is telling that corporate bootlick Nathan Bomey continues to be employed, while Ed Vielmetti gets canned. Ed V. served the community, Bomey’s function seems to fawn over companies that treat Ann Arbor like the U.S.’s own Bangalore. “You should be thrilled that we have jobs for $12 and hour, that used to pay $40k a year!” That and his continually pimping for Ann Arbor’s self promoting serial entrepreneurs.

    I guess we can look forward to even more fawning over business…

  55. By k. koch
    March 15, 2011 at 3:04 am | permalink

    It’s good to have another media outlet in this town. The dot com was the big fish in s little bowl giving it most of the attention. It never covered anything in depth or asked hard questions of elected officals. In general there was nothing there. Your articles are well writen and complete. Keep up the good work.

  56. By Brian Reynolds
    March 15, 2011 at 10:58 am | permalink


    Nice work on this story. I feel for all of those who were betrayed by management who continue to hold their (much higher paid) jobs. I don’t know all of the 14 who were laid off, but the 3 former News employees I do know sure did not deserve their fate. All are outstanding people, dedicated workers, and professional journalist who worked hard for their employer and community. Their reward is a shove out the door. Did Matt Kraner, Laurel Champion or Tony Dearing take a pay cut or make any other concessions that might have saved some or all of those from being laid off? Very doubtful. I still have friends who so far have kept their jobs at and wish them the best of luck during this stressful time. I don’t want to fail, but I think it will unless new management is brought in to replace the incompetent three mentioned above.

  57. By Carl
    March 15, 2011 at 11:04 am | permalink

    Lucy Ann was playing Devils Advocate or is clueless – there is a HUGE difference between news organizations and private businesses and news orgs need to be even more transparent – not less! If I read someone every day and see their picture (like did) and then boom, they are gone, it needs to be addressed as to why they are gone. If there are massive layoffs, the story becomes even bigger.

    Why – because newspaper (and news people) are a public trust and part of the community – even though they are private workers! This has been the way for 250 years!

    The fact the Chronicle is covering this tells me its news – and that, for all its years of management experience, can’t even understand how to get in front of a story and them move on …
    If I turned on the TV and there was no Devin Scillian, or Diana Lewis, or Carmen Harlen and no comment about why they were not there – its a BIG deal! Imagine if Katie Couric was gone … even Regis!

    If I wake up and there is no Paul W. Smith or heck, even Howard Stern, ITS NEWS.

    And one has to only peruse a news publication to see how they cover the comings and goings of CEOs and executives – they cover it cause its NEWS! is flawed – we all know that. But most of us are critical because we actually want it to succeed and recognize the need for local news…

    But if cannot recognize what we all can, how can they possibly have a chance to survive?

  58. By Carl
    March 15, 2011 at 11:16 am | permalink

    @Matt Roush

    Before there was Craig’s List – Monster and CareerBuilder took the first shots at killing print! There was a time when one grabbed the Sunday classifieds when looking for a job – that changed 10 years or so ago and print never really understood how to deal with it.

    Then Craig’s List took over about 5-6 years ago …

    Basically, I call the reason for the demise of print “Craig’s Monster”

  59. March 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm | permalink

    Just found this out tonight.

    Ed, I appreciated the ride along last summer, if you remember. Best of luck in the future. You seem like a guy who lands on his feet.

  60. By Duane Collicott
    March 16, 2011 at 11:48 am | permalink

    Carl (57) – Lucy Ann is very good at playing devil’s advocate. That question was an actual question: a request for information from the other person – not an expression her own opinion. I have had several interviews with her for my annual event, and each time she asked the perfect questions that resulted in my answer containing useful and relevant information. She’s a pro.

  61. By Doug Fisher
    March 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm | permalink

    Thanks, Mary. Another great piece on the demise of local news. At least someone covers it.

  62. March 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm | permalink

    Ann Arbor can support a daily newspaper. The company decided it didn’t want a newspaper and it’s not easy for to step and launch an entire news organization.
    I believe the Ann Arbor News stretched too far, trying to cover Livingston and western Wayne when it should have been happy to be a great newspaper covering Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.
    But the big problem was Mlive.
    The Internet didn’t kill newspapers. Newspaper companies that didn’t know to use the Internet killed newspapers. I found myself coming home from work, reading the Ann Arbor News and realizing I had read all the local news already on Mlive. At one point, I wrote a letter to the editor, asking them to stop posting their news on Mlive, because I feared it would kill their product. I’m not sure if it was ever published, because after reading all the news on Mlive, there were many days when newspaper never came out of the plastic bag.
    As long as all that local information was out there on the Internet for free, there was no incentive to buy a newspaper. It’s like spending all this money to keep the lights on, pay your employees and purchase equipment for your donut shop, but instead of charging people for donuts, you give them away at a stand in front of your bakery. Who didn’t see the problem there?
    Still, I think it’s clear that newspapers are eventually going away. Most people I know in the news business rarely read newspapers anymore.
    As for, I think it’s a solid local news organization and I hope it succeeds. The cuts are bad news for people who want to be be informed. And I’ll miss Ed’s work. On many occasions I’d hear or see something out of the ordinary, google it, and land on Ed’s blog. And if he didn’t have the answer, one of his readers did.

  63. March 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm | permalink

    Post 62 is a prime example of the problem in Ann Arbor today.

    We have a poster critical of the former print product, but then that poster goes on to praise the now-defunct blogging portion of — which was accessed for free, of course. (For those who want to screech about the costs of Internet service, electricity, etc., please review Economics 101.)

    Yet no one is saddened by the layoffs of several content providers.

    Strange. Very strange.

  64. By CASnyder
    March 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm | permalink

    My spouse has lived more than half a century in the AA area, having been born here, I’m in my 2nd decade of calling this county home, so we remember & grieve the AA News of previous decades – not the printed paper, but the quality of the content. The growth of internet access and use could have been an opportunity for the AA News to cut a lot of the fixed cost of newspaper circulation and focus resources on maintaining quality content, but it seems to have gone the other direction and was cutting their best staff, or limiting their time per story, while increasing the space given over to advertisements. That was when we stopped subscribing – because we felt guilty about supporting a massive consumption of trees for the printing of more and more advertisements for things we don’t use or want, and less and less real thought provoking content with each passing week.

    We tried an introductory subscription to’s newspaper when it first came out, but not only was the content a lot worse than the old AA News, but their distribution & billing departments were so disorganized that despite weekly complaints, it was months before we got our first copy of the newspaper, and we still had to make repeated calls to billing to explain that they couldn’t start billing us for what they’d never delivered. Needless to say, we didn’t renew.

    This winter we’d been watching the home of out-of-town friends who have subscriptions to both’s newspaper & A2journal, so I’ve been skimming both those papers before recycling the colored ads (more than half the paper by weight) and saving the B&W newsprint sections for compostable dropcloths & packaging food in our root cellar.

    The quality of the content is even worse than it was during the introductory subscription – a recent example of the lack of the most basic reporting in the A2 Journal was a full page given over to the new Ford Focus 2012, which at first glance looked promising with some numbers about improvements made in air-streaming the vehicle. But by the time I reached the end, I was mad, because it was clearly an uneditted press release from the manufacturer that deliberately neglected to give me the crucial mpg efficiency numbers that would allow me to compare its performance to other vehicles out there.

    I expect news outlets to do critical reporting, in their articles, not just reprint marketing press releases from corporations and try to charge readers for that as if it were news, plus misleading a lot of readers who weren’t taught critical thinking & who absorb what they read as God’s truth, due to the newspaper’s failure to clearly differentiate between press releases and news articles. 15 seconds on the internet gave me the truth on the Ford Focus 2012, which is there are competitors with mpg as good or better for less $ – surely the editor who chose to print that piece could have done the same to present the whole truth if news was the focus of the publication, but clearly there is more benefit to serving as a corporate media outlet.

    From what I can see, the paper is not doing much better than the A2 Journal on actual reporting (sounds like their most recent cuts took away much of what was of any interest to me), but the AA Chronicle seems to be a cut above the other local news options, as is the AA Observer & the Detroit Free Press, all of which do in depth, thought-provoking articles.

    Perhaps we need a Community Supported Newsfeed model similar to the CSAgriculture model, where we could pre-pay funds into a single on-line personal news account that could disperse them out to any participating local reporters (based on our pay-per-view choices). I’d like to receive a single daily e-mail listing available articles to chose from with a brief synopsis and the authors name, and low-cost pay-per view links for each. Even better if the articles had feedback links for ratings & comments that were public as this is.

    I wouldn’t even mind if such a news service had some advertisements, especially if they were low-key, text-only, and responsive to your interest patterns, the way ads on G-mail are – those are about the only ads pushed at me that I respond to these days. All my other purchases are from my own searches (local phone-book & internet) when I need something. I’m glad to see the former AA news reporters & editors like Mary Morgan innovating with on-line news offerings – it makes me hopeful for our hometown reporting talent and I think I’ll go subscribe to her RSS feed, which will be the first time I’ve ever subscribed to any RSS feed. Keep up the good work.

  65. April 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm | permalink

    I’m switching to the Ann Arbor Chronicle. I just posted something on Ann, only to have it censored. The discussion was related to UofM DPS and how there was a delay in sending out a notification on the gun incident at the chemistry school.


    I was trying to add a note about a topic that I thought had tied into the subject. I wanted to give a first-hand example of an incident that I saw, whereby the UofM DPS did not issue a health/safety notice. Once it was censored, I started browsing around the site, looking for ‘FOIA Friday’ only to realize that Ed V. was gone. He had just written a series of FOIA articles and he did outstanding work. Coincidently, he is no longer there.

    In his last FOIA article, I made this comment to Ed… “i’d have to wonder how many people you upset/annoy when pursuing FOIAs, or talking about them?”. i wasn’t mad at him, but looking at the political environment in ann arbor, i had to wonder if there were people who secretly hated him. thinking back, i think he pissed someone off and was let go for political reasons, as his writing skills/investigations into FOIA were factually beyond many articles on the website. ed did real journalism, and he wasn’t afraid to ask questions. ed, you’re a brilliant writer, don’t give up on foias and writing. pursue your passion and your dream. when you’re silenced, i’d think you were onto something. as for what did ann arbor censor me on, it was this comment on the dps. to clarify my thoughts further, i have added [....] statements.

    “not everything is always reported. in certain cases (not all) to find out what happens, you have to file foia requests, because they won’t willfully tell you details unless you do.

    [when the spill happened, I was told on the phone from the DPS that it was a weedwacker spill (I saw the spill with my own eyes). I had to file a FOIA request from the AAFD to find out that phosphoric acid was listed in the report]

    when the oil spill happened in the river, the public was never notified of a possible environmental or health hazard.

    [true. the uofm dps website did not list the spill. those boating in the huron river were not notified of the spill either, but the attendees that i spoke with at both liveries knew of the spill and were not notifying patrons of the spill that happened that week. i could still smell the spill along the river]

    public safety is #1?

    [that's not an accusation, that is a question]

    remember, the petroleum covered the river from the hospital to gallup

    [booms were setup at the hospital outfall and at gallup. at my vantage point it covered the width of the river for hours]

    and the AAFD ran out of equipment to fight it

    [true. according to the AAFD report, they requested more equipment, but were unable to get it.]

    (this was a big spill for this area)…

    [personal opinion, i have not witnessed a larger spill]

    and the first tests said that it was 88% confidence phosphoric acid.

    [true. aafd report. plus, on a AAFD computer monitor, I thought I read 88% phosphoric acid.]

    so, we have an initial report of a phosphoric acid spill and the public was NOT notified — but that same week people are canoeing through it and i could still smell the oil. i saw a dog in the arb, drinking the oil on the day it spilled. dps never listed that event on their website.

    [i witnessed this]

    when i asked dps why it wasn’t listed, they told me that they didn’t have the coding in place to put it on their website.

    [dps told me this, which means that events can happen without being notified, as they don't have all the codes on their website]

    and according to what the dnr told me, when there is a phosphroic acid/oil spill on the huron river, the uofm doesn’t have to report it.

    [true. i tried contacting the dnr and the epa about it, the dnr told me this... "There are no obligations for U of M to make public notice for an incident like this". i was also told on the phone that the uofm is good at policing themselves, so they wouldn't be coming here. btw, many outfalls flowing from uofm are under uofm territory]

    so i know of at least 1 case, where the public was not fully informed by the UofM DPS of a potential health hazard.

    [unless the dps is making the statement that it is oky to spill oil in a river and it is ok? and it is ok if the huron river provides some of our drinking water]

    nor was the cased solved as they failed at solving that crime.

    [if it wasn't a permit dumping, or an accident, then it must be a crime?]

    [this question relates to how there was a delay between the gun incident and the email that was sent out alerting people about it]

    with this current incident, it provokes the questions: why was there a delay between the incident and the email that was sent out? I assume this isn’t true, but did someone interfere in delaying that message? i live in this area and i’d like to know the answer.”