Stories indexed with the term ‘democracy’

Monthly Milestone: Election Day Edition

Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication. It’s also a time that we highlight, with gratitude, our local advertisers, and ask readers to consider making a voluntary subscription to support our work.

It’s election day, so I’ll start this monthly milestone – our 26th, for those keeping score – by badgering you to tell your family, friends and neighbors to go vote. (As a Chronicle reader, you will need no reminder yourself, of course.)

Participants at an Poynter Institute workshop

George Packer (right foreground), a staff writer for The New Yorker, spoke to a recent workshop for nontraditional journalists at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Observant Chronicle readers will spot me sitting at the back of the classroom.) (Photo by Jim Stem, courtesy of The Poynter Institute.)

Frankly, I’ll be glad to bid farewell to Election 2010. Regular Chronicle readers know that while we’re huge fans of good governance and the democratic process, our patience is pretty thin for typical horse-race coverage of elections – complete with endorsements and accusations trotted forth by candidates, which mainstream media then use to whip themselves into a breathless, panting herd.

I’ll also be glad to have elections behind us because the month leading up to Nov. 2 has been especially taxing for The Chronicle – in good ways. But I’m looking forward to a return to our baseline level of overwork. One reason for the extra effort relates to preparation for the first candidate forum ever hosted by The Chronicle. Held on Oct. 21 at Wines Elementary for Ward 5 city council candidates, the event took a nontraditional approach. Chronicle editor Dave Askins described our thinking behind the forum’s task-based format in a recent column. You can read about the forum itself in a separate report. And if you want to review The Chronicle’s election coverage, you can find a list of election-related articles here.

Another reason that the month was busier than usual relates to an out-of-state trip I made to The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was a visiting faculty member there at a workshop for nontraditional journalists. In this month’s column, I’d like to focus on the Poynter visit, with some observations about The Chronicle’s work, plus a national perspective based on remarks by George Packer of The New Yorker, who also spoke at Poynter. [Full Story]

Obama’s Michigan Commencement Speech

President Barack Obama delivered the main address at the University of Michigan’s May 1 spring commencement.

Analysis of Obama commencement address

Word cloud analysis of the Obama UM commencement address. Image links to higher resolution file. Analysis done at

The Chronicle has transcribed the speech as delivered and provided some annotation, in part by providing section and sub-section headings that reflect the organizational structure of the president’s remarks.

The main themes were the role of government in our lives and the keys to preservation of democracy. One of those keys to the preservation of democracy, Obama told the graduates, is to “contribute part of your life to the life of this country.” [Full Story]

Column on Caucus: Make It a Real Event

Larcom Building 2nd Floor Bulletin Board

Larcom Building 2nd floor bulletin board

Already on Wednesday of this past week the decision had been made to cancel city council’s Sunday caucus. I received a two-sentence email that morning – sent in equitable fashion to both The Chronicle and The Ann Arbor News by Mayor John Hieftje: “We have another light agenda for Monday night so caucus has been cancelled for this Sunday. Enjoy the evening.”

But the way I enjoy my evenings on the Sunday before a regular city council meeting is to attend caucus. You can’t cancel the thing I enjoy and then invite me to enjoy myself. Well, you can, actually, as Mayor Hieftje proved. But you can’t do it without causing me to ask some questions. Like: How was this decision made and who makes it?

Before diving into that, let me address a possible point of skepticism in readers’ minds. I do enjoy caucus. Really, I do. [Full Story]

City Council and the Values of Ann Arbor

Iraq Water Project

Laura Russello, executive director at Michigan Peaceworks, presented background on the collaboration between the nonprofit she leads and Veterans for Peace on the Iraq Water Project.

Ann Arbor City Council meeting (March 2, 2009): Whatever chance for controversy that might have been present in the Ann Arbor’s City Council meeting agenda on Monday evening was eschewed in favor of values statements. These expressions of values were reflected in many of the agenda items themselves. We’ve organized our account of the meeting in terms of values related to the following topics: water, the arts, land, energy, history, and democracy. [Full Story]