Stories indexed with the term ‘journalism’

Column: The Best Worst Job of All

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

This week, a company called “” ranked more than 1,000 American jobs, and determined that the worst job in America isn’t garbage collector, dog cage cleaner or Lindsay Lohan sobriety tester – but journalist.

Yes! Score! Booyah!

They based their rankings on four criteria: the workplace environment, the industry’s future, average income, and stress.

Okay, it’s true: newsrooms usually aren’t pretty places, and the future isn’t any prettier for newspapers. You can make more money doing a lot of other things – and, yes, the stress is very real. The hours are long and late, and many of our customers think they can do our jobs better than we can. They’re often nice enough to take the time to tell us that – even if they’re complaining about a different news outlet that screwed up and somehow we’re responsible. Hey, at least they care.

Journalists themselves reacted to this ranking with all the calm, cool, collected professionalism of Geraldo Rivera and Nancy Grace. But here’s why: newsrooms aren’t for everybody, but we like them – the hustle and bustle and energy and urgency. We like the stress, too – no matter how much we complain about it – because it comes with doing work we believe actually matters. [Full Story]

Column: Thank You, Mr. Wallace

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Everybody knows Mike Wallace was one of the best journalists of his time – and his time spanned nearly a century.

But he also had a great love for his alma mater, the University of Michigan, where he wrote for the Michigan Daily, and got his first taste of broadcasting. Back then, that meant working for the student radio station.

Sadly, Michigan cut its department of journalism in 1979. But it was survived by something called the Michigan Journalism Fellows – a program that brings a dozen mid-career journalists to Michigan’s campus for a year to give them a fresh start. Basically, you’re a glorified grad student, but they pay you, and you have no tests, no papers and no grades – and you share the year with a fraternity of people in your field.  Yeah, it’s that cool.

It’s a great idea – one shared by Harvard and Stanford – but Michigan’s program seemed to be entering its death rattle when Charles Eisendrath took it over in 1986. The program was down to a mere $30,000, with no place to call home. The fellows met twice a week in a campus classroom. The future wasn’t bright.

Eisendrath had a vision for the program, but he knew he needed help – and he knew where to go, too. Mike Wallace didn’t hesitate. He gave his money – one million dollars, for starters – but he also gave his time, his energy, and his unequaled influence. When Mike Wallace told you Michigan had a first-class journalism fellowship worthy of your support, you probably were not inclined to argue. [Full Story]

Column: Accidental Auto Journalist

I am not a journalist – I just play one, as the saying goes.

Auto show media credentials

The author's media credentials for the North American International Auto Show. (Photos by the writer.)

So what was I doing at the Press Preview of the North American International Auto Show a few days ago at Cobo Hall? Even though I’m an architect in my day job, I also do some writing for, a blog focused on issues of technology and the environment. And I’ve also contributed to several other online media outlets in the past few years.

My writing sideline started with a focus on green building technology. But because of my proximity to Detroit, I found myself receiving forwarded invitations to auto industry events.

So while I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a “car guy,” I’ve come to find myself acting in the capacity of an automotive journalist. I have now attended the North American International Auto Show three or four times as a member of the press.

Despite having developed some familiarity with the process, I still feel like an interloper – as though I’m getting away with sneaking in someplace I’m not supposed to be. [Full Story]

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]

Authorship in News, Science, Totter Riding


[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]

Gareth Morgan on a teeter totter.

Gareth Morgan is a scientist working on problems of protein folding and stability.

The Dec. 11, 2009 edition of the scientific journal Molecular Cell includes an article called “Optimizing Protein Stability In Vivo.” It’s a paper co-authored by nine people. The first two names on the list of nine authors are Linda Foit and Gareth Morgan. The paper combines expertise in genetics and chemistry, reflected in the specific strengths of Foit and Morgan, who are two young scientists working in James Bardwell’s lab at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Michigan.

Foit’s name might already be familiar to Ann Arbor Chronicle readers in connection with what might be called a “unsuccessful physics experiment” near downtown Ann Arbor – an attempt to achieve greater residential density with a project called The Moravian. Foit addressed the city council in support of the project.

Morgan’s name is certainly familiar to our readers, but he’s no relation to the publisher of The Chronicle, Mary Morgan. Gareth Morgan was visiting Ann Arbor from England for a two-week span recently and will return to Michigan in October for around a month to continue his collaboration with the Bardwell lab.

The fact that Gareth and Linda’s contribution to the paper was equal is made clear through the last of seven footnotes on the author line:

7 These authors contributed equally to this work.

The collaborative nature of modern science was one of the topics that Gareth and I talked about on the teeter totter last Saturday afternoon, just before the University of Michigan football team started its season against the University of Connecticut Huskies.

We also touched on the issue of health and safety culture in U.S. labs compared to British facilities, and the role that game-playing might play in the future of science. For details, read all of Gareth’s Talk. By way of preparation, it might be worth thinking about where it’s easier to drink a cup of coffee – a U.S. lab or a British lab.

I took the occasion of Gareth’s explanation of the credit conventions for a scientific paper as a chance to reflect very briefly on how the allocation of credit is indicated in other lines of work, including journalism. [Full Story]

Know Your AATA Board: Roger Kerson

“I grew up in New York City, Queens, where the world was very different and mass transit was a daily part of everybody’s daily life,” says Roger Kerson. But Kerson opted for personal transit when he biked to the Sweetwaters café on West Washington to discuss with The Chronicle his recent appointment to the board of the  Arbor Transportation Authority (AATA).

Roger Kerson at the AATA board retreat on Aug. 10. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

The AATA, branded on the sides of buses as “The Ride,” aims to be the public transportation provider for Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, as well as all of Washtenaw County. Kerson is one of seven members on the AATA board.

While he may be the newest board member, Kerson does not lack for eagerness in promoting the AATA’s current initiative to develop a countywide transportation plan. “We’re engaged in a planning process,” he says, “for developing mass transportation and we encourage people to go to … We need to engage in a lot of conversation.” The Moving You Forward website seeks community feedback on every aspect of public transportation.

“Where do you live? Where do you work? Where do you shop? Where do you go to the movies? Are there ways in which you could reduce your carbon footprint by using transit, using the bike?” Kerson asks, adding that the AATA welcome views from all Ann Arborites and county residents, whether they use transit or not.

Encouraging that kind of communication is familiar ground to Kerson. He is currently a media consultant at RK Communications, his consulting firm. Kerson’s roots in Ann Arbor stretch from his time at the University of Michigan, where he graduated with distinction in 1980. “I think Woodrow Wilson was president then,” he quipped. Kerson stayed in Ann Arbor after college, soon becoming interested in journalism.

He began writing for a publication called The Alchemist, which he describes as “The Ann Arbor Chronicle in its day, before the Internet.” [Full Story]

A Conversation with Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman, film critic for Entertainment Weekly, grew up in Ann Arbor. (Photo courtesy of Owen Gleiberman)

Today, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly enjoys a position as one of the country’s most influential movie critics, his opinions read and respected (and sometimes reviled) by millions. Forty years ago he was a precocious middle-schooler who carried a transcript of the Chicago Seven trial in his pocket as he roamed downtown Ann Arbor, exploring the head shops and hanging with the hippies.

Soon after enrolling at the University of Michigan in 1976, Gleiberman was bit by the movie bug and began reviewing films for the Michigan Daily. He struck up a long-distance friendship with Pauline Kael of the New Yorker, who encouraged him in his writing and helped him to land his first job after graduation as a critic for the Boston Phoenix.

Though he now lives in Greenwich Village, Gleiberman makes regular return trips to Ann Arbor to visit family and friends. Over tea at Café Felix on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, he related what it was like to grow up in the countercultural milieu of Ann Arbor in the late ’60s and early ’70s, how that experience influenced his career as a film critic, and his thoughts and hopes on the future of journalism. [Full Story]

21st Monthly Milestone

Editor’s Note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19th Monthly Milestone

Editor’s Note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s launch – is an opportunity for either the publisher or the editor of The Chronicle to touch base with readers on topics related to this publication.

Even though Mary Morgan and I usually alternate writing The Chronicle’s Monthly Milestone column, April marks the third month in a row that I’m providing the update. I’d like to say right up front there’s no scandal in this. It does not reflect an internal struggle for power here at The Chronicle. Although if it did, it’s worth noting that my three-month streak would mean that I am winning. And I’d also like to say right up front: If there were to be an internal struggle for power here at The Chronicle, I would totally win. [No, there will not be a poll at the conclusion of this column, asking readers to weigh in on that.]

More seriously, the alternating authorship of the Monthly Milestone column reflects The Chronicle’s commitment to shared work – internal to our organization. But externally, our strategy for providing coverage of the Ann Arbor community is also partly rooted in sharing the work load.

So this month, I’d like to take a look at how that plays out on The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s website – in the form of reader comments – as well as among The Chronicle and other local media. [Full Story]

Column: Why We Grieve The Ann Arbor News

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. [Full Story]

Column: What The Ann Arbor News Needs

It was late on a Saturday night earlier this month when the Google alert showed up in my inbox: “Editor’s column: The Ann Arbor News is changing; you can help us,” by Ed Petykiewicz.

At last, I thought, Ed has finally written a column about what’s happening at The News. That’s great! So I clicked on the link, and pulled up … a blank page on MLive.

I groaned – the mess that is MLive strikes again! – and I put my head in my hands: This technical glitch reflects so much of what’s wrong with the News’ business model, and shows how far they have to go in addressing this and all the other challenges they face. Maybe, I thought, Ed’s column will confront some of these realities. I’d just have to wait for the newsprint version on Sunday morning to read it. [Full Story]

The Future of Journalism


Dick Ryan recalls President Ford's response to a proposed bailout of New York city.

“I’ve never seen reporters so excited as when they’re talking about their Twitters,” remarked Gil Klein, moderator of a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor. The discussion was part of a nationwide tour of similar events hosted by the National Press Club as a part of the organization’s 100th anniversary. Klein, director of the National Press Club’s Centennial Forums, mentioned the micro-blogging platform Twitter in the current context of the tremendous period of innovation in the field of journalism.

But the consensus among panelists … [Full Story]

Journalists Start Fellowship Year in Ann Arbor


Ann Arbor News columnist Geoff Larcom, center, talks with Julia Eisendrath and Jonathan Martin during Tuesday evening's reception for Knight-Wallace Fellows.

Journalists from across the globe gathered Tuesday evening in the terraced backyard of the Wallace House, mingling with guests from UM and the community to kick off this year’s Knight-Wallace Fellows program.

Each year, about 20 mid-career journalists are picked for the eight-month program, coming to Ann Arbor to live and study a topic of their choice. They take a leave of absence from their jobs, receive a stipend and get access to UM resources.

Last year, Ann Arbor News reporter Tracy Davis was selected for the program, studying globalization and world ecology. This year, columnist Geoff Larcom will research the psychology of leadership.

[Full Story]