Happened to sit in a seat at the Michigan Theater with an “Ann Arbor News Critic’s Seat” plaque on the armrest. Did not know about this designation. Looks like there are at least three. Best seats in the house? [photo]
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Oct. 18, 2011): On Friday, the public will get online access to 18,000 articles, 3,000 photos, and an index with over 160,000 names – the initial phase of a massive digitization of The Ann Arbor News archives being undertaken by the library.
Andrew MacLaren – one of the librarians who’s been working on the project since the library took possession of the archives in January 2010– gave board members a brief preview of what AADL is unveiling at a reception on Friday. Called “Old News,” the online archives will initially feature items selected for digitization primarily by library staff, with a focus on the 1960s and ’70s, but with other eras included as well.
The hope is that future additions to the collection will be driven in large part by queries from the public. As librarians respond to research requests – people seeking newspaper articles or photos about specific events, institutions, or individuals – AADL staff will digitize their findings to be posted online for anyone to access.
The launch will also include special features from the collection that the library staff felt would draw more interest, including hundreds of articles and photos related to John Norman Collins, a serial killer whose killings in the late 1960s drew national attention. Other features include the history of West Park, and the 1968 Huron River floods.
Podcasts will be posted of interviews with former Ann Arbor News staff – including long-time crime reporter Bill Treml and photographer Jack Stubbs. AADL staff is also interviewing owners of “heritage” Ann Arbor businesses. Initial podcasts include conversations with David Vogel of Vogel’s Lock & Safe, and Charles Schlanderer Jr. and Charles Schlanderer Sr. of Schlanderer & Sons Jewelry. Additional podcasts will be added to the collection over time.
Though the cornerstone of this collection is from the 174-year-old Ann Arbor News – which its owners, New York-based Advance Publications, shut down in mid-2009 – another 97,000 articles from local 19th century newspapers will be part of the initial launch, too.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, AADL director Josie Parker praised the librarians who’ve been the primary staff working on this project – MacLaren, Amy Cantu, Debbie Gallagher, and Jackie Sasaki – and thanked board members as well for their support. It was the board’s decision in 2009 to move ahead with the project that made the resulting work possible, she said. The library does not own the originals or hold the copyright to the material, but the library did not need to pay for the archives. AADL still incurs costs related to the project, including staff time, insurance, and leasing of the Green Road offices where the archives are located. That location is not open to the public.
A reception for the launch is planned for Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the downtown library, 343 S. Fifth Ave. The event will feature a talk on the digitization of newspapers by Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.
Editor’s note: The monthly milestone column, which appears on the second day of each month – the anniversary of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s Sept. 2, 2008 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.
For about a dozen years, I was employed by the local newspaper, The Ann Arbor News, a publication that no longer exists. As one of the editors, I had influence but not control over what was published.
Now, as publisher of The Chronicle, it’s liberating to have the discretion to choose exactly what appears in our pages. But that freedom is somewhat checked by an over-arching decision to focus on coverage of local government and civic affairs.
It’s not a cherry-picking approach to journalism, which selects topics that might draw the most controversy. Instead, it relies on a methodical, relentless depiction of what happens at public meetings, where decisions are made about how taxpayer dollars are spent, or about public policy that affects our daily lives, even if we’re not aware of it.
Much of The Chronicle’s time is allocated based on our commitment to this model. If there’s a meeting of the city council or planning commission or county board or library board … or the humane society construction bond oversight committee … you’ll likely find us there.
On occasion, we do find time for more playful fare. A recent example of that was a Sonic Lunch photo essay, with fake captions, that we published earlier this week.
I was able to take in another event this week that also reflected the playful side of local media – from 1936.
When we first heard about the layoffs at AnnArbor.com 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.
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 AnnArbor.com’s story to tell first, and I held out hope that executives at AnnArbor.com 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 AnnArbor.com.
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 AnnArbor.com’s launch.
The University of Michigan Credit Union is real-estate shopping and is looking at the now-vacant Ann Arbor News building on the southwest corner of Huron and Division streets.
However, the three-story News building is only one of several properties being considered as a potential home for the credit union’s administrative offices, says Jeff Schillag, the institution’s vice president of marketing and community relations.
Not all the potential sites are downtown, Schillag says. And any acquired space would replace leased office space.
Opened in 1936, the Albert Kahn-designed News building was shuttered last July when Advance Publications closed the daily newspaper.
Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 17, 2009): Board members were briefed on Monday about a pending deal with the Herald Publishing Co., owners of the former Ann Arbor News, which is allowing the library to digitize the newspaper’s archives of photographs and newspaper clippings dating back decades. The 174-year-old Ann Arbor News closed in July of 2009.
Josie Parker, AADL’s director, said that accepting the agreement is likely the most important decision the board would make during its tenure, and could serve as a model for other libraries in the future. She also cautioned that though the library isn’t paying for the collection, it’s not free. “From the moment we get it, it’ll cost us,” she said.
Several library employees who are keen to get started on the project attended the meeting, including one librarian who gave Parker a high five when the meeting ended, to celebrate the board’s decision to move ahead with the project.
The board also spent a portion of the meeting reviewing and modifying a draft of its strategic initiatives, and got an update on AADL’s financial performance via a report on the financial audit for fiscal 2009. And performance of a different sort was reflected in two awards that the library recently received, which Parker described to the board, earning her and the rest of the staff a round of applause.
Our monthly milestone message, written by either the editor or the publisher, is an occasion to touch base with readers – to bring folks up to date on any new developments with The Chronicle and to engage in a bit of self-reflection as a publication.
Self-reflection once a month is healthy. But self-reflection that persists for a whole month – which has been a natural consequence of the continuing community conversation about the closing of The Ann Arbor News so that AnnArbor.com could be launched – threatens to become a distraction.
Yet here we are at a monthly milestone – a fitting and proper time to reflect on significant questions like: Where does The Ann Arbor Chronicle fit in a media landscape without The Ann Arbor News? In last month’s Tenth Monthly Milestone Message, Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan analyzed that media landscape in terms of pie. As in: Is there enough pie to go around? How big is the media pie?
But given a choice between pie and cake, I prefer cake. In particular, I prefer chocolate cake with white icing – those are more or less traditional newspaper colors, now that I think about it.
But I’ll eat a piece of pie, if there’s not a piece of cake to be had.
As far as media choices go, residents of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County these days don’t have a choice just between pie and cake – Mary Morgan lists out various media alternatives in last month’s milestone. And as it turns out, the 8,061 residents of Washtenaw County in 1882 had a few choices as well.
Late on Thursday afternoon, the last day of publication for The Ann Arbor News, Cary Push was waiting in his pickup truck at the corner of Eberwhite and Woodridge. The bundle drop hadn’t been made yet to his carrier route, which covers this west side neighborhood south of Liberty and west of Seventh Street.
When the bundled papers finally arrived, and after Push had rolled them into their plastic bags, The Chronicle tagged along for a bit as he delivered the last day’s edition of The News.
We shadowed him as he walked through the neighborhood with a canvas bag loaded with newspapers. He stopped at some of the houses – but by no means all – and placed each paper in the spot where he’d learned over the last three years that subscribers on his route preferred to have their paper delivered.
Some of them got placed right on the door mat. Others found a temporary home in the hooks under the mailbox. Some were tossed inside a screened-in porch.
None of them were simply flung from the sidewalk in the general direction of the house. That was something that one loyal subscriber and reader of The News was a little concerned about – because it won’t be Push who’ll be delivering the printed edition of AnnArbor.com to this neighborhood – that’s the publication intended to replace The Ann Arbor News, at least on Thursdays and Sundays.
In the spring of 1979, the entire staff of reporters and editors at The Ann Arbor News was temporarily shoehorned into the lunchroom, a space about a quarter the size of the newsroom, while the latter was retrofitted for the dawn of the computer age.
As the waggish John Barton, who I think was then covering the police beat, has recalled, noting how different the times were, “We weren’t so much elbow to elbow as ash tray to ash tray.” I felt like an immigrant crossing the ocean in steerage. When Jeff Frank, the news editor who was in charge of our training on these newfangled gizmos, asked if there were any questions, I inquired, “Is it true we’ll all have jobs when we get to America?”
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.
Ann Arbor News publisher Laurel Champion, visibly emotional, told newspaper employees this morning that the paper would cease publication sometime in July, to be replaced by a different company and online publication.
The news shocked employees, who had anticipated cutbacks but not the decision to fold the company.
Champion told employees that the new entity – AnnArbor.com – will be separate from MLive.com, though details are still being worked out. According to an article about the changes posted on the Ann Arbor News section of MLive, the company will be led by Matt Kraner, former Cleveland Plain Dealer chief marketing officer. Champion will serve as executive vice president. Tony Dearing, who served as head of the News’ Ypsilanti bureau in the 1990s, will be “chief content leader” – the equivalent of the entity’s top editor.
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.
People working at The Ann Arbor News are facing some life-changing decisions today: This morning, management at The News and all seven other newspapers owned by the Newhouse family in Michigan announced a massive round of buyouts and plans to consolidate some operations in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.