The News About Ann Arbor
Some days I think that Ann Arbor is like a town that I saw in some movie once – a collection of buildings and landmarks that slowly begins to grey out, then turn to mist and disappear. Poof! We may think of ourselves as quite special (think of all those lists!) and there are certainly quite a few things going on here, but it is getting increasingly difficult to find any source of news about them.
While we used to have a local newspaper (The Ann Arbor News) that landed on our doorstep each evening with general local announcements as well as feature stories, that era ended a long time ago. As detailed in this history from Wikipedia, the print publication ceased in 2009 and was replaced with a rather quirky online publication called AnnArbor.com. (Its logo was an acorn, presumably pointing toward Ann Arbor’s burr oak seal.) But it was soon absorbed into the parent company’s system (MLive). After a brief flush of decent reporting by a host of young reporters, staff cuts led to less and less coverage and most recently MLive disclosed major cuts statewide. Fortunately, we retained our civics reporter, Ryan Stanton, but his responsibilities are now very wide and therefore diffuse. I noticed he is even doing some business coverage.
What all this means is less and less actual coverage of Ann Arbor news. I get an email each morning, supposedly with today’s top stories. But so often these are recycled from the previous day or even the previous three days. For example, today’s headlines (August 20, 2016) include a report from City Council action on South Pond – dated August 16. Another story (on the fate of the former Bell’s Pizza building) is datelined August 18. I think this is the third day it has appeared. Many other stories are actually from other communities. The free-lance reporter who covers Ypsilanti has been quite busy, but many of his stories have been recycled as well.
Of course, we are all still mourning the loss of the Ann Arbor Chronicle. But even at its best (and it was very good), it did not substitute for a local newspaper. (Here is an interview with the two principals that provides insight into why they felt compelled to close this brave venture.) Happily, they arranged with the Ann Arbor District Library to archive their output, so you may still type in annarborchronicle.com and pull up the old articles. These are still useful as a historical reference but are no longer current.
So what is happening? We have less and less of an informed citizenry. The reason is that the only way to keep up is to follow a variety of social media, look at government websites, subscribe to every email newsletter in sight, and generally keep your eyes and ears at alert. Even so, there are major gaps. Some information is only accessible via an informed reporter who uses journalistic approaches (like asking the right questions of the right people).
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