Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

RIP Community Life

20. January 2008 • Nancy Shore
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Community Life is no longer with us.

At least according to the Ann Arbor News who used to have a special “Community Life” pull out section on Saturdays.

I am one of those 20 somethings who still gets the paper every day. And I faithfully read it every day. And every year it takes me less and less time to read the paper.

First there was the end of the Connection Section, that Sunday section with health, entertainment, and a column by Judy McGovern.

Then there was the thinning out of the Local News section.

And now there is no Community Life. With it’s Good Deeds and Reflections by News photographers, volunteer spotlight, and other random stuff. Update: Some of these elements, like the Engagement Announcements, Reflection, Good Causes and Faces in the Crowd are now in a “Milestones” section of the Sunday News.

So I am left to wonder: what is the News’ grand plan? What makes a local paper good and what makes people want to read it? Because every time the News takes away local news I scratch my head.

But I am not in the print media business and I know it is not as easy as just continuing to provide content that the majority of people don’t want to read at the same time that your costs keep increasing.

I am happy the News is still around, but I am left to wonder where its headed.

  1. They are moving all of the community sections to the Sunday paper. Which annoys me because now I’ll have to get the Sunday paper and spend $1.50 when I used to be able to just buy the Saturday paper for 50 cents and not deal with all the ads. Which is exactly the reason they are moving it to Sunday so they can get the circulation and advertising rates. It annoys me, but it makes sense for the paper.

    But I do keep hoping someone is going to start a good, community-oriented newspaper soon and then I won’t ever have to read the News again.

       —Juliew    Jan. 20 '08 - 05:45AM    #
  2. Also, as of a week or so ago, there is no longer a separate Business section on Mondays.

       —David Cahill    Jan. 20 '08 - 06:45PM    #
  3. Word. I’m a 30-something :) who gets the paper delivered every day, and I have noticed my reading time decreasing. Today, I separated the ads and “weighed” what was left…not so much (even with the new “connections” section). I am a fast reader, but it took me less than 1/2 hour to get through the paper today.

    I second Juliew’s call for a community-oriented paper…with all of the “locavore” stuff going on now (which is a good thing, imho), this would be a prime time for some creative person to get the ball rolling….

       —TeacherPatti    Jan. 20 '08 - 08:45PM    #
  4. I’m a newspaper addict. Can’t live without my morning New York Times. Used to be, I also required my afternoon Ann Arbor News fix. I’d been subscribing for 20 years.

    But last spring, I discovered that I was reading everything I wanted in the paper on the journey from my front door to my kitchen table. In addition to all the points already made, I will note that many of their excellent local reporters are gone. So I regretfully canceled my subscription a few months ago. I try to catch up on the headline news online and probably miss some things.

    Note that the January Ann Arbor Observer reports that the News has had a 20% decline in circulation since 2000.

    Nancy’s headline has a sad double entendre. In order to have a vital community life, we need our local newspaper.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan. 20 '08 - 09:41PM    #
  5. This is an induwtry-wide trend…circulation is down at almost every newspaper in the nation. People get news online, young people don’t (in general) buy newspapers.

    The problem is compounded at the AA News by the fact that it is not a good paper. Some of the best local reporters, those that actually dug around and found news, are gone. Now we’re left with people like Geoff Larcom who sounds bored in all his columns and reports. Like ‘been there, done that, i know everything there is to know, just ask.’

    The paper is stale because the same people have been running it for too long, with no new blood, no fresh perspective, no burning desire to AA in a different light.

    It is a shame that a college town has such a lousy paper. Oh, and it’s not like the Observer is winning any Pulitzers or anything.

    There is a crying need for some journalism in Huron River city.

       —Cooler Heads    Jan. 20 '08 - 11:31PM    #
  6. It’s a big problem with no obvious solution. There is no reason whatsoever to get the AA News for most of the content. All of the non-local news, which is most of the paper, is available in better form and for free on line. Classified ads are better online also. But local news is labor-intensive and expensive to gather and circulation and ad-revenues are declining.

    I suspect that ultimately local papers may be replaced by local, unpaid wikipedia-style citizen journalism efforts. And, to be honest, we might be better served by that model.

       —mw    Jan. 21 '08 - 06:55PM    #
  7. Re post # 2 – Thanks David, thought I was just nutty and missed that the Biz section was missing (I am nutty but not in this case). I’m torn – if I didn’t bring the paper in to work for all my co-workers to read I’d seriously consider not renewing my subscription. But there’s a part of me that says you got to support the local rag. Just for demographics sake – 37 YO here. I’m not happy about the trend in the newspaper industry but I’m biased, I work in the printing industry. God knows I get a sizeable majority of my info from the internet. Shall we also bemoan the horrible local news coverage on radio and TV? Detroit news coverage is a topic in and of itself…

       —Thomas Cook    Jan. 21 '08 - 09:09PM    #
  8. Competition is always healthy and we need it more now then ever. I thought the new Sunday attempt, while the color photos are nice, I don’t really need to see a photo of someone’s new baby. It was a very small town rip off of the NYT’s Style section of the weddings.

    With their recent layoffs and their claim to being a regional paper, obviously to increase their sales, there is very little Ann Arbor stories anymore. If only someone had the dollars to start and support even a weekly edition that was packed with local info it would have to be better then what we have now. I agree with Vivienne, it takes all of 5 minutes to read the local stories and even less if you consider any of the stories outside Ann Arbor non-local. The editor has been around a very long time. New blood maybe?

       —Liza    Jan. 21 '08 - 09:27PM    #
  9. Re: #7, I’ll take your suggestion, Thomas, and I will bemoan TV coverage from Detroit. Oy. Except for UM football time and the occasional major crime, they forget that we exist. I teach school in Detroit, and when some folks hear where I live, they act like I’m flying in from the opposite side of Jupiter. (Really, it’s about 40 minutes away—not that far at all).

    One thing that I do dig about the AANews is the crossword puzzles and how they are super easy on Monday (when, presumably, we are all half brain-dead) and then get progressively harder during the week until we reach Saturday, when the answers are like 37 boxes long. At least, my simple mind thinks they get harder…others may not agree :)

       —TeacherPatti    Jan. 21 '08 - 10:03PM    #
  10. You are right, Patti, they DO get harder. Theoretically, we are supposed to have more time on Saturday.

       —Leah Gunn    Jan. 21 '08 - 10:16PM    #
  11. Newspapers are trying to “do more with less.” Does anyone else watch “The Wire”? Life imitates art. There used to be reporters who had beats and now there are so few reporters that they all have to cover everything and most of them have not been here very long and don’t know the history anyway. I am somewhat suspicious of all the boo-hooing in the media industry since newspapers were making lots of money 25 years ago when I was a reporter and we still got paid squat!

       —Joan Lowenstein    Jan. 21 '08 - 10:38PM    #
  12. “I suspect that ultimately local papers may be replaced by local, unpaid wikipedia-style citizen journalism efforts. And, to be honest, we might be better served by that model.”

    Umm, so are you volunteering?

       —Bruce Fields    Jan. 23 '08 - 02:31AM    #
  13. Thanks, Leah…although we are having quite a time with tonight’s puzzle, for some reason!!! :)

       —TeacherPatti    Jan. 23 '08 - 07:10AM    #