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13. July 2009 • Juliew
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When the Ann Arbor News ceases publication on July 23, Ann Arbor is going to find itself without a local daily printed newspaper for the first time in at least a century. Love it or hate it (and there were plenty of people in both camps), the Ann Arbor News was the go-to local news and information source for most people in town. When you asked someone “did you see it in the paper last night?” everyone knew what you meant.

While would like to take over the mantle of default news provider, changing the name, firing almost all the employees, and moving to a primarily online vehicle has caused enough shakeup that they are going to have to earn this title. With the home delivery last week of the weekly Ann Arbor Journal, it is clear that news sources are scrambling to fill the void (and advertising dollars) that will be left by the demise of the Ann Arbor News. is focusing on their “24/7” web presence with the addition of Thursday and Sunday printed papers. The Ann Arbor Journal has a web site, as well as a fairly active Twitter account and a Facebook page, but will focus primarily on their weekly printed paper. The Ann Arbor Observer is a long-time, well-respected printed monthly known for their full-length articles that has recently revamped their website to provide more articles online. Interestingly, the Michigan Daily will be the only local daily paper come September, although they don’t publish on the weekends (and they are a weekly during the summer). The Ann Arbor Chronicle has garnered a lot of enthusiasm with their online daily news site. And of course, there are many other news and specialty blogs like ArborUpdate and MGoBlog and e-mail groups such as ArborParents.

In addition to the media scrum, we are left with several fundamental questions. What is a newspaper if there is no paper? If it is online, is it really more of a blog? How about if it accepts comments? What is news? The Ann Arbor Journal wrote about local events and people, which had some people saying “where’s the news?” Should a newspaper reflect a community (political endorsements?). What is a journalist? Someone with a degree in journalism? Someone with experience writing? Someone who is paid to write? What is a citizen journalist?

Maybe in the next few months, we will learn some of the answers. What do you think?


    At the above link, Tony Dearing, editor of posted an article.
    At midnight Thursday, I posted a response. It has not posted on Ann Therefore, I’m offering it to your website for submission.

    I find it humorous that Arianna Huffington is the one giving the tutorial on “citizen journalism.” She runs Huffington Post and has made her website on the backs of free contributors. It’s been reported (by “citizen journalists”, I presume because it’s on blogs and not traditional news sites) that she doesn’t pay the bloggers that write for Huffington Post. To her, citizen journalists means more “free” contributors. It’s a great business plan if you can get the “citizen journalists” to go along with it.
    And just what is the definition of journalist? We know NOTHING of the people in Iran who posted the dramatic video of the protests. But Huffington Post, and now Tony Dearing, are calling them journalists. What if these “citizen journalists” in Iran were 10 years old? It seems to qualify by those standards, just be in the right spot with a camera and presto – you got your credentials to the White House press conference. It cheapens the definition of “journalist” if that really matters anymore.
    As a reporter at the Ann Arbor News (at least for two more weeks), I can point to some very good “citizen journalists.” Doug Cowherd of the Sierra Club. Karen Sidney, a local accountant. But I never called them “citizen journalists.” I called them “sources.” And damn good ones.
    So if I were a “citizen” journalist, why would I post to Huffington Post and not get a dime?
    It’s one thing to trumpet the courage of ordinary citizens as heroes for showing what was going on in a country that had barred “traditional journalists” (also known as “unemployed journalists”). It’s another to exploit them as part of a business plan as Arianna apparently plans. Look at all the websites and news organizations who profited from the “citizen journalists” in Iran .. and not one of them was the journalists everybody is pointing to as this growing fad. Simply put, TRUE citizen journalists have been around for decades.

    They were the high school statistician that tracked football results for 20 years that we called. They were Dennis Kahlbaum, who loves weather like its paying his mortgage. And Jim Mogensen, who has spent more time at municipal meetings than I could stand. Tony? We need to understand what? We’ve been talking to these people for years. Those are your citizen journalists.
    How come we never hear of “citizen editors?”

       —Tom Gantert    Jul. 13 '09 - 08:20AM    #
  2. good for you tom! with a close relative(an editor of a major metropolitan daily that’s in bankruptcy) who’s been promoted, but with a major pay CUT i appreciate the tribulations and training of diligent print-media folks alot more than some of the carping and often mean-spirited posts , re the demise of the NEWS ( and other matters) here and on Mlive, seem to.Many of these sanctimonious ‘blogwonks’ suffer from the syndrome of instant “drop from fevered brains to everyones elses computer screen”.

    as you seem to note , that’s not journalism ,or even necessarily responsible citizenship, despite the inflated self-image such folks seem to have of themselves and their own opinions….and there are sure alot represented on AU threads.( as a frequent recent poster here i may sound hypocritical, but most of my efforts have been aimed at critiquing/ deflating the above types).

    anyway, good luck to you and other NEWS staffers in this brave new ( dis/mis)information age.

    ted d. katz…aka

       —goilem    Jul. 13 '09 - 02:53PM    #
  3. You don’t mention that the Ann Arbor Business Review is also ceasing publication as a separate entity – it is being rolled into and a couple of its principal reporters have been hired by that news site. I’ve been receiving the paper version and have found it useful.

    Tom and other full-time professional journalists perform a public service that “citizen journalists” rarely will – keeping a long eye on topics as they develop over time. A long perspective is developed partly by being present as events develop, often in the background (citizens are more often participants or advocates), knowledge of – and access to – the players on all sides of a question, and the experience of documenting pieces of the big story as it develops. I have done just enough of this work to appreciate what it entails – a lot of slogging, much of it not very glamorous, together with gathering a lot of information that is never used because it might be important or because other information needs to be cross-checked.

    Free-lancers can do some of this pretty well, but because other distractions or a change of interest come along, the coverage will not be as consistent and thorough over time.

    I am very concerned about the loss of professional journalists, not just here but nationwide. Without these specialists who invest years of their lives in becoming knowledgeable about their subjects, we are all in danger of becoming ignorant of what is really happening below the surface of chat and headlines.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 13 '09 - 05:28PM    #
  4. Thanks for wanting ‘feedback’.

    And good luck to you Tom in the future. I’ve enjoyed your writing over the years and wish you well in the days and years to come. Hopefully that will involve journalism.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 13 '09 - 06:36PM    #
  5. A few minutes ago, I submitted the comment below to the article Mr. Gantert provided a link to. I received the message that it was being “held for approval by the blog owner”.

    Ann Arbor News reporter Tom Gantert claims he attempted to post a comment to this article several days ago, but it has not yet appeared on this site. The link below includes a copy of Tom’s comment:

    I’m curious if this is an indication of the type of “aggressive moderation” this site promises to employ. If this, my current comment, also doesn’t meet the moderators’ approval, then perhaps I would stand a better chance if I include “ rocks.” as the opening line of my next…

    In hindsight, I regret that my last little jab at the’s moderation policy may have been premature as Tony Dearing has not had a chance to respond to the appearance that Gantert’s comment was censored. There may be some other explanation, such as a technical problem, for why the comment was not posted.

    This is interesting that “aggressive moderation” – which is sometimes more arbitrary than aggressive – has seemed to spawn a new phenomena, where legitimate participants who seek to gain the leverage needed to avoid being censored must simultaneously post copies of comments on other blogs.

       —Michael Schils    Jul. 13 '09 - 09:10PM    #
  6. So, Tom and Vivienne, what are the distinguishing characteristics of a “journalist”? You’re both claiming this as a meaningful label – and I don’t disagree – but I don’t think either of you are providing much in the way of definition or clarity.

    So far, I’m hearing that “being a journalist” means “being paid to be a journalist”. Vivienne provides a “long-term and in-depth study / tracking of issues / topics” metric. I think that’s certainly a good goal for journalists, but it doesn’t rule out amateur/freelance/“citizen”/other “journalists”.

    Is it control over the form and completeness of a story? I know there’s frequently been some hesitation among local journalists about ArborUpdate and similar sites – seeing it as “participating in the news”. In these situations, valuable information that could provide a clearer picture, correct misstatements, or otherwise contribute to a better and more complete understanding are withheld, because it’s not viewed as a proper activity for journalists.

    There’s a related, very interesting question of governmental/institutional access. We expect our governmental representatives to be “open” to the press – but who do we grant that privilege to? AU has, once or twice, let Matt Hampel or Ed V. make up “press passes” so that they’d be taken more seriously when talking to presenters or officials at an upcoming event or meeting. An interesting cycle, there, where calling yourself a journalist allows you access to information that provides a more complete and in-depth coverage of a story – calling it journalism is what it takes to make it so.

       —Murph    Jul. 13 '09 - 09:11PM    #
  7. the “real” , as opposed to “citizen”, journalists i know intimately wont:

    - actively participate in political campaigns, lest this erode their credibility as at least- earnestly -trying for objectivity.

    - have attended schools of journalism where journalistic ethics are a strong component of the curriculum.

    - are indeed paid to uphold the above…and are unpaid ( i.e. fired)if they dont ( as opposed to the “editorial “ side of the newsroom which is paid to have opinions).

    -and never never append ‘LOL” to their articles/reportage , a practice also followed ,i believe , by edward r. murrow, walter cronkite, etc.

    t.d. katz

       —goilem    Jul. 13 '09 - 09:49PM    #
  8. Murph:
    Being a journalist doesn’t require a lot. But it does have some standards that should be met.
    That’s not easy to answer. The example you give above doesn’t involve your abilities as a journalist, it’s your credibility. Was the work of the people working for AU going to be any better or any worse with those “press passes?” Of course not. What it would do was give them some credibility.
    What is changing today is the credibility of an organization. Can it be trusted? Is it accurate? What is its news judgment? Those are some of the things the define “a journalist.”
    Up until recently, you got an automatic pass on those things as a journalist if you signed up with a legitimate news outlet. In Ann Arbor, how many people argue that what goes on at Fox News cable is the work of journalists? Is Mike Huckabee a journalist? I would say, “No.” He lacks credibility because he’s not unbiased and has a clear agenda, and hence, can’t be trusted.
    But my point with this new “citizen journalist” is that it doesn’t appear to have ANY parameters for answering, “What is a journalist?” The problem is that if you hand a video of something happening to a newspaper, how do we know its authentic? How do we know it wasn’t staged? Do the media outlets reaching out have any ability to determine what they are posting is real? Have they even given that any thought?
    By tagging “journalists” onto the end of “citizen” it implies of a level of legitimacy that hasn’t been earned.

       —Tom Gantert    Jul. 13 '09 - 10:19PM    #
  9. Murph –

    When the Governor held a press conference for the Google announcement, I called up the press office to get details so that I could attend. I wasn’t part of a news organization (then), but I told them that I wrote a blog. They hemmed and hawed about whether it was OK to show up, but then when they said no, I said “I have my story now”. They quickly agreed that it would be OK to show up.

    There are lots of questions about what an organization uses as a filter to decide who gets to attend a meeting. If you get questions about whether you qualify, and you can come up with a URL or a very short search string that identifies your credentials, you should be able to pass that filter. For public meetings, you often have to just get on the right mailing list that helps you figure out when the meeting is; for shareholder meetings of public companies, you have to look like you belong.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 13 '09 - 10:22PM    #
  10. Ed,

    Why wasn’t Tom’s post approved to be posted on

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 13 '09 - 10:36PM    #
  11. Re #6: I’m not at all authoritative on this question but I’ll put a couple of thoughts out there. To some extent, the field is so much in flux that definition is difficult (hence, I guess, this entire thread).

    A journalist might be defined by:

    -writing for a recognized news outlet. This is a moving target, but it does make a difference in access to subjects. I’ve done a little effort to obtain information for the posts on my blog and found it much harder to get people to respond than when I could cite Ann Arbor’s pre-eminent newsmonthly.

    -a consistency of effort. Spending a substantial part of one’s efforts in following news and writing about it.

    -subject to some editorial oversight. It does alter what one might write to know that you will have to defend your material. Also, this ties in with the institutional endorsement from a recognized news outlet, where fact-checking etc. is expected.

    I’ll stop there for now.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 13 '09 - 10:57PM    #
  12. The concept of objective journalism emerged only about a hundred years ago. Before that, every newspaper was defined by its politics, and its political view permeated every item.

    In those days, nobody could make much money from publishing a newspaper, so propaganda was the whole point. Sometimes, editors curried favor with someone in power, so as to obtain a lucrative appointment.

    In other cases, papers had some wealthy political sponsor to cover the losses. James Burrill Angell (1829-1916), U-M president in the late 19th century, spent the early part of his career putting out a paper sponsored by a wealthy U.S. Senator.

    Around 1900, with larger markets and high-speed presses, it became possible for newspapers to independently make money. This change in economics also brought about a change in the philosophy. It was only then that the ethic of the objective journalist took hold, and it spread into radio and television as those media developed.

    With the demise of the business model for newspapers and the broadcast TV networks, it no longer makes any business sense to cater to a mass audience with mainstream, objective journalism.

    In retrospect, I think, the 20th century will be seen as a brief golden era of the authoritative, trusted, objective voice of news.

    With the mass audience has shattered, there will no longer be any economic motivation to put resources into that kind of news operation. Hence, we are returning to the era in which news channels become partisan propaganda or patron-driven vanity.

    There will still be people called “journalists”. But with the audience divided up into many narrow shards, each one defined by political and social views, and taught not to trust the veracity of voices from other perspectives, today’s concept of unbiased, apolitical news reporting will seem kind of quaint.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 14 '09 - 12:28AM    #
  13. Alas.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 14 '09 - 12:39AM    #
  14. Larry,
    You have to go back more than 50 years to Eisenhower to find a Republican the NY Times endorsed for president. That includes Mondale over Reagan. The national media have always participated in partisian reporting when it comes to politics. The only unbiased, apolitical reporting I’ve ever come across was at the mid-sized newspapers. Nothing political about the water rates going up. That is what will be gone.

       —Tom Gantert    Jul. 14 '09 - 12:54AM    #
  15. on all the newspapers, radio stations and tv stations for which i ahve worked i never was a “journalist.” i was, however, a “reporter.”

    and, i had an editor. that is a huge difference.

       —toasty    Jul. 14 '09 - 01:10AM    #
  16. [off topic, removed]
       —Kerry D.    Jul. 14 '09 - 01:12AM    #
  17. Not Mr. Gantert, not any reporter for the “Ann Arbor News”, has reported on this, in over 25 years:

    Since January 1984, the City Council has rebuffed all efforts at human rights resolutions against Israel. In 1984, people were still outraged at Israel’s massacre of Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, a massacre carried out with the help of various fascist militia members heavily supported by Israel.

    Now that Gaza has been so demolished (2009) and Lebanon has been so demolished (2006), so recently, by Israel, one wonders about the state of that City Council’s conscience.

    Is that really a non-story? Is it a much better story to ridicule those who try to awaken the City Council’s conscience?

    You could ask the Ann Arbor News, but they chose to shut down the story of Council’s inaction on Palestine. The News printed one (1) story on Council’s use of police officers to shut down any attempt to show videos of Palestine during Public Comment time. Then they shut that story down, too.

    Boring papers die, as has the News.

       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 01:28AM    #
  18. [off topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 14 '09 - 01:46AM    #
  19. [off topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 02:04AM    #
  20. Tom Gantert’s comment was a good, thoughtful one, and it should have been posted immediately on, but wasn’t. That was a lapse in our moderation system, and I take responsibility for it. It was my fault. His comment has been posted now, and we’re in the process of putting together a new system for making sure that all comments are reviewed quickly and that our handling of comments is consistent with our conversation guidelines. That system will be in place by the time we launch next Monday. When we go live, we’ll also return to post-moderation so that all comments are published as soon as they are submitted, rather than held pending approval.

       —Tony Dearing    Jul. 14 '09 - 02:38AM    #
  21. [off topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 03:59AM    #
  22. I appreciate Tom’s #8, because it includes something I can agree with pretty well. Essentially, that a “journalist” is somebody who reports news for a “legitimate news source”. And a “legitimate news source” is one that employs “journalists”, rather than Mike Huckabee.

    Journalism defined by trust networks – that I can buy, and Larry K’s comment seems to support it, to the changing role of journalism relative to teh changing expectations for it.

       —Murph    Jul. 14 '09 - 03:59PM    #
  23. Badr,
    You wrote: Not Mr. Gantert, not any reporter for the “Ann Arbor News”, has reported on this, in over 25 years: (and then you mentioned the effort to get a City Council resolution against Israel).
    In the last seven years I personally have written 18 stories involving the local Palestinian movement in Ann Arbor. I know other reporters have covered this issue, too. The first story I did was Blaine Coleman’s first efforts to bring the issue to the council’s attention in a story that ran Dec. 5, 2002.
    To bring this debate back on point, a major part of earning credibility is being accurate. Of all the best journalists I have ever worked with, nothing bothers than more than making a mistake. It’s the worst feeling in the business.

       —tom gantert    Jul. 14 '09 - 07:52PM    #
  24. [off-topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 08:18PM    #
  25. [off topic, removed]
       —Mike    Jul. 14 '09 - 08:47PM    #
  26. [off topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 08:58PM    #
  27. [off topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 14 '09 - 10:20PM    #
  28. [off topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 10:38PM    #
  29. [off topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 14 '09 - 11:00PM    #
  30. [off topic, removed]
       —Badr    Jul. 14 '09 - 11:48PM    #
  31. [off topic, removed]
       —Mike    Jul. 16 '09 - 08:44AM    #
  32. one of the tragedies of the demise of print media nationwide is the substitution of uniform wireservice stories on national and international issues for good investigative localized reporting with the attendant reduction in divergent INFORMED points of view…and of course the substitution of the blogosphere ( “all the often crackpot opinions that are ( not ) fit to print”) for the work of trained journalists…

    an ironic example of this appeared as the cover story in last sundays NY TIMES, in a great piece of investigative reporting by the Times on the way young somali muslims in minneapolis were being recruited by the al qaeda franchise in somalia ( al shabaab). the irony is that the fine local paper, the STAR TRIBUNE, which had been working the same issue for several years , as a result of staff cuts and bankpruptcy status, had been unable to bring the story to fruition in a timely way, thus further eroding its own position and making the TIMES ( while a fine paper) the increasingly “one size fits all” arbiter of the news.

    i very much fear that, re. ann arbor, the online media will succumb to personal biases and screechers …a case in point is the ann arbor chronicle, often cited here with some approval as a good online source. yet editor homeless dave has clearly chosen to share his see-saw ( yeah i know ‘teeter talk’ is a differnt blog…but same guy!)with the likes of bullhorn aimee smith and henry herskovitz while not giving rides those of more rational opinions re the middle east.

    im really sorry the NEWS is going , for all its flaws.

    ted katz

       —goilem    Jul. 16 '09 - 03:27PM    #
  33. [off topic, removed]
       —Henry Brysk    Jul. 16 '09 - 08:49PM    #
  34. [off-topic, removed]
       —Mike    Jul. 16 '09 - 10:43PM    #
  35. [off-topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 17 '09 - 12:36AM    #
  36. What is the definition of a journalist? Well one key aspect was working for an organization that had access to a press and distribution. Printing the paper and distributing it was a huge part the news business in the previous century. Thus journalists never really evolved their work into a skilled, learned profession because it was their access to the people who controlled the press that was their true “cred.”

    Those days are gone. Everyone can publish and distribute on the internet. So, what’s a journalist?

       —just a homeowner    Jul. 17 '09 - 03:31AM    #
  37. I’ll return to my point about a long view and extended effort to follow a story in depth. If you have followed the efforts of Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, as only one example, you’ll see years of dedication in following up sources and learning the facts, and then in interpreting and presenting them. See for example her article on the CIA.

    Yes, “everyone” can publish and distribute on the internet. But does “everyone” deserve our respect and attention, even if he/she is only reporting on incidental observations, with a good dose of personal bias thrown in? I have real respect for those who have devoted a career to it. And yes, that includes Tom Gantert, though our views may not always coincide.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 17 '09 - 05:36AM    #
  38. lately ,despite my frequent lamentations about the demise of the A2 News and my good wishes for its employees, id gotten the feeling that its editorial page, at least, was sort of taking revenge on the community by printing really crazoid op eds ( creationism, a piece on iran by a local over the top antisemite and, a few days ago, one by an “america first” party guy ( i didnt know ypsilanti was zoned for “compounds”!)…but then yesterday they printed another op ed by a former city council member thoroughly and thoughtfully dissecting the aformentioned anti-semitic rant of a week earlier…
    my point: i will indeed miss the NEWS since even “in extremis” it shows balance over time that i fear the local blogs/online stuff wont.

       —goilem    Jul. 17 '09 - 03:42PM    #
  39. The second issue of the A2 Journal was tossed on the lawn again this week. I hate the design/layout (the A2 News is way better…) and most of the news articles are puff pieces and boring, but it did take longer to read than the daily edition of the News. I’ll give it another few weeks and but a boring newspaper is better than no newspaper. And hopefully they’ll have real letters to the editor in the near future. But the webpage is horrid.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 17 '09 - 04:24PM    #
  40. re the criteria for “real newspapers/journalism” as opposed to the spurious kind: “can it be read/digested leisurely in a comfortable place that encourages reflection instead of reflex…” ( e.g bed, over coffee at table, on the john etc )…if the answer’s ‘no’ ( as is frequent with online formats), there’s a problem.

       —goilem    Jul. 17 '09 - 04:40PM    #
  41. “editor homeless dave has clearly chosen to share his see-saw ( yeah i know ‘teeter talk’ is a differnt blog…but same guy!)with the likes of bullhorn aimee smith and henry herskovitz while not giving rides those of more rational opinions re the middle east.”

    Err, who did he turn down?

    His policy seemed to be to interview pretty much anyone he could. (Even jugglers, in one notable lapse of good taste.)

    (Using the past tense only because I imagine the Chronicle now eats up a lot of totter time (and transcribing time!))

       —Bruce Fields    Jul. 17 '09 - 05:08PM    #
  42. bruce: re your #41: shouldnt a good journalist seek out balanced sources rather than the other way around? also given his wife, mary morgan’s, editorial status at the NEWS she and he would have both been well aware of those with counter postions from News letters to the editor.

    as to askins’ see saw site ,in my case i didnt even know the guy/blog existed until recently, being a techno luddite who didnt even do e- mail until a couple of years ago, let alone blogging ( the latter skill being 99.9% the result of henry herskovitz and company! talk about creating a “goilem”!! *)

    and yes i saw your see-saw piece…5 balls in the air at one time is damned impressive!i never made it thru “juggling for the complete klutz”.

    *the legendary monster created from mud by a 16th century e.european rabbi to protect jews from antisemites…although H.H. is no reb judah lowe bezalel of prague)

       —goilem    Jul. 17 '09 - 06:57PM    #
  43. Most often, “citizen” journalists are amateurs who get paid little or nothing. The more they are employed by online or print publications, the less paid jobs there are for trained journalists. Booth Newspapers has canned all its paid print journalists so they can pursue greater profits with their online/print hybrid with a smaller, lower-paid staff and more use of those who will write for little or nothing.

    What some citizen journalists do may be worse, as good as, or better than what some trained journalists do. And there is lots of room for debate about what bestows legitimacy on journalists. But one thing should be clear: because people are willing to write for nothing and other people are willing to read it, whatever value journalists have (in terms of expertise, experience, judgment, and authority) is severely eroded.

    If you can find someone to fix your plumbing for little or nothing, perhaps you’ll be happy with the result, but probably not. Most things of value are worth paying for. But journalism is now being severely devalued, and the result is publications like the A2Journal.

    Booth is banking on the fact that Ann Arborites will support an endeavor that relies heavily on unpaid and poorly paid “content producers.” The thing is, there are lots of people who are so thrilled just to be published that there is a glut of “content producers” and an increasing scarcity of revenue to pay people, like me and Tom Gantert, who have made a living and proven their worth as journalists.

    Please consider what you are doing when you support a company that pays little or nothing to people who write for it. And if you want to write for little or nothing, please consider how you are undercutting the value of paid professional journalists.

    I’m not saying all “pros” are better than all amateurs—but there is something of value that’s being lost when journalism is devalued. Do you think that serious investigative reporters have skills and experience—reporting and writing ability and wisdom acquired through years on the job—that are worth anything? Then support (and pay for) publications that employ them. Because if you don’t, soon there won’t be any left. And businesspeople, politicians, criminals, and others who would prefer to operate without close scrutiny will be very happy that the paid journalists are no longer around.

       —Michael Betzold    Jul. 17 '09 - 07:02PM    #
  44. Well, I’m proud to say that I am now a “friend” (paid subscriber) of the Ann Arbor Observer. Thanks for your good work over the years, Michael B.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 17 '09 - 07:27PM    #
  45. Apologies if I’m repeating something already posted. For my mind, the definitive analysis of what is happening to the traditional newspaper is Clay Shirky’s essay “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”, from March 2009. Shirky lays out the economics which once bound advertising and journalism together, and is now divorcing them. Google will find that essay for you.

    After digging through the Ann Arbor Journal’s second edition last night, I was left with the conviction that it is not much more than a fancy “shopper”, whose main goal is to push ads. Maybe I’d feel differently if I was the parent of a high school sports kid.

       —Ken Josenhans    Jul. 17 '09 - 07:40PM    #
  46. I second that AND salute your courage during the Detroit Newspapers Strike. Some of us haven’t forgotten that. That union /salary busting move was the first wave and now we see how this all plays out with the Newhouse family move to ‘content providers’. And it’s not a fluke that one of the main hires for the site is a scab who worked at the Youngstown Vindicator either.

    It’s only by supporting real journalism that we get real journalism.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 17 '09 - 07:46PM    #
  47. Ken, if it hadn’t been for the A2 Journal, how would we know about the mayor’s favorite dessert?

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 17 '09 - 07:48PM    #
  48. Every journalist is biased. Even those who are paid. Even those who work hard not to be. The notion that some select group can be unbiased is just crazy.

    That said, there may be some habits of practice and mind that accompany respectable journalism. For example, seeking alternative views and arguments and including those in a story. Or not becoming a mouthpiece for some source with a cause. Or digging deeper. Or keeping notes. Or doing more than rewriting press releases. In addition, good writing skills are important.

    I just received the A2 Journal and I agree that is dreadful local boosterism. Why is Heritage wasting perfectly good wood pulp on this rag? Of course, the AA News was awful for the past few years, with a few bright spots. But why did the boring columnists drone on week after week without anyone at the paper realizing how bad they were? And the superficial reporting? And the mistakes in layout? And these were the PAID journalists?

    There’s enough talent here in AA for decent journalism. But what organization will corral it into something useful and influential?

       —Just a homeowner    Jul. 17 '09 - 08:38PM    #
  49. From site today:

    “The spirit is willing but the Web site is not quite ready.

    So we’ve decided to move our launch from Monday to a week from today. will now debut on Friday, July 24.

    Matt Kraner, our CEO, announced the change this afternoon, saying we need four additional days to finish testing of the site to make sure it can handle the volume of traffic we expect when we launch.

    So far, the testing has identified bugs that need to be fixed, and we’ve run out of time to make those fixes and complete additional testing in time to launch Monday.”

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the volume of hits there cowboy…

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 17 '09 - 10:36PM    #
  50. Some of the comments about the A2Journal strike me as unfair (snobbish?). Sure, it’s nothing to go wild over, but it’s no worse that the A2News in its declining days. Both provide bland local coverage and regurgitate press releases. The News made 2 attempts of late to manufacture excitement cheaply by making mountains out of molehills: discovering that Council members get bored enough to pass silly notes to each other, and being shocked (after all these years) that UM athletes take easy courses with indulgent faculty. The Journal has no non-local news, the News has truncated Associated Press handouts with often garbled headlines. In editorial offerings, the Journal so far has been bland and innocuous, which may be better than the News which (except for a short interval of professionalism under Bob Needham) has specialized in providing a platform for the local lunatic fringes. A bit of competition can’t hurt our dismal situation.

       —Henry Brysk    Jul. 19 '09 - 12:44AM    #
  51. [off topic, removed]
       —Kerry D.    Jul. 19 '09 - 04:51AM    #
  52. [off topic, removed]
       —scooter62    Jul. 19 '09 - 05:14AM    #
  53. [off topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 19 '09 - 03:53PM    #
  54. [off topic, removed]
       —Henry Brysk    Jul. 19 '09 - 07:41PM    #
  55. [off topic, removed]
       —goilem    Jul. 19 '09 - 08:24PM    #
  56. It’s a bit too early for me to judge the A2 Journal, but my first thought is that it defines local so narrowly that I wonder how it will fill its pages. Is the Journal really going to only cover sports events that take place in Ann Arbor — including during the summer when high school and U-M teams aren’t playing? I think that they could cover events on regional basis (the county and/or southeast Michigan) without losing their focus.

       —Pete    Jul. 20 '09 - 07:28AM    #
  57. But one thing should be clear: because people are willing to write for nothing and other people are willing to read it,

    That is nothing new. Since long before the Internet came along, there have been millions of people who think of themselves as talented writers (whether accurately or not) and get paid nothing for it.

    Again and again, we saw corporate titans in the national media, decrying the alleged shortage of literate workers. And all over the country, countless perferctly literate writers, working as janitors, waiters, taxi drivers and longshoremen, looked up from their drudgery and said, “Yeah, right.”

    The thing is, there are lots of people who are so thrilled just to be published that there is a glut of “content producers”

    There has always been, and always will be, a glut of content producers.

    there is something of value that’s being lost when journalism is devalued

    No kidding. But as I wrote earlier, this is the end of the era for that kind of journalism. To sustain an effective news bureau for a metro area requires resources that simply don’t exist in the field any longer.

    Do you think that serious investigative reporters have skills and experience—reporting and writing ability and wisdom acquired through years on the job—that are worth anything?

    You bet I do. But where does that exist any more at the local level? There is no way that a handful of aware but nonwealthy folks could pay for it on their own.

    Because if you don’t, soon there won’t be any left.

    In Ann Arbor, we’re already there, or will be very soon.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 20 '09 - 08:30AM    #
  58. Many thanks to Ken Josenhans (my longtime role model in online writing) for the pointer to Clay Shirky’s article .

    An excerpt:

    Print media does much of society’s heavy journalistic lifting, from flooding the zone — covering every angle of a huge story — to the daily grind of attending the City Council meeting, just in case. This coverage creates benefits even for people who aren’t newspaper readers, because the work of print journalists is used by everyone from politicians to district attorneys to talk radio hosts to bloggers. The newspaper people often note that newspapers benefit society as a whole. This is true, but irrelevant to the problem at hand; “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 20 '09 - 08:56AM    #
  59. Larry Kestenbaum is very much on target, but there is an irony: He is holding up a mirror to us all as we keep on jabbering on this site.

       —Henry Brysk    Jul. 20 '09 - 06:46PM    #
  60. Here’s a funding model with a local angle. Lefty political blogger “Emptywheel,” who lives somewhere around Ann Arbor, garnered a bit of a reputation for her detailed examination of government document dumps which had, buried within them, evidence of assorted bad things. (I’m trying to keep this as non-partisan as possible, stick to the funding model, OK?)

    The blog Firedoglake has been doing a fundraiser for Emptywheel so that she can treat the blogging and research as a full-time job for a while. The goal was $150,000, and so far roughly 1600 people have donated roughly $100,000. to see the fundraising totals.

    This might only work for writers with a national audience, however. Would there be 1000 people in Ann Arbor willing to support a “tip jar” model for a few full-time local journalists?

       —Ken Josenhans    Jul. 20 '09 - 11:08PM    #
  61. re. 60…a terrible idea IMHO.this would just turn blogs into…well ,more of what they already are: largely partisan entities “preaching to the choirs” of the already pre-convinced of whatever “side”.

    the above is no substitute for the journalism school model of, say, the univ of missouri where people are given serious grounding in non-partisan journalistic ethics which, however unattainable in fact, are still values worth striving for.

    as has been done elsewhere on this thread, there are those that say that since there’s no such thing as pure objectivity why not just let your biases hang out for all to see. Well that’s on the same order as saying that since there’s dispute about the specifics of evolution of any given species, why not just say the book of genesis is as valid as darwin and treat them equally in a classroom. creationists of course regularly use that exact argument but of course it’s unadulterated B.S.

    sadly this ‘gonzo journalism” /reportage as personal performance/ hunter thompson role model is rapidly supplanting the edward r. murrow/late lamented walter cronkite one…

    even sites like this one, which have a sort of bipartisan audience and don’t claim to be news , contains the writings of many who seem to be “journalists-in -their -own-mind”..but really arent, as opposed to “grinders of personal axes” with a veneer of selected facts/factoids…and in some cases ( not to name names, since i already have in other posts) sheer delusion.

    ted katz

       —goilem    Jul. 20 '09 - 11:57PM    #
  62. p.s. re my above, lest i seem like a cranky old right winger, im actually a “lefty” ( although not young)…but not “so far left that im right”( assuming a circular rather than linear model for political persuasion), as are some others ive taken to task on AU threads…..and on the “journalism “ front, while i loathe rush limbaugh, oreilly etc, im not that mad about keith olberman and rachel maddow either, for precisely the reasons in my previous post.

    And im glad that al franken moved on to the senate instead of his brief ‘journalistic’ stint on air america ( his fine books were never touted as more than informed and satirical entertainment so i enjoyed them without reservations).
       —goilem    Jul. 21 '09 - 01:07AM    #
  63. THis is the A2 Journal coverage on the City Place issue:

    If this is what we have to look forward to…

    But it beats the laughable introduction post by the new city government ‘beat’ reporter….

    (You Ann Arborites are so much smarter than the hicks I covered in my last newspaper job….).

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 23 '09 - 07:49PM    #
  64. Well, is live. Flood them with your comments and hope they will get better.

       —Ruth Kraut    Jul. 24 '09 - 04:56PM    #
  65. The a2journal account was straightforward and accurate, if not very informative.

    Oddly, I didn’t receive my paper copy yesterday, after two weeks of Thursday delivery. Wonder whether they are rethinking their distribution plan or just having problems with the help?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 24 '09 - 05:29PM    #
  66. Here’s a question: can anyone tell me the origin and longevity of calling Ann Arbor “the Deuce”? actually has a section named this. I first saw it on and thought it must have been coined by an outsider. Is this a usage among a particular group or generation?

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jul. 24 '09 - 05:38PM    #
  67. I’m glad to see the real is up! Glitches I have found so far:

    1. The body text of articles is gray, not black. I was told on the placeholder site, which had the same problem, that this was a glitch, and would be fixed on the real site. So far no joy.

    2. The “Home” menu link is dead.

    3. I signed up successfully and tried to send in my first comment, but I got an error message saying that I had submitted too many comments in a short period of time! I sent an e-mail to “” about this.

    Plainly a few bugs still need to be swatted.

       —David Cahill    Jul. 24 '09 - 05:58PM    #
  68. Vicienne,

    That was my issue…the “not very informative” part. The writer who did the county budget article was much better than the city coverage writer. Hopefully this will get better.

    We got our A2 Journal tossed on the law extension which was much better than than our start up of the Detroit Free Press—soaking wet, even inside of the plastic bag that had a hole in it.

    As for, lots of stuff, most of it worth skipping over, but some of the article were more in depth that I was thinking they would be.

    I guess I can skip the parenting blogs and we all know the “Duece’ was invented in some office in Manhattan…

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 24 '09 - 07:05PM    #
  69. The article on the Ypsi robbery with the West Side of A2 apartment rental ad right under it was pretty funny.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jul. 24 '09 - 07:40PM    #
  70. Re: The Deuce. It’s a Millennial thing (/Gen Y). I first saw it crop up on the A2 entry on Wikipedia a few years ago. It is not to my knowledge a Manhattan marketing ploy.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Jul. 24 '09 - 08:23PM    #
  71. day 1—the lack of hierarchy bugs me. It needs a lead story. To open it up and see “Swimmers, divers have fun and learn basics at WISC championship meet” at the top of the page is annoying—it has its place somewhere on the site, but as the first thing you see?

    “The Deuce” started showing up in Craigslist postings about two summers ago—very common among U-M students, probably created as a kind of gentle poke at hip-hop’s inclination toward city nicknames.

       —Jim Manheim    Jul. 24 '09 - 09:43PM    #
  72. This is pretty tragic, actually. They have had half a year to nail down a content plan, design and launch. That their “tested” site is full of bugs should cost someone his job, realistically. I found the content shockingly thin, and the web site navigation counter-intuitive. TWO clicks to read every article. Ads in the middle of everything. Yuk. I suppose all the click through this is a ploy to jack up page views, because that what you sell to advertisers.

    I had some hope, until I saw that they were keeping Laurel Champion, and hiring the woman who oversaw the horrid old MLive site. My hopes went further downhill when I saw they hired Ed Vielmetti. No offense to Ed Vielmetti (his posts here and on his blog are stellar and he’s a really great guy), but he’s not a journalist, and to have put him in charge of blogging content was a mistake. He can blog, but it’s clear that choosing blogging content requires a vastly different set of skills.

    Laurel Champion blames “Craig” for the demise of the News. I blame her. That she got hired to work at the site boggles the mind.

    I give it a year before Newhouse pulls the financial plug— unless those who oversee “content” realize that most people can figure out is the Ann Arbor News with a reduced print schedule and a “redesigned” web site. It’s incredibly shoddy and superficial. Let’s see how the Sunday “print” edition turns out.

       —UMGrad1234    Jul. 25 '09 - 05:37AM    #
  73. > My hopes went further downhill when I saw they hired Ed Vielmetti.

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. Stop in some time and say hi.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jul. 25 '09 - 11:38AM    #
  74. Backing up to the earlier discussion of the difference between journalism and blogs, I find enlightening a comparison of 2 threads on AU: “Build the AU Candidate Questionnaire”, which purportedly covers the gamut of issues that we think matter in Ann Arbor government, got 65 posts (including substantial spam) by the time it was closed. “City Council Emails”, about a sliver of the policy spectrum, got 172 (and is still growing). The tone of most of the latter thread has been political electoral spin pitting supporters of the 2 factions of the Council against each other, with an occasional Republican taunt at the all-Democratic Council. It is almost all heat (lots of it) and no light, in a “gotcha” spirit. I would prefer to read coverage by a thoughtful professional. Unfortunately, the Ann Arbor News fell short, and the online “press” is likely to be weaker.

       —Henry Brysk    Jul. 25 '09 - 10:33PM    #
  75. The site is a jumble of words. I have no idea how to make sense of the site. I can’t figure what the stories are actually about, and why I should bother to read them. I can’t believe it, but ArborUpdate has a better design than

       —just a homeowner    Jul. 25 '09 - 11:15PM    #
  76. Hi Ed,

    I have stopped in and said hello! Again, my comment was not personal; your hire was a business decision with which I disagree. I am PULLING for to get the motors running and head out on the highway, journalistically. However, a shaky roll-out like Friday’s (heck, changing the roll-out day) is a very bad omen for any new business. So, let me be more concrete in my feedback.

    1. Your comment numbers are low, and I suspect your daily page views are disappointing, as well. It’s gonna become clear, very quickly, how much of your content is getting little to no reads. Lots of content doesn’t guarantee lots of page views and comments, unfortunately.

    3. Roll-outs show us what you’re made of and what you intend to accomplish editorially. Based on that roll-out, intends to confuse and bore us to death. There’s no excuse for the state of the web site. There are so many good examples of what could to be out there.

    4. Fewer content providers who are better writers with more editorial direction would have a tremendous positive impact. Right now, there are way too many choices; content is, as a result, very thin. I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s what happens. If you are directing bloggers editorially, then point them in the direction of producing compelling content in their subject areas. It’s gonna be hard; bloggers are a mavricky lot, after all. :-)

    So, buck up and get to work. You don’t need votes of confidence; Laurel Champion and company need to fix the shortcomings so is sticky and a daily read….editorially indispensable. Something the AA News never was, unfortunately.

    When I visit the AAChronicle and a new news story isn’t posted, I curse that Dave and Mary don’t have more money and time in the day. Make me feel the same way when I navigate to You HAVE money. What your bosses need is three kicks in the pants and to be honest about the fact that is nothing new. It’s the AA News with a trimmed print run and a redesigned web site. Stop trying to TELL us otherwise, and really MAKE it different.

    Good luck, Ed!

       —UMGrad1234    Jul. 26 '09 - 12:23AM    #
  77. Art Aisner, the talented A2 News police beat and other beats writer, has surfaced at A2 Journal. Read a couple of his articles in the print version last week and they were informative and reflective of the writer’s Ann Arbor journalism past. Too bad their webpage is so horrible.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 19 '09 - 09:44PM    #
  78. [removed]
       —Blaine Coleman    Aug. 19 '09 - 11:16PM    #
  79. I’ll be interested to see if Art does any original reporting beyond reading the filing and talking to the prosecutor.

       —just a homeowner    Aug. 23 '09 - 05:21PM    #
  80. Interesting story (I missed originally) in the Metro Times about

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 26 '09 - 05:14PM    #
  81. Alan,

    It’s, not; the latter is owned by David A. Berger of “Always On Marketing”.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Aug. 26 '09 - 11:50PM    #
  82. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks Ed.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 26 '09 - 11:58PM    #
  83. It appears all the football traffic online has crashed out the ann site as of a few minutes ago.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Aug. 31 '09 - 08:41PM    #
  84. I was reading the football coverage at about that time and had no problem.

       —David Cahill    Aug. 31 '09 - 10:39PM    #
  85. Alan, David –

    We are seeing some issues with system performance at, but nothing that I’d call a “crash”. I’ll post something more when I understand what’s going on to the level of being able to describe it accurately.



       —Edward Vielmetti    Sep. 1 '09 - 12:12AM    #
  86. Ed, I am really disturbed to see that has become the UM sports site. Is that it? Should I stop getting hopeful about this organization?

       —just a homeowner    Sep. 3 '09 - 03:55AM    #
  87. I just made a comment on the ann arbor dot com site about some of the anti-Obama venom about his broadcast to schools on Tuesday and it was removed as being ‘off topic’. I wrote the lack of pictures with the screen names made it hard to see the white hoods…

    Off topic? A personal attack perhaps but…I wasn’t talking about fashion and headwear…lol.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Sep. 4 '09 - 10:26PM    #
  88. And your comment David on the Obama article reminded me a debtate back in the day between a Republican and Human Rights Party candidate for City Council. When the Repub said the HRP was for creeping socialism, the Human Rights candidate said that was totally wrong—he was for galloping socialism…

       —Alan Goldsmith    Sep. 4 '09 - 10:30PM    #
  89. I just had a second comment deleted from the Obama speaking to kids article on ann I don’t know who ‘Suzy Sherman’is the person who pulled the comments but if she thinks commenting about attacks on Obama on this subject or ‘not being one of us’ or ‘born in Africa’ are somehow NOT racially inspired on occasion then she’s living in a dreamworld.

    I guess if I had written something like: “ It used to be that young people were taught to respect the leader of our country. Not to sound hokey, but that’s a philosophy that we need to start getting back to.” I wouldn’t have gotten delted…lol.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Sep. 4 '09 - 10:50PM    #
  90. When I post somewhere where I know I must manicure my message to avoid offending the sensibilities of whatever editor I anticipate will be scouring it with a critical eye to see whether it is “off topic” — I often either lose interest or forget what I had to say (or at least forget why I once thought it was significant).

    So in my opinion, “aggressive moderation” sometimes eliminates the input of those of us who consider ourselves “thoughtful” but who also have a short attention span. Which may be a good thing, because those with short attention spans could potentially take over the world, if we could just pay attention long enough. (Uhhh but wait…what were we talking about?)

       —Michael Schils    Sep. 5 '09 - 02:21AM    #