Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Interesting Local Newspaper choice

2. November 2004 • MarkDilley
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via mousemusings

My local newspaper

the Ann Arbor News, endorsed Bush today. That’s my ‘liberal media’. I just put a permanent vacation stop in. I’ll call Monday and cancel it completely.

  1. God bless the Ann Arbor News!!
       —Diehard    Nov. 2 '04 - 11:46AM    #
  2. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Here’s my response in comments at that blog, cross-posted here:

    Well, the AA News is much more conservative than the reputed liberalness of Ann Arbor. They regularly endorse Republicans for big ticket contests, while Ann Arbor voters almost always turn out in significant majorities for the Democrats. Do note, however, that their endorsement of Bush was a reluctant one.

    Also, don’t you think cancelling your subscription based on the endorsement of the editorial board kind of close-minded and anti-democratic? Now, if they regularly false or misleading articles; or if they simply did a poor job of covering what’s important; or if they had an obvious slant in the construction of the paper that made reading it unproductive, I could understand. But should the fact that the editorial board has a different opinion about who should be POTUS merit tossing the whole thing??
       —Scott T.    Nov. 2 '04 - 12:11PM    #
  3. Opinions matter. Your post makes it sound as though they don’t—as though people’s political ideas aren’t really that important and aren’t really worth making a fuss about. I think it perfectly appropriate to consider the editorial board’s expression of their political opinion sincere, reflect on what it implies about their moral values (or rather their lack thereof) and resolve not to touch the paper with a forty-foot barge pole in the future. I don’t see what’s ‘anti-democratic’ about that—it’s doing them the courtesy of taking their political statements seriously.
    Frankly, if my local paper decided to endorse a mass murderer (100 000 dead Iraqi civilians and counting, not to mention those he had killed while he was Governor in Texas) for POTUS I’d consider cancelling my subscription a fairly mild-mannered response.
       —Adele    Nov. 2 '04 - 02:17PM    #
  4. I don’t mean to imply that opinions don’t matter, but I read a lot of things written by people who endorse mass murderers, and have even read things written by mass murderers themselves. Not reading something just because I don’t agree with the person who wrote it is the very definition of close-minded. I believe a true (small d) democrat must engage those who don’t agree with her/him—and part of that engagement is to at least listen to their arguments and consider them.

    Some less extreme examples: I’m sure on most things I have strong disagreements with the editorial staffs of The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and (a local example) The Michigan Review—but I still will occasionally pick up a copy and read it because (at least in the case of the first two) they have a lot of information I don’t get elsewhere (e.g. which corporations are doing particularly well at extracting profits in dangerous ways), and they help me see the weaknesses (and strengths) in the arguments that I agree with, and help me better persuade and argue with those who are not predisposed to agree with me. I’m fully cognizant of the editorial slant of each of those publications and I am sure to filter for that when I read them, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth my while to do so.

    By choosing not to read a publication simply because you don’t agree with the editorial slant is like sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “I can’t hear you! La la la!” whenever you find yourself conversing with somebody who disagrees with you on some issue you’re passionate about (e.g., bombing innocent people for their oil or whatever)...
       —Scott T.    Nov. 2 '04 - 02:42PM    #
  5. Scott’s right here. It’s often better to write an LTTE or, if they’re really going overboard, begin some kind of public action that will make their advertisers nervous. Cancelling a subscription means less than nothing to most major papers, as their primary source of income is made via advertising and bulk sales. If those get threatened, they start standing to attention.

    However, I agree with Scott that having some publications be contrary in opinion is often a very useful thing. Preaching to the converted gets you nowhere fast.
       —Marc R.    Nov. 2 '04 - 02:51PM    #
  6. Marc, it’s always a very useful thing to have differences of opinion in a democracy.

    In the case of the AA News, I subscribe and (try to) read it not because I think they do an outstanding job of coverage, nor because I agree with most of the opinion that they print, but rather because they are an important media organ that holds significant sway in my community, and they do an adequate job at covering local issues I might not otherwise hear about. If their coverage became worse and if they became a less important medium for community discourse, I’d probably ditch them, too.
       —Scott T.    Nov. 2 '04 - 03:09PM    #
  7. And frankly, the Ann Arbor News is by far the most comprehensive source of local news. It seems silly to become out of touch on what’s going on in the area just because you don’t agree with their editorial board… I can’t think of a truly suitable alternative (AU gets a good number of our stories from the AA News, for instance, and the Daily’s non-university coverage is extremely limited and simplistic).
       —Brandon    Nov. 2 '04 - 04:39PM    #
  8. You don’t have to tell me. I’ve been mining the AA News for community stuff for ages, and did it almost every day on the campaign blog.

    As for sources of contrary opinion, I used the term ‘often’ because I object to many major sources who don’t simply present opinion, but opinion based as fact (cf. Fox News, but also NY Times, Washington Post, on and on.) If we had a primary educational system that was designed to do more than turn out fast food workers and/or news media that were rooted more securely in the ethics of journalism rather than profits, we might be able to have an even wider spectrum of opinion, because genuine facts, minus most of the bias and presentation, would be more easily available and more readily acknowledged by a wider slice of the population.

    Just as a local example, I don’t give much credence to AAiO, because it simply trashes every event or ocurrence in town. It’s not the ‘mainstream’ view and it’s certainly the ‘other side’ vis-a-vis the AA News. But it’s also not especially useful as a source of perspective. If I was interested in being a nihilist, I’d pay attention, but there are already enough people willing to tear down and not enough willing to build up.

    (Sorry… end of campaign ranting in full force…)
       —Marc R.    Nov. 2 '04 - 05:05PM    #
  9. Sorry. I don’t buy it. AA News exists, like most newspapers, primarily to sell advertising. If people keep buying AA News when they do things like endorse Bush, what they learn is that as far as ‘liberals’ are concerned (and I don’t count myself among their number), their political actions don’t have consequences.
    Leaving aside writings by mass murderers, when you buy a magazine like “Time” or a rightwing newsrag like “Washington Post”, you’re not just ‘knowing your enemy’ you’re also subsidising them.

    “I believe a true (small d) democrat must engage those who don’t agree with her/him—and part of that engagement is to at least listen to their arguments and consider them.”

    We just don’t see eye to eye on this either. I don’t think a (small d) democrat is obliged to listen and consider the arguments of those who espouse racism, for example. (I could cheerily add to this list—patriotism, sexism and heterosexism are also pretty high on my hit list)
    I think that when they do so (even with the best intentions of being persuasive and converting their opponent) they are at best being insincere (that is to say they are merely pretending to listen and consider as a rhetorical strategy).

    Worse and more frequently IMO they become complicit—by treating a set of obnoxious ideas as worthy of respect and consideration, they actually help establish the credibility and legitimacy of those ideas to a broader audience.

    I think whether or not it is appropriate to engage with those with whom one disagrees depends very much on the specifics of the disagreement. What’s it about? Is it about competing means to a shared end? Is it about the proper relationship between means and ends? Or is it about the ends themselves? And what does it stem from? A genuine lack of information and understanding or a desire to maintain privilege and power? The first can often be engaged with productively, the second cannot.

    I think there’s a tendency for liberals to want to believe that deep down, everyone (or almost everyone) is on the same side really and wants the same things. But I’m not sure that’s true.

    I think a goodly number of the people who, for example, support the war, do so ultimately because they think American lives are worth more than Iraqi lives. They might be confused about the facts surrounding the war—they might think that it’s all to do with 9/11 rather than oil and imperialism, due to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al’s misinformation—but the basic calculus that their lives are worth more than those of Iraqis in particular, and foreigners in general, is the driving force behind their support.

    I don’t see any way of ‘giving consideration’ to that view that does not involve colluding with it.
       —Adele    Nov. 2 '04 - 05:05PM    #
  10. So how are you going to know what is going on locally, then? You could read it online and not give them any money… is that okay under your reasoning? In my view not reading the paper because you don’t disagree with their editorial view has pretty dire consquences of disengagement from one’s community. I mean sure, you can get your news from a “pure” source like Free Speech Radio News and hear all about US imperialism and labor conditions in the 3rd world, but you won’t even know what’s going on in your own city. In my opinion local issue are often the ones that most directly affect us and are the ones we can most directly affect.
       —Brandon    Nov. 2 '04 - 05:50PM    #
  11. Er, that should have read “don’t agree”
       —Brandon    Nov. 2 '04 - 05:50PM    #
  12. The A2 News publisher really took a gamble—and he had to have been conscious of it—that their endorsing Bush this year outweighed alientating much of their readership. Fine. It’s his railroad. Maybe he is betting on their basically being the only game in town for full local coverage. He put his cards on the table, and each one of us can react or not to it. Me, I’m appalled and will send them a letter explaining why I intend no longer to buy their rag. It’s presumptuous of you, Scott, to get in anybody’s face about it. And Brandon, your feared “dire consquences of disengagement from one’s community” is faintly ludicrous. Get a grip, pal. The A2N is available online, plus the local blogging community makes me feel more connected than ever!
       —Andy    Nov. 3 '04 - 06:00AM    #
  13. My reply to Scott’s second comment on mousemusings:

    “The whole blog post was not about boycotting the AA News. I didn’t even focus on that, although I did lead with it.
    If you were familiar with my blog you might not be so quick to judge my actions.

    Certainly, I feel that the Crawford newspaper was better informed and made a better decision when they endorsed Kerry. Need I say, they got a sub from me. Democracy, in a capitalistic society, relies heavily on how votes are cast with our money.

    If I were getting the AA News for free I would be more forgiving, but it’s a service I’m paying for. My personal boycott probably doesn’t mean squat to the AA News. I’m not calling for anyone else to boycott it either. Is it something I feel good about doing? Yes. Do I feel better served by blogs? Yes.”
    ——————further comment:

    I won’t be missing out on local community happenings because I’m well aware of, local blogs, and the fact that I can, should I decide to, read the AA News online. I do not, however, feel obliged to surrender my money to media that doesn’t serve me.
    In fact, the whole point of the post was far more focused on being a selective consumer and making a conscious effort not to monetarily support business that doesn’t support progressive values. Reading differing views is not a problem, paying for them is.
       —Cyndy    Nov. 3 '04 - 07:50AM    #
  14. Reading a subscriber newspaper online that you don’t pay for is a classic free-rider problem; take that approach, and they’ll fix the problem by not providing the news for free online anymore.

    As one of the premier local issues blog reader/writers, I don’t by any means think that blogland has yet become a suitable replacement for the A2News. It’s like relying on the Village Voice’s opinion pages for all of your New York news.
       —Murph    Nov. 3 '04 - 09:04AM    #
  15. Adele –

    just as a point of information – no matter who the AA news endoresed it would have endoressed a mass murder. This is true in at least two ways. First, Kerry, having served in Vietnam killed numerous people – and that makes him a “mass murder.”

    Second, your problem with Bush is he has killed Iraqui civilians. by this I assume you were opposed to getting rid of sadam (and dont’ feed me the line about sadam is bad, but not the US responcibility – we were the ONLY Ones who could have done this). And in that case you ARE endorsing a mass murdere in Sadaam by saying he shoudl not have been deposed.

    perhaps – this isn’t balck and white – but grey?

       —David LIvshiz    Nov. 3 '04 - 10:20AM    #
  16. I don’t know how any of the folks who’ve already posted can defend the AA News. If they were a good newspaper with a bad editorial policy that would be fine, but it’s the worst local newspaper I’ve ever read. Shallow stories, no content, space devoted to cutsie stories. Bad writing, bad coverage, bad, bad, bad.

    Furthermore, it is perfectly legitimate to cancel one’s subscription to a newspaper because you don’t like the editorial decisions of its editors. Indeed, it’s a reasonable form of free expression. I prefer the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Nothing wrong with having preferences.

    Finally, although newspapers make their money through advertising, their advertising revenue depends on circulation. If their circulation falls, so does the amount that advertisers are willing to pay. Therefore, canceled subscriptions hurt the bottom line doubly. If you want a newspaper to change, the best way to do it is to hurt the bottom line. A paper with a terrible editorial policy and bad writing can increase sales and revenues by knowing and serving their readership.

    Cancel away.
       —Anna    Nov. 3 '04 - 11:47AM    #
  17. “Just as a local example, I don’t give much credence to AAiO…”

    You mean there are people who do?
       —ann arbor is overrated    Nov. 3 '04 - 12:32PM    #
  18. Anna, have you ever seen a truly bad local paper? Check out the Holland Sentinel sometime. Hell, even the Grand Rapids Press, with circulation much greater than the AA News, has far less national/international news, a higher fluff percentage (including an entire Religion section), and less-comprehensive local coverage than the AA News. For focusing on such a small geographical area I think it’s decent.
       —Brandon    Nov. 3 '04 - 01:31PM    #
  19. Anna, I think that cancelling a subscription is a perfectly reasonable form of protest, whether you’re protesting editorial stance or simple quality. However, cancelling a subscription “because I can just read it online” is a position I object to.

    Like Brandon, I also think the A2 News is not nearly as bad as it could be. But perhaps our views are skewed by the fact that we’re both interested in land use issues, and the highest quality reporting in the A2 News (and the stuff you can’t get elsewhere) is on local land use issues.
       —Murph    Nov. 3 '04 - 01:48PM    #
  20. Must be a Michigan thing, because I’ve seen local newspapers all over this country, including local weeklies, that are better. By “better,” I mean they actually tell you what’s going on in the local government and community and how policy decisions will likely impact the town’s future.
       —Anna    Nov. 3 '04 - 01:50PM    #
  21. Cancelling a paper because they aren’t liberally biased?

       —T.J.    Nov. 3 '04 - 01:52PM    #
  22. actually, t.j., many republicans and zionists call for their consituancies and friends to cancel newspapers because they aren’t conservativily or zionisticlly biased…

    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Nov. 3 '04 - 02:36PM    #
  23. TJ, isn’t a consumer boycott by far the most market-based form of response to objectionable corporate actions possible? What makes boycott of a particular newspaper for their editorial policies laughable?

    No points will be awarded for responses including any form of the phrase “liberal media”. Even if it’s true, the phrase has been so overused, it’s not useful anymore.
       —Murph    Nov. 3 '04 - 03:20PM    #
  24. Dave
    Certainly I don’t think Kerry should have gone to Vietnam—other people recognised that war for what it was and refused to participate. He should have done the same. And, yes, I do call what he did there murder, although not the same kind of calculated mass murder that Bush has been up to of late. Kerry, however, demonstrated some courage—and presumably also a degree of remorse—when he returned from Vietnam, by acting as a whistleblower in the Winter Soldier investigation and becoming active in the anti-war movement. So I’d put him in the ‘possibly reformed and repentant camp’, rather than the ‘blood on his hands and a grin on his face camp.’

    Re. Hussein
    Actually Hussein is to a large extent the U.S’s responsibility. They armed him, they funded him, they sold him the ‘crop spraying’ helicopters used to gas the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war and supplied reconnaisance info so that he could use chemical warfare against Iranian troops. The reason they’re not still best buddy pals has nothing to do with Hussein’s many crimes against humanity. When he was doing his worst, the U.S. was cheering him on. Given this history, I don’t the U.S. is well placed to ‘liberate’ Iraq—I think they have a bit of a credibility problem. And what is currently going on there is certainly a strange notion of liberation. Did I like the idea of Hussein in power there? No. But I don’t think the idea of a new Republican puppet over there is any better. I don’t think it will lead to better human rights outcomes: historically U.S. puppet regimes have pretty lousy human rights records.
       —Adele    Nov. 3 '04 - 04:03PM    #
  25. Completely agree with Adele on all counts. Also Dave, endorsing Kerry (or Nader or whoever!) is not the only alternative to endorsing Bush. Newspapers can also come out and condemn war outright. Not that I expect the mainstream media to do that anytime soon!
       —Pavitra    Nov. 4 '04 - 06:53AM    #
  26. BTW, Unless I’m mistaken, Ann Arbor went 75% for Kerry. If the Ann Arbor News is supposed to serve its market, then editorials for Bush are decidedly against that aim. They certainly have the right to say it, but the rest of us have a right not to buy it.

    Murph, I have been decidely underwhelmed by the AA News’ coverage of pretty much everything but local land-use, and even at that I’ve found their coverage of land-use to be fairly poor. Take, for instance, their article about the proposed Toyota plant out in Ypsi on the site of the old mental hospital. They mentioned tax abatements for Toyota and the potential for jobs, but didn’t say anything about the competitor’s proposal, whether that would have generated any jobs, how much revenue that proposal might have generated, whether the abatements would have had to be paid back by Toyota if they closed the plant within X number of years, etc. etc. etc. You really couldn’t be “for” or “against” the Toyota plant by reading the article. One should be able to formulate positions about important local issues based on the information in the local newspaper—just one example, but one that I believe is typical. That’s why I find the AA News to be of such low quality.
       —Anna    Nov. 4 '04 - 06:54AM    #