Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another Newspaper Dies, but Not One I Expected

I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.

I never expected the Ann Arbor News to close. It has always been an excellent newspaper. The Booth chain for years covered the Michigan Capitol better than any other news organization in Michigan.

But on the other hand, Ann Arbor really is the ideal community to have a post-paper newspaper -- a totally on-line newspaper.

After all, it is probably the most literate, wired community in the state. Readers there are likely to be highly receptive to a strictly on-line newspaper that combines a nose for news, savvy reporters, good writing, and a community spirit with new technology that allows them to add video, more photos, links to entire reports and documents, interactivity, and all that the web has to offer.

But I am puzzled as to why the owners are framing this change as the demise of the Ann Arbor News rather than a conversion to a new format.

(It sort of is in keeping with their past use of mlive.com instead of a more user friendly name for their web-based product. Why newspapers insist on a different name for their own-line version, making it hard to people to find, has always been a puzzle to me. What was wrong with annarbornews.com? Or livingstonpress-argus.com, for that matter?)

Apparently, they want a total break with the past. But as we move into this brave new world, it would be nice to hang onto a little bit of the familiar.


kevins said...

I think you are missing some points, Judy.

They killed off the Ann Arbor News and started a new company, annarbor.com, because that's an easier way of getting rid of their employees. The new company will hire some people with newspaper skills and the former News staff will be free to apply, but they've already been told that they will get no preferential hiring treatment and the pay will be lower.

I agree that their Lansing coverage has been superior to other dailies. That's due to two reasons: One, the rest of the newspaper world has, unfortunately, largely abandoned Lansing, a far cry from the day when there was a large, unruly Capitol bureau. Two, they had Peter Luke who was an outstanding correspondent. To Booth's credit, they continued funding him when other papers, radio and TV left town.

Why do they use different web names? Because no one believes that a newspaper format will be successful on the web...and so far, they've been correct.

Ann Arbor News was frustrating because it had meager coverage of its own turf, relied too much on wire copy and tried in vain to impress the academics at the "U." But they had good people and often did fine work. I'm saddened by its demise and what it might mean.

Judy said...

Yes, getting rid of employees is a big part of it, I agree. I was trying not to be cynical.

kevins said...

"Trying not to cynical."

A worthy goal.