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Many readers were outraged by the new look of the Detroit Free Press website.
Screenshot Freep.com

Online readers of the Detroit Free Press logged on last week and were greeted with a surprise: No more traditional Olde English typeface known as "Blackletter".

Instead, readers found a custom typeface: Unify Sans and Unify Serif, to be specific. And a blue circle, which is the look of USA Today.

And that's exactly what the owners of the Free Press want, because the venerable Detroit paper is owned by Gannett/USA Today Network. Immediately, howls of dismay and outrage went up on social media.

I’m in Grand Rapids today, at the annual convention of the Michigan Press Association, which represents daily and weekly newspapers throughout the state. It is largely a happy event.

Those gathered celebrate and award prizes to some of the best journalism in the state. This year’s top winner was an investigation in which the Detroit News revealed that dirty surgical equipment was being used in operating rooms at a major hospital.

User salinadarling / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This week, we learned the owners of the Detroit News were offering buy-outs to all of the newspaper’s editorial staff. Then, later in the week, we learned the owners of the Detroit Free Press were offering buy-outs to 17 editorial staff.

Without enough buy-outs, both papers will lay off staff.

This downsizing worries those who fear the eventual death of one of our daily-print newspapers.

Jon S / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Employees at one of Detroit's two major newspapers have a very big decision to make.

The Detroit News has offered buy-outs to its entire editorial staff.

That includes reporters, photographers, columnists and anyone else who works in the newsroom, regardless of seniority.

If there aren't enough buyout volunteers and the paper can't meet its budget for the coming year, layoffs will probably be next.

The Detroit News caused quite a stir this week when it endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president.

The newspaper, which was founded in 1873, has never endorsed anyone except a Republican for the nation’s highest office, though on three occasions, including the contest between George Bush and John Kerry in 2004, it hasn’t endorsed anyone.

But do such endorsements matter?

This may strike you as silly, but a little, relatively insignificant thing happened today that put a lump in my throat.

It has to do with The Newspaper Association of America, the group that has represented major newspaper publishers since Grover Cleveland was in the White House.

I was never part of that group, which is mainly for newspaper owners, not ink-stained writers and editors, my tribe back in the day. We moaned and complained about publishers, often because we saw them as skinflints who wouldn’t pay us what we thought we were worth.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Employees at Detroit’s two major newspapers are working without a contract.

Detroit News and Free Press staffers held an “informational picket” near the papers’ downtown headquarters Wednesday.

The Newspaper Guild of Detroit is trying to negotiate a new contract with Gannett Media Company on behalf of both News and Free Press employees.

Bay City Democrat Closes after 126 Years

Mar 11, 2016
Stack of newspapers.
user Jon S / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Bay City Democrat published its last edition after a 126-year run on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Editor and publisher Wendy Knochel says it was too hard to continue the publication following the death of her mother and co-owner Carol DeVeau in January. Knochel's family had owned the paper since 1980.

Trends of increasing online news and declining print news publication presented challenges for the newspaper. Knochel says that in recent years the paper no longer printed its own editions. It outsourced the printing instead.

Stack of newspapers.
user Jon S / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last week, MLive.com laid off 29 more employees.

On Monday, Alabama beat Clemson for college football’s national title.

These might seem unrelated to you, but not to me. I see a pattern here – and a warning for college football, if it’s smart enough to listen.

The Winter 1988-89 issue of The Fifth Estate
reddit user Crispin777 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM


1965 was a big year for many Americans.

We saw a 700% increase in the number of American troops in Vietnam.

The U.S. began bombing North Vietnam with Operation Rolling Thunder.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon rejected any talk of ending the Vietnam War, writing, “There can be no substitute for victory when the objective is the defeat of communist aggression."

House Bill 4183 wants to move public notices from the pages of your newspaper to the pages of your web browser
user Jon S / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Is it time to take public notices digital?

Those pages in our newspaper, with the government notices of election dates, upcoming public hearings, and legal descriptions of property to be sold or redeveloped are the focus of House Bill 4183.

It's a bill that could cost newspapers a long-time source of revenue, and it could shut out people who don't have Internet access.

Michigan Photography

In an era when newspapers are struggling, the Michigan Daily has been going strong since 1890. 

The student-run newspaper at the University of Michigan has produced eight Pulitzer Prize winners and many others have gone on to make their mark in journalism and writing.

T. Voekler

 

The latest circulation figures for the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are out. Where once the Detroit News and Free Press boasted sales of over 600,000 copies a day, the Free Press now has fewer than 200,000 subscribers and the News fewer than 100,000.

User: Valerie Everett / Flickr

 

Newspaper endorsements are one of America's time-honored election traditions.

But as the winds of change blow through newsrooms across the nation, that tradition is changing.  

Anna Clark wrote about this for the Columbia Journalism Review. She says some major newspapers have stopped making endorsements since the trend started around 2009.

According to Clark, some newspapers are concerned about the risk endorsements may pose to their credibility. Others cited doubts about whether endorsements actually affect election results. 

User: Matt MacGillivray / Flickr

 

 

For many of us, a newspaper encounter is not complete until we've done the crossword puzzle.

And the New York Times crossword puzzle is one of the premier puzzles.

Tracy Bennett, an Ann Arbor-based puzzle constructor, has been getting her puzzles onto the pages of the New York Times.

Her most recent puzzle for the New York Times is a themeless puzzle. She says a themeless puzzle typically has fewer words and needs to meet a symmetry requirement.  

Almost 30 years ago, I was national editor of the Detroit News, which was then the largest-circulation paper in Michigan.

The newspaper was then locked in a competitive struggle with the Detroit Free Press, and each was trying to put the other out of business. They had the novel idea that not only low prices but high quality was the way to win, and they did a lot of excellent journalism.

Back then, in the days before the World Wide Web, both newspapers sold well over 600,000 copies every day. On Sundays, their combined circulation was more than a million and a half. You could subscribe to either paper anywhere in the state.

Ten years or so ago, a woman named Andrea Lavigne sat in on some media survey classes I was teaching at Wayne State University.

She was in her late 30s or early 40s, and seemed to be searching for answers. She wanted to know how the media work, and told me she was a Maoist.* This fascinated me, because I thought authentic Maoists were almost as rare as passenger pigeons. 

Chairman Mao, we now know, starved to death and slaughtered tens of millions of his own citizens, and kept China economically and intellectually backward. Intrigued, I got together one night before class with her and another Maoist, to find out what they were all about. Alas, they spouted a form of primitive, grade-school Marxism.

They seemed to have very little historical knowledge of Communism or what it had actually been like.

Three years ago, I got a friendly email from Ms. Lavigne telling me she had now founded a marijuana film club.

Well, Andrea Lavigne has a new cause now: She wants to get the city of Grosse Pointe Park to outlaw the weekly newspaper, The Metro Times, because it has sexually oriented ads. 

T. Voekler

TOLEDO, Ohio - The Blade newspaper in Toledo says it's considering shutting down its printing and mailing facilities and laying off about 130 workers.

Block Communications Inc. notified city officials in a letter released Friday that it plans to begin the job cuts in August.

The layoffs would not include newsroom, advertising or circulation employees.

Newspapers, even big-city newspapers, are in a sorry state these days.

Thanks largely to the Internet, their circulation and advertising revenue has been in free fall, with the result that they have far less staff than they once did.

There are also fewer papers than there used to be.

Washtenaw County, outside of Ann Arbor, is home to a collection of fascinating and picturesque little towns like Manchester, Saline, Dexter, and Chelsea. Each had its own thriving weekly newspaper: The Saline Reporter, Dexter Leader, and Chelsea Standard.

Years ago I did some consulting for the local company that owned those papers and learned that no matter how physically close these places might be, the good people of Chelsea did not want Dexter news in their paper, and vice-versa.

Times are different now.

There are many reasons to lament the slow disappearance of newspapers. But here’s one you may not have considered: the loss of cartoons and comic strips.

You might be startled that an old political and news analyst would say that. But in fact, comics, both overtly political and not so, have always been great political and social barometers. Back in the late 19th century, Boss Tweed, the corrupt New York City political boss, was largely done in by Thomas Nast’s cartoons.

Before he was carted off to jail, Tweed complained bitterly. He didn’t care what the reporters wrote. After all, many of his supporters didn’t read. But Tweed said “them damned pictures are killing me!”  Thanks to Nast, he died in jail.

Nationally syndicated political cartoons aren’t as big as they were when Feiffer and Herblock reigned supreme. In modern times, the national mood seems to be captured more often in comic strips. Doonesbury was the must-read of the 1970s; Bloom County captured the 1980s.

Tomorrow will be a historic day in Detroit. That's when a federal judge will decide whether the city is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. On today's show, we took a look at the different ways Judge Steven Rhodes could rule.

Then, we took a look at the future of newspapers. As newsrooms get smaller, and more people hop online for information, will the industry be able to reinvent itself and keep up with the times? 

And, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this morning in a case that pits Michigan against an Upper Peninsula Indian tribe. We discussed the case with Rick Pluta, who is reporting from Washington D.C..

Also, we spoke to a new Michigan music duo, The Accidentals. 

But, first on the show, the Board of State Canvassers today certified a voter-initiated petition that would put new restrictions on abortion insurance coverage in Michigan. The proposal would ban abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Women would only be able to purchase abortion coverage as a separate rider. The measure now goes to the state Legislature, which has 40 days to pass it. If not, it will go to voters on the 2014 ballot.

MLive reporter Jonathan Oosting joined us today to discuss the issue.

House Bill 4183 wants to move public notices from the pages of your newspaper to the pages of your web browser
Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Newspapers aren’t what they used to be. 

Newsrooms are smaller and big stories are being missed.

Case in point: The Flint Journal apologized recently for not informing voters that a city council candidate was also a convicted murderer until a day after he won the election.

So how will people stay informed as newspapers and their staffs are shrinking?

Last week I went to Springfield, Illinois to do some workshops for a program called NewsTrain, which is sponsored by a number of journalism organizations and foundations.

The idea was to provide reporters and editors, a fair number of them from Michigan, with tools to do their jobs in what was described as a “rapidly changing media setting.” Translated, that means a world where fewer reporters are supposed to do more work on multiple media platforms at the same time. 

Newspapers always have been a backbone of our democracy. Thomas Jefferson once said that he’d prefer newspapers without government to a government without newspapers.

All the President's Men photo / metroland.net

CareerCast.com ranked more than 1,000 American jobs, and determined that the worst job isn’t garbage collector, animal cage cleaner or Lindsey Lohan’s sobriety tester  – but journalist.

Yes!  Score!  Booyah!

They based their rankings on four criteria:

  • the workplace environment,
  • the industry’s future,
  • the job’s average income,
  • and stress.

Okay, it’s true: newsrooms aren’t pretty places.  The future looks bleak for newspapers.  You can make more money doing a lot of other things.  And, yes, the stress is very real.  The hours are bad and many of our customers think they can do it better – and often take the time to tell us that.

But journalists themselves have reacted to this ranking with all the cool, collected calm of Geraldo Rivera, or Nancy Grace.

But here’s why: newsrooms aren’t for everybody, but we like them – the hustle and bustle and energy and urgency.  We like the stress, too – no matter how much we complain about it – because it comes with doing work we think actually matters.

Union workers at the Macomb Daily and Royal Oak Tribune newspapers are contemplating a possible strike and other job actions at the end of the month.

The Journal Register company owns the papers. It has announced plans to end its union contracts and probably make deep cuts in its union and non-union workforces, more than 800 people statewide.

Lou Mleczko is the president of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit. He says the unions, representing the union 175 members involved, met Sunday to agree on a strategy.

“We are not just going to sit idly by and let them terminate these contracts….and strip pay and benefits away from our members,” says Mleczko. 

Mleczko says the unions plan to start telling advertisers about their plans.

He says the unions may hold strike authorization votes before March 19th.

That’s the date of the next bankruptcy hearing for the Journal Register company.

Terrence Vaughn / The Holland Sentinel

Most people know Holland, Michigan for its Dutch roots and maybe it’s big tulip festival.

But in the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 1 in 5 people who live in Holland identified as Latino. So maybe it’s no surprise why The Holland Sentinel newspaper decided to put out a new Spanish language monthly magazine.

Allan Lengel writes for Deadline Detroit, "the recent exodus is unprecedented in size for local media outlets, and it has shaken the staff and left the top management searching for talent to fill a few of the positions."

The conventional wisdom is that newspapers -- dead tree news -- are on their way out. In some places, like Ann Arbor, there is no longer a daily newspaper at all. The publishers of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press deliver papers only a few days a week.

However, here’s a surprising development. Newspapers across the country gained readers over the most recently audited six month period. Not by leaps and bounds, but still, on average, gained.

Homeless writers find meaning, sense of self

Jan 8, 2012
Groundcover News

If you walk around downtown Ann Arbor you may have spotted people selling something called Groundcover News. The paper is what’s known as a street newspaper. That means homeless people sell the paper for $1 and they make a profit on every issue they sell. 

Groundcover News has articles about all kinds of topics written by the staff and other volunteers. But a growing number of the articles are being written by homeless people.

The Ann Arbor A.V. Club has folded. The local entertainment arm of the popular satirical newspaper “The Onion” made its debut in September and employed three full time workers.

Bobby Mitchell and his company Bopper Media handled all aspects of the Ann Arbor Onion and A.V. Club franchise - from printing to distribution and ad sales. Mitchell did not want to be recorded for an interview, but he did confirm that the November 24th issue was the last one he’d be publishing. He wouldn’t say more except to say “lawyers” were involved. He also added that there's a slight possibility The Onion corporate might want to take over the Ann Arbor A.V. Club and publish it.

Curtis Sullivan was very surprised to hear the news. Sullivan co-owns the comic store Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. He says, unlike other free, entertainment weeklies, copies of the Onion’s used to fly off the shelves at his store:

"We almost never have leftovers of the Onion! And I hear people talking about, 'did you read The Onion?' I don’t know, you don’t really hear that as much about other things."

Sullivan himself is a huge fan of The Onion - so much so he even signed up for a full year of advertisements with the local A.V. Club, something he never does:

"I’m not very excited about print advertising as a business owner generally. When they approached us, it was like, this is great, we’ll do it! I thought it would be a perfect match."

Instead, Sullivan's Vault of Midnight ad only got to run once before the publication folded.

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