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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.

MLive.com

According to a press release by Booth Newspapers Publisher Dan Gaydou, Booth Newspapers and MLive.com will now operate as one consolidated company, MLive Media Group.

Distribution and administrative operations will move to Advance Central Services Michigan, a newly formed subsidiary company.

The restructuring will most likely mean job cuts as the organization increases its focus on digital content.

From the announcement on MLive.com:

Many of our newspaper employees will have a place in the MLive Media Group and will still work in your local community at the MLive Media Group office. Many others will have a place at Advance Central Services Michigan. While we believe these changes will create growth opportunities for our current employees, the reality is they will also lead to reductions in our work force. We will provide as much notice and consideration to our employees as possible. We’ll strive throughout this process to treat all our employees with the professionalism and respect they deserve.

Gaydou says MLive Media Group will open new offices and hire people to produce content for its online products and its newspapers. Employees affected by the layoffs will be able to apply for those jobs.

Home delivery will be reduced to three days a week for the following newspapers, with daily content available in an online format.

  • The Grand Rapids Press
  • The Kalamazoo Gazette
  • The Muskegon Chronicle
  • The Jackson Citizen Patriot

Other Booth newspapers including the Flint Journal, Saginaw News, Bay City Times, and AnnArbor.com will also move under the MLive Media Group name but delivery changes at those papers are not expected.

John Klein Wilson - Michigan Radio newsroom

We’re living today in a confusing and somewhat frightening time. Michigan is in trouble, economically. Trouble of a different kind than we’ve been through before. The longtime mainstay of our economy, the automotive industry, will never again be what it was.

This has plunged us from one of the nation’s richer states to one of its poorer ones. State government is finally facing a financial crisis it tried to ignore for years, and the governor is proposing changes that seem radical and sometimes hard to understand.

Beyond that, education at all levels is in crisis. We learned last month that our largest city has suffered a staggering population loss over the last decade.

There are real questions about whether Detroit and other cities, communities and school districts are going to have to be taken over by Emergency Financial Managers.

Understanding all this is vitally important in order to make key decisions for our own lives. Should we trust the public schools? Should we buy a house? Where should we live?

And even, should we leave the state?

We clearly need thoughtful, intelligent and easily accessible journalism to help make sense of these and other events - and need it possibly more than at any other time in our history.

Yet journalism is in trouble too. Journalists, if they do their jobs right, are never very popular. Much of the time, we’re bringing you bad news, and some of the time, we are obnoxious about it.

But right now, we’re having trouble doing that. Digging our news is an expensive, labor-intensive job, and the vast majority has always been done by newspapers. Yet newspapers are facing a deep crisis of their own, thanks in large part to the internet revolution, and our changing lifestyles. Newspapers have been supported historically by advertising, and much of that has melted away to cyberspace. We also don’t read newspapers as much as we used to. People read news on the internet, but internet providers produce little news.

They merely collect it - mainly from our shrinking newspapers.

That doesn’t mean some broadcast and even online publications don’t produce quality journalism. But in terms of content, it is comparatively small.

Last night I spoke at the Detroit area Society of Professional Journalists annual banquet. Michigan Radio won a number of awards, and an encouraging amount of good journalism was on display. But attendance was smaller than last year. Some people have left the profession. Some companies no longer buy tickets.

Yet there were still an impressive corps of men and women there who work long hours for usually not much pay to find out what we need to know and shape it into an interesting package.

Writer's workshop geared toward homeless

Mar 25, 2011

Would-be writers can take part in a workshop this weekend. Groundcover News is hosting the event Saturday, March 26 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Groundcover is a monthly paper in Washtenaw County that focuses on poverty and homelessness and many of its writers are struggling with those issues.

The workshop is geared toward people who have written for the paper, but anyone can attend.

Freelance writer Vickie Elmer is teaching the class. She says the idea is to have more voices, telling more compelling stories.

The workshop happens at the First Baptist Church in Ann Arbor. Cost is $20, but admission is free if participants promise to write two future articles for the paper.

Saving Newspapers

Mar 14, 2011

It’s hardly a secret that newspapers aren’t doing very well these days. Over the decades, they’ve been gradually replaced as the nation’s universal mass medium by television.

Newspaper’s biggest economic blow came, however, with the flight of advertising revenue to the Internet. This, combined with an ever-more busy public bombarded by more and more media choices, has badly wounded what was once a thriving industry. And, left us in danger of being dangerously uninformed as well. Ann Arbor, for example, no longer has a daily newspaper at all.

The problem is perhaps most acute in Detroit, where, twenty-five years ago, the Detroit News and Free Press sold a combined total of one point three million newspapers every day.

That number has declined ever since. Audited figures show that as of last September, they were down to a combined circulation of less than four hundred thousand, a number that has dropped further since then.

To save money two years ago, Detroit’s newspapers embarked on an experiment in which they would deliver the papers only three days a week, and asked consumers to read them online or go to the store and buy it the rest of the week. This really hasn’t worked.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Update March 14th, 10:14 a.m.

Tony Dearing is AnnArbor.com's chief content officer. He posted a comment over the weekend on AnnArbor.com about the layoffs. Here's what he wrote:

While personnel issues are an internal matter and we don't discuss them publicly, I can confirm that we reorganized our newsroom this week to put our focus more squarely on local news coverage. As a new organization, we have tried a lot of things. Now that we are well into our second year, the community has told us very resoundingly that what it wants most from us is hard news coverage, particularly in the areas of government, education, police, courts, health, the environment, University of Michigan sports, and business. These areas of coverage account for all but a tiny percentage of our readership and revenue. Meanwhile, we also have put a lot of effort toward other things -- including lifestyle topics like Passions and Pursuits, The Deuce, Homes and some areas of Entertainment coverage -- that our community has shown much less interest in, and we are scaling back in those areas.

We have made tremendous progress since we launched, and we continue to be very happy with the growth we're seeing in audience and revenue. But from the beginning, we said that we would be shaped by what the community wants, and the community wants us to focus more sharply on local news reporting. We have repositioned ourselves to throw our energy and resources into our local news coverage and that is how we will operate moving forward as we continue to grow.

Xandert / Morgue File

On Thursday, members of the Michigan State House Committee will discuss two bills that could change how cities and townships publicize legal notices such as public hearings and foreclosures. 

Current laws require all legal notices to be published in local newspapers. But these bills would allow local governments to post the information on their own websites or an online newspaper. Other options include broadcasting the notices on a radio or television station.

Representative Douglas Geiss is the sponsor of one of the bills. He says it’s time for a 21st century update:

Newspapers aren’t doing well these days, though the companies that own them are still making money. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry says the result is being played out in Detroit.

_______

Thirty years ago, I worked for the publisher and owner of a family-owned newspaper in Ohio, a somewhat crotchety gentleman  in his early seventies who I came to know pretty well.

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