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Ann Arbor News to close in July

By Jim Knight

March 23, 2009, 9:18AM


The Ann Arbor News will cease publication in July. A new company, AnnArbor.com, will be launched at that time.

Editor's note: This story is being updated throughout the day.

The Ann Arbor News will close in July after publishing as the city's daily newspaper since 1835, publisher Laurel Champion announced today.

Heavy losses in revenue drove the decision. Champion said the current "business model is not sustainable." Advertising revenue slumped more than 20 percent in January compared to the same month last year.

"This isn't about abandoning local journalism, it's about serving it up in a very different way," Champion told employees, as she visibly fought back tears.

A new Web-based media company called AnnArbor.com LLC will be launched later this year. In addition to publishing continuously online, AnnArbor.com will publish a print edition twice a week.

Champion, who will be executive vice president of AnnArbor.com, told News employees they can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable. A total of 272 people work for the newspaper at both its main downtown Ann Arbor office and its Pittsfield Township printing plant. The newspaper has a daily circulation of nearly 45,000.

"We have an extremely talented staff at The Ann Arbor News, and they have done a tremendous job through very difficult times," Champion said in a letter to readers. "There is nothing they did or didn't do that would have sustained our seven-day print business model."

Employees gathered in a first floor conference room at 9 a.m. on Monday to hear Champion's announcement. There was an audible gasp when she told workers that the newspaper would close, and some people could be seen wiping tears from their eyes.

Champion said she was told only in the last month that Newhouse, the parent company of The News, had decided to close the newspaper. A few top managers were informed of the decision in the last few days, but the majority of employees found out Monday.

Afterward, reporters, editors and photographers appeared dazed as they huddled in groups to discuss the news. Ed Petykiewicz, editor of The News, looked visibly shaken as he paced the newsroom. Several times he could be seen removing his glasses to rub his eyes.

On Friday, Petykiewicz announced he would retire from The News this spring after more than 20 years with the company.

Sports reporter Dave Holzman said the announcement was shocking.

"It's devastating. I didn't really see this coming today," he said. "I thought there would be a final day for the paper ... but I really didn't think it would be this soon." He said he had expected the paper to continue publishing for a couple of more years."

Holzman, 47, has been with The News for 19 years.

"It's been my life for a long time. I can't remember what my other job was before this."

Many people in the community said they were shocked as well to hear the news, which was quickly picked up by area radio and tv stations, along with other media outlets.

"My biggest worry is is there going to be an adequate amount of news that will get out to the community," said Ann Arbor City Council Stephen Rapundalo. "It is a serious concern of mine."

"I sort of have tears in my eyes," said Joan Lowenstein, a former City Council member who currently serves on the Downtown Development Authority board. Lowenstein is a lawyer who once represented The News.

"First of all, citizens find out about government from reading the newspaper, but government officials also find out what is happening with the citizens by reading the newspaper.

"You lose that kind of mirror as a government official. Citizens will lose the ability to follow all kinds of information."

Employees at The News will be given a severance package that includes one week of pay for every year of service and some extended medical benefits. Meetings were scheduled on Monday and Tuesday for current News employees to meet with Matt Kraner, president of AnnArbor.com, to discuss the new company and its job openings.

Champion said it is likely that some of The News' staff will be offered positions with the new company, and that readers could expect to see content from some familiar writers.

Kraner, formerly chief marketing officer of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, was named president and chief executive officer of AnnArbor.com, and Tony Dearing, former editor of the Flint Journal who also served as business editor and managing editor of The Ann Arbor News in the 1990s, was named chief content leader.

Champion described AnnArbor.com as an innovative, community news and information service. AnnArbor.com also will produce a twice-a-week newspaper, published on Thursday and Sunday and a total-market coverage product once a week.

The Ann Arbor News will continue publishing a daily newspaper through July, she said.

Champion said AnnArbor.com will be more than a Web site with articles. For example, social networking features will allow for real-time conversations, reporters will be equipped to report news as it happens, and reader input will drive features on the site.

Community forums about AnnArbor.com will occur Thursday, April 2 at the Campus Inn at 2 p.m. and on Friday, April 3 at Weber's Inn at 10 a.m. Information on additional forums will be posted on AnnArbor.com.


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Posted by erson123
March 23, 2009, 9:30AM

Wow, this is terrible news. First the Detroit papers and now the Ann Arbor News. Most people who sit in front of a computer all day at work don't want to come home and read the news on one. I, like many people, read some articles throughout the day but when I get home, I want my paper.

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Posted by chefster
March 23, 2009, 9:44AM

What the ????, I am gonna go back to bed ,get back up, and restart my computer.

I love you guys.

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Posted by uawisok
March 23, 2009, 9:49AM

Does this mean the A2 news will stop throwing the unwanted news/ads circular on my sidewalk once a week now? I hope so!

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Posted by youemphan
March 23, 2009, 9:51AM

How are you supposed to take a computer into the bathroom????

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Posted by 1201smain
March 23, 2009, 9:51AM

I think everyone saw this coming. The A2News isn't what it used to be. The afternoon format has never worked for me since I work in front of a computer all day. Most things that would be of interest to me in the print edition have already been read online. I do hope the sunday "print product" by the new annarbor.com is a legit sunday newspaper .... but I have my doubts.

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Posted by hedgehog65
March 23, 2009, 9:52AM

Sounds like a good idea. Although, I think they should bring in new blood -not the same old (failed) print management.

RIP AAnews. The ship finally sunk.

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Posted by mich48103
March 23, 2009, 9:53AM

This will be a sad day, not every one has the knowledge and time to be on the computer. It takes alot of time and the senior citizens do not know h0w

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Posted by heather101
March 23, 2009, 10:04AM

I aggree 101%. I catch a few stories on line during the day, but I don't have/want a computer in my home. I look at one enough all day. More people out of work....whooppie!!!

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Posted by bicyclepete
March 23, 2009, 10:05AM

Shocking. Yet not. This time it's not a cycle it's a reset.

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Posted by desmya2330
March 23, 2009, 10:06AM

I read stories on line, but like to read the things in the paper that I didn't catch on line. Also, I save clippings of sports sections of our boys...now I'll have to order the prints if they're in the paper.

Ann Arbor News is another pillar of this community that has crumbled...what's left? Oh yeah...the prisons and jails.

You WILL be missed...

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Posted by heather101
March 23, 2009, 10:10AM

What about the older folks who only have the paper,no computer?


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Posted by lumberg48108
March 23, 2009, 10:15AM

This is a sad day but it has ZERO to do with the quality of the paper! Its the economy stupid! And the Interent, which has siphoned off profits for years. Do people graps how Monster.com and Ctaig's List have taken their revenue?

All papers are cutting back and the A2 News, competing in a "shadow market" of Detroit had no chance to survive. If papers in Seattle and Denver cant survive, what chance did A2 News have!

The internet has changed the world ... for better or worse! Print journalism is a casualty of the changing world and the economy sped up their demise.

I dont understand changing the name though, unless its a legal issue. They can still call themselves A2 News even if only online ...

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Posted by alangoldsmit
March 23, 2009, 10:22AM

I'm guessing that is so they can fire the entire A2 News staff and not have to move any over, unless they are 'hired' by the new company.

As a subscriber of the News since 1973, it's sad the Newhouse Family has sucked the dollars out of Michigan for years and not planned for the future. Why not have the paper produced for the Kindle 2 or some sort of electronic hand held reader? The Detroit Papers are moving in that direction it appears. There are dozens of newspapers available via Kindle delivery.

Hopefully that will be the case because a webpage version and a paid subscription to access it isn't going to work.

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Posted by rebbapragada
March 23, 2009, 10:31AM

It is indeed a sad news and it is a reflection of our changed times.Newspapers need readers and good circulation numbers to generate revnue from its advertisers.The steady loss of advertising revenue is the culprit.

However, it is the time to thank the staff for their valuable contribution to this community.

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Posted by jennifer3818
March 23, 2009, 10:37AM

They want to change names so there current staff has to be new hires and get paid less for the same work they have done for years. I feel horrible for all the employees that have worked there for years and are now getting told they are closing the A2news the same day they are telling everyone.
For the most part if you like reading half of the paper online you already are, if you are like the 75% of paper readers there is a reason for it. There are alot of older readers that like to read the "paper", also MLIVE sucks I very rarely read the online paper I only read it today because I heard about this on the yahoo news. NEWHOUSE I hope you understand what the reprocussions are going to be from this, you own several newspapers in Michigan which paper is next? The Jackson Citizen Patriot, or Saginaw News or Grand Rapids???? or all?

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Posted by waam
March 23, 2009, 10:39AM

What! No government bailout.

The sad news is this didn't have to happen if the News would have listened to the community what we wanted.

I guess all that is left are the Ann Arbor Chronicle and YpsiNews.com to write the hard news, submit FOIA's and hold local government accountable.

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Posted by alangoldsmit
March 23, 2009, 10:41AM

So if you live in Jackson or Grand Rapids you still get your newspaper 7 days a week. I guess they have plenty of businesses buying ads?

But upscale Ann Arbor, because everyone in town is internet savy, is the experimental lab for the future of 'newspapers'.

Got it.

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Posted by southbeagle
March 23, 2009, 10:44AM

Now what are we going to wrap the fish guts in?

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Posted by jacobmaxdad
March 23, 2009, 10:45AM

I second Heather101's comment - I guess I'll have to read the Busch's flier online in its tiny, online unreadable-ness. Also, what about the other coupons? What about local happenings? Someone needs to start a new bi-weekly publication that is a combination News/Observer, but with real news stories - no more dog finds home, or dancing around University issues.

To younger readers (I guess that means under 40) who think all news online is the way, what are you going to read in your senior years, once your eyes have given out from squinting at PDAs, phones, Kindles, etc, for years and years, if there aren't any newspapers?

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Posted by cinnabar7071
March 23, 2009, 10:50AM

I saw this coming about 5 years ago, when they decided home delivery meant throwing the paper at the end of my driveway, instead of the porch. I decided if I had to get dressed to get the paper I would just go to the corner store the couple of days I actually read the paper. I guess it's for the best, at least we will be saving trees.

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