Michigan Newspapers Announce Big Cutbacks, Closings

Mar 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: General, The New Media Update

In four Michigan cities, the daily newspaper is becoming little more than a nostalgic memory.  The Flint Journal, The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times, will now come out only three days per week: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Even more drastic changes are coming for the 174 year-old Ann Arbor News. The entire paper is being shuttered, its staff eliminated, and replaced by a new to-be-launched online news venue, Ann Arbor.com. The Ann Arbor paper will still be printed twice a week.

With no local reporters or support staff, this sounds a great deal like what Clear Channel and others have been doing in the world of terrestrial radio, a hollow “local presence” that exists mainly to serve up local advertising between generic chunks of content.

According to the Ann Arbor News’ Publisher, Laurel Champion, however, “This isn’t about abandoning local journalism, it’s about serving it up in a very different way.” The Ann Arbor News reports that News employees “can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable.”

The economic downturn of the last six months has only exacerbated the crisis in newspaper (and other print) publishing, which has been struggling as ad revenues shrink, and readers turn their attention to other media. In Michigan, with its heavy reliance on the automobile industry throughout the state, newspapers appear to be even harder hit.  The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News recently announced that they are cutting back home delivery of their papers to only three days per week.

Decisions to close and/or reduce publication of the newspapers were made by parent company Advance Publications, which owns eight newspapers throughout Michigan. Advance Publications, in turn, is owned by the Newhouse family, which also publishes magazines through its Conde Nast division, and provides cable television through its Bright House Networks.

The company also announced mandatory two-week unpaid furloughs for its employees at most of its newspapers, according to the New York Times.

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