Saturday, November 07, 2009

No News

On our walk this afternoon we saw this delivery box for the Ann Arbor News. It was on the ground next to the post that once held it, no longer needed.

Ann Arbor is marginally famous for the fact that it's a city of well-educated people that now has no newspaper at all. The News went out of business last summer, leaving a smaller less frequent (and much less staffed) publication that mainly runs a website. I've read that the out-of-town owner of the News (and its little replacement) wants to experiment with what can be done if you cancel the paper globally.

In the many years I've lived in Ann Arbor, I was a subscriber to this local paper for less than 8 months once, in the mid-80s. So I don't really miss it. I began reading what the News posted online a couple of years ago, and now read the successor website. I switched from the paper New York Times to the online one in 2003. I also read several other online publications.

The lack of a newspaper has a variety of consequences for a city this size. Last Tuesday, we voted to change the city charter, which required publication of certain acts of the City Council and other local government apparatus in the "newspaper of record." The only journal that satisfies the criteria in the old charter language is a legal journal with a circulation of around 1000, I read. Now it's legal for the city to post these items on certain websites. And legal requirements and reality are better lined up again.

Someone eventually is going to have to figure out how to replace the seeming finality of printing and archiving newspaper announcements. Otherwise we will have no certainty that the electronic version hasn't been tampered with. A brave new world -- or more like what Orwell predicted for 1984 when Big Brother's minions regularly changed the historic record. But we have no newspaper, so the change isn't negotiable.

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