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The Ann Arbor News bids farewell

BY LARA ZADE
Managing News Editor
Published July 23, 2009

After 174 years, The Ann Arbor News — Ann Arbor’s local, longstanding, daily print newspaper — published its final print edition Thursday.

Rather than featuring breaking local news, such as City Council meeting plans or the latest crime reports, Thursday’s main headline read “Farewell, Ann Arbor.” The final paper showcased a timeline of the publication’s history and a closing column from publisher Laurel Champion.

“It’s been a great run,” Champion wrote in the column.

Champion cited the “devastating transformation of the newspaper industry” and the consequential economic impact that forced publishers to decide to close The Ann Arbor News in March.

“I hope you will remember us for the contributions and impact that we have made over the last 174 years,” Champion also wrote.

In honor of the final paper, The Ann Arbor News printed an additional 12,000 copies.

The print version of The Ann Arbor News was replaced by AnnArbor.com — a free website launched Friday that will offer local news and distribute a print edition on Sundays and Thursdays. The Web site is managed by Matthew Kraner, AnnArbor.com president and chief executive officer, and Tony Dearing, AnnArbor.com chief content leader and a former Ann Arbor News managing editor as well as a former editor of the Flint Journal. Champion is the Web site’s executive vice president.

According to Champion, 274 Ann Arbor News employees were laid off due to the paper’s closing, and about 25 have been hired by AnnArbor.com.

“We’ve had a very open employment process at AnnArbor.com,” Champion said. “Everyone’s had a chance to apply.”

The demise of print newspapers in many cities across the country raises the question of whether communities will adapt to an online medium for daily news.

But according to Kraner, the internet-savvy Ann Arbor community is ready to adjust to the new Web site. As published in a March 23 Ann Arbor News article, AnnArbor.com representatives found in a survey of the Ann Arbor region that 92 percent of the community “has the skills and technology set-up to get online news.”

Guy Hurlbutt, an Ann Arbor resident and former University employee, said he thinks the new Web site will do well in Ann Arbor because the city is home to intellectual citizens who keep up with technology.

“Because of the educational level in town and with the University here, I think that people are more used to using computers and doing research on computers than any other Southeastern Michigan city,” he said.

Hurlbutt, a subscriber to The Ann Arbor News for 25 years, was reading his copy of the last edition as he sat outside Starbucks on South Main Street. He said he would read the paper every day and added that he’ll miss the daily ritual he created around perusing the print edition.

“I would come home from work, do my exercises, eat dinner, and after dinner I’d sit down and read the newspaper,” he said.

Hurlbutt added that he plans to use AnnArbor.com to stay current with city political events and other local information.

Ann Arbor resident Allen Hizer, also an avid reader of The Ann Arbor News, was enjoying his copy of the final edition of the paper while eating lunch at Cloverleaf Restaurant on East Liberty Street.

Hizer said he’s not yet used to reading news content on the Internet, but that he, along with the rest of the community, will adapt to the change for news coverage.

“I think it’s just going to be a learning curve for everyone to accept the new medium,” Hizer said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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