MLive Media Group announced Wednesday on their website that multiple positions would be eliminated in the latest restructuring move to impact the Ann Arbor News.
According to a statement on MLive’s website from John Hiner, vice president of content, 29 “content positions” were eliminated in an effort to restructure the company. Though the layoff may include Ann Arbor editors, reporters and photographers, the statement notes that the number of content positions remain the same overall statewide.
Along with the Ann Arbor News, MLive also owns multiple other newspapers across the state. It was formed in 2012 when it combined MLive.com with eight newspapers across the state of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Jackson, Flint, Saginaw and Bay City. Combined, it has the largest audience of any media company in Michigan — the website has a monthly digital readership of more than 11 million people.
The changes aim to “(direct) resources to emerging content and business opportunities, while reducing some management, support and production roles,” according to the statement.
When asked to comment further, Hiner wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily that MLive would not be disclosing the specific details of the internal restructuring at this time.
“At this point … we’re going to let the article we posted stand, in terms of public comment by our organization,” he wrote.
The announcement is the latest in a series of similar moves for newspaper outlets in the state. Last month, 13 journalists at the Detroit News accepted a buyout. Buyouts have also occurred at the Detroit Free Press recently.
The full list of positions that will be impacted or eliminated by the changes at MLive have not been released by the media group, though some employees have publically announced changes. Paula Gardner, the former Ann Arbor editor at MLive, tweeted that she will now be reporting Michigan business news for the company, but declined comment when contacted by The Michigan Daily.
For some, the move to eliminate content positions has sparked concern about the quality of coverage in Ann Arbor and beyond.
Currently, The Michigan Daily is the only media in Ann Arbor to publish as a daily print newspaper. The Ann Arbor News maintained a daily print news cycle until July 2009. It currently publishes daily online at MLive.com, but produces print editions only on Thursdays and Sundays.
Anthony Collings, a University lecturer in the Department of Communication who focuses on journalism and media, said he was concerned the changes could lead to less local coverage in Ann Arbor.
With 18 years of experience reading the Ann Arbor News, Collings said he has become increasingly dissatisfied with the level and quality of the paper’s local coverage, and now reads it rarely.
“From what I’ve seen of (the Ann Arbor News), they rewrite press releases, they boost local businesses, they tell you about cool restaurants,” Collings said. “That’s fine, I’m all in favor of food and travel, but you also need to do the quality journalism. You need to investigate problems. This town has problems, like any place. Where is the journalism? Where is the accountability reporting?”
No media organization has filled the niche of providing local coverage over past years, Collings said.
“Ann Arbor needs good coverage,” Collings said. “The Daily is fine, but the Daily does a lot of focus on the campus. It’s a student newspaper. There isn’t a really good daily news organization covering Ann Arbor the way it should be covered.”
Collings added that he believes the problem goes beyond Ann Arbor and is something that’s also missing in Michigan and beyond, citing coverage of the Flint water crisis in particular as an example of statewide failings in investigative journalism.
“Generally, journalism in the United States is undergoing a crisis. Buyouts, layoffs and other forms of staff reduction — that’s all bad news for the public, because less journalists means less coverage of stories that need to be covered,” he said.