Welcome to ANNthology
Ever since traditional journalism imploded in the United States about a decade ago, the country has sought a new model. The question has long been: Who can be counted on to tell the truth and ensure that democracy survives?
The recent election cycle reminded us, on a national level, that this question remains unanswered. Some citizens trying to decide who to vote for couldn’t tell the difference between real and “fake” news. Russia’s attempt to highjack the presidential election made headlines only after the results were announced. And at the end of the day, a man who refused to release his tax returns or reveal any detailed plans for the future was elected president. For too many in the national media, ratings trumped substantive reporting.
One could argue that things are even worse on a local level, where daily community newspapers once dominated. Those monoliths have shriveled as the underpinnings of their business model eroded. A lot of very smart people at foundations, think tanks, universities, etc., have sought an alternative model for community news that’s scalable and sustainable — but they haven’t come up with many solutions. Let’s hope they keep working on it.
Meanwhile, quietly and in the background, many community journalists have found a way to simply keep working. They’ve started their own websites or blogs, launched a newspaper for the homeless or a monthly magazine, turned their community-focused organization into a source of information, or maybe just attended important meetings and spread the word about what they learned. There are wonderful examples of all these passion-based enterprises right here in Washtenaw County.
Taken individually, these efforts may never replace the heyday of the daily newspaper. But what if these passionate people, who until now have been working alone, joined to amplify one another’s voices? Could they become a de facto community newspaper? It’s an idea worth pursuing, right?
We thought so. So we pursued it.
We’ve formed a group of 17 collaborators to supply information that will be shared through a five-day-a-week email newsletter starting Jan. 23. We hope this newsletter becomes a convenient, trusted stopover for citizens eager to learn more about the place they call home. If you think of the old community newspaper as a huge storehouse with a single mission, then think of this effort as a series of silos, each providing hyperspecific news, maintained by a variety of people who represent a new breed of community leader.
Everyone involved in the newsletter is local and independent. There are no shareholders to appease. There are no strange business decisions being made from afar. These journalists — or truth-seekers or bloggers or whatever they want to call themselves — are your neighbors; if you have questions about something they’ve written, you can ask them about it the next time you see them at the grocery store. There’s no faking news at this level.
You can meet some of them on the pages that follow. Note that a few are involved only part-time in their journalistic pursuit. It would, however, be a mistake to call them part-time anything; they are full-time citizens, protecting all of us with their pursuit of the truth. They saw that the huge local knowledge gap was being filled with rumor and uninformed social media pundits, and they’ve stepped up to help fix the problem.
Read about how they got started on their passion projects. Check out their work. And the next time you see one of them out on the town, buy them a beer. They deserve it.
I have never considered myself a “journalist.” Rather, I am blogger who sometimes engages in journalism. My primary focus is twofold: (1) to connect dots between things that are happening around us to help people understand connections they may not be seeing; and (2) to help folks more fully understand complex issues so that they are able to talk about and debate them, confident of their facts.
The implosion of the mediasphere means that there are fewer people doing the important work of investigative journalism so it’s important that citizen journalists are helping to fill in the gaps. We must also be sure that we are amplifying the work that’s already being done by professional investigative journalists so that it is seen as widely as possible.
The thing that motivates me most is my strong belief that a sustainable democracy isn’t possible without a robust Fourth Estate. We must have this so that our elected officials and other community leaders are held accountable for what they do.
In general, I have found that if you’re telling the story truthfully and honestly, the trolls and criticisms and accusations of “fake news” tend to be seen for what they are.
My motivation derives from a childhood vow to speak out against injustice — to never be guilty of looking the other way as so many did during the Holocaust. I also have a passion for people’s stories which makes grassroots journalism perfect for me.
Local in Ann Arbor
Local in Ann Arbor is named to emphasize my interest in helping to make Ann Arbor a resilient community. I follow the lead of U-M Professor Thomas Princen (who co-edited “The Localization Reader”) and the writer Wendell Berry in supporting localization to this end.
While I recognize the value of relating to our region (however defined), I believe that Ann Arbor’s government and citizens must first take steps to preserve the viability of our immediate community and its ability to support a diverse citizenry. This means maintenance of viable neighborhoods and policies that benefit a wide range of family incomes. Ann Arbor faces strong pressures for development aimed at wealth generation for a relative few. Information and perspective are needed to support policy directions. I attempt to present in-depth information with analysis on issues confronting our town from the viewpoint of local government.
WEMU program director
WEMU’s newsroom is guided by the ethical standards of NPR, driven by the conversations happening right now in our community, and fueled by the passion of our “small but mighty” news staff. This gives us both a solemn responsibility and a great deal of freedom. We dedicate ourselves to accurately presenting the truth in our reporting, aware of our inherent biases, free from our opinions and without sensationalism.
This is how we’ve managed to spend over 50 years in a trusting relationship with our listeners. And it gives us the ability to do more than just report — we can tell the stories of the people, places and things that shape the very fabric of our vibrant community. To do any less would be a breach of the relationship we’ve worked so hard to create. Our news team takes that commitment to heart every day; it’s why they’re here at WEMU.
The Michigan Daily editor in chief
The rise of “fake news” has made it more important than ever before to ensure what we’re writing is completely factual and our publication is considered credible by the public. As people have become more concerned with what they’re reading and whether what pops up on their social media timeline is true or not, they turn to the sources they trust for the story. Though we’re a student-run publication, at The Michigan Daily we want to make sure we are among those turned to.
It’s in these confusing times that we need to look back on the basics of journalism: reporting the facts. The only way to dissolve the feeling of uncertainty by the public surrounding the media is to continue to provide unquestionable coverage which includes viewpoints from all sides of the spectrum. Additionally, as newspapers are increasingly portrayed as partisan, as an unbiased news source we need to continue to reach out to all communities in the area to report on the stories which matter most to all groups. The Daily has been a staple news source to the Ann Arbor community for the past 126 years, and we look to continue to provide unquestionable journalism even amid a period where the media is being questioned.
Concentrate Ann Arbor managing editor
The threatening factors in both the journalism industry and the political climate only strengthen my resolve to keep doing quality work. We cannot hope to address the issue of polarization without actively working to understand and empathize with those on both sides of a given issue, and attempting to move the dialogue toward compromise. We cannot hope to address the world’s trolls — either in our highest government offices or in internet comments sections — without actively working to seek out and present truth in its clearest form. We cannot hope to address “fake news” without actively working to encourage critical thinking, and keeping our own critical thinking sharp. And we cannot hope to defend our credibility any better than by doing exceptional work that holds up to a skeptical or accusatory eye.
The challenges at hand are alarming, but they’re a reminder to remain vigilant and do the best work possible at all times.
Although Chelsea Update is primarily a one-person news website, it’s the Chelsea community and the trust they’ve placed in me to bring them the news that allows me to continue this venture. I’ve been in this business for more than 40 years and have only and will only publish all the news that’s fit to print about Chelsea.
Ann Arbor Art Center marketing director
The Ann Arbor Art Center aims to be a hub of ideas and information for the Ann Arbor area. We have served in this way for 107 years and feel as vibrant as ever in that work.
Throughout those years, it has been our care for the community and our sense of what it can be and do that motivates us to persevere in service.
This means we regularly present news about regional arts activities, we tell stories about our area’s amazing artists, we offer our own “top five” lists to anyone who asks, we create robust and relied-upon arts learning experiences for people of all ages, and we present art exhibitions that give the community multiple lenses through which to view and understand an issue for themselves.
We are also thankful we are not alone in this kind of community-focused information dissemination — we have great partner institutions and collaborators throughout the region.
I do what I do because I strongly believe a resource like AnnArbivore should exist. The effect the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education has on our community is great, and yet so few people are engaged. There are too many times where I am the only member of the public at a meeting. If people aren’t going to be at the meeting, I at least want them to have AnnArbivore so they can follow along, be informed, and get engaged. I love when people tell me they’re following the meetings with my blog, and have been so moved by the proceedings, they’ve changed out of their pajamas back into their regular clothes and headed to the meeting to be present. That’s what keeps me going.
Ann Arbor Art Center: Local arts
AnnArbivore: Ann Arbor Public School meeting coverage
Ann Arbor District Library: Books, events, art
Ann Arbor With Kids: Ann Arbor events for families with kids
Chelsea Update: Chelsea news
Concentrate: Local business news
Damn Arbor: Ann Arbor life
Eclectablog: Statewide political news
edible WOW: Southeast Michigan food news
Groundcover News: Local general news
Local in Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor city news
Purple Walrus Press: Ypsilanti alternative news, views and reviews
The Ann: Local general news
The Eastern Echo: Eastern Michigan University student newspaper
The Washtenaw Voice: Washtenaw Community College student newspaper
The Michigan Daily: University of Michigan student newspaper
Treedowntown: Ann Arbor’s development, growth and change
UMS Press: Arts and culture events
WEMU: Local general news
Sign up for ANNthology
What it is: A five-day-a-week email newsletter curated by The Ann from independent and local news, information and opinion sources.
How you do it: Go to theannmag.com/ANNthology. Fill out the brief form. Hit enter. There’s no cost to you.
When: We start publishing on Jan. 23.
Edited Jan. 26, 2017, to add Purple Walrus Press as a contributor.
Edited Feb. 1, 2017, to add Treedowntown.