Category Archives: Newspapers

Ann Arbor City Council proposes, but does not vote on, anti free newspaper distribution law

ANN ARBOR (December 5, 2011): There are a number of neighborhoods in Ann Arbor where there are citizens who receive newspapers, and “newspaper-like items”, where the citizen does not pay for the newspaper. We receive a free copy of the Ann Arbor Journal, and there are some neighborhoods where a number of students receive the Wall Street Journal gratis.

Alas, not everyone who gets a free paper opens it up in time for it to be useful, and some of it turns into litter. Some of that litter is neighborhoods where people like to keep the streets tidy.

The Ann Arbor City Council is considering an anti-newspaper law, file 11-1470, which would amend the city code regarding distribution of handbills. The document with proposed changes as of the November 21, 2011 meeting is on the Ann Arbor Area Government Document Repository as document 303. The ordinance in this form was not voted on. The ordinance was again put in front of council on December 5, 2011, and then tabled.

The Ann Arbor Chronicle reported on the agenda item on the nights of the council meeting. Under the headline Ann Arbor: “No Newspaper” Law Delayed, it wrote:

The council postponed the ordinance revision to its next meeting, on Dec. 5, because the content of the proposed revision had not been disseminated to the public in a timely way before the meeting.

On the night of December 5, the Chronicle’s article on Ann Arbor Tables “No Newspaper” Law cited three recent cases on unwanted delivery of newspapers, including City of Fresno v Press Communications (1994), Rowan v US Post Office (1970), and Tillman v Distribution Systems of America (1996).

When similar legislation went into place in Chicago, a blogger referred to this as a free newspaper killing law, and some amount of righteous pro-litter indignation noted that the founding fathers were in favor of free speech and newspapers. The countervailing view from Baltimore refers to the free Thursday SunPlus newspaper as littering and dumping.


Local news powered by Patch: the state of local news aggregation in 2011

Two years ago, the state of the art in local news aggregation was That site aggregated postings about a specific geographical area and offered up a web based user interface to republish those links on your web site. did not have its own staff of reporters, and its automated systems for newsgathering were (to be charitable) fallible, and thus it sometimes threw up junk of various kinds which was unpleasant to wade through.

Fast forward to today, or more specifically March 2011, where AOL's Patch buys, a deal reported by Techcrunch to be worth south of $10 million. 

Patch's world model is of a world full of part time news gatherers publishing local news about locations which are small towns. In the local area, there's a Dexter Patch, a Saline/Milan Patch, a Plymouth Patch but no Ann Arbor Patch and no Ypsilanti Patch.  How do you get full-scope news coverage for every zip code, then? By reworking your feed structure as "Local news powered by Patch", and suddenly you can push links out to a network of systems that are happy to put local news on the local weather page and don't much care about the details except that there needs to be a plausible result for every single zip code.

Detroit Daily Press not off to a great start

This is such a curious story that I want to preserve bits of it as they appeared, to help better make sense of it.

The back story is that some veterans of the "strike newspaper" industry decided they could make a go of doing a new daily Detroit paper, with delivery.

They launched to the point of being able to print a week's worth of paper, then abruptly shut down.

The Detroit News:

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, lack of advertising, lateness of our press runs and lack of distribution and sales,
we find it necessary to temporarily suspend publication of the Detroit
Daily Press until after the (first) of the year," the statement read.
"Once we can fix these things, we plan to be back stronger and more
organized when we return. This is just a bump in the road and not the
end of the Detroit Daily Press."

Bill Shea from Crain's had a hard time finding a copy on Monday when it got started:

While 3,500 sounds like a lot, I’d hazard that one could easily find 100,000 retail spots, or more, pretty easily in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, so the paper might be harder to find that some might expect.
I looked at a few downtown Detroit places at lunchtime with no luck. I’ll check again later and pop up to Royal Oak so I can get a copy to dissect for you on here. Stay tuned.

TIME's Detroit bureau weighs in:

Surprising — yet not surprising — news out of the new Detroit Daily Press. The city's new paper says it needs to regroup. Editors and writers now have a five-week vacation to see what happens.
Many friends were working there, and they were the ones who took the buyouts or were laid off from The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. I'm sad to see an enterprise that could have been an exciting addition to the community fall so quickly.

Media critic Jay Rosen had only this cryptic comment on the situation:

Not a single thing do I get about this story. Either the reporter is incompetent or the actors are crazy.

And I suspect it will take a while to figure out what really happened.

on the email interview and the validity of written communications

There's a wide variety of quality in people's ability to express themselves in written form, and an "email interview" is one way of assessing this.  This generally takes the form of a set of questions provided to the interviewee to be answered by them using whatever means they have to prepare a suitable answer.  You will often find that it takes some time to get a response back, especially if there are a lot of questions or if the questions are hard.

Frankly, I'm disappointed that more people don't spend the time on getting better at both writing written questions and in responding to them.  A well-written set of questions, thought through in advance, can give a candidate or any other interview subject time to prepare and reflect on the tone they wish to project.  This can be very instructive when compared to the same person's behavior in an unreflective, spontaneous, unscripted moment.  In addition, email leaves a trail and a public record and you know how useful it is to have a public record to refer to from time to time rather than private, unreliable personal notes.

I know that the stereotype is the ink-stained reporter clutching the steno pad grabbing a good phrase here and there.  But there needs to be more attention to how people present themselves in email, especially given how much municipal business is transacted through the email.  I am certain that a reporter is capable of being just as tough and as hard-nosed via written form to members of government and candidates for elected office – just as good elected officials are skilled in the art of writing pointed requests for information from agencies and departments in order to get at the details they want.

30 years ago today, or the value of newspaper archives

The Marquette Mining Journal printed this today, in their "30 Years Ago" column:

Marquette Serior High School freshman Ed Vielmetti, 14, son of Mrs Katherine Vielmetti, 415 E. Michigan St., won honorable mention in the 22nd annual Michigan Mathematics Prize Competition.  For his showing, Vielmetti received a certificate and copy of "Mathematics Gems," from the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The Michigan Math Prize Competition has a storied history:

The first contest was held in the spring of 1958 and drew 6100 students
from 315 high schools. Since then the competition has mushroomed,
reaching at times about 25,000 high school students from close to 600
schools participating in the preliminary contest.

Newspapers that have been around for a long time have deep archives that can be mined for old stories that are relevant again, or for old news that sheds light on what's going on now.  Sometimes the back of a clipping will tell a contemporaneous story that sheds light on the times in ways that the ahistorical Internet world of news (where everything looks new and shiny) never can.  For you see – the web page does not have a reverse side, but the newspaper does, and the web page does not yellow with age.