Michigan Daily, Time to Step Up, Due to the (Lack of) Competition

The Ann Arbor News will cease being a daily newspaper starting in late July, according to a new Poynter report.  It will reemerge as a more svelte online-only operation publishing a print paper twice a week.  The reason this latest newspaper-bad-news headline stands out amid the predicted print reckoning is that it will leave Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan, as the first at least somewhat major metropolitan area in the states without a daily print newspaper.  Or does it?

Cue The Michigan Daily, the student-produced newspaper in the university town, and soon to become the last shining beacon of daily print news hope in Ann Arbor.  Obviously, it is campus-centric first and of course summer and term breaks make the daily distinction at least a little smudged, but its print tradition, huge readership base, and newsstand reach (maybe something that should even be expanded when fall semester starts?) are not to be snickered at.

Here’s what the Poynter piece had to say: “I don’t know the campus paper, The Michigan Daily, well, but I have observed in other university towns- Austin, Texas and Athens, Ga.- that a strong paper at a big school is formidable and often quite profitable. It provides enough news to satisfy most of the student population, just passing through for a few years.  Plus it sucks up restaurant and nightlife advertising and may be the first ad buy for youth-oriented shops.”

Honestly, I’m not loving the backward compliments. The statement admits student papers can sustain mega-huge presences and profits and yet somehow they can only do that by offering just-quality-enough news that satisfies only the just-passing-through student crowd (what about faculty, staff, admins., the local Starbucks baristas, townies, trustees, parents, prospective students, high school teachers who bring them into classes, etc.) and acting as leaches “sucking” away advertising from the apparently more deserving (and in this case just about dead) professional daily.

How about giving the student press some credit?  While The Ann Arbor News prepares to implode and admits financial failure, The Michigan Daily survives.  Formidable.  Profitable.  And still in print.

(((The previous student press defense is rated S for snarkiness.)))

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