A “terrible blow to journalism, ” MLive cuts 29 jobs at a time when Michigan desperately needs quality reporting

mliveI think everyone knew, when it was announced a few days before Christmas that Laurel Champion, MLive’s general manager for Southeast Michigan, would be leaving the organization, that something was up. Champion, after all, had been with the digital media company since the very beginning… since the moment when she, as the Publisher of the Ann Arbor News, announced that the 175 year old newspaper would be closing its doors, firing its more experienced staff, and coming back as AnnArbor.com, a groundbreaking, aggressively-streamlined 21st century online news company. And, four year later, she was on the team that would pull the plug on AnnArbor.com, further cut the staff, and move the assets beneath the MLive umbrella, promising to do even greater things with fewer people and resources. So, like many, when I heard that she’d chosen to leave and pursue “other opportunities,” I suspected that something was up. And, then, when I read, buried in the text of the MLive announcement about her departure, that “her position (would) not be filled,” I suspected it was just a matter of time before there was yet another massive restructuring… Well, late this afternoon, word began to leak out that it was happening.

Calling it a “terrible blow to journalism,” the Columbia Journalism Review’s Anna Clark announced on Twitter that MLive would be eliminating 29 positions across the state.

Since then, MLive has come out with a release of their own that, as you might expect, puts a significantly more positive spin on things. Calling it a “restructuring that directs resources to emerging content and business opportunities,” the management of MLive assures us, their remaining readers, that by cutting these 29 “content positions,” they’ll actually be able to do more real, hard-hitting journalism, focus more on “emerging social media channels,” and increase their “video storytelling” capabilities… Again, it would seem, they’re determined to do more with less.

While it’s not yet official, as far as I know, word is that several of these 29 jobs eliminated across the company were in the Ann Arbor office. As I understand it, the two managing producers, Cindy Heflin and Julie Taylor, were both laid off, as was entertainment reporter Jenn McKee. And others have been reassigned to statewide positions. Paula Gardener, for instance, will be stepping away from her editorial duties to become a statewide business reporter. Likewise, I’m told that John Counts and Jessica Webster will be shifting to the statewide team. As for editorial duties, it’s unclear to me what they’ll be doing without Gardener in that role, but I’m told a few new people will be transitioning into the Ann Arbor organization, so perhaps one of them will be charged with such tasks. For instance, I hear that someone named Jen Eyer has been named the new “team leader,” which I’m hoping is something at least approximating an editor. [Without an editor, it might as well be a blog, right?]

Without being too negative, it sounds as though the local offices are deliberately being pruned back, and that MLive is becoming more of a single entity with a statewide focus. Yes, I’m sure there will still be local reporting on Michigan Football, and the University of Michigan generally, as it has value across the state, but I think we should expect to see less in terms of everyday local coverage, especially when it comes to issues of marginal interest outside of Washtenaw County. At least that’s what it’s looking like to me.

And, sadly, this is all happening on the same day that Rick Snyder signed SB 571 into law. This law, if you’re unfamiliar with it, would prohibit public entities in Michigan, like libraries, from distributing information on candidates and ballot proposals 60 days prior to elections… Because, really, why should librarians be sharing ballot language, when people can just watch the 30-second ads on television financed by the likes of the Koch brothers? Speaking of which, this same legislation would give people like the Koch brothers wider access to the voters of Michigan by raising spending limits, etc.

“Senate Bill 571 is designed to keep voters in the dark about important issues in their community, including school millages and bonds to fund police and fire departments. Because of Gov. Snyder’s actions, local governments and school districts will not be allowed to pay for materials to educate voters on these issues. Meanwhile, corporations face few limits on their influence on elections.” – House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel

It’s also worth noting, I think, that the Flint Journal, which has been so instrumental in getting word out about the Snyder administration’s poisoning of the children in Flint, is an MLive property, and, as such, will likely also see cuts to their reporting staff, making it more difficult for them to expose the issues that they’re dealing with as a community to the outside world.

So, just to recap, at a time when our state government is ranked 50th with regard to transparency and accountability, and the children of Flint are being poisoned, and the FBI is investigating the takeover of Detroit Public Schools, our state’s largest news organization is slashing jobs, and our Governor is signing into law legislation that both allows corporations to have a larger voice in politics, while, at the same time, making it illegal for public employees to tell people about upcoming elections…

This, my friends, is what the end of democracy look like.

I’d like to say quite a bit more, but I’m falling asleep. If you’d like to know more about the process by which we’ve slowly lost our local press over the course of the past decade, I’d encourage you to read some of the following articles that I’ve written here. I believe, collectively, they should give you a pretty good sense of the steadily downward path that we’ve been on.

One last thing… I respect the hell out of the people working on the front lines at MLive. They’re good people. I know them personally. I respect their work. And I consider them friends. They’d been asked to do the impossible these past several years, and I think they deserve our thanks. While it’s easy to sit at home and criticize the journalism that MLive has been putting out, the truth is these people were being asked not only to turn in multiple stories every day, but to stay involved in the often frustrating conversations which developed online in their wake. These reporters didn’t, in other words, have time to develop thoughtful investigative pieces, like their predecessors at the Ann Arbor News, who, by the way, were paid a great deal more for their labor. It may not be the case for everyone, but the folks that I know at MLive want to produce good journalism, and they try their hardest to do so in light of the constraints put on them by their out-of-touch and increasingly distant managers. I respect them for that, and I hope that they’re able to continue, should they choose to, now that things seem to be taking yet another downward turn. And, if they are forced out, I hope that they land on their feet, like Nathan Bomey, Scott Anderson, Geoff Larcom, Leisa Thompson, Jordan Miller, Richard Retyi, Katrease Stafford and Mary Morgan, all of whom have demonstrated that there’s life after working for the Newhouse family.


The Ann Arbor News to Lay-Off Employees: Just What We Need, Fewer Reporters [2/8/2007]
The Untimely (or Timely) Death of the Ann Arbor News [3/23/2009]
MarkMaynard.com, a Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy [6/21/2009]
AnnArbor.com – Where News Breaks [8/10/2009]
The State of Journalism Today [3/16/2010]
AnnArbor.com Cuts Staff Considerably [3/13/2011]
What do people really think of Ypsilanti, how might those opinions be reinforced by Ann Arbor media, and what can we do about it? [5/8/2011]
The death of the American press and the corresponding rise in corruption [6/9/2011]
Please Write to AnnArbor.com and Ask Them to Cover the Eller Race [8/5/2012]
AnnArbor.com Heroically Pushes yet Further into the Post-Journalism Frontier [9/26/2012]
My Thoughts on the Death of AnnArbor.com [9/4/2013]
Clicks over Quality…. Will the MLive Follow The Oregonian, Demanding that All Reporters Post Three Stories a Day? [3/30/2014]
The Saturday Six Pack (episode three) with Former AnnArbor.com Reporter Katrease Stafford [2/3/2015]
The Ann Arbor News Does Not Speak For Ypsilanti [9/21/2015]

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47 Comments

  1. Peter Larson
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    The comments on MLive are bad. They should have fired the commentors.

  2. Demetrius
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    It is long past time for an organized campaign to encourage people to remove any remaining MLive links from their bookmarks list(s), and to pledge to refrain from having this odious organization play any role in of their regular media diet.

    We need to hit them where it counts … page views, and clicks.

    As I’ve said before … more than ever, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti needs and deserves a credible source for news, information, and investigative journalism – not to mention one that has the resources to serve as a watchdog over local companies, organizations, and governments.

  3. Chuck
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    She seems to have been in charge of community engagement or something like that in the past. A big defender of the comments and commenters on social media, which probably explains her promotion.

  4. Mr. X
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Paula Gardner on Facebook: “the position of Ann Arbor News editor no longer exists”

  5. Geoff Larcom
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Great perspective, Mark. I particularly second the sentiments you express about how hard the existing Mlive reporters work. You capture their myriad obligations very accurately. Along with Cindy Heflin, a longtime colleague of mine at the AA News, whom I respect greatly, Julie Baker is the other managing producer (main copy/content editors) who was laid off. Jenn McKee is a major loss — she was the entertainment concierge/editor there, a delightful person with a great future. As you note, With Paula Gardner becoming a statewide news reporter, a very interesting question is what the supervision will be like over at the AA News operation. Jen Eyer, a fine writer, has been a leading figure in Mlive in terms of community engagement and digital strategy, and has written and edited some fine editorials.

  6. Peter Larson
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Who cares? You all hated mlive anyway. Weren’t they part of the conspiracy to take down ypsilanti by sending poor people there?

  7. Eel
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    How can the local office exist without an editor?

  8. Jcp2
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    It’s called the “internet”. Lots of companies use this technology for team collaborations. Why we are using this very thing right now.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I’m not understanding the choice of Eyer to be “team leader,” which I assume is someone charged with editing the local product, without being given the title and pay. As others have said, prior to this she was overseeing the division that monitors comments across MLive. Paula really knew this community. Eyer, as I understand it, does not have the same grasp. Maybe, however, she has a better sense of what it takes to drive clicks, and therefore revenue.

  10. Alex
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Jcp2, you’ve clearly never worked in a newsroom. The editor doesn’t just check your sentence structure and spelling. It’s his or her job to enforce journalistic ethics and to direct the work of writers, pushing them to answer specific questions and get opposing viewpoints.

  11. Alex
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    As for Eyer, my concern is that she will care more about what performs well online and not what people really need to read and know.

  12. Meta
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    The story behind SB 571 is in today’s Detroit Free Press.

    Three weeks after Michigan state legislators adopted a heavily amended campaign finance bill in the final, frenzied hours of their 2015 session, even some of those who voted for the legislation are unpleasantly surprised to learn what’s in it.

    High on the list of surprises is a provision that raises the amount a political action committee can donate to pay for expenses incurred in any statewide campaign, effectively doubling the maximum donation — for the second time in as many years — from $68,000 to $136,000.

    Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill into law late Wednesday afternoon over the objections of myriad critics, including legislators from his own party who insisted they’d been duped.

    Rep. Dave Pagel, a second-term Republican the southwest corner of Michigan, was among 58 House Republicans who voted to adopt SB 571 just before the House adjourned in the late evening of Dec. 16.

    “It’s troubling when you take a vote and later realize that you were ignorant of some facts you should have known,” Pagel told me Wednesday, a few hours before Snyder signed the bill into law.

    Pagel said he was misled about the scope of language that bars municipalities and school districts from disseminating information bond proposals and other ballot questions in the 60 days before an election.

    I asked him if he realized the 41 pages appended to the original 12-page bill in a last-minute amendment also included a provision doubling the allowable PAC donation.

    “I’d have to go back,” he replied.“That wasn’t the portion of the bill I was focusing on.”

    Even Sen. Mike Kowall, the veteran White Lake Republican who sponsored the original 12-page bill, seemed taken aback Wednesday when I asked him whether he realized his Republican House colleagues had added an amendment raising the ceiling on PAC contributions.

    “Well,” Kowall said after a pause, “I do now.”

    The bizarre circumstances surrounding the passage of SB 571 had led the Snyder administration to move cautiously in deciding whether to sign the bill into law. Indeed, it wasn’t until Dec. 28 — 12 days after its adoption, and about a week after other bills adopted the same day were presented for the governor’s signature — that the controversial campaign finance bill was formally delivered to Snyder’s office.

    Republican lawmakers in both chambers have complained that the leaders of their respective caucuses — House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olivet — failed to brief them adequately about what was in a voluminous eleventh-hour amendment appended to Kowall’s bill, without notice or public hearing, late on Legislature’s last voting day in 2015.

    Most have raised objections to the single paragraph that muzzles local governments for two months before an election. Michigan law had previously barred the expenditure of taxpayer funds to advocate for or against passage of ballot proposals, and critics of the new, broader prohibition argue that it unreasonably restricts the flow of information voters need.

    But the local government gag provision is only one of several controversial provisions slipped into Kowall’s bill at the last minute, including:

    -Language that permits contributions from PACS and other donors to be applied to expenses incurred in the previous campaign cycle, even if the total amount exceeds the limits applicable for that cycle.

    -Language that forbids employers to deduct money from their employees’ paychecks that is subsequently deposited in a union’s PAC, even if the employee consents to the deduction and the employer has contracted to make it.

    Read more:
    http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2016/01/07/campaign-finance-surprise/78361616/

  13. A.C.
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Remember what Orwell said, “Journalism is writing what someone else doesn’t want you to hear. All the rest is
    advertising”.

  14. Doug Coombe
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I think they spelled it wrong. It’s a destructuring – not a restructuring.

  15. Keith
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The end of Democracy looks more like thwt Wisconsin hellhole on “Making a Murderer” but points well taken. Michigan news desert.

  16. jcp2
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Alex,

    You’re right. I’ve never worked in a newsroom. But I have worked in many places where similar managerial/editorial tasks are performed by people that are not physically “there” where the work is being done. Organizations are trending towards a flatter management structure, as many of the layers existed because of technological constraints.

  17. Keith
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The end of Democracy looks more like that Wisconsin hellhole on “Making a Murderer” but points well taken. Michigan news desert.

  18. Lynne
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I just can’t bring myself to care about this. The reporting at Mlive has been so bad for so long. I have completely stopped reading it. That it is the fault of management putting too much pressure on people isnt surprising.

    I wish I could think of a way to monetize local news better. So far the best solution I’ve come up with is to support public radio. They still have good local news.

  19. Keith Orr
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Thanks…it was frustrating to read about the mlive restructuring on mlive. Felt very Orwellian.

    Thanks for praising the many good journalists who have been working to be journalists against all odds. It has been a horrible journalistic endeavor, but clearly the result of decisions in the hands of non-journalists.

    From mlive….they say they can focus more on statewide features like their “Best Of…” series. Really. It gets clicks and pageviews. Its fun (as the recipient of Washtenaw County “Best Neighborhood Bar” I appreciate the publicity). But is it the journalism we need now more than ever? Clearly not. Very sad day.

  20. Donald Harrison
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the perfect time for you to launch MM.live, Mark…

  21. Michael Bodary
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    As much as I’ve been disappointed in MLive since 2009 and they started going through successive changes, I’m really shocked and scared by this . The age of investigative reporting may be coming to an end.

  22. Cass
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad but the reality is the business model for spending two to three days on a story, or even one story a day, is gone. There’s no money for deeper written work on the web unless you’re a site behind a paywall with customers willing to pay money as a subscription.

    What you’re worth in business is not about how many hours or hard you work, but what people are willing to pay you for the value you provide. Advertisers have, except in small, targeted niches, judged ads next to the written word, especially online, does not provide much value to them, regardless of how much the reporter worked.

    There will be even more losses, because any of these old outlets trying to convert to digital is going to have a hell of a time making it because people’s tastes are changing.

    It’s not just that it is a different technical medium, but to be very successful, it’s a different approach and culture. People online are less and less so going to news home pages; Facebook or Twitter is their news front page of the day. Facebook has said that is their strategy and it’s working.

    We can complain about it in comments until the cows come home, but that complaining hasn’t and won’t change what’s happening.

    Bottom Line: If you want good written journalism, you as the reader will have to pay for it going forward or it will go away. I donate to WDET-FM, and pay for Crain’s. I always feel like I get my money’s worth with them.

  23. tommy
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Not in any way, shape, or form a terrible blow to journalism. I feel bad for the people who are losing their jobs (jobs which included babysitting the comments section so that naughty words, personal attacks, and ALL CAPS entries would be deleted). We need local news and reporting; we don’t need annarbor.com. It was a farce from the start. I hope that all of those laid off find a better place to hone their craft, like Mr. Larcom has done when he bailed to be a spin doctor at EMU.

  24. Matt Roush
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Cass and Geoff Larcom, thanks for praising the people who do work insanely hard at Mlive. When I worked at the Kalamazoo Gazette, lo these many years ago, between news, sports, features, photography and the copy desk, there were probably 60+ people on the editorial side. Now there are… in the teens, maybe? Or low 20s? And we worked hard then and couldn’t get to everything, because there weren’t enough hours in the day. I can’t even imagine — how much important stuff they must know they can’t get to no matter how hard they work. (As for Crain’s, yes it’s still good, but it had 10 reporters when I was there, and if I read the staff box right now, it has 8.5. Well, at least that’s close. And they’re all good, solid news pros.)

    Cass, you are right on the money about the economic realities. I just don’t think people understand what they’re giving up when they just blow off the traditional watchdog role of the press in favor of mindless clickbait. Well, maybe they will when their pension fund gets stolen. But even then, today’s libertarian mindset will tell them it’s their own fault, they should have been more providential.

    And make no mistake, clickbait is all that matters to the media these days. When I was told of the layoff of a reporter in the Detroit media recently, the way it was explained to me was, “His stuff just wasn’t getting any clicks.” Not that it wasn’t good. Or wasn’t important for people to read. Whether or not it contributed to important public policy issues didn’t even come up. Just — no clicks, no job. I’ve never been happier to be in PR for a benign nonprofit, not to mention within hailing distance of retirement.

  25. Alex
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    The Columbia Journalism Review agrees.

    (http://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/michigans_mlive_cuts_29_positions_in_latest_restructuring.php)

    “It’s also hard not to feel concerned about the journalistic resources available in Michigan—a state that ranks dead last in the 2015 State Integrity report card from the Center for Public Integrity. This is the state where a city drank lead-contaminated water for nearly 18 months until a band of outsiders and citizen-activists forced dismissive public officials to admit that it was poison. Michigan is scarcely out of navigating the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, and it has made controversial use of emergency management over its distressed cities and school districts. Oh, and Michigan is one of only two states where both the governor’s office and the legislature are exempt from open records requests.”

  26. Jim
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Snyder’s explanation for signing SB 571 is difficult to believe. If he thought that the bill was unclear, why didn’t he veto it and demand changes? By signing the bill he gave up his ability to to demand the changes he claims that he wants.

  27. Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Which would lead one to assume that he’s lying, Jim.

  28. Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Appreciate being included the Jordan as Geoff and the rest of the former newsies, but my path in the company was weird. I was part of the community contributor experiment with Stefanie Murray and Jordan, continued through Ed Vielmetti’s tenure and then when they shuttered that wing of the building, did more freelance stuff, reporting mostly to entertainment editors like Bob Needham. These gigs ranged from free to, at my apex, $75 a pop (before the dreaded freelancer tax).

    And then MLive took over the Ann Arbor News and freelance money dried up. In a funny twist, a year or so later, I joined MLive full-time on their Digital Operations team as a training coordinator. It was my job to create and execute training sessions to help reporters, multimedia specialists and community engagement specialists across the company do their best digitally. I also got to work closely with the MLive print hub in Walker, Michigan, where the actual print editions were compiled.

    I have lots of thoughts on AnnArbor.com and MLive and echo all the sentiments of hardworking journalists, good people and high expectations. It’s obviously tough to make money in newspapers right now, and it’s also difficult to quantify success in news because high page views don’t automatically equate to successful journalism. And people at MLive get that. They’re news people. They understand that an important story that gets 5,000 page views can be as valuable as a series on the best high school mascot, which might get 3 million. But they also want to have those 3 million page views. So, to keep efficient and make money and still out out a product of value that people can be proud of, says like yesterday happen. Because there’s no features desk. There’s no three-person city business’s team. There isn’t a stable of full-time photographers. There are reporters who are, in many cases, eager and optimistic and determined to do good work armed with iPhones for photos and video and notebooks and sometimes crappy laptops trying their best.

    Fuck MLive is a bad sentiment, because you can’t separate the people from the organization. Support the writers and reporters who deliver work you appreciate. Email staff story ideas or kind words when they do well. And sure, email them constructive criticism if you have it – I didn’t meet anyone at MLive that wasn’t up for feedback. But from top to bottom, I genuinely think they’re trying. To do good work. To make it work. To be relevant. Fiscally and journalistically.

    Anyone want to chat further, email me. I’ve been close to this organization in some form or fashion since forever and have lots of feelings about all of this. Richretyi@gmail.com or tap me on the shoulder at the Bar at Braun Court (free plug, Eric!)

    Also I typed all this on my phone while putting my kid to sleep so excuse errors and rambling.

  29. I Worked There Too
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    You may or may not know (you probably do), but Jen Eyer was a Mommy Blogger before she started at AnnArbor.com (BLOGGER!). She then became community engagement director before leaving .com for MLive. As far as being a sufficient editor, that has yet to be seen.

    From the beginning, she rubbed some of us the wrong way. Many of us had been with the Ann Arbor News for years and still valued what a newspaper should be. Some of us also had web experience, which she discounted and was always against any of our ideas on what would work online vs how print worked. Anyway, as you know, they’ve never quite been the same since the closure of the (real) Ann Arbor News.

  30. Jcp2
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I think the mortal slow bleeding wound to journalism was once newspapers and advertisers figured out that ad rates were markedly overpriced when active media started to compete with passive media.

  31. Demetrius
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I think it is important to distinguish the work of many low-paid, and often hard-working and talented reporters … from the corporate MLive “brand” that only seems interested in clicks and page-views (and of course, selling advertising).

    I’ve seen and experienced some worthwhile reporting from folks associated with MLive, and I wish them all the best in their future careers. But without a real commitment to the communities they serve, and to real reporting, substantial investigative journalism, and a genuine “watchdog” role over local institutions and communities, how can anybody not consider MLive as anything other than a slick (statewide) online bulletin-board?

  32. Karen Dunnam
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Here in Grand Rapids, the terminations are removing several of the longest-tenured writers and contributors. Today’s farewell piece: from the arts & entertainment writer Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk.
    While pop culture coverage of “best” food offerings and local-gal-made-good Ginger Zee) generates page clicks, it’s the deeper investigations that takes down rogue mayors and reveals public health crises. Perhaps the new newspaper structure involves membership, complete with totebags and pledge campaigns.

  33. Jen Eyer
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Since there seems to be some interest in, and confusion about, my background, I thought I’d introduce myself and lay out my career path. I graduated from MSU’s j-school in 1997. While in school, I worked for the State News and also overseas, at Agence France-Presse in Paris. Right after graduation, I was the editor of three weekly newspapers in the Lansing area: The Towne Courier, Williamston Enterprise and Ingham County News. I then got married and moved to metro Detroit, where I worked as a beat reporter for the Brighton Argus, then as Suburban Life editor for the Troy Eccentric. My husband, Kevin, then took a job in Ann Arbor in 1999, and at that point I was becoming very interested in digital journalism. There were no open positions at MLive, so I took a job at Ford as managing editor of FCN Online, Ford’s nascent global news intranet site.

    When a position opened at MLive, I jumped at it, joining the team in 2000. I was senior news producer from 2000-2006, serving as the liaison with the Booth newspapers and as interim editor at one point. However, when our first child was born, it was important to me to work part-time, so I dropped back and did that for a couple of years. When our second child was born, I decided to stay at home for a couple of years. During that time, I wrote freelance business and food articles for The Ann Arbor News and yes, kept up a parenting blog. In 2009 I was ready to come back to work part-time, and serendipitously, the leaders of AnnArbor.com reached out to me. I joined the community team, managing and coordinating community contributors. When I was ready to come back full-time, I became director of audience engagement.

    And when MLive Media Group was formed in 2012, I was asked to come over to that team and expand reader engagement efforts statewide. For the past four years, I’ve been managing the CES team and working with other senior leaders on digital strategy, among other things. With this new restructuring, my knowledge of Ann Arbor and management experience was needed as the news team leader here.

    I am passionate about the Ann Arbor community, as is my husband, who works for the City of Ann Arbor as the change and technology manager. When we moved here, we thought it was a stop for a few years at most. But the more we traveled, the more we realized how much we loved coming home to A2. So here we are, with two kids, deeply involved in our community. I would encourage anyone who has thoughts, concerns or news tips (!) to reach out to me at jeyer@mlive.com.

  34. Bill Bresler
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “Team leader” is an editor who is paid less. Gannett calls ’em “content coaches”, I am told.

  35. Lisa Patrell
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Is this why Ryan Stanton could not attend Friday’s A2 Liquor Licensing SubCommittee meeting? OWS Neighbors need reliable access to information concerning all facets of local governance. It would have been a pound of prevention instead of the ton of potential conflict arising over the liquor and entertainment licenses for a business that aims to open up right across the street for residential homes in a zone that does not permit entertainment; in a location that does not have zoned commercial parking within the parameters set by city code; that is so close to Doughty Montessori School as to have triggered a special provision by both State and City Ordinance and Code–but was not; that is in direct conflict with the constitutional right to one’s peaceful enjoyment of ones’ home; that threatens the safety of the children in the neighborhood (14 just on the block directly across from the proposed alcohol-entertainment business).

  36. Kathie
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Brother, yes.
    Thanks for this important commentary.

  37. JJ
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    It’s quite a sad day for journalism in this state and it’s too bad the higher ups at MLive didn’t see the value these people provided and instead will focus on more food features for their Michigan Best series. They truly have become the Buzzfeed of Michigan.

  38. Mary Tithof
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    My first thought–are you sure the DeVos money isn’t involved to protect their Michigan politicians?

  39. Posted January 9, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    JJ, Buzzfeed does quite a lot of investigative journalism, so maybe not the best comparison.

    Jen Eyer, I’d be interested in hearing what you think the Ann Arbor News can realistically do, at a minimum, vis a vis local news, with the limited staffing that is a reality. I think part of the issue is promising more than can be actually delivered–that leads to constant disappointment.

  40. Jim
    Posted January 10, 2016 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    More from Brian Dickerson on how SB 571 was passed:
    http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/brian-dickerson/2016/01/09/elections-law-architect/78431822/
    I am astonished by the lawless way in which the Michigan legislature operates, and by the erosion of democracy under Snyder.

  41. Demetrius
    Posted January 11, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Our State legislators have only one main job in Lansing: To read and understand the legislation they are asked to vote on.

    Claims that they “hadn’t read” or “didn’t understand” the legislation they passed, necessarily leads to one of three (equally negative) implications.

    1. They really hadn’t read, or didn’t understand the legislation they were voting on.

    2. They knew exactly what they were doing, but trusted the last-minute nature of the vote, coupled with weakened press oversight would allow them to escape notice/consequences.

    3. They blindly trusted Party/Legislative leadership to tell them what to do, how to vote.

    At this point, it is hard to know which of these three possibilities is worse.

  42. Meanwhile at MLive
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    The top story at the click-bait shell of the old Ann Arbor News this afternoon:

    “Poodle dies after eating sock”

  43. Meta
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    And the local coverage keeps shrinking. Jeremy Allen, who had the University of Michigan beat, just announced that he would be leaving MLive to take a job at U of M.

  44. Bob Young
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Not long after leaving CMU with a degree in Journalism I was offered the challenge of turning a weekly shoppers’ guide into a weekly newspaper, the long term goal being daily publication.

    I declined, with more than a little reluctance, because I had a better offer.

    Looking at MLive from the perspective of The Grand Rapids Press it seems that the publisher has every intention of turning a newspaper into a shoppers’ guide.

  45. Jen Strayer Eyer is gone now too
    Posted March 24, 2016 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    She didn’t even make it three months.

    From Facebook:

    24 mins · Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor ·

    After 16 years with MLive.com, the time has come for a new adventure. I’ve accepted a position as vice president at Vanguard Public Affairs, working with the inimitable TJ Bucholz and his growing team of ultra-talented professionals. I’m thrilled to move into a new arena, where I can advocate on behalf of organizations and causes that I’m passionate about. It’s always been a goal of mine to move in this direction at some point in my career; that time is now.

    Leaving MLive is of course hard to do, as I’ve spent almost my professional life so far with this company in one capacity or another. Those early days of experimenting with anything we could throw at the wall were heady, working with John Bebow, Bill Emkow, Jennifer Walsh Johnson, Mark Hauptschein, Kevin Nichols, Rachel Brady, and so many others on both the MLive and newspaper sides. I’ll never forget how good the company was in accommodating for years the flexibility that I wanted in order to juggle work and motherhood. Timing and available opportunities of course were factors, but ultimately this company respected and supported my choices, and I appreciate that deeply.

    At both AnnArbor.com and MLive Media Group, I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many talented people who’ve challenged me, taught me, and enriched my life in so many ways. Especially Tony Dearing, my mentor and friend, whose integrity I admire greatly and whose advice has never steered me wrong. You opened my eyes to what I could be, and I’ll never forget it.

    John, Kelly, Sara and the rest of the managers: I wish you all the success in the world as you continue to expertly navigate all the crazy twists and turns of this industry. Colleen, I’m excited to watch you rock a new challenge here within the company. Also, please never stop sending me snarky chats. Zane, Kyle, Gillian: I’m going to keep watching and learning from your social prowess. (Also, don’t stop with the snarky chats.) Current Ann Arbor News crew (Ryan, Melanie, Darcie, Junfu, Lindsay, Matt) and statewide AA-based reporters (Paula, John, Jessica): You are producing the news readers in this town desperately need every day, even if they rarely show their appreciation. As a resident, I’m counting on you to keep it up!

    If you’re still reading at this point, I’m here in the AA newsroom until April 15, then starting with Vanguard on May 2. Ciao, tout le monde!

  46. M
    Posted March 24, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    She must have started looking for a job the minute she got the promotion.

  47. Facts?
    Posted April 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Take that all you who have bemoaned the end of local journalism. I new fish is jumping into the pond. Live long and prosper.
    http://weloveannarbor.com/2017/04/10/welcome-love-ann-arbor/

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