Local and Michigan Headlines: Capitol News Coverage Dying; Bill Targets Teachers Who Strike

Here are some interesting stories published elsewhere on the web in the past twenty-four hours. Feel free to discuss them in the comments or let us know if we missed anything:

  • Capitol news coverage dying – This column from the Lansing City Pulse by MIRS editor Kyle Melinn looks at the dramatic decline in news coverage at the capitol. Over the past several years, media outlets across Michigan have dramatically reduced the number of reporters covering the state capitol. With important issues before the legislature–such as the upcoming budget–Melinn says that people want to know what is going on in Lansing, but he isn’t sure if there will be reporters to satisfy their interest.
  • Health and Hope – This is an interesting article from Rapid Growth Media about a dentist who was inspired by a trip to Africa to give up his lucrative dental practice in the suburbs to provide dental care for low income patients in the Burton Heights neighborhood as part of Health Intervention Services. The clinic is part of the Free Clinics of Michigan network. To be sure, it’s going to take a lot more than individual acts of charity and selflessness to fix the health care system in the United States, but it’s great to see things like this.
  • GRIID Interviews Kathy KellyThe Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) interviews activist Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence. Kelly was in Grand Rapids last night to speak about her recent trip to Pakistan and what she learned from talking with refugees who have been displace by U.S. drone attacks.
  • War Funding Coverage Full of Omissions – Over the past week, MediaMouse.org has reported on the debate over war funding in the House of Representatives. In particular, we have looked how the Democratic Party has been willing to sellout its anti-war constituents. In this piece, the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) looks at how the war funding bill was covered in the Grand Rapids Press. Not surprisingly, it was barely covered, but what can you really expect from a newspaper that has no national reporters?
  • White House Says, ‘Stand Tall, Michigan!’ – The Obama administration’s so-called “green jobs czar” says that Michigan has everything it needs to make it “a green energy capital of the world.” The only thing missing is the political will to adopt green policies.
  • Proposed bills tell teachers one strike, they’re out – Two proposed bills in the Michigan House of Representatives will make it easier to punish teachers who participate in strikes. The bills would enact new penalties–including loss of certification for two years–on teachers who strike. Teacher strikes were made illegal under a 1994 law.
  • Dow dioxin cleanup in mid-Michigan could take years – This article from the Detroit Free Press describes a pretty typical pollution scenario. A corporation–in this case Dow Chemical–contaminates a large swath of land with a toxic chemical–in this case dioxin. After several years of citizen complaints, the EPA finally decides to investigate the issue. First, they promise a study. Then, they decide how to clean it up, then they actually (more often, a maybe) start doing the work. It takes years before the pollution is ever cleaned up. In this case, clean up could last until 2018.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Detroit Free Press Cutting Its Staff; Auto Worker Contracts

Here are some interesting stories from the past 24 hours:

If we missed anything, let us know.

Grand Rapids Press Publisher Discusses State of The Press

Dan Gaydou of the Grand Rapids Press

Last week, Grand Rapids Press publisher Dan Gaydou delivered a speech to the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids on the state of his newspaper. As the we’ve reported in recent months, The Grand Rapids Press’ parent company has made a number of cuts in recent months, as has The Grand Rapids Press.

However, The Grand Rapids Press reported on Gaydou’s talk and that The Press is in a solid position:

Acknowledging the newspaper business is changing dramatically, Gaydou said The Press — along with parent company Advance Publications Inc. — is poised to make the transition.

A string of major daily papers have filed bankruptcy or stopped publishing, but it’s inaccurate to assume that all newspapers are close to demise, he said, speaking at Kent Country Club. Many of the papers that have folded are in large metropolitan markets and have lost readership over time.

That isn’t the case with The Press, which is read by 56 percent of the community on a daily basis and 65 percent on Sunday, Gaydou said.

Gaydou said that the biggest challenge facing The Grand Rapids Press is the economy, but that it has recently cut costs through pay cuts and buyouts.

Gaydou went on to say that The Press is committed to maintaining its “reporting franchise” saying that it is necessary to “preserve a valuable component of the community and democracy.”

And as is always the case today, Gaydou hyped The Grand Rapids Press’ website saying that it “appeals to younger readers.”

Grand Rapids Press Cuts Wages, Benefits; Major Changes at Booth Newspapers

The Grand Rapids Press is Cutting Wages and Benefits

Today, the Grand Rapids Press–the largest newspaper in West Michigan–announced that it would be implementing new wage and health benefits cuts for its employees.

According to the Press, the changes are being implemented due to declining advertising revenue. The Grand Rapids Press says that it currently has no plans to move away from a seven day per week publishing schedule, but that its future depends on customer support. Publisher Dan Gaydou hinted at another increase in home delivery prices.

Gaydou said that the newspaper’s readership remains high at 310,000 daily readers and 460,000 Sunday readers.

Changes at Grand Rapids Press’ Parent Company

Moreover, The Grand Rapids Press’ parent company–Booth Newspapers–has announced major changes in its operations:

  • The Ann Arbor News will cease publication in July. Instead, a new “web-driven media company” will take its place that will publish a “print product” two days per week.
  • The company announced that The Bay City Times, The Flint Journal, and The Saginaw News will begin sharing resources and switch to a three day per week publishing schedule.
  • The production of The Jackson Citizen Patriot, The Kalamazoo Gazette, and The Muskegon Chronicle will consolidate in Grand Rapids.

The announcements come as newspapers across the country and in Michigan struggle with declining revenue and readership.

The Grand Rapids Press and “The Bachelor”: This is News?

The Press has Run 24 Stories--Including 3 Front Page Stories--On The Bachelor

Since the New Year, the Grand Rapids Press has run a large number of stories on the television show “The Bachelor.” Hyping the fact that one of the contestants – Molly Malaney was from Grand Rapids (although she lived at the time in Milwaukee) – the Grand Rapids Press ran 24 stories on “The Bachelor.” Of those 24, 3 appeared on the front page of the newspaper.

Are we really supposed to believe that this is news? As the economy crumbles, while the planet heats up, while people freeze to death because they don’t have heat, and any number of daily horrors, the Press wants to tell us about “The Bachelor”? All of this comes at a time when the newspaper industry is facing declining readership. Apparently, the Press— which earlier this year trimmed parts of the paper in order to “stay in the game” and whose parent company Booth Newspapers continues to face economic difficulties–seems to think that “The Bachelor” will help its fortunes.

As would be expected, the coverage was “fluff”–stories covered the latest developments on the show, what previous contestants thought about it, and what the Press itself thought about the show. These articles–many of which ran in advance of the program–were essentially advertisements for the reality TV series.

the Grand Rapids Press also ran a number of stories reporting on a theory advanced by a blogger that the series finale would take an unexpected twist–Internet conspiracy theory as news. Beyond that, the Press printed a story about a “live blog” that it hosted on its website during the series finale, treating us to insights from folks going by the names “Sweet Tee” and “guiltywatcher.”

Press Editor Defends Decision

While the headlines (see below) and the coverage of “The Bachelor”–much of which hyped the show in advance of episodes or recapped the previous night’s episodes–are enough to make one sick, perhaps the worst part of the coverage was Grand Rapids Press Editor Mike Lloyd’s defense yesterday of the decision to put the finale on the front page.

In a 900+ word column titled “‘Bachelor’ and front page: A controversial match,” Mike Lloyd wrote that many readers had contacted the Press to express outrage that the television program received front page billing. Mike Lloyd also wrote that there was disagreement within the Press as to whether or not to place the story on the front page, but said that he made the decision himself:

“This front page call came from me. I’d never seen a whole show before, either, but I was among the millions of viewers Monday night. Start to finish. I watched, because at the center was a Grand Rapids girl. Tom’s “big deal” description doesn’t cover it. Comments pro or con are anecdotal and not scientific. But the numbers were overwhelming. the Press M-Live Internet site set records for hits, reader comments, unique browsers and return visitors. The papers featuring Molly on the front page showed increases over the same days the week before.

“The Bachelor” bump was huge.

It’s a great debate, but this was the right call.

See you at the wedding!”

So, in other words, if Internet visits are up, it’s worth it. I guess we can all expect more ongoing coverage–yippee.

All of the coverage of “The Bachelor” in the Grand Rapids Press–and the rest of the local media–is a good example of why alternative media is so important. If the Press wants to feed us fluff, it’s up to the rest of us to create alternative media structures that can publicize what really matters.

“The Bachelor” Headlines: This is News?

  • “Second time around – Ex-grand rapids woman vies for nod from jilted bachelor” – 01/04/09 – F1 (Entertainment) – 557 Words
  • “Local Reality” – 01/04/09 – F2 (Entertainment) – 513 Words
  • “GR’s Malaney advances on ‘Bachelor'” – 01/06/09 – B8 (Namedropping) – 102 Words
  • “Molly advances to ‘ Bachelor’ dozen” – 01/13/09 – B8 (Namedropping) – 83 Words
  • “Molly advances” – 01/20/09 – B6 (Namedropping) – 48 Words
  • “Molly gets good and campy with Jason – Time ‘alone together’ a good sign, indeed” – 01/27/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 468 Words
  • “Molly hangs on for G.R. date with Jason – They will hit Egypt Valley, then head to the JW” – 02/03/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 409 Words
  • “Romance in GR: Molly’s big date airs tonight – Egypt Valley and JW Marriott tout their woo factor” – 02/09/09 – A3 (City and Region) – 346 Words
  • “Molly, Jason click in ‘Bachelor’ GR visit” – 02/10/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 431 Words
  • “Fans feast on full plate of reality TV – As some shows wind down, others are cranking up” – 02/15/09 – F1 (Entertainment) – 994 Words
  • “Bachelor with tyke restores show’s luster” – 02/17/09 – B3 (Your Life) – 140 Words
  • “Grand Rapids native makes final two on ‘Bachelor’ – Bungee jumping gives Molly Malaney an edge” – 02/17/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 408 Words
  • “Molly in the middle of ‘Bachelor’ conspiracy theory – Spoiler alert! Blogger thinks he knows how it ends” – 02/19/09 – A1 (Front Page) – 733 Words
  • “Castoff contestant upbeat despite ‘broken heart’ – Jillian Harris disappointed, surprised at abrupt exit” – 02/23/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 516 Words
  • “‘Tell All’ lets jilted dates rehash ‘Bachelor,’ a la soaps – Web rumors involving Molly keep up the hype for finale” – 02/24/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 369 Words
  • “What you need to know about “‘The Bachelor'” – 03/01/09 – F1 (Entertainment) – 466 Words
  • “The players” – 03/02/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 129 Words
  • “Does ‘Bachelor’ backpedal on proposal?” – 03/02/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 977 Words
  • “Rose of sharing – Will Grand Rapids girl win heart of ‘the bachelor’?” – 03/02/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 61 Words
  • “Live blog adds to ‘Bachelor’ fun – Interactive watching is the new reality TV” – 03/03/09 – A5 (City and Region) – 348 Words
  • “Bachelor’s heart leads back to Molly – After proposing to Melissa, he decides that GR’s Malaney is the one he loves” – 03/03/09 – A1 (Front Page) – 608 Words
  • “Smitten Molly is moving to Seattle for Jason – In ‘Part 2’ show, Malaney said she ‘grilled him’ on flip-flop” – 03/04/09 – B1 (Your Life) – 293 Words
  • “Molly almost took ‘Bachelorette’ trail” – 03/05/09 – A2 (Namedropping) – 98 Words
  • “Molly and Jason, it has a nice ring – ‘Bachelor’ winner recounts journey from GR to fishbowl” – 03/06/09 – A3 (City and Region) – 470 Words

Underground Newspaper Archive Updates

Today we made a number of updates to our Underground Newspaper Archive, adding several new articles from The Fundamentalist, a newspaper that was published in Grand Rapids from 1992 to 1998. Over the next few weeks we’ll adding more articles from The Fundamentalist, as they offer a lot of important historical information for folks doing social change work in West Michigan on issues ranging from resistance to war to development and gentrification in downtown Grand Rapids.

The articles added today include:

Eventually, the print archives of The Fundamentalist will be available at the Bloom Collective.

Holland Sentinel Sold

The Holland Sentinel–a newspaper that was owned by Morris Communications (a media company based in Atlanta)–has been sold to another media corporation. The Sentinel was sold along with fourteen other newspapers around the country to Gatehouse Media for $115 million. Gatehouse Media owns 450 publications in 20 states, including 7 newspapers in Michigan.

The sale of the Holland Sentinel is a good opportunity to review how much of the local media in Grand Rapids is owned distant corporations. Grand Rapids’ only daily newspaper, the Grand Rapids Press, is owned by Booth Newspapers that is in turn owned by Advance Publications who owns a number of newspapers, magazines, and Internet sites. Since 1975, more than 2/3rds of independently owned newspapers have disappeared. Media reform advocates have charged this form of media consolidation threatens local coverage and reduces quality reporting.