Back to the Future
In February, Newhouse eliminated its last Michigan daily papers, reducing the Jackson Citizen-Patriot, Kalamazoo Gazette, and Grand Rapids Press to three print editions a week. As it did in Ann Arbor, the parent company framed the changes not as a cutback in print, but a move online. Tellingly, though, it isn't trying to create unique websites for the other papers--instead, they're folded into the statewide MLive.com. And up in the Thumb, Booth is moving in the opposite direction--it's increased the frequency of the Flint Journal, Bay City Times, and Saginaw News from three days a week to four. (Dearing says there are no plans to increase the frequency of AnnArbor.com.)
Newhouse's other papers also kept their historic names, a smart move given the number of people who can't wrap their heads around the idea of a newspaper named after a website (the Observer still gets calls from readers asking how to find "the Ann Arbor News").
Since the number of pages hasn't changed, the syndicated content comes at the expense of local coverage--AnnArbor.com's great strength since recommitting to reporting last year. But the loss isn't as bad as it might have been, because the redesign also dropped many of the graphics and teasers previously used to make the paper easier to browse.