The Onion for Ann Arbor
Dan Meisler's funny, but not mean
"Developers seek asylum at local church."
If the headline in the News of Ann Arbor website was eye-catching, the lead was eye-popping: "After narrowly escaping a pitchfork-wielding mob yelling 'We just don't want you here!' Wednesday night, developers of a proposed student-housing project sought refuge at a local church."
The next headline was even better-"Anonymous commenter makes astute, well-supported point"-and the lead was better still: "In what media experts are calling an industry first, an anonymous commenter on one of Ann Arbor's news Web sites made an interesting and well-researched point that moved the discussion in a positive and constructive direction." And best of all was the writer's use of a favorite nonword: "Irregardless, media observer Lynda Pappe said that if such commenting becomes a trend, it could be a seismic shift in the journalism-industrial complex."
NewsofAnnArbor.blogspot.com is the work of Dan Meisler, by day an editor at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. With his shaved head, bushy goatee, imposing build, and glinting blue eyes, Meisler could be scary if he wanted to. But like his website, he is ironic without being brutal.
Born in Buffalo in 1971, Meisler came to Ann Arbor in 1977 when his mom, Miriam Meisler, got tenure in the U-M department of human genetics. He says he attended "a bunch of grade schools," then Clonlara, then Forsythe, then Community High. He left town for Reed College in Portland, left Portland for graduate school in print journalism at Northwestern, and graduated in 1998.
"First I was a reporter for the Bond Buyer in Washington, D.C., then I worked for the Statesman-Journal in Salem, Oregon, then for the Adrian Daily Telegram, then for the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus in Howell, then for the Ann Arbor-slash-Michigan Business Review from 2008 through 2009, then free-lance for Ann Arbor Business-to-Business and AnnArbor.com through March 2011. Thank God I landed a job at the University of Michigan. Since December 2009 I've been enjoying
the largesse of our esteemed university."
Launched in July 2011, the News of Ann Arbor wraps Meisler's hyperbolic imagination in a deadpan style. "When I was involuntarily separated from gainful employment in the media industry, I did some thinking about what role I could play in the community I love," Meisler says. "I settled on being a wise-ass."
He's found the city a tempting target. "I feel like the Ann Arbor community is ripe for satire," Meisler says. "With its combination of ingrained NIMBY-ism and dogmatic liberalism, Ann Arbor is the most conservative liberal town I know. And aging baby boomers are not making the town more flexible or open-minded.
"My subjects are politicians and people in the public eye," Meisler continues. "I target people I think can take it or who have a sense of humor. And I seem to have an eye for blatant hypocrisies."
Satire, however, has its limits. "I don't make fun of the vulnerable, the poor, or the homeless," Meisler says. "And I make the effort not to be mean. I've not done a few because I think they might be mean." Asked for an example, he laughs and says, "I can't tell you. It would be mean."
Despite or because of that merciful impulse, the town has yet to embrace the News of Ann Arbor. "The most I've ever gotten was 3000 hits in a single month," Meisler says, checking his iPhone. "I got 16,000 hits altogether, and I've got 200 followers on Twitter and Facebook."
None of which has yet brought him a dime. "I've made $50 off of Google ads," Meisler says, "but they don't pay until it gets to $100."
[Originally published in July, 2012.]