Saturday, January 06, 2007

Courier is now empty space

I stood on the sidewalk looking into the empty space that had been home to the Ypsilanti Courier for so many years. A great sadness swept over me as I looked into the darken room, and only a few slips of trash scatted about the carpet. The desks were gone, the computers carried off by the movers on Wednesday. I used to write for the Courier, back when it was a good newspaper.
I was the guest speaker for the Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation and Judy at the Courier called me, to ask if the paper could do a profile on me. Of course I agreed, and was interviewed and a photo of me taken. The profile and a large photograph of me ran on the front page, as it must have been a slow news time. Soon after, Judy called me again, and asked if I would like to write a monthly column for the Courier on local history. Again, I agreed.
The name Footnotes in History was chosen for the column, and it became a weekly column even before the first story was published. That first story was published on April 1, 1999; an easy date to remember.
My deadline was noon of Thursday of the week before the column was to run. Every week I turned in my story and slowly came to know the people in the office. There was Judy, my editor, Dave the publisher, and the others there. Every week I turned in my story, and, as the paper was a weekly, I could spend time visiting. I learned a great deal from those visits, about newspapers, the city, and of human nature.
One day I received a call, asking me to stop by the office. When I got there, I was told the paper had been sold, but there was nothing to worry about. The new owners were pleased with what the Courier was doing, and wanted us to continue as we were. The only change was the paper would now have more resources. This state of affairs did not last long.
In two weeks the new owners were taken over by another company, which in turn is owned by a corporation. Quickly the good feeling of things to come changed to the realization that we were in for a disappointment. The idea of the newspaper these now owners had, was that of shopping news. Their interest was only in selling ads, and nothing in content. The moral in the office turned bitter. In time Judy, left fed up with the new owners, and Dave left as well.
I had been told I was one of the two writers the new owners wanted to keep on at the paper, and then My first paycheck was eight weeks late. It took some time for the problem to be solved.
In time I made the painful decision to leave the Courier, and move over to the Ann Arbor News. I came to realize I had no future with the Courier, and needed to move on. I still feel pain thinking of leaving my friends behind. I had been talking to Christine Uthoff of the News on and off for a few weeks, when I made the finale decision. That Monday morning I walked into Christine’s office and said, “Now is the time for all good rats to abandon the sinking ship.” I turned in my contract and felt better that the deed was done.
I then crossed the street and made my way to the office of the Courier, to tell them the news. I walked into an office of smiling faces, as the new editor who had replaced Dave was out, and everyone there already knew the news. They had read about my move to the News on the ypsidixit blog even before I had turned in my contract.
I have been happy at the news, everyone there is friendly and the paper has been kind to me. I am pleased I made the move when I did, as it clearly was the right chose. Still, I am sad to see the Courier go, as the office has been moved out of town. The Courier was in space that was rented, and is now moved to space the company owns.
I will always remember my time with the Courier with fondness, and enjoy good memories. What I am now, and will become, I owe in part to my time at the Courier. You see, I wrote for the Courier, back when it was a good newspaper.


At 7:18 AM, Blogger Rob said...

I am sad as well, James. Though as time passed, and the Courier quickly became a shell of its former (brief!) self, I am most saddened by the fact that Ypsilanti, in truth, doesn't have a paper any longer... I remember (and it wasn't that long ago) this town had a solid daily paper... Guess I'll just have to be satisfied with the AA news-- And their sometimes less than "full" coverage of Ypsilanti, aside from titillating their readers with sordid "police-beat" Ypsi tales, that is!
Anyway, I enjoy your stories-- So keep up the good work. -Rob

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous rodneyn said...

I am also disappointed that the Courier offices have left downtown - I spent 20 minutes venting my spleen about the short-sightedness of the move to a pair of unfortunate executives somewhere on the east coast(?) and somewhere far up through the maze of ownership.

I realize that the "old" independent Courier is long dead and buried. Get over it, please. The new editor of the Courier (and Belleville View) has made great strides this past year in making the Courier relevant once again as a source of local news.

It may no longer be the "good old days," but I enjoyed reading my Courier in 2006. Perhaps it's time to renew your subscriptions and give the (no longer quite as local) paper another chance?!!


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