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Posted on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 11:07 a.m. will set new guidelines for staff-written columns

By Tony Dearing

Commentary has always had a place in journalism. A well-crafted opinion piece will be appreciated by readers and sometimes win honors in our profession.

In the most recent Associated Press news-writing contest, we had three staff members earn awards for columns they wrote.

More recently, though, we have published staff-written columns that didn’t meet the standards we hold ourselves to here.

I am writing today to acknowledge that, and to tell readers how we are dealing with the concerns they have raised over the publication of these columns.

Based on feedback from the community, as well as our own internal discussions, we plan to establish a set of guidelines for staff-written columns. While these guidelines are being developed, we will limit the number of opinion pieces by staff members, and the ones we do offer will be put through a more stringent review process before they are published.

In retrospect, we realize we should have given greater scrutiny to a column written by Business Director Nathan Bomey last week on the importance of scanning social media and news reports before using Twitter, citing several tweets that former Gov. Jennifer Granholm posted before she became aware of a murder rampage that was unfolding in Grand Rapids.

Bomey is a respected journalist with a statewide reputation who frequently writes columns on social media and other issues. His work has won praise from readers and professional awards, including a first place in news column writing from the Associated Press for a piece he did on the closing of the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti Township.

But his column on Granholm and the Grand Rapids tragedy drew a torrent of angry comments from readers, and we fully accept their harsh judgment. We agree that timing and approach of that particular column was not appropriate in light of the events occurring in Grand Rapids.

As strong as the reaction to Bomey’s column was, it paled in comparison to the response we received to another column earlier this month by staff reporter Juliana Keeping on the topic of pet owners who do not keep their dogs on a leash as required by city ordinance.

The reaction to Keeping’s column has been as intense as anything we’ve ever seen on More than 400 comments have been posted on the column, and they run the gamut, from the person who said, “You’re going to take a beating for this, Juliana, but I think it is dead-on . . .’’ to the commenter who said, “ showed incredibly poor judgment in publishing this hateful screed and compounded the damage by allowing the threat against four-legged family members at the end.’’

As we assessed the criticism we were receiving over the column, it particularly focused on a vaguely worded sentence toward the end of the piece, which readers understandably interpreted as a threat of physical harm to any dog that was allowed to run loose and menaced Keeping’s child.

While that is not what Keeping meant to convey, ultimately we concluded the sentence in question should be removed from the column.

We understand that as a local news source, we are accountable to our readers. We welcome criticism, and we listen to it. Given the level of concern we’ve heard from the community over staff-written columns in the past week, we are undertaking a full review of how we handle commentary by members of our staff, and the result will be a set of guidelines that we will apply in the future.

Commentary has always had a place in the journalistic tradition, and always will. If anything, opinion has taken an elevated role in the online world. When a member of our staff writes a column, it may be to add analysis to a news event, tell a story in a more personal voice or relate some personal experience that is relevant to issues or life in our community. We are not retreating from staff commentary, but rather we’re taking steps to make sure that it is done well.

Over the weekend, News Director Paula Gardner posted a column offering five reasons why downtown Ann Arbor may currently be at a crossroads. Given the recent reader concern over columns we’ve published, this one received particularly careful review. When it was published, it elicited a lively discussion, including some critical comments, which is fine. Our goal is not to avoid controversy or criticism. It is to offer commentary that is insightful and well written, and to welcome a community conversation around it.

We will continue to present commentary from staff, with necessary internal controls in place to ensure it is work of which we are proud and in which the community finds value.


Susie Q

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

I will welcome more oversight and guidelines for some of these opinion pieces, especially for us subscribers hat continue to pony-up $9 per month for a print subscription. The Granhom piece was especially offensive, I did not read the dog rant. But I think I do remember a piece by Paula K several months ago regarding the possible protests at the UM graduation against the Rick Snyder commencement speech. In that opinion article she wrote something about the lack of protests against Barack Obama as the 2010 commencement speaker. At the time I thought....well....where has she been...there were protests against the President speaking. Granted, in a town like A2, someone like Rick Snyder would draw more protests. My point is that both these "business" articles definitely seemed slanted in a negative way against liberals or Democrats. Opinion pieces are welcome , but the facts need to be accurate and opinions should be based on facts; not fatuous observations.


Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

We all know where Tony is coming from -- very left. I did not see any of this when the left was attacking republicans -- only now that Ms Granholm -- YOU ARE GOING TO BR BLOWN AWAY -- was criticized and rightfully criticized. Just a knee jerk reaction to political correctness on the part of Tony Dearing and the staff.... Where is the balance? I feel like I am at a NASCAR race where we only turn left......

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

heardoc wrote: "I feel like I am at a NASCAR race where we only turn left......" Maybe that's because, like NASCAR tracks, you are so far to the right that one can only go left? Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

Putting in more rules doesn't really address the real issues with 1) The biggest issue is the lack of money available to pay for experienced journalists which is because of the flawed business model (if there really was one). The staff writers left after the layoffs and resignations are young and inexperienced and it shows. With no experienced mentors they're left to their own devices and it shows. 2) With the lack of money there is also a lack of staff so there's a lot of pressure for those on staff to write a lot and sometimes in the effort to churn out articles/columns some of it isn't very high quality or researched well as a result. For a while (doesn't seem like lately I've seen as much self serving 'opinion' pieces basically advertising individuals or businesses) there were some really awful 'advertising' columns written by people who were basically selling their business or services. The lack of staff also has a allowed a lot of factual mistakes, sloppy spelling, grammar and text have slipped into articles. If the writers / an editor just took the time to read through the article before hitting the 'enter' key and putting it out there a lot of those mistakes could be avoided. 3) Changing priorities. Tony keeps resetting the priorities and the changes make for a blurry focus. Right now it's 'local news', but one doesn't really see in-depth, well researched articles on local issues. For example, the article on the 3 (now 2) candidates to replace Roger Fraser was very shallow and didn't catch some of the significant issues with the process nor the candidates. A2Politico did a far better job (with one writer) - take a look and you'll see what I mean. 4) 'Off limits' topics -- the Ann Arbor mayor and leadership have been given a total bye in Soft ball coverage has been the norm. SPARK has also been given a total bye as well. Both need in depth, hard ball coverage on their incredibly poor performance.

John B.

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

Best post of 2011??


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 5:01 a.m.

If Bomby and Keeping won awards that doesn't say much for the competition they had. I went back and reread the two columns in question, no doubt to me either one shouldn't be called a journalist. If they were written by non employees I don't see how the Bomby one would have ever been published (online) and the Keeping one if it had been written by a quest column writer I don't see that it would have been posted either. additionally, again, as others have stated the removed offensive line from keepings post and the continued explination of it being "misinterperted" etc etc is just rude to the readers. both are just poor quality from staff writers for what wants to bill itself as "news"


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 4:16 a.m.

Before logging on I would have said I give two years, after logging on I say less than two years. Paula will jump ship (and if she isn't she should start looking for another job soon) nathan and juliana will never see the sinking coming and tony will go down with the ship. but at least you will be able to say you lasted longer than bongs and thongs which I think will be gone in 13 months.

Mike D.

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 4:12 a.m.

Tony, I haven't always been the biggest fan of your editorial philosophy, but I have to commend you for admitting that things need to be improved and enacting a plan to make that happen. Editorial process costs money, but lack of editorial process costs you more than dollars and cents.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:01 a.m.

Tony, I understand your reasoning but your employees are young, learning and trying hard. But I hope this is last time you criticize, as constructive as it may be, your employees in public. As you can tell your audience is loaded with perfect people with a lot of time on their hands. If Nathan or another one of your writers discovered and published the cure for cancer I have to believe 75% of the comments would be negative.

John B.

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

a2c: Nice job, shilling for the shills!

Tony Dearing

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

Thanks for your observation on this. I did talk with both staff members before publishing this, so they would know what I was going to say and why. We do feel that for the sake of transparency and accountability, we have to face issues like this head-on, even if it means citing staff members by name. But your sentiment is appreciated.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 3:04 a.m.

"If Nathan or another one of your writers discovered and published the cure for cancer I have to believe 75% of the comments would be negative." Like that one. Good Night and Good Grief

Camp Comments

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 1:04 a.m.

Tony - your piece prompted me to finally read Ms.Keeping's piece and view her profile to learn more abut her - only to see her profile is under editorial review. More complete professional bios for all your staff would be good. Ms. Keeping's current profile status is an invitation to speculation. I'm not sure that's helpful.

Barb's Mom

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

Mr Dearing You said that Paula Gardner was the editor who looked at Nathan's "article" before it was posted. Well she also stated in a post on Ms. Keepings article that she edited it and encouraged her in the writing of the article and had no problem with the "I will end your pet." Maybe you need to NOT let her edit other peoples work.


Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

This isn't a newspaper. The writers are young and obviously trying to learn their trade. If their learning curve grates you then maybe you should spend more time reading the NY Times. Try criticizing an editor, columnist or any op-ed writer at the NY Times. Your criticism would never see the light of day. Your comment would be deleted and it would NOT even be stamped: "post deleted". It's like you never existed. Like I said in previously, if Granholm were a Republican Nathan would be up for a Pulitzer right now.

Barb's Mom

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

@a2citizen--I didn't say anything about being sued. And for your information, Barb was murdered in November in Jackson in a Murder Suicide. We had a reporter from the Citizen Patriot Call our house twice. We also had to see horrible comments about our daughter and why she caused her husband to snap. Having just gone through this, Nathans article was totally inappropriate because it was in the same type of situation. Newspapers are supposed to report news not make news. The only way we knew anything was happening that night was because my husband saw a report on, not our local newspaper.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 1:49 a.m.

If a person has any professional pride at all being counseled in private hurts, but being counseled in front of an entire city will be very humbling experience. If you ever make a mistake at work and it ends up in will you sue your employer? Kind of makes me wonder about Barb's future.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

So much for 'staff'. What about contributors like Lucy Ann Lance, who is a city employee, who gets to 'interview' city officials? No bias or conflict of interest there? No standards for fair and balanced 'reporting'? Bomey's work over the past several months has been the bottom of the heap and third class, but Keeping's crime appears to have been insulting the core audience you seem to be aiming for--people who love cute animal stories and tales of kitty drownings, animal abuse and ducklings run over by SUVs. With your new 'standards' I expect things will be no different than before. Trust me--you have little to worry about with Paula Garnder's journalism and bringing her name into this mix was an insult to the quality of work she's been over the last several years. To mention her in the same breath as Keeping and Bomey is a joke, Tony, and you know it.

Jack Gladney

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

" particularly focused on a vaguely worded sentence toward the end of the piece, which readers understandably interpreted as a threat of physical harm to any dog that was allowed to run loose and menaced Keeping's child." Vaguely worded sentence? Are.You.Serious? Why does this organization continue to defend that which cannot be defended? Oh, I get it "end your pet" could mean feed it a nice meal of Alpo with carrots and lamb bites followed by a couple of Milk Bones. Get real. You don't need a "policy." You need to rid yourselves of inept, unprofessional "reporters." -delete comment-


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 9:44 p.m.

Good news! Nice to know that this blog can take criticism and try to improve. Maybe there is hope! Now if only you could do something about the restaurant "reviews" ....

Random Man

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

Realistically, has become the Jerry Springer of Journalism in Ann Arbor. There seems to be less news everyday and more grist for the rumor and comment mill. A noble experiment I hope it works but, I've been going to other websites now for news and only come to for fluff and instant editorials.

Not from around here

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

I think that 90% of the commentor's on Nathans piece missed the point entirely and Nathan shouldn't be reprimanded that they didn't understand. Nathans comment was not political but was instead about why public figures need to be aware that new forms of social media like twitter are immediate and if you decide to use it you need to be critically aware of how it will be perceived in light of things that maybe going on around us. It is reticent of similar article written about professional athletes and entertainers who unwittingly put there foot in their mouth online with thinking. Unfortunately for Nathan, he choose to use a Democrat ex-governor as an example in a rabid anti-republican area. Most of the negative comments were more regarding his critique of Grandholm instead of the article. The most virulent of those came from the fingers of some of's most left wing commentors. Don't fall for all of their vitriol Tony! Nathan is doing a fantastic job!


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

No, Nathan flubbed one. I like his writing in general, but not that time. Appropriate usage of social media: Nathan tweets Gov. Granholm or asks on her Facebook page for a comment on the ongoing tragedy in Grand Rapids. Inappropriate usage: Whining that people are not instantly aware of unfolding events when they have not been told or made aware. Twitter/Facebook/etc are new ways to disseminate information. It is a free for all of unverified information and opinion. It is not reporting or journalism.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

Not from around here: ...if Granholm were republican the commentor's would be screaming for a Pulitzer.

Tom Teague

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

Since Nate chose to make his point in the midst of an ongoing hostage crisis, several of us -- including me -- criticized his taking advantage of a tragedy to make a political point. If he had chosen to write a comment instead of a column, the comment would have been in clear violation of's comment policy. The defense that the column was about technology didn't hold up because he chose ONLY political figures to illustrate the point. In other words, nothing about any Michigan celebrity Tweets, merely political figures' Tweets. If you look at the comments, you'll see that many of us -- including me -- weren't any happier when he started including the current governor in his updates. It was the first time that I've found myself in agreement with some of the commenters who were equally as incensed as me. The timing was insensitive to say the least and warranted both review and a change in policy.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

No, Nate was not talking about technology. He was violating the "comment" guidelines: Insensitivity to victims of accidents or crimes Using tragedies to make a political point

Not from around here

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

So where was Granholm when she picked up her chevy volt? at Capitol Chevy! So not from CA but instead from Lansing-less than an hour away. And its my understanding that she does live here in the summer-which July is part of. So once again, Nathan reporting on technology, commentors defending a democrat.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

Nope. Nathan's rant missed the point. Granholm is no longer the governor and may not even be living in Michigan: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> So, why would she have to &quot;Google Michigan News&quot; when she's posting tweets to Facebook to make sure her posts are not offensive to someone in Michigan? Recall, that no one at the esteemed saw fit to post anything about the on-going Grand Rapids event, and yet Granholm is supposed to be aware of this - from CA, no less.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

I would LOVE it if you fact checked the pieces you publish--opinion or not, it takes two seconds to figure out whether the percentage the writer claims is bogus or not (e.g., the idea that there are no successful research institutions with unionized grad students).

hin tysen

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

The people working at double-a -- from editors to reporters -- are not up to the task. This will not change. They are second-rate on their best day. It's a tragedy what has happened to the local journalism that is supposed to serve people of the area. It's pathetic.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

Having a blog essentially means every staff member can post at any time. So I'm glad you're adding some checkpoints. I don't think this is the problem (though Bomey's piece was so far below any reasonable critical standard that it stood out). The problem is that editors don't yet have a sense of what it is they're covering. Everyone seems to define his or her job differently. More cuts have been made. New interns are thrown into the fray with little instruction. I disagree with removing Keeping's threat against neighbor dogs. A column can be controversial and emotional. If the topic was appropriate, then so was the threat. But what needs fixing around here is the editor's desk. Reporting standards, editing standards, definition of beats. Today's dog piece left more questions than it answered. It was not complete and should not have been published.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

I'd still like to know when you are going to hire a higher education reporter. With UM and EMU making us a &quot;company town&quot; (or county) that's important!

Tony Dearing

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:07 p.m.

We have interviewed candidates for that position and expect to have it filled soon.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

I think the greater problem is that seems to be too preoccupied with opinion pieces and blogging as opposed to reporting actual news. The site has ALWAYS been way too heavy on opinion pieces. If aa,com wants to be respected as a news source, they should focus more on REPORTING news, not simply regurgitating links to OTHER media's news stories. Also, just by looking through the comments on the stories, one can tell that invests way too much time and energy in moderating the blog posts. I hate to break it to you, but while you may think that heavily regulating and moderating the comments &quot;elicits lively conversation&quot;, in the end it really adds little to nothing. People, in general, are idiots. This is compounded when people (myself included) are allowed to comment anonymously. The same handful of folks make the large majority of comments and clearly have their own preconceived opinions and views which will not be changed. The comments sections ofd the articles just allows the regular cast of characters to voice their same old opinions. Either leave the comments section alone, unmoderated, realizing that in the end it really adds nothing useful anyhow... or turn the feature off. Stop wasting all of your time responding and moderating. Start spending time generating ORIGINAL and thorough stories. As an example of how you should focus on actuallyprodicing your own nes stories, published Nathan's opinion piece about Grand Radpids on July 7th at 8:51 p.m. When did they actually produce their own NEWS story about what was going on in G.R? I'm not sure they ever did. At 5:34 a.m. on July 8th they posted a reference to what was going on, but it was realy just a link to the Grand Rapids Press' coverage of events. If wants to be taken seriously, they should start acting like a news organization and not like a social media site.

Tony Dearing

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 5:30 p.m.

@YouWhine, your point is well-taken, and I thank you for the reply. @bhall, I accept your assessment as well, and am not seeking an argument with you. I would just suggest that many different types of content cycle through our homepage rapidly on a given day, and that the serious news stories that drive the bulk of our traffic get as much prominence as other types of things. We are aware that in the &quot;river of news,'' these important stories sometimes cycle through too quickly, and the fact that they appear alongside and in between less consequential items reinforces the perception that we don't do enough serious news or treat it seriously enough. That is something we're looking at right now, and may be making changes to address in the future.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Tony, I think you miss my point. My impression of your site is that it promotes columns and top 10 lists. Those seem to be the items you push on your homepage. You say columns don't generate a lot of hits, then why are you doing them? Clearly, there's a disconnect between how you rolled out your site and the content you promoted, and what the community says it wants and actually clicks on. Whether you can deliver local news is another question. So far, other sites do it better.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

Mr. Dearing, I appreciate your reply. It would seem as though we agree and disagree at once. I agree with you that what people come to this site for is to read local news coverage. My point in my original ranty post was that you should take that into consideration and provide MORE local news coverage and less opinion.

Tony Dearing

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

No, I disagree. My answer does square with user experience on the site. The user experience is what people come to the site to do -- and that's to read local news. We know how people are using our site. The metrics don't lie. If you go back to the month of June, you can cite those three columns written by Nate. Our staff members do write columns, and they will continue to. But it's a very small part of what we do, and a very small part of what people consume on the site. Those three columns you mention received fewer than 300 page views among them. in the month of June, our local news coverage received 1.45 million page views. That doesn't include local sports, or local business stories. That's just local news. It's what drives our readership, and it's where we have put our effort and our resources, and we will continue to.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

Tony, your answer DOES NOT jibe with the actual user experience of your site. To read is to find -- just in the past few weeks -- staff writers' columns on: -a poorly sourced column full of hot air on whether Obama supports Rick Snyder's education reforms (Really? How's that local?) -a column on Jeb Bush and education reform -a column on education reform in Detroit Some of these are interesting topics, but I hardly think an Ann Arbor-based reporter for Ann Arbor dot com is going to have quality sources, info. and opinion on these topics. What I would expect you folks to have is actual information on what's going on in Ann Arbor. Sadly, that's usually not the case. And I suspect it's because it's a lot easier to blow hot air by dashing off opinion columns than to do actual reporting. That takes time, and maybe requires resources and experience you do not have.

Tony Dearing

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

@YouWhine, we are aware of the perception that our orientation is toward opinion and blogging and are pay attention to that concern, but our actual experience on the site is different. Our traffic has always been driven heavily by straight news coverage -- particularly of local government, education, police and courts, business, health and the environment. This coverage remains the bulk of what we do and provides the bulk of the readership on our site. That is what our business model is built around. Our news story on Sunday about the Camp Take Notice camp for homeless people drew well over 12,000 page views. The page views we typically get for opinion pieces are a fraction of that. We pay close attention to the volume of straight news coverage we do and the readership it generates, and the perception that we put our attention or effort on other things isn't born out by the results we see on the site every day. One thing I would add is that we are a local news site. We do not present ourselves as a statewide site, and we could not provide adequate statewide coverage if we sought to. When important news occurs elsewhere in Michigan that we think our readers would be interested in, we aggregate the news coverage from where that news is occurring. Newspapers across Michigan do the same, aggregating our stories when they want coverage of what's happening in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. In the online world, aggregation is a common practice. We expect other news organizations to aggregate our news coverage, and we do the same for theirs.

Camp Comments

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

Quality editorial control is welcome. If you're going to rely heavily on young reporters please provide the editing and training (if not the compensation) they deserve.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Regardless of your opinion of's reporting I think it's a great source of news and views from actual local people. Slanted stories have always been a part of news. I think it takes truly intelligent and critically thinking readers to see the news in a balanced way, and look at all sides of any issues.


Sat, Jul 16, 2011 : 11:50 p.m.

Yes, &quot;actual local people&quot;, as in actual (in reality) local (from Ann Arbor) people (human beings) opposed to news sources like our Detroit news that many of us get. Not to mention the comments section with so many, I assume, actual local people.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:07 p.m.

&quot;actual local people&quot;?

Chris Ward

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

Thank you. Agree or disagree with the dog article, it had no place here presented in the fashion that it was. Opinion articles in newspapers are great, but they are better when they cite facts, stats, and real suggestions to fixing problems, not a hate filled, threatening column that looks like someone's personal blog.

Chip Reed

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

&quot;While this is not what Keeping meant to convey&quot; What, pray tell, did she mean to convey? Why can't this relevant information be revealed?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

I read the redacted article then later discovered what was removed. Trust me, the removal of the offensive sentence did not water down the author's meaning in any way. With or without the editing, that was a very angry article. If the new policies will prevent the non-op ed staff from posting such highly opinionated pieces then I welcome them. By the way, when someone in my social circle says, &quot;I read it in; we all roll our eyes or snigger. (It's hard to do both at the same time - I've tried.) This website is useful for tidbits of local news but those tidbits are so mismanaged that I equate the experience with reading &quot;News of the World&quot;. And look what happened to that publication.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

If the opinion piece is clearly labeled as their opinion, I don't see anything wrong with writers voicing unpopular opinions. It gives me more insight into the writers, which informs me better when I read their news pieces. This just seems to be saying that our writers can only express their opinions if they agree with those of management. Don't censor your reporters. Let me read what they really think, once in a while.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

Suggested content for guidelines: 1) Make sure assertions are rigorously fact-checked. 2) Consider, for some issues, including well-considered &quot;pro&quot; and &quot;con&quot; commentary. Public conversation on issues is particularly good when the subject is aired out thoroughly rather than a battle of strong feelings without any acknowledgement that the other side may have a point too. Ann Arbor is a community of highly educated and (I would hope) thoughtful and logical people. I'd read it more if it published more pieces relevant to residents that appeared to take more than one hour to research and write. Regarding the problematic columns mentioned in the post, there was an opportunity for the Bomey column to become something greater. Instead of &quot;OMG! She's tweeting about the Volt!&quot;, the column could have used the occasion to observe the effects of the speed of communication on public perceptions, trust in government, etc. Oh, and the fact-checking point above might have been helpful. If you're reporting something, isn't it the usual practice to try to communicate with the news source before publication?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

I'm glad is open to improving their product. I read PG's article linked above. I agreed with the first comment that said the article was very well written. Then I saw that wasn't originally the case after the second comment. I hope the following problem described by Paula below is remedied as part of's improvements to their editing process on ALL articles BEFORE they are uploaded by the reporter to this site. I enjoy reading this paper and check in on it many times per day, but I wish it was written at a bit of a higher reading level. &quot;typos were caught in the editing and corrected as this was loaded into the system. There was a glitch and I ended up re-doing a lot of it - and the original typos slipped through. I just made corrections.&quot; - PG

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

How we long for the days of real editors.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

A writer can win awards. But he can't be a reporter and an op-ed writer. The two cannot be one. The writer will NEVER be trusted by readers.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

A reporter should dig and find the facts of a story and report it cleanly without his/her opinion. A op-ed writer expresses their own opinion or the editorial board opinion. I don't see how you mix those and come up with anything that is trustworthy. Is this same reporter allowed to investigate and report a story about someone after he/she has clearly expressed his/her opinion of that person? Supposing the reporter discovers something bad about their &quot;hero&quot; they report it? Or hide it? And if the report is good, who believes him/her? Readers already know the reporter supports the person he/she writes about. To be honest I've cut down a lot on reading anything here because the line between reporting and &quot;blogging&quot; and opinion is way too blurred for me. It's very sad for me because I had high hopes for this as a local news venue.

Tom Teague

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

I'm in about 80% agreement with you Cash (I know it's usually 100%, but the hot weather has made me crazy). I appreciate reading the occasional piece in which a reporter uses his/her experience covering an area to provide background and analysis. For example, I disagreed with some of what Paula said in her &quot;Turning Point&quot; column, but I do think she did a good job discussing disparate data points and connecting those dots in a way that made me think about them. That's the benefit of reporters writing a column. I don't want to pile on Nathan any more, but I think the Twitter column is a good illustration of the down side as you suggested.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

What Cash says. Its very hard to find out who is doing hard news or commentary. Ever since Nathan did a couple of fan-boi (to me) articles on Snyder before the election, I read commentary into everything political he writes.

Mark Salke

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Mr. Dearing, The nature of the new model of local reporting that represents is bound to produce a few mistakes. Rigorous editorial review is necessary for any journalistic publication. Although seeming rather contrary to's goal of intense, instant and hyper-local reporting, strong editorial oversight is, nonetheless, crucial to protecting journalistic integrity. Here's to that! I look forward to seeing the result of the new policy.

John B.

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

Thanks, Mom!


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

As one who has weighed in on the columns cited, as well as some other questionable postings, i appreciate the 'better late than never' outcome..(although one might wish that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' had been applied earlier). o.k ,i'm out of platitudes.

Boo Radley

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:26 p.m.

Craig, you had better be careful about your demonstrated ability to have a sense of humor. Lots of comments have been deleted for that.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

for being so nice you just won a Goldfish. You can pick it up at.....


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

Tony Deering, Can you clarify the &quot;comments&quot; policy - e.g. what rules follows in deleting comments. I think still controls comments more than it should and is particularly too sensitive to criticism of its authors. For instance, everything about the layoffs at was hush hush and couldn't be commented upon or referenced, even though your newspaper was glad to publish rumor-based stories about Borders. Do you ever look at the &quot;deleted comments&quot; to determine if the deleter is following policy. Clearly, the Bomey article violated several of the &quot;comment&quot; guidelines and I think some of the comments he deleted were appropriate. You might not realize that readers get to see comments in real time and then see them deleted. We are often puzzled by these deletions. Your site is also blog-like so I am amazed that you'll have 3 separate stories in a day on the same topic. In Wikipedia vernacular, these articles are little more than stubs. But, what is bothersome, is that every time your author posts a slightly more informed stub, he/she leaves behind the citizen comments that are attached to the previous stubs/stories. Frankly, the comments are often more informed, contain links to the missing pieces, etc., than the paid author.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

It is very often that commenter know more about the subject of the posting than the author does. It's amazing they don't find some way to leverage this.

Not from around here

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

If you look at the most frequently deleted comment it follows a pattern. has two or three posters that are allowed to get away with anything they like, and the rest of us are at the wims of the moderator of the moment. Lest we forget-one of the most visible cammentor who constantly violates the quidelines with impunity has also writen peices published here and been quoted by other writers employeed by in article published by Not Mr deerings fault but maybe its time to get out the broom?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

A lot of people criticize Dearing's post of implying they'd absolutely no approval policy for commentary prior to this, but I think most of us forget that the 2-year-old is still in its infancy. The site has done so much growing since it began -- first with quality of content and, now, seemingly with the wants of its readership. Whether you're a support of the site's commentary or not, it doesn't matter. Any effort to improve is worth commending. Few communities are going through the media transition Ann Arbor has. No one had really set the example. So yes, they're evolving policies as the site ages. And I hope they continue to evolve in the direction this seems to indicate they are -- readers first, Web hits second.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

If this is indicative of aadotcom's infancy, we've reached the &quot;terrible two's&quot;. If it survives, it's adolescence will be sheer terror

John B.

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

Shirley, you jest. Huh? Who paid you to make this comment? Or is it a joke that I've fallen for?

Kevin S. Devine

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

I have less of a problem with columnists letting their passion show through than I do with the unrelenting and often uninformed catcalls from the peanut gallery. Want to be taken seriously in a public discussion of the issues? Use your real name when you post your comments. Journalists sign their work and stand by it; politicians gladly affix their names to their issues; Joe Citizen is free to be anonymous, yet he/she is also easily dismissed or forgotten.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 6:25 a.m.

For job security in uncertain economic times, people cannot always be transparent. It doesn't mean they can't or don't have opinions. Maybe they just want to be employed.

Mike Martin

Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Exactly Kevin, the silly pseudonyms in the comments section is one of the issues I have with the commentary section. Good night and good luck??!! Good grief


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Nice to hear, but I actually like articles that start lively debates amongst the readers. Ms. Keeping had a valid point that was worthy of an article, but she made a very poor choice of words that all but wiped out any focus on the rest of the article. I had no problem whatsoever with Mrs. Gardner's Bongs and Thongs article. Her article raised legitimate concerns about the quality of life we would like to see downtown. And while we're on the topic of quality of life in Ann Arbor, I also liked the debate that followed her article &quot;Does Ann Arbor Care More About Art Than Safety?&quot;. Mr. Bomey appears to be a respected journalist. I just thought the particular article in question was petty and not worthy of a column. In summary, if I find the article interesting, I finish reading it. If the article includes information that I would like to comment on (positive or negative), then I will. If I do not find the article interesting, I stop reading it. It's that simple.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

I've found more lively debate at my corner tavern. Debate involves facts and erudite vocabulary not political soundbites. And if you equate what commenters do on annarbordotcom as &quot;lively debate&quot;, you need to expand your horizons.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

In Nathan's defense had Granholm been a republican, readers would have been clamoring for him to receive a Pulitzer Prize.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

david, if by &quot;...your Slickster...&quot; you mean Gov. Snyder, uh,...I didn't vote for him so go ahead and defend if you'd like. As far as &quot;Ms Michelle&quot;: now why would you involve the president's wife? It makes no sense.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:44 a.m.

Let's be honest... Had Granholm been a republican, Nathan never would have written about the issue.

David Briegel

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 11:27 p.m.

You know that lame stream means anyone who talks intelligently about Ms Sarah and Ms Michelle and the &quot;wrong wing&quot;. And most of us would even defend your Slickster if he were unfairly attacked.

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

a2citizen is right, and it's the same reason why all the anti-war signs disappeared from Ann Arbor yards the morning after Obama was elected President. Cash is also right. I, for one, started my post with, &quot;I'm no fan of Granholm, but...&quot; Good Night and Good Grief


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

Cash, and you know they are right wing? How? Because they said soin their post? Ooookay. Blue. Define lame-stream. thx.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

As hard as one might try, you can't state as fact something that didn't happen. For as much as we're told otherwise, annarbordotcom and the lame-stream media is dominated by so called conservatives. All one needs to do is call the roll.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Many posts objecting to the piece were from right wing posters. Sorry, you are incorrect.

David Briegel

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

The fact that Paula approved Nathan's sloppy, axe grinding, juvenile piece of lightweight nonsense speaks volume of your &quot;guidelines&quot;. What good are they with such poor judgement? Your right wing, conservative slant is obvious to most of your readers. It is that &quot;judgement&quot; that will rule your &quot;guidelines&quot;.


Tue, Jul 12, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

David you have not once( maybe once)in a million post made an argument or tried to make a point without blaming conservatives. Your post belong right there with Nathans!

David Briegel

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

Maybe if you folks got your news from a &quot;fair and balanced source&quot; instead of telephone hacking criminal megalamaniacs who only provide you with &quot;the other viewpoint&quot;, you would realize how mistaken you are! Ann Arbor has never, ever had a single source of &quot;liberal tripe&quot;. You don't even realize that you've been had!! Your &quot;orgasim&quot; is off point and baseless!!!


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

David, while I agree wholeheartedly with Cash's following post; I have no doubt that if Nathan had replaced Granholm with any Republican, you would have orgasimed!! Your criticisim in this case is off point and baseless.

Not from around here

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

It typical for some commentors on this sight to scream &quot;conservative Biase&quot; when it is obviously not there. The days of yore when Ann Arbor delivered nothing but liberal tripe are over with. Long live impartial news reporting!

Not from around here

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 7:12 p.m.

I think if you look at your comment history, odds are you were more upset by Nathan being very slightly critical of a Democrat that anything.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

If A2Dotcom's editors put half-the-effort they put into editing their own writers that they seem to put into moderating the comments of their readers, they would never have had this problem.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

@Goofus. You hit the nail on the head. I have always had a problem with the policy of how comments are removed. The policy seems random at best, at worst it sometimes seems to be favoritism. And then I read Ms. Keepings column and I couldn't that it was published even though as a dog owner I agreed with and saw some of her points but the &quot;I'll end your pet&quot; comment was a threat no matter how you spin it.

Tom Teague

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

I was one of the folks posting criticism of Nathan Bomey's column so I -- no pun intended -- have a dog in this fight And I think the response is appropriate. Whether the site should have had an existing policy is one thing. But -- seeing that it did not -- the editorial staff is addressing it. Tony reported that to us frankly and explained the thinking behind the change. I'm satisfied that this overdue step is a good one.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

I agree, well said.

Tom Teague

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

and please pardon the bad punctuation in my post. I hit send just as I saw my error.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

I find that what's driving annarbordotcom's editorial policy is kissing up to the local powers that be and appealing to the lowest common denominator demographics. This may be the internet age for the &quot;new&quot; journalism, but what is produced are little more than personal blog and facebook style posts. This includes the regular cast of comedic anonymous characters that feed your hit counter. On the news front, everyone who can read more than a couple of paragraphs on car wrecks, fences and nasty mosquitos knows where to go for their local, in depth, professional journalism reads the Ann Arbor Chronicle. Sorry, Tony, but your blog is little more than tabloid entertainment.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

Craig: Really liking your posts lately - your sense of humor is greatly appreciated. My guess is that the correct response to your challenge, based on the previous comments, would be &quot;en garde&quot;!

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

I'll fight both you guys at once with two hands tied behind your backs.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

Not sure what a &quot;nom de plume&quot; since I don't speak French, but touche! See? We're adding to the Lively Conversation patrons crave.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

For someone who posts as smoke blower I find your nom de plume amazingly accurate. You first, my friend.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

Care to share your real name Mr. Blue or do you prefer to hang out with the rest of us comedic anonymous characters and feed the hit count?


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Tony, are you serious? You've been in business now for how many years and you did not have a policy on columns written by staff reporters? That is beyond belief. What, exactly, would you say you do around here, Tony? You clearly encourage staff reporters to write opinion columns judging by the number that proliferate on your site. This is a dubious practice. On the one hand, reporters are supposed to be unbiased when they report the news. If they write columns, now they're giving us their opinion on a range of subjects, including some they're supposed to be covering as reporters!

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 6:01 p.m.

I can understand how the dollars and cents of the business make it difficult to have separate opinion writers from hard news writers, I get that. But if I see too many &quot;opinions&quot; from the same folks giving me the &quot;facts&quot; it undermines their &quot;fact&quot; credibility with me. I don't mean to imply they would lie or make up &quot;facts&quot; only that I would wonder if they were selective about the &quot;facts&quot; they might include based on their &quot;opinion&quot;

Tony Dearing

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Yes, we have allowed staff members to write columns from the beginning. Journalistically, there is more of a tradition of allowing staffers to write columns in Sports and Business, while traditional news organizations have shied away from allowing news reporters to write columns. This is one of the things we're reviewing, although we continue to believe that commentary has a place in the online world than is different from traditional print, and we will continue to allow staff-written columns as appropriate.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

this i wrong. guidelines means not saying what you want to say. water down. reguarding the dog (Juliana) try getting bit by a big or little dog. it is still a bit. try watering that down. you just picked a topic which is a no win either way. dog lover vs none dog lover. me i have had dogs for 50 years and she is right on the button. I THINK GUIDELINES IS A BAD MOVE FOR A PAPER.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

The newspapers that covered Gilbert Gottfried's blunders won praise and their advertisers got eyeballs for unearthing the 'scandal.' I doubt Mr Bomey was doing anything greater in his pointing out the tweets. is now a 24x7 news source and if once in a while something isn't perfect because of that, it's all good considering the number of times it is right and helps with breaking news (and opinion). As for the dog walking - I find it an outrage that people are outraged that citizens are being asked to mind the *law*. There was nothing wrong with that piece whatsoever and if that's a more egregious violation of this new policy, I agree then with Mr Blue, 'race to the bottom' of bland 2 paragraph stories on car accidents.

John B.

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

How on earth can you compare the Bomey nonsense in any way to Gilbert Gottfried's idiocy? Gottfried intentionally joked about a tragedy that had already occurred. Bomey manufactured a right-wing diatribe by exploiting a tragedy that was still in progress to try and smear a former politician, in order to please his right-wing employer and supporters. Apples and kumquats, apples and kumquats....

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 5:54 p.m.

I agree with loves_fall in that there really wasn't a second way to interpret


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

There's nothing wrong with asking owners to mind the law. There is something wrong with spewing hate -- towards anything -- and having it come across as an opinion piece. &quot;I will end your pet&quot; crossed a line. I'm pretty sure it was meant exactly as it read, and no amount of &quot;I didn't mean it that way&quot; lessens that. There's really only one way you can mean it.


Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

I like candid opinion pieces. I don't like dogs either and I really liked Ms. Keeping's article. In fact I read her more now because we share a like-minded view on the Canine Threat.

Mr Blue

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 3:45 p.m.

Welcome to the race to the bottom.

Steve Krause

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

This is all fine and good, but I guess I'm a little confused because you're implying here that there was previously no policy about this. So, does that mean that (for example) Nathan Bomey's piece (which really was pretty insane) didn't go through any sort of editorial process? Did he just post it the way that anyone might post to a personal blog? That seems a little, well, sloppy. I applaud the idea that is trying to have an editorial process for what gets published on its site, but that does seem like the sort of thing you might have wanted to do from the start.

Tony Dearing

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

We have not had guidelines that are specific to opinion pieces written by staff members. We realize that when staff members write columns, that raises issues that aren't raised by straight news reporting, and that we need to put guidelines in place. Nate's column was read by News Director Paula Gardner before it was published, so it did receive editorial review, but we will give columns a more thorough editorial review in the future.

Morris Thorpe

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

On one hand, you know this decision will cost you page views, so kudos on that. On the other, how did these columns even get published in the first place? Did you not have a policy on opinion posts until now? For what it's worth, I had no problem with either write up. I liked Keeping's, so I read it. I did not like where Bomey's was going, so I stopped. I think's larger problem is editorial oversight. I have pointed examples of plagiarism, improper use of images and stories that lack the most basic information. Maybe it's because I am a recovering journalist, but this kind of mistakes (and not half-baked opinion columns) really erode your credibility as a news source.