Geoff Larcom: A sad farewell, but a new beginning
Goodbye - and hello.Yeah, I’m back, and very grateful for the chance to write a column for AnnArbor.com.
Grateful because it gives me the chance to communicate with you.
Grateful because I still get to write about our fun, fascinating and sometimes maddening town.
But I am not so grateful for the week my former colleagues and I just went through.
Today, we published the final edition of The Ann Arbor News. Those final hours in the newsroom were poignant, sad, funny and yet purposeful, as we tried to put out a solid and historic paper on our final day.
I hope we succeeded. Farewell, Ann Arbor, as the headline said.
And hello again.
I had worked at The News for nearly 24 years, since 1982, with a three-year break to do some hard time on the sports desk at The Detroit News. I’m 51, and my plan was to retire at The Ann Arbor News, a naive notion if there ever was one.
But business conditions intervened, and it will take a long time to shake off all the sadness and questions. Much of Ann Arbor is frustrated or confused. How can a city so affluent lose its only daily paper?
But even more than missing the paper, I’ll miss my colleagues in the newsroom. You can not find a cooler or more vibrant work environment. Sorry, Google. But we can also feel gratified that, of all the cities in our company’s domain, dear old Treetown was deemed the best test site for what could become the new way of doing business in the media.
That makes sense, for Ann Arbor is the ultimate town of contrasts. It’s one reason we like it so much.
Where else can you:
- Lose yourself in the deep woods of a place such as Bird Hills Park, yet be minutes from downtown?
- Have two major medical centers, each alone enough to sustain a city twice this size, within a 10-minute drive?
- Look next to you on at your kid’s soccer practice and see a world-renowned doctor who sets the standard in his field?
- Eat dinner, attend a performance by someone like Yo Yo Ma, then grab dessert, all within several blocks?
- Have big-time sports coaches who draw media coverage from around the country, yet who can still dine in relative peace at local restaurants?
- Be knee-deep in celebrities or major business figures living in our midst, yet have some of the greatest funeral fuss in the last five years come over the death of a beloved street figure, Shakey Jake?
- Have some of the finest minds in the world working in our midst, yet still have to debate things to death, such as when to build a new city hall?
- Have world-class restaurants in our midst, yet among most beloved places in town are a breakfast place, Angelo’s, and a state-of-the art greasy spoon, the Fleetwood Diner?
- Have one of the top college football programs in the country (yes, I mean historically), coupled with one of the most eminent and challenging public universities in the country?
- Have half the town in love with college football, and the other half thinking that home games represent a fine time to do your Saturday shopping?
- Find the least vehicle congestion downtown. The closer you get to campus, the less obnoxious you find our traffic.
Yes, we delight in our dual nature, in this paradise of paradoxes.
Ann Arbor is affluent, yet not ostentatious. We can be a tough sell on city or school millages, but we love our parks proposals. We can be righteous, yet tolerant. Budget-conscious, yet benevolent.
Ann Arbor is a town that does a lot of verbs. We love to bike, run, eat, listen, drink, watch, blog, debate, invest, complain, donate, volunteer, walk, write and read. Those last two, that’s where I come in.
Yes, I am hurting this week. Our beloved newspaper shut down, and a part of me will never stop aching.
But I am eager to resume sharing this town’s many moods with you each week. It’s good to be back.
Geoff Larcom is a long-time journalist and native of Ann Arbor who writes a weekly column for AnnArbor.com.