Interview With Community Director Stefenie Murray As Last Ann Arbor News Rolls Off The Press; AnnArbor.com Launches Tomorrow

The Ann Arbor News is done—kaput— after tomorrow’s issue. The roughly 250 employees are out of work and have to move on to other things, except for those who will be taking positions at the new AnnArbor.com.

AnnArbor.com is a web-driven product that also happens to print a paper twice a week. It’ll employ about 35 journalists, far fewer than the Ann Arbor News could sustain, but maybe it’ll make money.

Stefanie Murray was one of the first hires at AnnArbor.com; she was tapped from the paper’s business desk, where she was the section editor, to be AnnArbor.com’s Community Director. She’s overseeing the site’s hyperlocal reporting as well as the team of bloggers that the site’s recruited—some even for pay.

As for other Ann Arbor News refugees? Opinion editor Bob Needham accepted a position as Entertainment Director, and education reporter David Jesse joined as a general news reporter. Steve Pepple, metro editor at Ann Arbor News, joins as Print Director to supervise the site’s two weekly print editions. Quite a few other Ann Arbor News ex-employees signed on with the site, but that still leaves at least two hundred employees with nothing.

“A lot of folks are using this as an opportunity to do something else,” Murray told us in an interview conducted when she was first hired. Many are working for the site as freelancers alongside unpaid contributors/bloggers.

The site will be ad-supported. “We’re going to focus a lot on being accessible to small businesses who may not have been able to afford us before, and using advertisements that are very targeted,” Murray said.

Sad to see this happen to so many people, but if a handful of them can continue in the new incarnation, it’s better than nothing.