ANN ARBOR -- Channel 3 news went to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see how that community has adapted to life without a daily newspaper.
The city was the test for a business model similar to one used at other Advance-owned papers in New Orleans, Harrisburg, Syracuse and other cities in Alabama and Michican.
The Ann Arbor News ended publication in 2009 after 174 years of daily service. More resouces have been poured into a website, AnnArbor.com, that also publishes a twice-a-week paper.
Some believe similar changes could be in store for the Plain Dealer. Big staff cuts and reassignments are coming there in May.
To learn how the model has worked in Ann Arbor, Channel 3 made multiple calls and e-mails to several key players. None was returned.
Advance Digital's Steve Newhouse could have arranged for personnel in Ann Arbor to be part of our coverage, but chose not to.
WKYC Reporter Tom Beres was greeted by a pair of security guards at the AnnArbor.com office building, who said they'd been hired for the specific purpose of keeping him out of the building .
One said, "We were told you cannot enter the building and, if need be, will escort you off the premises and, if there are problems, we'll call the police,"
In previous print articles, Newhouse has bragged the Ann Arbor website consistently ranks highest in the country for local penetration -- almost 55 percent -- and won 21 journalism awards.
Mary Morgan oversaw the old paper's editorial page. She left before the shutdown. Now she's the publisher of a competing website, the Ann Arbor Chronicle.
She says AnnArbor.com is no longer a vigilant watchdog.
"They have a far smaller staff. There's an emphasis on sensationalism...Decisions are being made on how one particular market fits into the overall picture. It's not looking at what's best for the individual community," she said.
Chronicle Editor Dave Askins says the changeover has created opportunities for other media outlets, but created a psychological loss.
"You know, I've finished my civic task for today...how do I know? ..I read the newspaper...you're never done with the internet," he said.
But Chamber of Commerce President Diane Keller says the website is more suited to the faster speed of business.
"You are given the Cliff Notes version ASAP...the articles aren't as long and are more concise but updated more often...the newspaper industry needed to change," she said.
Many Ann Arbor News employees lost jobs. Some found other media jobs in the community in public relations.
Ann Arbor's longtime mayor John Hieftje says the new website is getting better.
"The online presence of annarbor.com has improved...the people who cover the city are better than those who used to," he said.
And while Advance and the new website declined to cooperate with our coverage, there is still no timetable or definitive information about what are changes are coming and when at the Plain Dealer, according to publisher Terry Egger.