In my many years in journalism, it always pained me watching venerable publications fold, like the Washington Star, Cleveland Press and the Rocky Mountain News.
It’s even more painful when it’s a publication I co-founded.
Sadly, after celebrating Deadline Detroit’s 10-year anniversary in April, I’ve simply run out of juice, the 24/7 grind of overseeing an online publication with few vacations has taken a toll. The decision is difficult, particularly since generous friends just committed to providing much needed additional funding. After much thought, I chose to pass on those funds.
So after Sept. 5, this website will go dark.
After working at the Washington Post for 11 years, I returned to Michigan in 2011 to help launch Deadline Detroit and help care for my elderly parents.
I love this place. And I love the publication. It was as much a passion as it was a business.
I couldn’t be prouder of our top-notch, talented staff and contributors and the impact we’ve had on the community, including on the Beaumont Health system, the Detroit Police Department, politics in Detroit and Lansing, Grosse Pointe culture and other aspects of life.
It never helped us financially that we had no sacred cows, that we went after folks like the Ilitch group, or Beaumont, which were never going to give us a dime in advertising. We never held back when it was justified.
On the other hand, I must thank advertisers like Blue Cross, the state of Michigan and Huntington Bank that helped keep us afloat while showing their dedication to the community and journalism.
I always thought it was a miracle we lasted this long. But the readership, which averaged about 600,000 unique visits a month, and went as high as 1.2 million during the height of the pandemic, is a testament to the appetite for more journalism in Detroit, particularly in a town where the two major dailies’ staffs have shrunk considerably since the days I worked at The Detroit News.
Over the years we’ve had preliminary talks with people and organizations interested in buying Deadline Detroit, but nothing came to fruition. Obviously, we’d still be open to that.
Besides traditional journalism, I thought it was important to experiment. We had a relationship show, “The Trip,” and a local-parody weekly newscast, “The Zip.” We still have a restaurant show, “Detroit Digest,” and a weekly talk show, “The Week That Was.”
I’ll continue to do a Saturday morning radio show on 910 AM with Adolph Mongo and express my views on important issues impacting the community. And I’ll dabble a little with my other website, ticklethewire.com, which was founded in 2008 and covers federal law enforcement.
I’d be remiss in not thanking co-founder Bill McGraw, one of the most talented journalists in Detroit. He worked for the Free Press for 32 years, covering everything from sports to Canada. (And that should tell you something about how journalism has changed -- the Free Press once had a reporter assigned to cover Canada.)
It’s also important for me to thank staffers and contributors who helped keep us afloat including: Violet Ikonomova, Nancy Derringer, Alan Stamm, Greg Bowens, Joe Lapointe, Charlie LeDuff, Chad Selweski, Paul Harris, Craig Fahle, Darrell Dawsey, Tim Kiska, Greg Stejskal, Scott Burnstein, Michael Betzold, Dr. Joel Kahn and videographers and photographers Myron Watkins, Michael Lucido and Rebecca Cook. There are many more.
In the end, this venture would never have been possible without Peter Karmanos Jr., co-founder of Compuware and currently CEO of MadDog Technology, and someone I’ve come to admire, both as a person and a businessman.
He was generous in funding us, and supportive beyond any expectations. He truly appreciated when we were making “Good Trouble.” And I enjoyed our meetings over the years, talking politics, though our views are quite divergent.
It was former Washington Post managing editor Robert Kaiser who wrote about publisher Katharine Graham after her July 2001 death:
Katharine Graham gave her employees at The Washington Post the ultimate journalistic gift: absolute independence. ... Katharine Graham guaranteed freedom of the press to The Post's journalists as though it were their birthright, not just hers. The Washington Post belonged to her, but she turned over the job of shaping it to us, unreservedly.
The same could be said for Pete Karmanos Jr.. He didn’t meddle, even when prominent people wrote or phoned to complain about our stories or columns. He understood the importance of the First Amendment and an independent press.
I also have to thank some of the wise counsel provided by Eric Starkman, Adolph Mongo, Ethan Mayers, M.L. Elrick, Ron Lipson, Ira Todd, Chris Hallendy, Kyle Duncan, Marcy Hayes and attorneys Matthew Frumin, Curtis Blessing and Herschel Fink.
And most of all, I thank all the readers, many who relied on us for some or all of their news, and who were not shy to give us feedback. Many also donated generously, became Deadline Detroit members and encouraged us to keep going on when at times it almost seemed impossible. For that, I thank you.
For all the Deadline Detroit colleagues, I hope it was a fun place to do journalism and to have some laughs.
Hopefully we’ve made a difference.
And lastly, I hope you, the readers, miss us. We’ll all miss you.
Allan Lengel can be reached at Allan.Lengel@gmail.com