A Midland-based consulting group will announce plans today to launch a second newspaper on campus as soon as next fall.
Michael Westendorf, CEO of Sterling, Hoffman & Co., said Sunday Central Michigan Tribune will begin circulation as a free weekly print product and website, competing with student-run publication Central Michigan Life. Tentative plans are to launch the publication in the fall, but he said it might be pushed back a year.
“CM Life is one of the best student newspapers in the country,” Westendorf said. “We’re not seeking to replace it as the most comprehensive news source on the campus of Central Michigan University. We’ll be asking our readers to read us in addition to CM Life.”
Central Michigan Tribune will begin hiring this spring, and Westendorf says the publication will not discriminate between students and professional journalists. There are currently no plans to operate on campus, and the publication will be privately funded by Sterling, Hoffman & Co.
While an editorial direction hasn’t been decided on, Westendorf said his publication will focus on analysis and long-form journalism.
“It’s hard to say what our niche will be, other than objective news about what happens at CMU,” he said. “We tend not to cover anything outside the university, and we have an unwritten policy not to cover anything that The New York Times could cover better.”
Westendorf is the chief executive officer for The Saginaw Valley Journal, a competitor to The Valley Vanguard, the student-run newspaper at Saginaw Valley State University. He founded the paper in 2009.
“I saw a need in Saginaw, and, quite frankly, I’m a journalism nerd,” Westendorf said. “I worked at the student newspaper there, and I didn’t like what I saw. I saw things that could be fixed and could just be eliminated.”
The competition his publication brought helped SVSU’s student-run publication, Westendorf said.
“I still think we’re the better newspaper as far as social media presence, quality of journalism and even the little things like web and page design, but I think there’s no question that The Valley Vanguard got better — and they got better out of necessity,” he said.
Westendorf said he envisions a paper that emulates the coverage of CM Life, The State News, the student-run newspaper at Michigan State University, The Michigan Daily, the student paper at The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, The New York Times and Washington Post.
Although the Mount Pleasant area is also home to The Morning Sun, Westendorf said local papers have changed.
“I’m a newspaper guy, and I know what local newspapers do,” he said. “They don’t really serve as government fact checkers like they used to. We’re going to be more journalistic.”
Westendorf said the idea to create a second newspaper at CMU was made based on proximity and familiarity.
“We’re close by, and we’re friends with a lot of current CMU students, people at CM Life, CM Life alumni and Central Michigan alumni,” he said. “For market concern, it’s considerably larger (in Mount Pleasant than Saginaw), so that’s reason number three.”
Central Michigan Life Editor-in-Chief Aaron McMann, a Redford senior, said he welcomes the second paper and the level of competition that comes with it.
“There’s always been the idea thrown around that CM Life should have competition, and I’m not against that,” McMann said. “I’m a competitive guy, and I fully believe if you’re doing a good job, you’ll be successful no matter what. I think competition is good.”
Central Michigan Tribune will be completely funded by advertising, which McMann said might affect CM Life’s bottom line.
“There are only so many ad dollars in Mount Pleasant to go after, so it might compete,” he said. “I welcome it and wish him the best of luck. I know we’ll continue to do what we do, and do it well.”
Dennis Lennox, former president of CMU’s Campus Conservatives and employee of Sterling, Hoffman & Co., previously served as director of public affairs at The Saginaw Valley Journal. Westendorf said Lennox, who he says is no longer employed by him, is a long-time friend but will not have a hand in the product.