Tomorrow’s fish-and-chip papers

Eyes wide shut

Not gonna lie. It’s only February and I’m already exhausted by 2021.

It’s been a year since the non-essentials among us transitioned to the homestead so we could live to work another day. With each deadline I survive in quarantine (12 and counting), the University of Michigan seems more and more like a fever dream to me. Did it ever really exist?

And then my in-box starts filling with the auto-replies, requests to unsubscribe, and comments from Michigan Today readers who have opinions on the email’s content. Ah yes, I do not operate in a vacuum after all.

Tebeau wedding band

A fellow Wolverine found John Tebeau’s wedding ring on the streets of Brooklyn. (Image: Matt Sherman.)

In January, I basked in a readers’ love fest. It was generated by a sweet story about a lost wedding ring that found its way back to its owner by way of a serendipitous series of alumni connections. Readers loved me for it, and told me so. It was clear they were tired of the endless barrage of ugly political news out there.

And then a mob of violent insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6. Their stated goal was to stop the peaceful transition of power between the former and current presidents. They failed. We had an inauguration of a new president, followed by an impeachment trial for the former one.

For this editor, it seemed a timely opportunity to showcase the Clements Library archive. It contains the original coded letters of OG traitor extraordinaire, Benedict Arnold. I also ran a faculty experts advisory about issues facing the Biden administration. Finally, I revisited a pair of Congressional scholars I’d interviewed in 2013.

This time it was the readers who turned coat. They hated me for it, and told me so. They were sick of politics, and this Marxist propaganda had no place in Michigan Today. They mansplained me into oblivion. One reader asked me to call him so he could prove that fake news was real. Mostly he hoped I was a Wolverine, like him.

I didn’t return that call, but I have no plans to pull a Parler or shut down my comments. I embrace the virtue and the vitriol. But I grew up in the olden days, when readers took solace in the fact they could wrap offending newspapers around a greasy piece of fried fish. Now they take to the keyboard. Can I help it if I scan the comments with one eye closed? Hey, it’s better than two.

(Lead image: “Behind the Walls” by Jaume Plensa.)


  1. Henry (Hal) Chaffee - 1967

    Not sure what kind of content your comments include.

    However you might consider writing a few things about the 1960’s at the University of Michigan.

    As I recall the university switched from the two semester plus summer school terms to the four terms system Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer starting in 1964. I happened to be the first Summer Committee Chairman at the new University Activities Center (it replaced the separate Michigan Union and Michigan League student organizations) in the summer term of 1965 and also I became the Publications Committee Chairman after that. Ed Robinson was the head of a UAC committee on Contemporary Discussions which had a number of influential guest speakers and well known speakers. Ed went to Columbia Law School and became one of the three leaders of the student revolution there. I think 1966 was the year that SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) was a key leader in the student revolution which almost closed down the university and lead to several changes in the ways that the university operated. It was a really exciting time to be there.


  2. Chris Campbell - 1972 (Rackham); 1975 (Law)

    I always welcome articles that provoke in some manner–provoke reflection, provoke responsive arguments, provoke new ideas, provoke a clearer understanding of a phenomenon. It’s surprising that some readers seek only affirmation of their existing views. Educational institutions exist to teach skills. Early on the skills are basic: reading and writing, and some basic mathematical concepts. There are the skills of acquiring foundational knowledge. But by the university level, the skills to be learned are critical thinking, the ability to examine ideas, evaluate them, and use them effectively. If Michigan Today did not challenge readers it wold not be worth reading.

    Chris Campbell


  3. Lisa Fetman - 2007

    I believe the comments convey a watershed moment for education in general. With the constant critique of history, media, academia, and journalism, it is time to refocus aspects of K-20 education on how we teach students to properly navigate this “post-truth” world as we move into the 2020s and beyond. This will prepare a generation of citizens ready to lead and live in a truly democratic society (which is currently under attack). I highly recommend this piece in the Educational Researcher journal as a source for looking forward:

    Chinn, C. A., Barzilai, S., & Golan Duncan, R. (2021). Education for a “post-truth” world: New directions for research and practice. Educational Researchers, 50(1), pp. 51-60. Doi: 10.3102/0013189X20940683


Leave a comment: