Chemical City Paper launches print edition

The city of Midland showed up to Chemical CIty Paper’s launch party on Oct. 30, and mingled among refreshments. Photo by Michael Pieper (Creative Director)

By RJ Murphy, reporter.

 

MIDLAND – On Tuesday, Oct. 29, a newly formed press organization hosted a party to celebrate the release of their first print issue.

Founded earlier this year, the Chemical City Paper is a digital first, non-profit news source exclusively covering the Midland area. The event was well attended, showing signs of support from the community.

The paper was officially incorporated on Feb. 20, 2019 and began full time operations in September. Currently, there are two staff members on the payroll: CEO/executive editor Michael Westendorf and chief development officer Paul Oslund.

Westendorf developed a feel for journalism after creating a website that covered youth hockey in Midland. He would later write for the Valley Vanguard, the student run newspaper at Saginaw Valley State University.

Unsatisfied with the state of the Valley Vanguard at the time, Westendorf decided to start his own publication, the Saginaw Valley Journal.

“We wanted to be the more serious paper,” says Westendorf. “We were treating student government at SVSU like senators. […] If they did something stupid, we would cover it. A lot of people didn’t understand that mentality.”

Westendorf strongly believes in transparency and that people deserve to know what’s going on in their community.

Westendorf left the Saginaw Valley Journal in 2016 to enter the world of finance, but while working as an investment advisor and licensed stock broker, he felt unfulfilled.

“I thought about this (the Chemical City Paper) every single day,” says Westendorf. “I knew this is what I want to do. Instead of seeing dollar signs over people’s heads, I’d rather be talking to them about what’s going on in their community.”

With a clear vision in mind, Westendorf began approaching people to help him achieve his goals. One of them was Paul Oslund.

“Michael had told me about his vision and concept for the [Chemical] City Paper back in February,” says Oslund. “Even though he had veered off into the financial world, I could tell that high quality journalism was something that was still pretty important to him. It was clear what he wanted to achieve, and I was interested in seeing how it would turn out.”

Oslund’s role at the company consists of a lot of the “behind the scenes” work that allows the paper to function.

“The time is right for an independent media voice that isn’t shaped or driven by a corporate agenda, and that’s something that we want to contribute to the community,” says Oslund. “Things are moving in a good direction.”

The mission statement on their website states: “We are organized so that we never have the inherent financial conflict of having to choose between enriching our shareholders and adding value to our readers’ lives.”

“The legal and technical reason for any for-profit business is to generate revenue for shareholders,” says Westendorf. “With a non-profit it’s different. […] There is a board with community members that have a mission.”

The Chemical City Paper believes that print is a useful tool for reaching people who don’t have time to browse around on social media, and can also serve as an effective medium for marketing. Being a non-profit, they are primarily concerned with appeasing the community.

“There is a segment of our readership who only get their news from print. […] they’re busy folks,” says Westendorf.

The Midland Daily News was founded in 1937 and has been the primary paper in Midland since then. The Chemical City Paper does not intend to replicate the Midland Daily News’ coverage.

“If we do see something that they’ve covered or we know they’re covering, we’re going to do a couple of things,” says Westendorf. “One, I’m going to dive a little deeper into the issue. If I can’t do that, then I’m going to try and approach it from a different angle.”

Readers can check out their articles online at chemicalcitypaper.com, or pick up a copy of the print edition from newsstands around Midland.

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