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From the editor: Subscribers must help preserve reporting that holds power to account

Gary Miles
The Detroit News

A great state deserves a great newspaper.

And that's what we're committed to giving you.

After 25 years of online evolution and innovation, far more of our readers now get their news “paper” on a device — whether computer, tablet or smartphone — than do in print. More than 6.1 million different visitors turned to detroitnews.com in June alone.

You’ve made us an integral part of your life. And we want to ensure we can keep giving you the most reliable journalism that Michigan has to offer.

Gary Miles, Editor and Publisher of The Detroit News, sits in his office at the downtown Detroit newsroom on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.

To help us do that, on Aug. 12 we will be asking digital readers to support our journalism by subscribing to detroitnews.com. This is driven by the long-term need to replace declining advertising revenue in print newspapers, a decline hastened by businesses reeling from the global pandemic.

Read moreDetroit News to offer subscriber-only content starting Aug. 12

We know some of our readers are hurting, too. So breaking news and routine stories will remain accessible for free. But our most unique, informative and in-depth content — often the most costly to produce — will be available only to subscribers.

We'll make some improvements, too: A redesigned website that loads faster and a new commenting system that makes the space better for our moderators and those who comment.

We’re among the last major newspapers to charge for at least some of our online content.

Across the industry, newspapers have found that readers are willing to support the work of their journalists. We're confident that our readers, who are among the most loyal and informed in the industry, will support ours.

These are journalists who attend city council and school board meetings, go to union halls and convention halls, watch university boards and community boards and visit classrooms and showrooms.

They deliver a fundamental benefit to our democracy. They hold the powerful to account.

Across the nation, this role is threatened:

•    On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy judge is expected to approve the sale of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and 27 others to the hedge fund that owns the National Enquirer. A handful of those no longer even have physical newsrooms.

•    Eight newspapers covering some of Michigan’s prominent cities, including Grand Rapids, Flint and Ann Arbor, will be printed in Cleveland starting in October as a cost-saving measure.

•    Youngstown, Ohio, became the most prominent major city to lose its daily newspaper when the family-owned Vindicator ceased publication last August, laying off 144 staff (it later sold its name and subscriber list to another company, which is maintaining some coverage).

That heart-wrenching move hit home for Kalea Hall and Jordyn Grzelewski, two Detroit News journalists who grew up in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley and worked together at the Vindy.

They're now covering an auto industry in its own economic transition on a Detroit News staff that continues to be a watchdog over our most influential institutions. We take that mission seriously.

It was, after all, The Detroit News that broke the story that a longtime University of Michigan doctor had molested possibly hundreds of men over a series of years.

And a Detroit News analysis exposed that the City of Detroit overtaxed residents by $600 million between 2010 and 2016, an economic hardship that will resonate for decades.

We also were the first to reveal that immediate past UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams were being investigated for possible misuse of union dues for personal pleasure.

And we told you that state regulators were suing owners of a substandard dam to prevent future damage to mussels instead of suing to prevent the known threat to people and property.

An early version of the redesign of www.detroitnews.com, coming Aug. 12.

And it was The News that first informed you of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 was having on the African American population in Michigan.

Since the earliest days of our republic, America's newspapers have played this essential role.

Benjamin Franklin watered the seeds of the American revolution when, as publisher of the Philadelphia Gazette, his paper wrote of the ills of the British Stamp Act.

Almost 90 years later, Joseph Warren, editor of the Detroit Tribune, a forerunner of The News, used the power of editorial endorsements to reject slavery. He pressured all Michigan anti-slavery political factions to unite "Under the Oaks" in Jackson. That first convention of the Republican party led to its first president, Abraham Lincoln, and, within a decade, the end of Southern slavery.

Not every story, not every issue, is so momentous.

But plenty are historic still. Looking ahead, we will cover one of the most important presidential elections in decades, an unrelenting pandemic, a state and nation seeking economic recovery, a reckoning over racial inequities.

And for longer than we have had a nation, we have had newspapers on this continent challenging its people and institutions to live up to its ideals.

That’s an ideal worth subscribing to, I hope you’ll agree.

Although subscription-only content will begin Aug. 12, you can subscribe immediately at www.detroitnews.com/subscribe.

You can reach Gary Miles at gmiles@detroitnews.com.