By: Mark Fitzgerald
The Tucson Citizen will print its last edition Saturday, owner Gannett Co. Inc. said Friday.
Gannett said the paper will continue to operate its Web site, www.tucsoncitizen.com, but no longer publish a print edition.
“Dramatic changes in our industry combined with the difficult economy — particularly in this region — mean it is no longer viable to produce two daily printed newspapers in Tucson,” Bob Dickey, president of the U.S. Community Publishing division of Gannett, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Citizen’s Web site will continue its role as a place for a separate community conversation. Its staff will focus on stimulating public engagement in local affairs. We look forward to moving in this exciting direction.”
Gannett said that effective Saturday it is terminating its joint operating agreement (JOA) under the Newspaper Preservation Act with Lee Enterprises, which publishes the market-leading Arizona Daily Star, but that both will continue to be “equal partners in TNI Partners.”
The announcement did not say how many employees will lose their jobs as a result of the folding of the print edition.
Dickey said the Star will publish a Citizen editorial once a week in its newspaper.
When Gannett Co. Inc. put the assets of the Tucson Citizen up for sale in January, it attracted at least five potential bidders — nearly all of whom backed away when Gannett would not include its 50% share of the joint operating agreement (JOA) with Lee Enterprises, publisher of the market-leading Arizona Daily Star.
“Once we knew that only the intellectual property was for sale . . . we decided it was not a good option, or market for us in Tucson,” said Gustavo De La Fuente, president of Grupo Multimedia Impacto in Sonora, Mexico.
According to an account of the closing by Renee Schafer Horton and Mark B. Evans, posted on the Citizen Web site, Gannett was asking $1 million for the assets of the newspaper, consisting of its archives, Internet domain name and subscriber and advertiser information.
The final bidder for the paper was Stephen Hadland, owner and publisher of the Culver City (Calif.) Observer, the Citizen said.
“The negotiations broke down at the end of April when Gannett had dropped its price to $800,000,” Horton and Evans wrote. “Hadland said he wouldn’t go above $400,000.”
The Citizen noted its staff had been working “on a day-to-day basis for most of past seven weeks” after Gannett delayed the planned March 21 folding of the paper because of the ongoing negotiations.
The newspaper has a staff of 65. Gannett did not say how many people will lose their jobs as the Citizen goes to Web-only publication.
In February, Gannett and Lee Enterprises amended their JOA to eliminate the requirement that two printed newspapers must be published. Gannett said the JOA will terminate Saturday, but that both will continue to be equal partners in TNI Partners. The name of the JOA operating company is Tucson Newspapers Inc.
Last year, Gannett and Lee Enterprises each made $10.5 million from the JOA, an amount that was down about $8 million less than in 2007, the Citizen reported.