Friday, May 15, 2009

Tucson Citizen to Cease Publication Saturday

Arizona's oldest newspaper, The Tucson Citizen, will roll the presses for the last time tomorrow while continuing with a modified website that will deal with opinions only.

Renee Schafer Horton of the Citizen has the details:

"There will be no news or sports reporting at," said Kate Marymont, vice president of news for Gannett Co., Inc., which owns the Citizen. The Citizen's recently revamped entertainment section, Metromix, will continue on a "provisional basis," Marymont said.

Gannett's joint operating agreement with Lee Enterprises, Inc. also will terminate Saturday, although the two companies will continue as equal partners in Tucson Newspapers, a subsidiary that handles all noneditorial operations for both papers. The JOA has been in effect since 1940.

The two companies will continue to share equally in the operating costs and profits of Tucson Newspapers, also known as TNI Partners, according to CEO Mike Jameson.

It will be announced later how many of the 60 employees will be retained. The Citizen was first published in 1859. It ran its editions Monday through Saturday afternoon, and had an average daily circulation of just under 20,000.

But Mark Fitzgerald of Editor & Publisher is reporting this afternoon that one bidder is going to court to try to acquire the newspaper:
California publisher Stephen L. Hadland, whose bid to buy the Tucson Citizen was rejected, asked the Arizona Attorney General's Office Friday to block Gannett Co. from shutting down the paper as a print publication on Saturday.

"I am requesting the Arizona Attorney General's office file a Temporary Restraining Order preventing The Gannett Corporation from closing the Citizen and require Gannett to continue printing the newspaper pending a sale to a qualified buyer," wrote Hadland, president and CEO of Santa Monica Media Company LLC and publisher of the Culver City (Calif.) Observer.

... "It was just a game," he said. "They never wanted to sell it, they just wanted to close it. They systematically destroyed this newspaper."

Hadland compared the Tucson JOA to the former partnership of Gannett and Liberty Newspapers in Honolulu in 1999. Hawaii's attorney general stepped in to block Liberty from closing the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and to force it instead to look for a buyer. Hadland, an unsuccessful bidder for the Honolulu paper as well, said the sale and independent operation of the Star-Bulletin demonstrates that the Citizen need not shut down.

"This is a perversion of the Newspaper Preservation Act, no different from what they tried to do in Honolulu," he said.

Hadland also lashed out at Gannett for ceasing print publication when, he said, it demanded that bidders for the Citizen pledge to print the paper daily. “Now they’re trying to get around it by saying they’ll have some bloggers on a Web site,” he said. “Last time I looked that was not a daily newspaper.”

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