By paulgillin | May 15, 2009 - 6:14 pm - Posted in Facebook, Solutions
First issue of the Arizona Citizen, 1870

First issue of the Arizona Citizen, 1870

The 138-year-old Tucson Citizen, AmericaArizona’s oldest newspaper, will print its last edition tomorrow, even as a prospective buyer howls in protest.  The paper will continue online with what is being called a “modified” edition focused on commentary and opinion, but without news or sports coverage the newspaper is effectively dead

Founded in 1870 as the Arizona Citizen, the daily has gone through a painful downsizing process, culminating in a bizarre series of late rescue attempts.  Owner Gannett Co. announced in January that it was putting the Citizen up for sale and would shut down the paper in March if no buyer was found.

In February, the Justice Department said it was investigating the Gannett sale due to allegations that the company would not give up its interest in a joint operating agreement (JOA) it has with Lee Enterprises, publisher of the Arizona Daily Star.  JOAs are legally sanctioned duopolies that enable partners to share profits and back office operations while maintaining competing editorial voices. Without the JOA, the Citizen is effectively a money pit.

Failed Rescue Attempt

On March 16, just five days before the scheduled shutdown,we posted our first RIP for the newspaper, but the next day  Gannett announced that two “very interested buyers” had emerged.  In fact, the Citizen had at least five suitors during its final months, but none wanted to pay Gannett’s price. Meanwhile, the Justice Department confirmed today that it has closed its investigation into the sale and will let the Citizen shut down.

The howls of protest are from Stephen Hadland, CEO of Santa Monica Media Corp., who says he still wants to buy the Citizen and who claims Gannett refuses to budge on price.  The Citizen reported in March that Santa Monica Media is a “blank check company” that exists solely to perform mergers and acquisitions. Hadland has asked the Arizona attorney general for a temporary restraining to prevent Gannett from closing the Citizen.  With no further interference from the Justice Department, however, it appears that the closure is a done deal.

In a final strange twist, a Gannett implied that the stub of a website being kept in operation may be nothing more than a sop to the Justice Department to let the deal go through.  Gannett revealed almost no details about the plans for the online operation and refused to say how long it will keep the site in operation.

The Citizen employs 60 people, most of whom will lose their jobs, although some may be retained to staff the Web operation.

Update 5/16/09: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Tucson late Friday to block the closure of the Citizen. A temporary restraining order is being filed. The move appears to have been initiated by Santa Monica Media Corp., which says it bid a fair price for the paper but Gannett refused to negotiate. As of 10:30 a.m. MST on Saturday, if was still unclear if Saturday’s issue would be the last.



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  1. May 15, 2009 @ 9:57 pm

    You know my opinion of anybody who saddle themselves with print…

    I’d like to see the financial record for the print edition, compare them to estimates of a web edition and see if any kind of a deal could be reached for an RSS podcast printed edition that would preserve the web edition but five days after a private edition is out with access to the RSS controlled by the post office.

    Just as an exercise…

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. May 16, 2009 @ 1:22 am

    Wow – the internet version of the newspaper will have no news! How can you have internet based newspaper with no news? Stupid business decision.

    Posted by Pete Kosednar
  3. May 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    I don’t mean to nit pick – but I was trying to confirm the opening sentence; “The 138-year-old Tucson Citizen, America’s oldest newspaper…”

    After reading up on this, I think you meant to write “Arizona’s oldest newspaper.”

    This hits home for me because it is my home town and I thought I would share.

    That said, I read this site very regularly, yet this is my first comment.

    Posted by David Francis
  4. May 16, 2009 @ 11:16 am

    Thanks for pointing out that error.

    I come from Montréal, Québec, Canada and we had a newspaper older than that, by about a month.

    The journal “Opinion Publique” was out there in 1870 too.

    There were various tracts and screeds before but none were daily papers.

    I need an editor to catch my missing words, and you need a fact checker. 😉

    (And on my comment above replace “RSS podcast printed edition” with “RSS podcast distributed edition”)

    Posted by msbpodcast
  5. May 16, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    The “America’s oldest newspaper” citation was from the Citizen itself. However, that story has now been taken down and I believe that the designation was in error. I’ll check and correct. Thanks for pointing out the possible mistake.

    Posted by Paul Gillin
  6. May 17, 2009 @ 9:20 am

    Gannett is scum. They taint everything that they touch. The death of the business is appropriate.

    Posted by Robert Alou
  7. May 18, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    Looks like the NY Times has them beat since it started running in 1851:

    Posted by Timbo
  8. May 19, 2009 @ 8:31 am

    You’re right: The Citizen is Arizona’s oldest daily, not America’s.

    Posted by paulgillin
  9. May 20, 2009 @ 8:36 am

    […] yet for the Tucson Citizen.  A federal judge is expected to rule today on whether the Citizen, which formally closed down on Saturday, must resume publication. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard argued that Gannett Co. and Lee […]

  10. June 8, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

    I was going to be a journalist. In college I got distracted and changed majors. I soooo dodged a bullet.

    Posted by Keith
  11. November 28, 2009 @ 7:06 am
  12. May 15, 2011 @ 6:58 am

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    Posted by tucson citizen