Gannett Co. Inc. will close the Tucson Citizen on March 21 if it does not find a buyer for the newspaper.
Robert J. Dickey, president of Gannett U.S. Community Publishing, made the announcement in a brief meeting with employees Friday.
“The Tucson Citizen has been part of Gannett since 1976, and we deeply regret having to take this step,” Dickey said. “But dramatic changes in our industry combined with the difficult economy – particularly in this region – mean it is no longer viable for our partnership with Lee Enterprises Incorporated to produce two daily newspapers in Tucson.”
The Citizen’s average daily circulation has been eroding for more than a decade and now stands at about 17,000 newspapers, compared to the Arizona Daily Star’s 117,000.
The Citizen, an afternoon newspaper that started publication in 1870, operates under a joint operating agreement with the Star, a morning paper owned by Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises Inc.
Print production, distribution, sales and other noneditorial functions for both the Citizen and the Star operate under the name Tucson Newspapers Inc.
Gannett and Lee Enterprises split any profits from TNI equally. Dickey told Citizen employees the paper as its own entity is losing money and the newspaper had become an increasing drain on Gannett operations over the last eight months.
However, through the JOA, Gannett received about $13 million in 2007, TNI President Mike Jameson said. He added that the profit split will be much less in 2009. He did not specify the amount.
Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell said the company was selling “the softer assets” of the Citizen, “the name, the Web site, the url, the contact list, advertising list, contracting list, subscriber list.”
Asked whether Gannett would sell or retain its interest in the JOA, she said “there are discussions going on, but right now, let’s get it sold, and then we can talk about what happens next.”
Dickey declined to announce an asking price or the estimated value of the newspaper.
The Citizen and the Star maintain separate newsrooms and the editorial operations are independent.
The Citizen, which publishes Monday through Saturday, is Arizona’s oldest continually published newspaper. It has 65 full-time and three part-time employees.
Employees who stay with the paper through March 21 if it isn’t sold will receive severance pay of one week for every year of employment, to a maximum of 26 weeks.
Tucson becomes the latest city on the verge of losing its second daily newspaper as the industry suffers from the poor economy, falling retail advertising and circulation declines.
Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, owned by E.W. Scripps Co., was recently put up for sale and could close if a buyer isn’t found soon. Hearst Corp. put Seattle’s oldest newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, up for sale last week and said it would likely close or exist only online if a buyer wasn’t found by March.
Gannett, based in McLean, Va., publishes 85 daily newspapers in the United States, including The Arizona Republic and USA Today, and operates 23 television stations
Gannett News Release
Text of Gannett Co, Inc.’s news release on the sale of the Tucson Citizen:
McLEAN, VA – Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI) today said it is offering to sell certain assets of the Tucson (Arizona) Citizen. If a sale is not completed by March 21, 2009, Gannett said it will have to close the newspaper.
“The Tucson Citizen has been part of Gannett since 1976 and we deeply regret having to take this step. But dramatic changes in our industry combined with the difficult economy – particularly in this region – mean it is no longer viable for our partnership with Lee Enterprises Incorporated to produce two daily newspapers in Tucson,” said Bob Dickey, president of the U.S. Community Publishing division of Gannett. “We applaud the hard work and ongoing efforts of our employees at the newspaper. Their dedication to journalism and to the community of Tucson deserves the highest praise. We hope for a quick and positive response to this offer.”
The Tucson Citizen is an afternoon newspaper that publishes Monday through Saturday. It is one of the two newspapers produced by TNI Partners as part of a joint operating arrangement (JOA) under the Newspaper Preservation Act. The Arizona Daily Star, which is owned by a subsidiary of Lee Enterprises Incorporated, is the second newspaper in the JOA. TNI Partners provides the production, distribution, sales and other non-editorial business functions for both the Citizen and The Star.
Each newspaper maintains a separate newsroom and the editorial operations of the newspapers are entirely independent. Average daily circulation of the Citizen is 19,851, according to the latest Audit Bureaus of Circulation report. Founded in 1870, the Tucson Citizen has been part of a JOA since 1940. Offers should be directed to Robert J. Broadwater, managing director of Broadwater & Associates LLC, at (914) 961-5700 or email@example.com.
Gannett Co., Inc. is a leading international news and information company that publishes 85 daily newspapers in the USA, including USA TODAY, the nation’s largest-selling daily newspaper. The company also owns nearly 900 non-daily publications in the USA and USA WEEKEND, a weekly newspaper magazine. Gannett subsidiary Newsquest is the United Kingdom’s second largest regional newspaper company. Newsquest publishes 17 daily paid-for titles, more than 200 weekly newspapers, magazines and trade publications, and a network of award-winning Web sites. Gannett also operates 23 television stations in the United States and is an Internet leader with sites sponsored by its TV stations and newspapers including USATODAY.com, one of the most popular news sites on the Web.
By Wire Report, Staff