It’s great we will be around a little while longer, but there’s comfort in certainty – even bad certainty
So what do I write about now? In this space and on this date, I had been planning to discuss the impending death of the Tucson Citizen and say goodbye.
Just two days from now, the Citizen was scheduled to go dark, closing up shop after 138 years.
I was going to talk about columns that still needed to be written and how I wouldn’t have the chance. And about the people I have met – those whom I would miss and especially those I wouldn’t miss at all.
But then on Tuesday, the red phone rang; the execution was delayed. And it’s hard to stuff a body in a grave if it won’t go limp.
The details – at least the few we have been allowed to know – have been spelled out in these pages over the past couple of days.
Gannett Co. Inc., the megamedia company that owns the Citizen, told us Jan. 16 that the paper was losing money and had been put up for sale. If there was no sale, which seemed likely given the national non-market for newspapers that lose money, the Citizen would publish its last edition March 21 – Saturday.
We then would be invited to pack up our notebooks, non-company pens and paper clips, Mickey Mouse posters, Indy 500 memorabilia and other career detritus and vacate the premises.
There would be severance, which was fair enough, but when that ended it would be time to look for career No. 2 – almost certainly outside of journalism.
So that was the plan. The final commemorative edition featuring employees, former employees, Citizen readers and friends saying nice things about the paper’s history would come out Saturday, mostly as a collectors’ item. We’d throw ourselves a little wake, then move on.
Not so fast.
We’re going to be here past Saturday. Maybe not long, maybe for quite a while. There reportedly are a couple of potential buyers for the Citizen. Negotiations will continue and something will happen. Or not.
We may be the last to know. We’ll probably find out the result when we try to get into the building by running our employee ID cards through the electronic reader and none of them works.
Yes, it is great that we have the chance to continue doing what we love for a little while longer. But there is a comfort in certainty – even if it is a bad certainty.
Since Jan. 16, this place has felt like a hospice. The patient is terminal, and we’re all just waiting for the time to come so we can say our final goodbyes and move on.
Then this. There are people who have lined up other jobs that were to start next week or soon after. Do they stay with journalism, which they love, or go work someplace that has a future?
If the Citizen is sold, what will the new people be like and what will they want to produce? Do they want another New York Times or another Weekly World News reporting on Bigfoot, space aliens and Bat Boy?
We still feel as if we’re living under a death sentence – but it’s now an uncertain one. We could be yanked out of our cells and executed tomorrow or next week or God-knows-when.
Ryn Gargulinski, the Citizen reporter who has a knack for putting things in the proper perspective, said it’s like “a dead cat being dragged around behind a pickup truck.” Not having much experience in that area, I’ll take her word for it.
My farewell column is still around. It’s just waiting to be dragged out at the right opportunity. Stay tuned.
Mark Kimble appears sometimes at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. At least for a while, reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4662.