“Please pack your knives and go.”
“Your show has been canceled.”
“You are not the biggest loser.” (Um . . .)
Or, because I am addicted to “Rock of Love,” “Your tour ends here.”
But Bret . . .
Like so many reality contestants who have tried their darndest, I am cast from the wonderful serial that is the Tucson Citizen. The tribe, it seems, has spoken.
It’s sad, of course, to get kicked off the island before you’re ready. I like my tribe mates. They make me laugh and they make me think.
But enough about me. The closing of the Tucson Citizen is far beyond one writer. It’s far beyond one local daily newspaper.
Since Gannett announced its decision to sink the “for sale” sign in our lawn in January, the Scripps-owned Rocky Mountain News and Hearst-owned Seattle Post-Intelligence have bitten the dust, and the fate of Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle is shaky. McClatchy’s Miami Herald is on the market. And on and on. It’s old news, this domino game, with fewer and fewer papers to report that news.
It’s easy enough to see why multinational news corporations didn’t see all of this gloom and doom headed their way. Newspapers, in good old-fashioned, ink-on-paper form, have survived many challengers over the years. But while radio and television were dealt with, the Internet proved a greater opponent than the newspaper chains were able to understand. Danny Bonaduce was sent into the ring to fight Mike Tyson.
Of course, technologies aren’t animate, but it sure seems like there has been a lot of fear of the machine. Our parent companies have forgotten the old “guns don’t shoot people, people shoot people” notion, though it seems so simple: The Internet doesn’t attract people, people attract people. Readers have flocked to a medium that works for them and away from one that doesn’t, and too many news corporations distracted themselves with the print product, insisting the problem was aesthetic. Ah, to be able to use that “lipstick on a pig” analogy and sound original.
The light at the end of this absurdist tunnel, the Godot we’ve been waiting for, has been here all along. And this is where I find comfort for the many talented people I have had the pleasure of working with, as well as our counterparts at dying newspapers across the country: Good writing is always good writing, and good information is always good information. We may be displaced for a while, we may have to break up the family as we forage for work wherever we can find it, but talented journalists will always be needed to tell the stories that are our cultural currency.
A new model is needed. While I like to think there will always be a New York Times in existence (and online-only counts), daily, local news organizations need to be reimagined. And that’s exciting. We’re at a point where we’re rediscovering what it means to communicate to one another. The system is broken, and we’re at the point where replacing the engine just doesn’t make sense. Scrap it, start fresh. It just might be nice to have the vehicle locally owned again.
Still, it’s been a good ride. I never felt the corporate hand when I ventured into the community to meet the many amazing artists and musicians who live here, to interview everyone from a tough, 6-year-old Tucson Roller Derby girl-in-training (skate on, Madeline BootyFly!) to an 80-plus-year-old woman revisiting her family history. You’ve all been kind to let me share both the stories that circulate in my head and the ones I’ve found in Tucson.
For now, though, it’s time to pack my pens and go.