Tucson Citizen shuttered, despite bids

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On Saturday, May 16, Gannett Co. is publishing the last print edition of its Arizona-based daily the Tucson Citizen.

The 20,000-circ paper — Arizona's oldest — will live on as a Web site that focuses only on opinions, with no news or community updates. Gannett will uphold its joint publishing partnership with Lee Enterprises' Arizona Daily Star, also based in Tucson. The Daily Star, average weekday circulation 94,080, will publish an editorial page from the Citizen as a weekly insert.

“Dramatic changes in our industry combined with the difficult economy — particularly in this region — mean it is no longer viable to produce two daily printed newspapers in Tucson,” said Bob Dickey, president of the U.S. Community Publishing division of Gannett, in a statement.

The original severance package offered to employees, which covers up to 26 weeks based on seniority, will be upheld.

Gannett, publishers of the 2 million–circ USA Today and around 80 other local papers, put the Citizen up for sale in January and had planned to close the paper by March 21 if it did not find a buyer. Negotiations granted the paper a reprieve until now, but, ultimately, no bids were accepted. Stephen Hadland, a publisher with the Santa Monica Media Co., made Gannett an offer of “close to half a million dollars,” he told the Citizen, but was, “told that nothing less than $800,000 would be acceptable.”

With the formation of the new Gannett Digital Media Network in April, the media company seems to be focusing its efforts more on new media than on print. Publishing segment operating revenue for Q1 2009 was down 26.9%, to $1.1 billion, from the year before. Digital operating revenues were $143.2 million, down 13.1% on a pro forma basis.

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