The Tucson Citizen is ceasing print publication, but will continue publishing content on its Web site, according to the Gannett Co. The Tucson Citizen, which was published under a joint operating agreement with the Arizona Daily Star, owned by Lee Enterprises, is the fifth regional U.S. daily to close its print edition this year.
Gannett has owned the Citizen since 1976; it was founded in 1859 and it is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Arizona.
It's unclear how many of the paper's 60 employees would be affected by the closing of the print edition; however, the migration online typically enables publishers to cut the majority of staffers. The Daily Star will publish a Citizen editorial once a week to drive traffic to the Web site.
Bob Dickey, president of Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing division, noting that it was "no longer viable to produce two daily printed newspapers in Tucson," said the company was "pleased that the Citizen's Web site will continue its role as a place for a separate community conversation."
Indeed, the Tucson Citizen, with a circulation of about 20,000, is not the only Arizona newspaper in trouble. The East Valley Tribune, serving suburban Phoenix with a circulation of about 55,000, said in October it would cut back its publication schedule from seven days a week to four.
Newspapers in the Sun Belt (including Arizona, Southern California, and Florida) have been hit hard by the steep decline in the real-estate market, which fueled their classifieds business, compounded by the general economic downturn.
The Tucson Citizen follows a number of other big regional dailies that have closed this year, including the New York Sun, Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Ann Arbor News. With the addition of the Tucson Citizen, this represents a total circulation reduction of just under half a million. Like the Citizen, the Post-Intelligencer and Ann Arbor News maintain an online presence.
The last year has also seen threats to close The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle and Star-Ledger of Newark if unions did not make substantial cost concessions to corporate owners. Scores of smaller newspapers have been closed or moved to less frequent publishing schedules, including dozens owned by the Journal Register Co., which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
Gannett is reeling from the combined effects of a secular decline in the newspaper business and the broader recession. From a peak of 41,000 papers in 2000, the newspaper division has shrunk to about 28,000, with 9,000 of these cuts coming in 2007-2008. In June 2008, Gannett said it was freezing its pension plan. So far in 2009, it has mandated two unpaid furloughs for its employees in the first and second quarters, and slashed its dividend by 90%. Finally, its stock price has fallen from a peak of around $87.00 in 2003 to $4.36 on Friday afternoon.