Follow up

I posted this on the Online comments of a story in today’s Tucson Citizen:

Having worked for TNI Partners back in the day, I understand the situation for both newspapers – yes, both the Star and Citizen are affected by the Citizen’s demise. I don’t think that people fully understand the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) that governs the presses, ads, obits, facility, etc. The Star is going to take a financial hit because they will have to cover (in the short term) the shortfall of the JOA from the Citizen’s closure, and in the long term have to renegotiate the usage that was covered under the JOA. TNI Partners (who administers the JOA) will also be forced to lay off personnel – people who had no connection to the Citizen itself, per se like those that worked in prepress, ads, etc. Can’t justify having 20 people manning the phones and taking ad submission calls when there’s only one paper for the ads to run in, for example. That’s a big ramification for “just” one newspaper closing.

However, and maybe someone on the Citizen can check this out, has anyone considered moving to the model used by the East Valley Tribune that has allowed that paper to stay in business? Namely, they laid off some staff and moved to an internet publication 7 days a week while still publishing a print version four days a week (Wed., Fri., Sat. & Sun.). The EVTrib print edition is also smaller than it used to be – it now is printed in tabloid format instead of traditional format – and has a smaller number of articles due to space restrictions, BUT more stories are “continued” in the online edition (more information, more pictures/visuals, etc.), which allows for things like the famed three-part investigative story (which, when I grew up in Tucson, the Citizen was famous for) to be published in the print edition for Fri/Sat/Sun editions.

I don’t know Ms. Stanton, since she wasn’t at the Citizen when I was at TNI Partners, but what I think is funny is the fact that there are so many haters here and the majority are gleefully posting for the closure of the Citizen, but they aren’t looking at the big picture: becoming a one newspaper city also limits their news viewpoint to exactly one source (the Star), and it limits their “online” presence to that same online publication. I don’t know about you, but competition breeds better EVERYTHING. I’m not a fan of Rush Limbaugh, but imagine if there were no Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity and all you get is 24×7 Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh fans would love it, but everyone else would eventually get tired of Rush. And who would break the next story about Rush’s OxyContin habit anyway? Certainly not Limbaugh himself.

You may think the Citizen is bad, but try dealing with the Arizona Repugnant (Republic) when living in the metro-Phoenix area. Long time AZ residents remember the Phoenix Gazette – that was a staple in my aunt’s house when I was growing up; she wouldn’t touch the Repugnant with a ten-foot pole, but times change. Now there’s just one newspaper in Phoenix, when reporting and stories are AWFUL, what other source do you turn to? The Payson Roundup? The Yuma Sun? Yeah, like they’re going to cover news that’s important in your neighborhood. Do you think the Star has the ability to cover everything happening in Vail? Or how about in Marana? What about in Sahuarita? Not that the Citizen does all that now, but TOGETHER both papers do a better job than just one can do because they have more resources available.

There’s a lot of tradition and history in the Citizen’s publication, but no publication should ever rest on its laurels – it needs to move forward and embrace the change. When I was there, azstarnet.com was barely but a startup ISP and the Citizen was just getting around to getting email addresses for its reporters. When the Citizen began an Online presence, I was very happy to see it since I had a small part in laying the foundations of it. The Citizen needs to take that final leap and move to an internet publication and start moving away from the print publication, as that’s the ONLY way this paper will survive.

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