DOJ questioning sale of Citizen

The DOJ has gotten involved in the sale of the Tucson Citizen. They’re looking into the potential buyers in regards to the broker handling the sale. It seems that Gannett Corp wants to force the buyer to continue publishing a print edition of the paper. However, as is well-documented, Gannett is NOT selling their stake in the JOA with Lee Enterprises in regards to the presses.

Since there’s very few places in Tucson that can manufacture a print edition, that would mean that the buyer would also have to “rent” the presses… from, oh my gosh, Gannett! (and the other half of the JOA)

If this was baseball, this would be called collusion – Lee Enterprises would have to agree to the “rental” as well, and why wouldn’t they? They stand to make 50% profit on it!

Something fishy this way comes…

Tell us about your Citizen

(The Tucson Citizen will cease publication on March 21, 2009. This date will remain a very dark day in publishing history…)

(Anyway, the Citizen solicited anecdotes from the public about the newspaper through the years. The following is my submission.)

What the Citizen has meant to me? I grew up with the Citizen – Dad would buy it on the way home from work, or we would have a subscription, it generally flip-flopped depending on what year it was. When I got to high school at Salpointe Catholic (class of ’90), the Citizen was my go-to for daily events and for research papers for class. Looking back, reading the newspaper actually helped me improve my reading – I see that as I try to get my own kids to read more, and having a daily newspaper in the house helps considerably. I remember reading the John Jennings columns and thinking “How funny is that”. I even ended up taking karate classes with his daughter for a while – never making the connection that she was HIS daughter until years later. (And when John was arrested in that prostitution sting, I felt really let-down, like a member of the family had committed the crime.)

My first “real” (non-University of Arizona affiliated) job was at TNI Partners. I was the one that converted everyone’s PC from running Windows 3.1 and TECS2 to Windows 95 (but still with TECS2… hey, I couldn’t make you guys use Word yet 🙂 ) I was the one that helped Joel move in to the 20th century with everyone getting an email address (first initial, last name – although Pam Hartman was the exception because “phartman” didn’t look or sound right). I spent countless hours upgrading PCs, showing people how to surf the web (CT Revere comes to mind), showing people how to use email as a tool and resource, and even occasionally going to reporters’ homes and setting up their home computers to dial in to azstarnet. I would work early mornings at the beginning of the week, and there were occasional “My computer crashed and I need to submit my story in ten minutes!” cries for help – I think near the end of my tenure with TNI that I had gotten into the habit of hanging around in the newsroom about an hour before deadline JUST in case someone had an issue that needed immediate attention.

I got to see the inside of the vaunted Citizen, the inner workings, and I was completely impressed. I got to see the inner workings of the Star, and I was completely let down – the Star never seemed to be a happy place to work. When I walked over there, I never got that vibe, that feeling that people wanted to be there, that people knew the tradition of excellence. Instead, I got the “ho hum, another day at the grind”. When I walked into the Citizen, someone ALWAYS said “hi”. Didn’t matter who, and it was usually someone different every day, but you got the feeling that the Citizen was a family. I got to see first-hand how the downtown office (Teibel!!) worked, and the satellite offices worked. I got to see the real innards of a newspaper and finally understood the impact that a newspaper has on a community. I took photography classes in HS and college and seeing how the photo department was set up was just amazing. (To this day it still is – just with newer technology!) Meeting Corky Simpson and Steve Rivera and having daily conversations with them about things OTHER than sports – that was always a trip.

When I announced I was leaving, Don Hatfield, the editor/publisher, asked if there was anything he could do to change my mind to leave TNI for a job in Mesa, and I truly believe that if he could have justified the cost of having his own IT person instead of using the TNI personnel, he would have. Heck, TNI didn’t do anything more than give me a handshake and a “see you later – good luck”, but the Citizen staffers threw me a going away party. I still have the gi-normous card signed by everyone.

My then-fiancee (and now wife of 12 years) ended up getting a job for the Citizen proper, working in the Library with Jeannie and Charlotte. And when Don Hatfield’s assistant took vacation, or was out sick, she was asked to step in. And she enjoyed her work. She enjoyed going in to work, and she has always told me that leaving there was probably her biggest regret in her professional life. She knew it wasn’t ever going to be the biggest paycheck in the world, but that was a place that she could do an honest day’s work and feel good about herself for it.

I always had hoped that my kids would be able to someday go back and visit and really understand “Hey, Daddy and Mommy used to work here” – and I’ve made a couple of visits before with the kids (as babies), but now, sadly, I won’t get that chance any more.

When I first heard about the Citizen’s possible “demise”, I immediately wrote a comment on the online board detailing a solution that had been successful for the East Valley Tribune – online 24×7, cut print size in half to tabloid size, cut the total size of the paper down to two sections, and publish a print version only four days a week. (perma-link here) I had hoped that would help, but I guess no one from Gannett took that seriously (or even read it). That’s a shame – the Citizen represents Tucson, but Gannett doesn’t see that.

So, what has the Citizen meant to me? The Citizen is a huge part of my life – it arguably shaped the person I am today, both because of what was printed, and because of the people behind it. Not many people can say that, and I take pride in knowing I’m in select company. I wear my Tucson Citizen baseball cap with pride. It’s blue (same color as those vaunted letters on the front page), hasn’t faded much, but it’s a great reminder of what examples I need to set for my kids.

I read the Citizen every day still, even from Queen Creek, AZ. I will miss it when it goes away.

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, 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.


Tucson Citizen to cease publication if no buyer found by March 21.

I would hate to see this paper go away. I grew up reading it, and both my wife and I worked there for a couple of years. We have many, many friends still there, and there’s so much history there.

The Citizen needs to move to an online model (similar to the East Valley Tribune) where they publish a print edition three or four days a week and online every day. The Citizen’s online presence is really good, and I admit to reading it every day.

Someone needs to step up and preserve this newspaper. After all, it’s not like it’s a fly-by-night mag that only started in the 1980’s. This paper’s been around since 1870… That’s 138 years of continuous publishing. That’s a part of the American (and Arizonan) heritage, and it’ll be lost if someone doesn’t do the right thing.

High School Football and the Politics of Coverage

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has announced a “partnership” with the Arizona Repugnant:

“ have unveiled a partnership that makes the state’s only site to feature every score and schedule for all AIA member schools in each sport, providing the most comprehensive, updated coverage.”

Yeah, no. This was announced this psat Thursday. In yesterday’s (Saturday’s) edition, there was absolutely NO coverage of high school football. So much for this vaunted partnership. still provides more information, more up-to-date scores, and more in-depth analysis than anything the misinformed hacks at the Repugnant could come up with.

The 24-7 site’s admins are on recruiters’ speed-dial. The coaches prefer to deal with the 24-7 folks over newspaper columnists any day of the week. The AIA has proven themselves to be three-years behind the times in everything technology-related. This “announcement” is just Much Ado About Nothing.

The columnists that cover high school sports are only interested in covering the Phoenix-metro big schools (4A/5A). They have one or two folks that attempt to cover everything else (1A – 3A) and they fail miserably. You can follow the threads on multiple forums about how bad their coverage is, how badly they mess up their team rankings due to being uninformed, and how apathetic they are when it comes to anything that resides outside Maricopa County.

Which brings me to Geoff Grammer of the Tucson Citizen.

Now, I love the Citizen. I used to work there. I fondly look back on that place as the place that gave me a chance to get into the work force and show what I could do. The people were top-notch. The writing made me almost want to be a journalist (if the pay was close to technology, I probably would’ve switched). The editors knew what they were doing.

And now they have Geoff Grammer who has the title of “Varsity Sports Editor”.

I had posted on his site, and, of course, my post had a link back to the DKC Rankings. He did actually link back to the rankings, so I emailed him a quick thank you. However, in that thank you, I raised a question to him: (sent on 9/18/07)

Looks like you linked the DKC ratings. Thanks for that.

I been meaning to ask – why is it that the Citizen, which always has the best HS coverage anyway in S. Arizona, always seems to omit the 1A / 2A / 3A schools?

It’s not like Tucson and the surrounding area doesn’t have small schools –

St. David
(Tucson) Tanque Verde
(Elfrida) Valley Union

(Oro Valley) Pusch Ridge Christian

(Tucson / Vail) Empire

The Citizen reports on Casa Grande and Buena (both in different counties), why not the rest of the schools in Cochise county and those actually in Pima county?

Prior to this email in 2007, under Grammer’s “reign”, the Citizen’s Varsity sports largely ignored the small schools in Southern Arizona, despite the profession that the Citizen was the voice of Southern Arizona. You can look back to this date (9/18/07) and see the coverage of small schools increased dramatically from that point onward. AND the coverage is way better than the Repugnant. Now, I can’t imagine how long Grammer had been there prior to my email, but it was very disappointing to see this lack of coverage, which is why I had to ask him what was going on.

Mr. Grammer never deigned to respond to that email.

However, he did post on his blog after Sunnyside shut out Salpointe 17-0 in week 4 of 2007 and instead of moving UP in the rankings, Sunnyside dropped from #2 to #3:

An interesting note… the DKC rankings aren’t subjective at all. They’re based on a formula of some sort, which has to be why Sunnyside, after a 17-0 shutout of a 5A-I Salpointe team, dropped in the rankings this past week.

So I responded with a pretty straightforward explanation of what actually happened, which was because Marcos de Niza thumped Yuma by 39 points and moved up to #2. Wasn’t anything that SS did wrong, it was because de Niza did it right. (Again, Mr. Grammer sent no response.)

Ever since then, Mr. Grammer has been very standoffish about what I do and where I fit in the grand scheme of things. The link from his site “mysteriously” disappeared as well. [EDIT: The link was on one specific blog, and it has since “rolled” off. I have found it and readded it here.]

Now however, Mr. Grammer has begun posting on the 24-7 site (as of today 8/30/08, Mr. Grammer has exactly _28_ posts to his name. Yes, _28_.) Yet, Mr. Grammer has only posted in the big school forum (4A/5A). I guess, once again, the small schools are beneath him. It’s actually sorta sad, because he’s posting there but his posts consist of “Here’s my So. Arizona Top 10 for the week, for anyone who cares.” (That’s verbatim, by the way.) And there are responses to the tune of “Southern Arizona?” (Again, verbatim.)

So, just like everyone else, I ignore the Arizona Repugnant “rankings”, since they have no clue, and Mr. Grammer’s “rankings” because he just combines all Southern Arizona 4A/5A schools into one “top ten” group, which doesn’t really do anything for anyone. I don’t read Mr. Grammer’s blog anymore because he’s really just a plea for attention (posts on a major forum asking to “check out my list” with a link are pretty self-explanatory). I don’t read the Repugnant’s worthless dribble on high school sports previews/coverage/etc. either.

When I want my info, I go to 24-7 Football, Friday Night Football (3A schools only) or I go to the Arizona Sports Network. 24-7 has the info, FNF has the scoop on the 3A schools, and AZSportsNet has the daily/weekly broadcasts and the experience.

And as of this past Thursday, I’m partnered with AZSportsNet, so it’s even better. They get all the statistics they can handle along with the network of information I’ve uncovered, and I get the benefit of their experience. Win-win. 🙂