January 18, 2009

Tucson Citizen faces shutdown

The Tucson Citizen is up for sale, and its owner, the Gannett Co., says it will shut the newspaper down if a buyer isn't found within two months.

If the Citizen is put to bed permanently Tucson will have just one daily newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, and that publication has financial problems of its own, Inside Tucson Business reported Saturday.

Gannett said it would close the 138-year-old Citizen if no buyer is found by March 21. Robert Dickey, president of Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing division, told employees about the development Friday.

The Tucson Citizen has been part of Gannett since 1976 and we deeply regret having to take this step, Dickey said in an announcement prepared by the company. But dramatic changes in our industry combined with the difficult economy -- particularly in this region -- mean it is no longer viable for our partnership with Lee Enterprises Inc. to produce two daily newspapers in Tucson.

Lee Enterprises, the Daily Star's parent company, said in its 2008 year-end financial statement it will not be able to meet its debt obligations and continue operating, Inside Tucson Business reported.

Lee Enterprises and Gannett have an anti-trust exemption that permits them to co-own Tucson Newspapers Inc., which operates the Star, a morning paper, and the Citizen, an afternoon paper. Afternoon newspapers have been a rarity in the United States for years.

Gannett owns The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic and KPNX, an NBC-TV affiliate in Phoenix. Gannett shut down its NBC affiliate Flagstaff last year and merged it with KPNX.