First of the Border Newspapers to Close Down

Jan 16th, 2009 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics
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THE BORDER REPORT

The Tucson Citizen, Arizona’s oldest newspaper, is going to close down by March 21 unless a buyer is found before then. And frankly, nobody’s buying newspapers these days.

The Gannett-owned newspaper is run under a joint operating agreement with the Arizona Daily Star and is the first U.S.-Mexico border newspaper to announce its impending demise. Three other newspapers along the border have cut back operations, laid employees off and cut back benefits in an attempt to save themselves. This morning, the San Antonio Express-News announced it’s going to offer employees a one year unpaid leave of absence, institute a hiring freeze, darken positions, and shorten the news hole. The newspaper gave up its Mexico City correspondent more than a year ago, shutting down that bureau and using its sister paper’s, the Houston Chronicle’s, to write the copy. This morning, the San Diego Union-Tribune announced it’s lost more than 40 percent of its advertising revenue and promises layoffs. That paper’s already gone through rounds and rounds of buyouts, they’re out of options – and quietly started looking into selling itself last summer.

At the Citizen, employees were told of the potential shutdown in a meeting, Friday afternoon. I’m not privy to details from the meeting nor do I really care, the paper’s going to shut down in two months unless it can find a buyer, what else was there to say?

The reality of newspapers is such that Gannett likely won’t find a buyer for the Citizen. Last month, the Rocky Mountain News announced it was being put up for sale by its parent company E.W. Scripps. The company had lost something around $10 million last year alone with the Rocky Mountain News.

A few weeks later, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Hearst) announced it was going up on the block or shutting down.

I don’t think anybody is particularly surprised by Gannett’s decision to close the Citizen; but it was a bit of a shock coming on yesterday’s news. You see, this week, Gannett announced it was requiring its employees to take a week off of work. Everyone assumed this was being done to save some positions and prevent more layoffs. So today’s news was quite a surprise to most. And today’s news tells me Gannett has some more unpleasant surprises in store for its employees.

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