In January, the Tucson Citizen released an article saying that parent-company Gannett Co. would be closing the newspaper by March 21 if it failed to find a buyer. Last week, the US newspaper confirmed that as no buyer had come forward, it would proceed with shutting down operations, as planned.
Once again, the failing economy was blamed for the closure. In a staff meeting with employees back in January, Robert J. Dickey, president of Gannett U.S. Community Publishing said "... 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 Incorporated to produce two daily newspapers in Tucson."
As well as the Tucson Citizen, Lee Enterprises Inc. also publishes the Arizona Daily Star, which has a daily circulation figure that is almost ten times higher than the Citizen's at 117,000 copies.
The closure of the Tucson Citizen - Arizona state's oldest newspaper - echoes the closure of Denver-based paper the Rocky Mountain News in February, whose owner E.W. Scripps Co. was also forced to choose between two papers.
The Citizen thus becomes the latest in a string of US print casualties; meanwhile all eyes are on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where closure also appears inevitable.
Editor of the Tucson Citizen Jennifer Boice sees the closure as a failure for locals, but ultimately a failure for democracy, saying: "It's a loss because what we do makes the Star better, the Star makes us better, and because of that, the community gets better information." Associate Editor, Mark Kimble agrees, and wonders who will be left to scrutinise the government now that there will be "fewer sets of eyes".
Who indeed? The Editors Weblog expects that citizen journalists may be able to pick up from where local papers are being forced to leave, but acknowledges that such journalism is difficult to verify and manage on a large scale. Also, as previously mentioned, citizen journalism cannot replace professional news reporting so is not in itself the answer. For those local and regional titles already forced to shutdown their operations, there is no miracle remedy, but it is hoped at least, that they will serve as a stark reminder to other publications, in turn, perhaps encouraging investment in areas that had previously been overlooked by some publications - namely multimedia platforms. One of the contributing factors of the demise of print newspapers - the web - may also prove to be their saviour.