Gannett’s Tucson Citizen To Go ‘Modified’ Web-Only — No News, Sports Coverage

imageAnother newspaper goes down… Following through on the threat it made five months ago, Gannett (NYSE: GCI) is pulling the plug on the 138-year-old Tucson Citizen after failing to find a buyer to take it off its hands, the paper’s website reported. This will be one of the last news stories the paper’s site features. After the last print edition rolls off the presses on Saturday, the website will be “modified” as an opinion-only online pub, with no news or sports coverage. The paper’s 60 staffers would find out later Friday afternoon who would be laid off.

Long-shot: As the March 21 deadline Gannett set for the paper to be bought or closed neared, several potential buyers emerged. But Gannett could not come to a deal. One of the last bidders was Stephen Hadland, CEO of the Santa Monica Media Company, which publishes five weekly newspapers around LA. He claims to have amended the $500,000 cash bid for the Citizen, but Gannett refused to budge on its demand for $800,000. Despite being denied, Hadland still considers himself to be a potential buyer. He plans to plans ask Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard to file a temporary restraining order on the closure of the paper. He pointed to a similar action taken by the Hawaii AG’s office when Liberty and Gannett attempted to shutter the Honolulu Star-Bulletin when Liberty and Gannett.

Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE) wins: The Citizen is published from Monday to Saturday as part of a joint operating agreement (JOA) with Lee Enterprises, which owns the rival Arizona Daily Star. The closure of The Citizen would certainly benefit Lee, at least in the short short-term. The closure follows closely on the heels of other prominent newspaper deaths, including the 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which parent Hearst Newspapers turned into a significantly scaled down web-only pub in March; and in February, EW Scripps (NYSE: SSP) ceased publication completely of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News just shy of its 150-th birthday.

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