Friday, January 31, 2014

So Long (Again), Tucson Citizen

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Gannett Publishing, which clears more than $6 million annually as part of its partnership with Lee Enterprises and the Arizona Daily Star, decided today that its salary overhead — one full-time employee — was too much of a burden to its bottom line.

It announced today that it has shut down the community blog site TucsonCitizen.com, effective immediately. The site will become an archive-only site.

“We are pleased to continue tucsoncitizen.com as an important community resource for Tucsonans who want to research history and the traditions of their city,” wrote Kate Marymount, Gannett’s senior vice president/news for the community publishing division, on a note posted on the site.

Marymount did not respond to repeated efforts for comment about the status of the site during the months since a leadership transition occurred. Mark B. Evans, the editor of Wick-owned Inside Tucson Business, left his position as the administrator of tucsoncitizen.com in September. Since that point, Anthony Gimino, the sole paid casualty in today’s decision, ran into repeated roadblocks in an effort to revamp the concept.

“It’s certainly what I feared when Mark left. Gannett’s energies would be directed toward finding a way to shut it down, “ Gimino said. “I presented an alternative for the site, which was to make it a two-person sports-specific site with two full-time people and a talented group of bloggers including Andy Morales and Scott Terrell. Apparently, that didn’t gain enough traction for them. That idea was even endorsed by Mark, who thought it would be a good direction for the site.”

In recent years, tucsoncitizen.com had been plagued by increasingly frustrating technical issues. Behind the scenes, it wasn’t a priority for a web development staff focused more on devoting its efforts to the functionality of the Arizona Daily Star website, azstarnet.com. And Gannett made no effort to pursue improvements through other avenues.
“There were long-term technical issues,” Gimino said. “Mark (Evans) had been banging that drum as early as a couple summers ago. It wasn’t something at the top of Gannett’s top priority list to get a redesign of the site or get a fix for our more recent technical glitches. We were definitely at the bottom of their totem pole.”

Despite the frustrations, tucsoncitizen.com had some standout contributors. In addition to Gimino, whose coverage of UA sports has been the best in the city for years — Evans calls Gimino one of the finest sports journalists in the Gannett chain — the site also benefited from the efforts of Andy Morales, the city’s top prep reporter. Gimino singled out the efforts of other contributors, including pet blogger Karyn Zoldan and current events blogger Carolyn Classen.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t offer my appreciation for their work, for some of them for five years being unpaid by the site,” said Gimino. “Some of their work was remarkable.”

Said Gimino: “I’ve been laid off by Gannett before. That’s not new. It was also a great job with autonomy. I could cover the university as I chose. That’s certainly the fun part of it, covering this football and basketball team. I’ve still managed to write about sports, write about the university, so I hope there are some opportunities in that regard. I hope to continue writing, or talking, about Arizona athletics.”

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