Even though it shut down the Tucson Citizen in May, Gannett still has its hands in the Tucson newspaper world.
Last week, the company announced plans for a one-week furlough for employees during the first quarter of 2010. Gannett's co-ownership with Lee Enterprises (thanks to a former joint operating agreement) of Tucson Newspapers (TNI) means the organization's roughly 400 employees will be required to take the unpaid week away from work.
"Exempt, salaried employees must take one full payroll week within the pay period, to be completed by Sunday, March 28," wrote Gannett president Bob Dickey in a company-wide memo. "Non-exempt, hourly employees will also take five days at any pre-approved time, before the last weekend in March.
Dickey said things may be looking up—or at least not as bad.
"We have seen some promising trends in advertising, with ad declines slowing throughout the year, and as we begin the holiday shopping season, we are also seeing some indication that retailers may be spending more on advertising," said Dickey in the memo. "While these trends are encouraging, the overall economy is still fragile with a number of business uncertainties. Therefore, as we head into 2010, we think it is prudent to take a conservative approach toward managing our business."
The JOA and its aftermath are muddy and complex. However, here's a simplified version: Arizona Daily Star employees (those in the newsroom, for example) are paid by Lee, not TNI, and are not impacted by the furlough.
Gannett pays three full-timers who make up tucsoncitizen.com. The estimated 400 TNI employees (the people who operate the press, advertising representatives, etc.) are funded by both organizations and are therefore affected by the maneuvers of both companies.
"Traditionally, we at TNI go along with any corporate directive from either corporation," said TNI CEO Mike Jameson. "In this case, the furlough will pertain to all the people at TNI as well as the remaining employees at Tucsoncitizen.com."
Still, Jameson takes some solace from the memo. "We don't see an imminent and immediate recovery," Jameson said. "It's just that hopefully, we've hit the bottom."
Since its inception, the Marana Weekly News has provided region-specific content to its readers for free.
However, that will change on Dec. 16, when the publication will change to a subscription model.
In addition to the money stream created by subscription fees, the Marana Weekly News also hopes to dabble in paid legal announcements for the area—a financially beneficial undertaking that can only occur in Arizona if a publication has paid subscribers.
There's a printing, postage and delivery cost-benefit as well. MWN is reportedly distributing 15,000 issues. That number will decrease significantly while management uncovers the number of people willing to pay for the publication.
"We plan on printing 4,000 copies and placing them in 53 locations where we have the newspaper now, so people can still pick them up for free for the next couple of weeks," said publisher Jenna Bartlett. "We'll have some paid (subscribers), and we'll do some sampling so we can keep the paper out there so that people who haven't had time to sign up yet don't forget about us."
Subscriptions, delivered via U.S. mail, will cost $19.99 on an introductory basis, and $26 after that.
Bartlett hopes to generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 subscribers. MWN is implementing promotional measures for advertisers during the transition as well, in the hopes that a smaller, theoretically more focused clientele will be more effective than the uncertain readership of the free-distribution model.
"The people who care about the community who read our paper now will be subscribers," Bartlett said. "Right now, advertisers have no way of knowing how many people are reading the paper. In my opinion, the businesses won't see a big change. If anything, there will be more interest, because we'll be able to keep the newspaper out there for people who want it. Part of the initial subscription includes a local coupon book, which is free to every subscriber. We're not charging our advertisers to be a part of that.
"We want to be in the community for a really long time. We want to help support not only the (political and current-events) issues, but the businesses in that community."
Other promotions include a free online subscription for print-version subscribers, and a donation of $5 per subscription to a specified charity.
Tucson West Publishing, which operates MWN, does not plan on going the subscription route with its other publications, the Foothills News and Desert Times.
(For purposes of disclosure, Brad Allis is the sports editor of the Marana Weekly News. Allis is one of my co-hosts on UA football and men's basketball pregame and postgame shows on KCUB AM 1290.)
KVOA Channel 4 has plucked George Savaricas from Wisconsin to handle weekday sports-reporter and weekend sports-anchor duties.
Savaricas, who replaces Dan Joseph, handled a similar position with WJFW in Rhinelander, Wis. He also worked for KOMU in Columbia, Mo., and graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri.
Greg Dingrando and Danielle Todesco have been hired as general-assignment reporters, or what KVOA now refers to as multimedia journalists. Dingrando worked at KMIZ in Columbia, Mo., for four years and WTVW in Evansville, Ind., prior to that. He has a degree from the University of Southern Indiana.
Todesco—no relation to KVOA news anchor Kristi Tedesco—was a weekend anchor and weekday reporter for KLBK in Lubbock, Texas. She has a degree from the University of New Mexico.