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A newspaper consultant is someone who couldn't cut it in daily journalism, and now teaches techniques of failure to newsrooms across the country. About four years ago, consultant Chris Urban reportedly pocketed $80,000 for setting Pulitzer's Arizona Daily Star on the road to ruin.

To implement her recommendations for prettying up and dumbing down the paper, three newsroom employees spent months devising a redesign that essentially stole fonts and layout ideas from the Arizona Republic, another declining McPaper.

Then, in 1999, to facilitate the Star's eventual sale to Gannett, Pulitzer installed Gannettoid Jane Amari as publisher. Amari immediately launched a descent into advertiser and reader-response pandering that makes Gannett's Tucson Citizen look like a paragon of sophistication.

Competent hard-news coverage has nearly disappeared, and light features have taken over the news space, leaving the features section with nothing but pet stories and celebrity gossip.

This problem is afflicting not just the Star, but papers everywhere struggling to compete with TV and radio news and lifestyle changes that militate against newspaper reading. Things have gotten so bad in Arizona that one begins to respect even USA Today, not so much Gannett's flagship paper as its Good Ship Lollipop.

Don't just take my word for it; find out what other observers have to say in Lee Allen's chronicle of the Star's decline.

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