Media Watch

Tucson Newspapers to Cut 30 Jobs As Part of Gannett Layoffs

The Tucson Citizen, the struggling afternoon daily operated by Tucson Newspapers (TNI) and owned by Gannett, is expected to reduce its payroll by about 30 jobs, according to an internal memo obtained by the Tucson Weekly.

The move is part of a company-wide cutback affecting some 600 employees throughout Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing Division, the entity that handles the organization's newspapers.

"As all of you are aware, our national and local economy has been struggling for the better part of two years. The housing market crisis has spread to many other businesses, causing a continued negative impact on our revenues. Newspapers are caught in a double bind: economic downturn and advertising revenue being siphoned off into other mediums," wrote Jennifer Boice, the Citizen's interim editor, in the memo, dated Aug. 15. "At TNI and the Citizen, our target is about 30 positions--about 2 percent of the combined workforce. At TNI, about half of the reductions will need to come from layoffs. At the Citizen, the staff reductions will come primarily through layoffs."

In a story penned by Mark B. Evans in the Aug. 16 Citizen, he quotes a letter to employees from TNI president and CEO Mike Jameson as saying half of those cuts will come through attrition, and the rest through layoffs. The article also said that Boice told newsroom personnel that the number of job losses for Citizen full-time equivalent newsroom employees will be in the 2.5 to 3 range; however, since that story ran, other insiders have heard that tally has been increased.

"Upon our review and followed by approval from the Community Publishing division, individuals being laid off will be notified by the end of August," the Boice internal memo continued. "A severance package of a minimum of two weeks (of) pay plus one week of pay for each year of service (52 week maximum) will be provided, and medical benefits will continue throughout the severance period. Other benefits that may be available will be discussed on an individual basis.

"While we prefer to avoid further staff reductions, we must be realistic and understand that if revenues continue to decline, payroll reductions may be evaluated again in the future."

Lee Enterprises, which owns the Arizona Daily Star, recently lowered the value of Tucson's morning paper by $90 million.

Nationally, the industry as a whole has been gutted by cutbacks in almost every major ownership group.

Further concern for the Citizen: its place as an afternoon daily. While the Star has maintained, and even slightly increased, circulation (albeit not at a rate that reflects the area's population growth), circulation at the Citizen has declined significantly for the last decade.

PREZELSKI GEARS UP FOR CONVENTION founder Ted Prezelski is taking his act on the road as the official Arizona blogger at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

"The idea was to get one from each state and territory," said Prezelski, who will be part of what is being referred to as the Blogger Corps. "There was a bit of controversy. There are folks who felt it was overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male, and it's true. It is. The problem is the blogosphere is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male."

In what might be an indication of the ever-increasing importance of blogging, Prezelski says the Blogger Corps credentials are prime.

"At first, I thought they would be media credentials that would get us on the floor once in a while. That's how it's worked in the past," Prezelski said. "These will be the equivalent of delegate credentials. We'll be sitting on the floor with the delegation."


Fox affiliate KMSB Channel 11 was slated to make its self-imposed August deadline of localizing its 9 p.m. newscast.

With Wednesday, Aug. 20's scheduled launch, the Belo-owned television station finally severed ties with Phoenix partner KTVK--at least regarding the presence of an anchor broadcasting from the Valley.

KMSB hired two on-air personalities: Lou Raguse and Kacie Talamante. Raguse is manning the anchor desk, from the revamped KMSB studios, although he will be in the field from time to time. Talamante, a UA grad, will find a place in front of and behind the camera.

"Our philosophy is that our folks will be able to do what's needed," said Belo Tucson general manager Tod A. Smith. "For instance, Kacie is a reporter and producer as needed. She'll be producing on weekends. With the half-hour news, there's a lot of time there, and we felt it was important to get people who were flexible (and) who can contribute to the product in different ways. For Lou, it frees him up to do a lot of the reporting as well as the anchor responsibilities."

KMSB also hired former KGUN Channel 9 producer Jason Ground. He will act as executive producer for the nightly newscast.

In June, KMSB dealt with the trickle-down of layoffs at KTVK in Phoenix. Heather Moore, who anchored the 9 p.m. newscast, was let go as part of the downsizing. Shortly thereafter, KTVK added a 9 p.m. newscast of its own, which forced KMSB to tape its product. Add to that what often looked like an anchor lottery (Beverly Kirk and Kirsten Joyce usually handled the responsibilities, but at different times, others would make appearances), which didn't result in any feeling of continuity.

KMSB's move to more localization is a pre-emptive strike against Journal-owned KWBA Channel 58, which is expected to launch its own 9 p.m. news product within the next couple of months.

For now, Royal Norman will continue to broadcast weather segments from Phoenix, but it's reasonable to assume that cord with KTVK will eventually be cut as well.

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