The Gannett Co., which clears more than $6 million a year through its joint operating agreement with Lee Enterprises and the Arizona Daily Star, decided that its salary overhead—one full-time employee—was too much of a burden for its bottom line.
Gannett announced Friday, Jan. 31, that it had shut down its community blog site effective immediately. Tucsoncitizen.com will become an archives site, a loophole that allows Gannett to maintain the financial benefits it receives from the profitable joint operating agreement.
"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," said Kate Marymount, Gannett's senior vice president of news for its community publishing division.
Marymount ducked repeated request for comment about the status of the site during the months since a management transition. Mark B. Evans, now the editor of Inside Tucson Business, left his position as the administrator of tucsoncitizen.com in September. Since then, Anthony Gimino, the paid staffer who lost his job in Gannett's decision to switch to an archives site, ran into repeated roadblocks in his efforts 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 that weren't a priority for a Web development staff focused on the Star's website, azstarnet.com. And Gannett made no effort to pursue improvements through other avenues.
"There were long-term technical issues," Gimino said. "Mark 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—the site also benefited from the efforts of Andy Morales, the city's top preps reporter. Gimino also noted the efforts of other contributors, including pets blogger Karyn Zoldan and current events blogger Carolyn Classen.
"I would be remiss if I didn't offer my appreciation for their work," he said of the unpaid bloggers, some of whom had been onboard for nearly five years. "Some of their work was remarkable."