Silencing the 'Citizen'

In our inaugural Get Out of Town! issue, way back in December 2003, a certain smart-ass editor wrote:

You have to feel sorry for the poor ol' afternoon almost-daily. First, they're owned by Gannett, and in terms of newspaper quality, that's never good. Second, the paper is dying--fast. ... The (Tucson) Citizen lost 7.4 percent of its circulation between 2002 and 2003. That sucks. They're only circulating about 33,000 of the babies ... and rumors are that the actual paid circulation number is much, much lower. Folks, it's only a matter of time before Tucson's a one-daily town.

Therefore, I can't say last Friday's announcement that the Citizen will close in March--barring a sale to a new owner, which is highly unlikely to happen for all sorts of reasons--came as a surprise, given the economy and the fact that the Citizen's circulation today (17,000) is about half of what it was when I wrote that five-plus years ago.

But just because it was somewhat expected for the Citizen to close doesn't make the reality any less sad.

While we've often made fun of the Citizen and its falling circulation--it is our job to do just that--media voices are good things, and the loss of the Citizen's voice, even though it's become a mere whisper compared to what it once was, will not do Tucson any good. The Citizen, at times, has done good journalism, and Tucson is better off because of it. It's also a shame that a number of fine newspaper people will be left jobless if/when the Citizen ceases publication.

Having said all that, the probable closure of the Citizen makes our job here at the Tucson Weekly all the more important: After March 21, we'll most likely be one of only two Tucson-wide newspaper voices left. That's a sobering fact--but we're ready for the task. You have my word.

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