The headline on the final print edition of Saturday’s Tucson Citizen newspaper said it all: Our epitaph.
The 48-page commemorative edition of Arizona’s oldest daily newspaper was filled with individual columns from editors and staffers and highlights of the Citizen’s 138 years of publication. It had a photo montage of the changing face of Tucson and a look at how the paper affected readers’ lives.
The afternoon newspaper was delivered Saturday for the final time to home subscribers, while others who enjoyed the paper and those looking for a collectors’ item went to vending racks, supermarkets and other locations across town, though at some sites there was no run on supplies.
“The Citizen for many years was my local paper of choice,” said Larry Ross, a 54-year-old buyer who read it for most of the last 16 years.
The stories “presented a good, clear picture of what was going on locally and in the state of Arizona,” he said. “It was an easy, convenient paper to read,” with political and nonpolitical coverage that was fair.
The closure makes Tucson the latest two-newspaper town to lose one of its dailies. The Citizen published in the afternoon while the Arizona Daily Star has appeared mornings.
Steve and Kim Kellow, reading the Citizen’s final edition with their 12-year-old son Zach – a children’s movie critic for the paper last summer – lamented losing a news voice.
“I’ve always preferred the Citizen since I moved here,” Steve Kellow said. “I like the editorial sections. I like the way that they write.”
His wife said “the diversity of having more than one major paper is nice.”
In January, the newspaper’s publisher, Gannett Co. Inc., said it would cease publishing March 21 unless a buyer were found, then delayed closing because of negotiations with potential buyers that failed.
On May 15, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard’s office filed a motion seeking to halt the closure, contending that Gannett and Lee Enterprises, publisher of the morning Arizona Daily Star, had violated antitrust statutes by agreeing to close the Citizen.
On May 16, Goddard told The Associated Press his office had been in contact with the chief federal magistrate in Tucson who was trying to locate U.S. District Judge Raner Collins – the judge assigned the case late May 15.
A Gannett official said late May 15 that lawyers were reviewing the filing. A Lee spokesman did not return a call that evening but denied the claims to the Star and said Lee looked forward to addressing them in court.
The Citizen will remain as an online-only opinion Web site – something that both Ross and Kim Kellow said appeals to them.
Gannett said the Citizen was no longer a viable print enterprise. The joint operating agreement with Lee was to end May 16, but the two planned to continue a business partnership sharing in the costs of operating and profits from the Star.