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Tucson Weekly, Explorer sold to Phoenix newspaper chain

The Tucson Weekly, Inside Tucson Business and Explorer have been sold to a Phoenix-area newspaper chain. Times Media Group has demonstrated a pattern of buying small publications and cutting staff even further.

The terms of the deal were not made public. The sale of the group of Tucson publications by its Colorado-based private owner, Randy Miller of 10/13 Communications and Thirteenth Street Media, coincided with the retirement of the publisher here, sources indicated. Jason Joseph has headed the business operations of Tucson Local Media, the holding company that also owns the Marana News, Foothills News, and Desert Times.

It's yet unknown if the sale will result in any layoffs at the already stretched-thin staff that puts out the six papers. Times Media purchased a small chain of publications in Southern California in summer 2019, and laid off the editor of San Diego CityBeat within about a month. CityBeat has not published since last year, when it "paused" due to the lack of advertising during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our plan is to continue publishing all publications in the portfolio, and to do so with all of the current staff members," Times Media chief Steve Strickbine told TucsonSentinel.com.

Strickbine said in a press release that he was "excited" by the opportunity to enter the Tucson market and "continue to provide community news."

"I'd like to see the papers continue to do what they are doing and doing well," Strickbine said in the release, which did not include any statements from the seller, 10/13's Miller. "I’m very excited about the future and the future of us together. I think we’re definitely stronger together."

"We are always interested in expanding our portfolio of publications and news websites that have at their center, a mission of providing the news to the community," Strickbine told the Sentinel. "The publications we are acquiring from Tucson Local Media have that in common along with long-standing loyal readership audiences."

Times Media will take over Tucson Local Media on April 30, the press release said. Staffers at the Tucson papers were informed of the deal Monday morning.

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Doug Biggers, who founded the Weekly in 1984 and sold it to Southern Arizona chain Wick Communications about two decades ago, sounded a note of caution.

"In an era of rapidly changing and treacherous terrain for local media, I'm hopeful that the mission and voice of the Tucson Weekly will continue to make a difference in the community, as it has since its founding," he told TucsonSentinel.com. "I also hope the solid leadership of Jim Nintzel will continue under the new ownership. He is a treasure of Tucson journalism."

Nintzel told the Sentinel on Monday that "It's been a long year with COVID and I'm hopeful that as we put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, this marks another fresh beginning for our newspapers. Doug Biggers told me a long time ago that the only constant in this biz is change."

Wick, which owns small local newspapers across the West, sold the Weekly and Inside Tucson Business to 10/13 Communications in 2014. Miller's company had already bought the Explorer

That sale prompted ITB editor Mark Evans to immediately resign from his post, citing Miller's hollowing out of his other papers.

10/13 sold the East Valley Tribune to Times Media in 2016. Strickbine's company also operates other Phoenix-area newspapers, along with its California holdings, which it purchased in 2019.

They include the Peoria Times, College Times, Scottsdale Airpark News, Glendale Star, Lovin' Life After 50, Pasadena Weekly, Scottsdale Progress, and others.

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1 comment on this story

1
4 comments
Apr 21, 2021, 11:34 am
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Good.
Hopefully they’ll start calling bullsh*t on what passes for political & economic leadership in the “Dirty T”, and stop writing 4-figure tomes on stories that only warrant a few hundred words at best.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com

A Tucson Weekly newspaper box in 2014.