Evans leaving as new owner takes over ITB, Weekly
Mark B. Evans, one of the city's most respected journalists, said Friday that he's leaving his post as editor of Inside Tucson Business, which is being sold to 10/13 Communications, a chain with a history of cutting newsroom staff.
10/13 announced last week that it is purchasing the local business publication and the Tucson Weekly from the Sierra Vista-based chain Wick Communications. Employees were told that the entire staffs of the two publications would be laid off, with the opportunity to apply for an unknown number of positions with the new owners.
About 25 staffers work for both newspapers.
Evans said that he refused to apply for a post with the new owner, but won't comment on why until after his term of employment ends April 30.
Evans moved to ITB in September 2013, after working as the administrator of the Tucson Citizen's compendium of blogs after that newspaper ceased publishing in May 2009.
He had reinvigorated ITB's coverage of Tucson's business community in the months after taking on the job. "I want to do watercooler stories," he said before he moved to the editor's desk at ITB.
Rumors of an ownership change had been rampant in the weeks before the announcement.
Staff were "admonished not to talk about" what was discussed during the meeting in which employees were informed, Evans said.
Staff were instructed not to bring recording devices to that meeting.
Last week, the founder of the Weekly, Doug Biggers, said he is "disappointed to hear that Wick Communications has sold the Tucson Weekly. After 30 years of publication, it's obvious to me that the brand is incredibly valuable. It's depressing to see how they've completely squandered the opportunity as a result of mediocre leadership."
"The addition of Tucson Weekly and Inside Tucson Business is great for our company and for increasing our reach and effectiveness for advertisers in the Tucson market," the president of 10/13 Communications, Randy Miller, said in the press release.
10/13 purchased three other small publications in the Tucson area earlier this month: Marana News, Foothills News and the Desert Times.
The chain also owns the East Valley Tribune. Newspaper insiders have criticized the company for its drastic cuts to newsrooms at its papers, including the Explorer and the Tribune. Formerly known as 13th Street Media, the company purchased the Explorer in 2007, and the Tribune in 2010.
The Explorer, which a decade ago had a newsroom of about a dozen, has one editor and three reporters on the newspaper's staff list. The EV Tribune, which had already cut its staff from about 75 to 14 under former owners Freedom Communications (including journalists who contributed to the paper's 2009 Pulitzer Prize), has seen its reporting staff whittled to three editors, two reporters, a photographer and a calendar clerk.
The revenue-generating sides of those operations have also seen cuts.
Biggers, who founded the Weekly in 1984 and ran the alt-weekly until selling to Wick in 2000, said he's concerned about the new owner's plans.
"From all I've heard, 10/13 Communications has a record of decimating publications they acquire and are not champions of quality journalism, despite their rhetoric," Biggers said. "I guess we'll find out soon enough if that's the case with Tucson Weekly."
Ryan Gabrielson, a reporter who worked on the Trib's 2008 reporting on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that was recognized with a Pulitzer, also expressed concerns.
"I hope 10/13 maintains the excellent journalists at these publications, though that appears far from certain," he said Thursday. Gabrielson left the Tribune in 2009.
The company's statement did not address any layoffs at the newspapers.
10/13 bills itself as "A New Kind of Media Company" and touts a "innovative distribution model." In addition to its Arizona holdings, Miller's company publishes a string of 40 small newspapers in Texas.
Prior to founding 13th Street, Miller was an executive with Lee Enterprises, the company that owns the Arizona Daily Star.