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Weekly editor leaving to take tourism job

Dan Gibson, editor of the Tucson Weekly, is stepping down to take a position with Visit Tucson, the nonprofit tourism promotion agency. Gibson announced the move on his personal Facebook page Wednesday, saying he'll leave the desk at the alt-weekly later this month.

Gibson will trade his editor's hat for whatever is worn by a "director of corporate communications."

Gibson took over as the alt-weekly's editor following the November 2012 departure of Jimmy Boegle, who founded the Coachella Valley Independent after having worked for the Weekly for a decade.

"While I'll miss the Weekly and its staff something terrible, I'm excited for new opportunities and the continuing chance to tell stories about Tucson and share the great things happening here," Gibson said.

Visit Tucson, formerly known as the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, wisely changed its name in 2013. The group is funded by a bed tax imposed on hotel stays, and works to attract tourists and conventions to the Tucson area.

The Weekly has undergone several shakeups this year. Formerly run by Wick Communications, a small regional newspaper chain headquartered in Sierra Vista, it was sold earlier this year to 10/13 Communications, a national publishing chain that bought the Northwest Explorer in 2007. Included in the April transaction was Inside Tucson Business.

10/13 also added three other small Tucson-area publications to its lineup this spring: Marana News, Foothills News and the Desert Times.

All of the staff of both the Weekly and ITB were laid off with the purchase, and had to apply for a shrunken number of positions.

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Even after that, with both publications operating with reduced staffs, more layoffs have happened in the past several months, and ITB cut its print publishing schedule from weekly to every two weeks.

In addition to cutting their longtime music editor, Steve Seigel, and letting go online editor Henry Barajas after less than a year on the job, the Weekly under 10/13 cut their stable of local cartoonists and slashed the budget for freelance contributors.

Gibson's departure will leave just reporters Jim Nintzel and Mari Herreras as newsroom fixtures on the Weekly's masthead. Irene Messina, the former assistant managing editor, left the publication last month for a position with the city, although her name is still included in the Weekly's lineup posted online.

It's not known if the Weekly will replace Gibson, or add the Weekly to the long list of "Tucson Local Media" publications edited by Thelma Grimes, who's had ITB and 10/13's other acquisitions added to her tasks as editor of the Explorer.

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.

Doug Biggers, who founded the Weekly in 1984 and ran the alt-weekly until selling to Wick in 2000, said in April that he was 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."

10/13 bills itself as "A New Kind of Media Company" and touts a "innovative distribution model." In addition to its Arizona holdings, the company publishes a string of 40 small newspapers in Texas.

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Prior to founding 13th Street, Randy Miller, the company's president, was an executive with Lee Enterprises, the company that publishes the Arizona Daily Star.

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