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Editor talks Sentinel and future of Tucson news

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Editor talks Sentinel and future of Tucson news's editor and publisher—yeah, that's me—was recently interviewed via email by Jessica Durkin, the community manager for Block by Block, a national network of online news pioneers.

Her Q&A was posted Tuesday. It was prompted by the layoff of 52 employees at the Arizona Daily Star last month; questions centered around's place in the local media landscape, and how the shrinking of newspapers is affecting the way Tucsonans get their news.

A few of Durkin's questions and my answers:

The AZ Daily Star announced July 21 it was laying off 52 staff in several departments. As an independent news business owner, did you this coming?

While it’s terribly sad that 52 people who I like and respect very much are now unemployed, the continued rounds of layoffs at Lee and Gannett papers (the Daily Star is held by a partnership between the two) make it clear that nobody’s safe at those-or likely any-chains.

The Star has laid off dozens over the past several years, and given the $1.1 billion debt that is crushing Lee Enterprises, there will probably be more in the future.

The rounds of layoffs there, the Tucson Citizen ceasing to publish, the closing of the Associated Press bureau and layoffs at TV and radio stations mean there are probably a couple hundred fewer journalists here in Tucson than a few years ago.

Do you think Tucson Sentinel stands to benefit from the local traditional media’s downsizing?

Benefit is a strong word. As a local small business, we face the same challenges that others in our community do. But unlike most of the traditional media, we aren’t controlled by a headquarters a thousand miles away, we don’t have 47 layers of expensive middle management, and we’re entirely invested in this community.

The continued layoffs at the Star, the Tucson Citizen no longer publishing, the ever-smaller staffs at nearly every news outlet, all drive awareness among everyday people that they’re not getting the same amount of quality information that they used to.

One of the many comments on social media last week said “The Tucson Sentinel is setting the online journalism pace these days.” Another said “People are going to be looking more and more to the Sentinel. As a vet of both the Star and Citizen, it’s beyond sad to see it ending this way, but a new day for solid reporting is breaking.”

Both our readers and sponsors react very favorably to our being a local business. They know we care about this city, and that our operation puts nearly all of its cash flow back into local staff and other Tucson businesses.

Have you seen or heard any reader concern about the layoffs? What is the ‘buzz’ around town about this outside media circles?

When a major employer and community institution cuts a major chunk of its work force, people notice. When it’s part of an ongoing process, they notice even more.

And the shrinking pool of print readers and advertisers certainly notices that their newspaper is shrinking as well.

The Daily Star has long been targeted by partisans on both sides of the aisle. Some conservatives have long called them the “Red Star” because of their somewhat Democratic-leaning editorial board. Tucson’s establishment Democrats aren’t fond of what they see as unfounded targeting of city projects by the news side.

Some from each side have been blaming the Star’s editorials and reporting for the newspaper’s woes. Of course, the truth of the matter is that the poor choices made by out-of-town newspaper chains have far more to do with the paper’s financial straits.

But there are a significant number of people who are dissatisfied with the news they get. If they’re looking for straight news without the spin, we’ll be there for them.


To read the complete Q&A, head to Small, indep. news site in AZ could gain from corporate news layoffs at Block by Block. has been a member of the Block by Block network since it's 2010 founding. The group provides networking resources to local independent online news sites.

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