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Opinion

From the editor

While chain newsrooms are cut, Tucson Sentinel is building for the future

Local nonprofit newsroom lays foundations for more Southern Arizona journalism

Gannett Inc. — the massive newspaper chain that owns the Arizona Republic and half of the Arizona Daily Star — sent two emails from different corporate bigwigs Thursday morning, warning staffers across the country that layoffs are looming.

After reporting a $53 million loss in Q2 today, Gannett saw its stock crash by about 30 percent. Managers across the chain are already tasked with making determinations about who will be cut, sources have told me.

It's not yet known how many staffers will get the axe, but it's likely no Gannett newsroom will be spared — even though they've all been cut and cut and slashed again over the past decade.

The Star newsroom isn't directly controlled by Gannett — that's down to Lee, another national newspaper chain with plenty of problems of its own. But this may mean fewer reporters in Tucson, too.

Although Lee reported Thursday that it pulled $1.7 million in profits (out of $8.2 million in revenue) out of Tucson in just the second quarter of 2022, Lee's been the target of a takeover attempt by a hedge-fund-run chain that's even more focused on profits and the expense of any future for news outlets.

These fossil newspaper chains and their hedge-fund owners are stomping every last bit of life out of what were once vital community institutions. But some of us are out here, building something new — based on the precept of investing in the success of our communities, rather than seeking to suck profits out of them. Historically, chain-run newspapers have had profit targets three times what they're willing to spend on all of their reporters and editors. Healthy businesses are important, but I see local news as a necessary public service, not just a profit center.

That's why I established the Tucson Sentinel 12 years ago, when Gannett pulled the plug on the Tucson Citizen's newsroom, and why I played a leading role in founding Local Independent Online News Publishers, which now has about 400 local news entrepreneurs across the country. That's why I'm heavily involved in the Institute for Nonprofit News, which also has about 400 members.

That's why the Sentinel's award-winning staff, from my Co-Publisher Maria Coxon-Smith to senior reporter Paul Ingram, our Report for America corps members — IDEA reporter Bennito L. Kelty and cultural expression & community engagement reporter Bianca Morales, columnist Blake Morlock, operations editor Gene Moreland, ace summer intern Jacob Owens and everyone else who makes this place tick, are dedicated to rebuilding local news in Southern Arizona's Borderlands. We're publishing more reporting in English and Spanish, and digging into what makes Tucson the place we love so much.

Thanks for reading TucsonSentinel.com. Tell your friends to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Authentically local and truly independent reporting is necessary. Our nonprofit newsroom learns from and informs Southern Arizonans about the community challenges and unique culture of this special place we all call home.

These massive corporate chains have demonstrated over and over that they're not going to invest for the long term. At the Sentinel, and so many other LION and INN members, we're determined to be around for the long haul — with the help of people in this community who understand the importance of local journalism to our civic health.

Through watchdog reporting, local commentary and expert analysis, the Sentinel inspires residents to be meaningfully engaged with our community, promotes transparency and understanding, seeks solutions that empower, and holds the powerful accountable.

But we just can't do this watchdog work without that community support. Most of what pays for our reporters' salaries comes from Southern Arizonans, whether they're writing a check for $500 or donating $15 or $50 a month. You can help us grow even more, and dig into even more desert dirt.

Please join our WATCHDOG CLUB today, so we can hire more reporters who live in and love Tucson tomorrow:

Subscribe and stretch your donation over time:

$10/mo. Cub Reporter
$15/mo. Printer's Devil
$20/mo. Stringer
$40/mo. Correspondent
$50/mo. Senior Correspondent
Enter your own monthly amount (number only)

Or give a secure one-time gift with PayPal or your credit card:

$5,000 Newshound
$2,500 Trusted Source
$1,000 Copy Desk Chief
$500 Correspondent
$250 Stringer
$100 Printer's Devil
$50 Cub reporter
$25 Informed Source
$10 Dear Reader
Enter your own amount (below)

Thanks very much for all your support!

Dylan Smith
Editor & Publisher
TucsonSentinel.com

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Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Elias proclaims Jan. 22, 2020, as 'TucsonSentinel.com Day,' to recognize the 10th birthday of the local independent nonprofit news outlet.

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TucsonSentinel.com publishes analysis and commentary from a variety of community members, experts, and interest groups as a catalyst for a healthy civic conversation; we welcome your comments. As an organization, we don't endorse candidates or back specific legislation. All opinions are those of the individual authors.