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East Valley Tribune goes out of business

First the Phoenix Gazette which was owned by the Arizona Republic went out of business. They were may favorite newspaper in the Valley.

Then years later the Tucson Citizen which is also owned by the Arizona Republic went out of business.

Sadly now the East Valley Tribune is going out of business. I used to read it under the names of the Mesa Tribune and the Scottsdale Progress.


East Valley Tribune to shut down Dec. 31

Ed Taylor, Tribune

November 2, 2009 - 11:35AM , updated: November 2, 2009 - 6:35PM

Freedom officials made the announcement to Tribune employees Monday morning, citing the economic recession and changes in the newspaper industry that have caused many publications to close and others to file for bankruptcy protection.

Freedom, which itself is operating under Chapter 11 reorganization, had been attempting to sell the Tribune, but no acceptable offers have come forward, said interim Chief Executive Burl Osborne.

“We have received a number of inquiries, but none at a level we would remotely consider,” he said, adding, “This is a terrible day for the company, a terrible day for the Tribune.”

Osborne said the company would consider any other offer that might be presented before Dec. 31, but the company is moving ahead with winding down the operation in expectation of closing.

Severance packages will be provided to employees, but a few jobs may be available in other parts of the company for some employees, said Publisher Julie Moreno.

Two other Freedom-owned newspapers in the Valley, the Sun City Daily News-Sun and Ahwatukee Foothills News, will continue to publish, as will Freedom Interactive in Chandler, which publishes the Clipper coupon book.

About 140 employees work at the Tribune. Most are located at the company’s main plant at 120 W. First Ave. in Mesa.

The Tribune publishes editions in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Queen Creek. It distributes 100,000 free papers in driveways and racks three times weekly.

In addition to ceasing publication of the print edition, the company also will close its Web site at the end of this year, officials said.

During the transition time the Tribune will continue to publish its print and online products as usual and will continue to support customers, advertisers and the community, the company said. Employees and suppliers will be paid for the work they perform and goods they provide during the transition, officials said.

In addition to advertising cutbacks caused by the recession, the newspaper industry has been hard hit by technology changes that have altered the way many people receive their news.

Many readers are using the Internet as their primary news delivery source, but news organizations have had difficulty operating Web sites profitably.

Jon Segal, vice president of Freedom Newspapers, said the company made a major effort to adjust the Tribune to the changing media landscape, including adopting a new business model that focused on free distribution of the print product and enhancing advertising revenue.

Also Freedom purchased a new press that allowed the Tribune to publish separate editions in tabloid format for each of the four communities.

In a sound economy, the business model would have worked, Segal said, but in a sharp economic downturn the task was too great.

“Readership was up, we won awards, acceptance of the product by readers was good,” he said. “In a normal economy it would have been successful, but overlaying it was that perfect storm.”

According to Freedom’s filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the Tribune has not been profitable in the past two years.

At the end of last year, the Tribune laid off more than 40 percent of its staff to drastically cut costs in an effort to stay alive. But that also was not sufficient.

Osborne said Freedom will retain ownership of the press and other assets of the Tribune. The company’s building in downtown Mesa will be available for sale, he said.

East Valley civic leaders reacted to the announcement with sadness.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. “The Tribune has been a part of Mesa for decades, for generations. Heck, I was a paperboy for the old Mesa Tribune when I was young, so I’ve had a connection with the paper, too.”

Smith said losing different voices in turbulent times for the media business is troubling.

“The community needs different voices, and it’s healthy when you have multiple outlets,” Smith said. “Losing one is a detriment to all of us.”

Losing the Tribune’s presence downtown also will be “unfortunate,” Smith said. “It’s been a part of downtown for so many decades.”

State Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, R-Chandler, also said the Tribune’s closure will mean a loss for public dialogue and will be a blow to media competition.

“The Tribune and the East Valley are kind of synonymous. There’s going to be a real hole there,” he said.

Gilbert Vice Mayor Linda Abbott, who teaches government at Mesquite High School, said the Tribune and all newspapers are essential to a functioning democracy.

“Any time there is a newspaper that is extinguished, that is something that is a sadness for all of us,” she said. “It is imperative that with public policy that you have the press as the guard for our citizenry, and with the closing of the Tribune, that’s one less critical oversight on public policy.”

Officials in Queen Creek said the Tribune will be missed because it has been the community’s primary source of local news.

“The Tribune’s kind of been our go-to place to get information to people,” said Queen Creek Mayor Art Sanders. “I’m without words.”

Queen Creek Town Manager John Kross said the announcement was disappointing.

“Frankly, from Queen Creek’s perspective, we’re not getting any coverage from the (Arizona) Republic or other traditional media services. We’re doing what we can on our own on our Web site and on Facebook and Twitter,” Kross said. “But to have a third party covering our community, to have that go away, is going to be challenging.”

Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, a regional business group, said his first memories of the newspaper date back to 54 years ago as an 11-year-old paperboy.

The job allowed him to get a loan to buy a saxophone, which he paid off during his year as a paperboy, he recalled.

The Tribune played a significant role in the East Valley’s growth, in Arnett’s view, when then-publisher Chuck Wahlheim coined the term “East Valley” about three decades ago.

Wahlheim was a founding member of the East Valley Partnership, which was a counterbalance to a group of influential business leaders dubbed the Phoenix 40. The East Valley needed a greater voice, Arnett said, because the Phoenix 40’s primary interest was Phoenix.

In addition to setting up the partnership, Wahlheim said two of his biggest accomplishments as publisher were to start a Sunday edition and move from evening to morning delivery at a time when evening papers were disappearing around the country.

He said his bosses at Cox Newspapers in Atlanta, which owned the Tribune at the time, resisted the move to morning delivery.

“I had to put up some strong arguments to get their permission,” he said. “Then when we did it, our circulation took a jump.”

He also expressed dismay at the loss of the newspaper.

“My heart and soul has been in the Tribune,” he said. “The thing that is so tragic is I don’t know who is going to be the Fourth Estate.”

Former managing and executive editor Jim Ripley said the loss of the Tribune’s voice will hurt the communities it has served.

“What stands out in general in my mind is the hardworking watchdog journalism and the very competitive journalism we produced,” he said. “This is important to every community. The loyalty of the Tribune was always to the welfare of the East Valley. … I don’t know if that will ever be replaced.”

Stephen Doig, a professor at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, said he was “appalled” by the development, citing a Pulitzer Prize won earlier this year by two Tribune reporters as an example of the paper’s tradition of good investigative journalism.

“I think any time we lose a newspaper, either by a death of a thousand cuts that has been going on or the outright termination we now see, the only winners are the crooks and incompetents who won’t be exposed because there will be fewer reporters watching them.”

He believes journalism will survive but in a very different form.

“There will be experiments,” he said. “A lot will fail, a few will be successful. Ten years from now we will have a very different landscape where news will still be produced.”

The closing of the Tribune will bring an end to nearly 120 years of newspaper publication in Mesa. The Tribune’s forerunner, the Evening Weekly Free Press, began publication in 1891.

In recent decades the newspaper has gone through several ownership changes, passing from Cox Newspapers to Thomson Newspapers to Freedom Communications, which acquired the property in 2000.

Reporters Sonu Munshi, Ari Cohn, Blake Herzog, Amanda Keim and Garin Groff contributed to this story.

Tribune timeline:

1891 — Mesa’s first newspaper, the Evening Weekly Free Press, is founded by attorney Alfred P. Shewman and Judge W.D. Morton.

1899 — Judge Morton sells out to Alfred Shewman.

1910 — Frank T. Pomeroy and Harry D. Haines buy the paper and convert it into a daily publication, The Evening Press.

1913 — The name is changed to Mesa Daily Tribune.

1925 — Paper is renamed the Mesa Daily Journal.

1928 — The name is changed again to Daily Mesa Evening Journal.

1932 — Southside Publishing Co., a venture of Mesa and Chandler businessmen, acquire ownership. Over the next seven years stock is purchased by P.R. Mitten and his son Charles.

1939 — Charles Mitten buys out his father’s share. Mitten begins printing the paper five days a week after World War II under the name Mesa Daily Tribune.

1950 — Mitten sells Tribune to David W. Calvert.

1956 — The Tribune publishing plant on Macdonald Street is destroyed by fire. The company opens five months later at 120 W. First Ave.

1977 — Cox Enterprises in Atlanta, Ga., purchases the Tribune from Calvert.

1980 — Cox purchases the Tempe Daily News.

1983 — Cox purchases the Chandler Arizonan.

1990 — Cox starts the Gilbert Tribune.

1993 — Cox purchases the Scottsdale Progress.

1996 — Cox sells its newspaper holdings to Thomson Newspapers.

1997 — All five newspapers are combined into one newspaper, The Tribune, serving eastern Maricopa County with a separate edition serving Scottsdale. Also Thomson purchases the Daily News-Sun in Sun City.

1998 — Thomson purchases the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

1999 — Paper is renamed the East Valley Tribune.

2000 — Thomson sells its newspaper holdings to Freedom Communications.

2009 — On Jan. 1 the Tribune cuts more than 40 percent of its staff and withdraws from the Scottsdale and Tempe markets as newspaper industry hits a severe slump. The company relaunches separate tabloid editions for Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek and adopts new business model with free distribution.

In April, Tribune reporters Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin are awarded the Pulitzer Prize for local news reporting for a five-part series about how Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapio’s enforcement of immigration laws detracted from enforcement of other laws.

On Nov. 2 Freedom Communications announces it will close the Tribune because a new buyer for the newspaper has not been found.


EV Tribune closure will leave void, leaders say

by Angelique Soenarie and Art Thomason - Nov. 3, 2009 12:22 PM

The Arizona Republic

Mesa civic and political leaders say they were saddened but not surprised to learn that the East Valley Tribune, which has been publishing in Mesa for more than a century, will stop the presses for good at the end of the year.

The closure will not only leave a void in downtown Mesa, where the paper's offices and printing plant take up almost half a city block, but also in the community's marketplace of ideas.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said he remembered growing up with the Tribune as his local newspaper.

"That's unfortunate anytime you lose something that special of an organization that has been part of this community for decades and decades," he said.

"It's a sign of the bad times and the struggle the media is having with it."

Smith said he remembered when he worked as a delivery boy for the East Valley Tribune's predecessor, the afternoon Mesa Tribune.

He said he did it for three years in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

He said the Tribune's voice will be missed.

"In the community we need a variety of voices and a variety of outlets, and when one is silenced the community is not well served," he said.

Robert Brinton, president and chief executive officer of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed.

"It's a disappointment. You don't want to see a business fail ,especially one in Mesa and especially in these tough times," he said.

Brinton too, had one of his first jobs with the Tribune.

"As a youth I used to deliver the newspaper as a teenager when it was Mesa Tribune. I've been aware of the Tribune all my life."

The announcement came as the lowest of lows and followed the highest of highs earlier this year, when the Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for an investigative series on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Despite the accolades, the newpaper, which has been bought and sold several times over the last decade, has struggled financially amid a nationwide newspaper industry contraction and an epic economic recession.

Late last year, the paper laid off nearly half its staff and cut back publication to four days a week of free distribution. Several months ago, the paper eliminated its Saturday edition as the newsroom continued to focus on its online operations.

The Tribune's parent company, Freedom Newspapers, declared bankruptcy several months ago and had put the Mesa paper up for sale. After receiving no satisfactory offers, company CEO Burl Osborne announced Monday that all operations will cease Dec. 31

Rumors that the 118-year-old newspaper was closing were reported early Monday on the website, which is run by a former Tribune employee.

By 11:35 a.m. the East Valley Tribune posted the news on its site.

"That's absolutely tragic," said Chuck Wahlheim, who served as publisher from 1982-1989 when the Tribune was owned by the Cox newspaper chain.

During that time, the six-day a week paper transitioned from an afternoon paper to a morning paper and added a Sunday edition. It also began to play more of a regional role and was instrumental in founding the East Valley Partnership, an alliance of community leaders in business, government and education.

Wahlheim said that such community involvement will be missed.

"They're really a Fourth Estate branch of the government. Who is going to do the Woodward and Bernstein stories if you

don't have newspapers?" he asked. "You can Twitter and blog all you want, but that's not going to replace newspapers."

Roc Arnett, the current president and chief executive officer of the East Valley Partnership, said the Tribune's closure will be a loss to the group.

"It's a longstanding institution in the east Valley. It's kind of sad to see it go. I used to deliver the newspaper 57 years ago,"said Arnett, who is 67.

"I guess these economic times require strange and difficult action," he said. "They used to be a great supporter and a great partner."

Steve Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunications at Arizona State University, said that when newspapers close, communities lose more than a business.

"It's a sad day when a newspaper dies, particularly a paper like the Tribune that has been such an aggressive watchdog of government. The Tribune's Pulitzer underscores the importance of its work. The only winners here are the crooks and incompetents who will escape the spotlight of shame because there will be fewer reporters watching them."


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