Saturday, June 06, 2009

Moving to

The Data Port has been resident here on Blogspot for a good long time. Sometimes it's been very active and sometimes it's just passively occupied this site, too exhausted by the little disturbances of politics to offer much in the way of comment.

As some readers may already have discovered I've switched platforms to WordPress and accepted an invitation from to move over there to take part in building the Citizen's web-only presence. Will it work? Who knows? But I think, given the rapidly changing face of American journalism, it's worth taking a shot. 

You may visit the Data Port directly here: but I would urge you to explore the posts of my fellow bloggers...they'll surprise you.

The "beta" site is not, according to Editor Mark Evans, a beta in the true sense but only a kind of holding position while extensive redesigning goes on. A good thing, too, since the present site is uglier than a junkyard dog. But, hey, it's my dog now, so don't kick it around.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lefty Blogs...RIP?

I notice that there have been no updates to Lefty Blogs since Friday. Has the site died?

Coming Changes

The winds of change will be blowing through The Data Port. Posts may be a bit erratic and there surely will be a few technical glitches as TDP moves over to the Wordpress platform. More later.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

True Belief

What follows was published some years ago in the Desert Leaf. Things haven't changed---as the recent murder of an abortion doctor while he was in church suggests. Things haven't changed. Neither has my opinion.

True Belief and Tribunals

Terrorists are true believers. They are men and women so profoundly convinced that theirs is the one true way that they are willing to see you dead for disagreeing with them. They are frequently religious fundamentalists and they have a hard time dealing with life in a secular  society.

Open societies  make room for their citizens to hold many different religious or political views. The  social contract  upon which such societies are grounded is the simple agreement that I may live according to my beliefs and you according to yours so long as the practice of mine doesn’t keep you from the practice of yours.

As kindly old Chairman Mao once said, “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy.”

Schools of thought may contend through vigorous debate, propaganda broadsides, or friendly  conversations. You are free to fill your neighbor’s mail with pamphlets or slip a waspish jeremiad under his door. You are not free to open his door and toss a hand grenade into his living room. That’s terrorism.

Religious fundamentalism pushed to wacko extremes destroys an open society when it tries to impose a one-size-fits-all lifestyle on its citizens. In this respect there isn’t a nickel’s worth of difference between the Taliban and anti-abortion extremists who bomb clinics, send anthrax threats in the mail, harass men and women seeking family planning advice and assassinate physicians.

Each group is at war with America and the social contract that makes our open society possible. Each group resorts to strategies of terror to effect social or moral change. In the fundamentalist’s garden only one flower blossoms and an opposing school of thought dares not speak its name.

Here in the United States  the anti-abortion terrorists have been at it longer than the Taliban. Letters to abortion rights groups and family planning centers threatening anthrax attacks were common here long before September 11th. Ditto bombings. Ditto murder.

As a result of the events of September 11 Americans have adopted a get tough attitude towards terrorism that can be appropriately applied to anti-abortion clinic bombers and anyone who finances or harbors them.  

Now that we have established the principle of  justice by tribunal we have a nifty new tool for digging out anti-abortion terrorists. The tedious old safeguards of the rights of the accused and the guarantees of a fair and impartial trial don’t apply if you are a terrorist. 

Neither do many of the quaint notions of protected privacy, the right to confront your accuser, examination of the jury by your attorney, or viewing the evidence to be presented against you prior to your trial.  

Best of all, the polls show that most Americans approve of this attack on what used to be our constitutional guarantees to a fair trial. After all, only non-citizens are going to be treated that way, and they may be, or harbor, terrorists.  

It is precisely here that the slippery slope begins.

Why should citizens be exempt? Why not apply the same standard to any persons or groups who employ the strategies of terror? By accepting the idea of tribunal justice for non-citizens we have already given up one of the central ideals by which we defined  ourselves as a just society.

We have given up the idea that any human being accused of a crime in our country has  the right to a fair and impartial trial as defined and guaranteed by our constitution. It’s a shame we have found it so easy to cast off this idea; defending it was what gave moral force to our international arguments on behalf of universal principles of justice. 

Here’s the way the tribunal system might work. We send letters to every person who has had any contact with the anti-abortion movement and  request that they report for  ‘voluntary’ interrogation. (This sort of thing was proposed by Attorney General Ashcroft in targeting some 5000 young men from the Middle East.) You donated money to a “right to life” organization? You attended a church retreat in which anti-abortion strategies were discussed? We’d like to talk to you.

Incidentally, did you know that your cousin in Benson has been accused of sending threatening letters to a clinic in Eloy? We can’t tell you who made the accusation, protecting sources you know. We’re sure you’re innocent but we’re going to hold you as a material witness.and bye bye habeas corpus.

Adopting the principle of justice by tribunal does us more harm than good in the long run since it requires that we give up one of the core principles of American democracy and is not necessary to bring the accused to justice in cases of terrorism. 

Friday, May 29, 2009 Changes Coming Monday

TucsonCitizen.Com has been publishing with the online format of the Tucson Citizen newspaper. I think it's fair to say the format has not been perfectly suitable for what is trying to become. Editor Mark Evans has been busily redesigning it.

I have no idea what it will be but, "Be the good Lord willing and the Creek don't rise," we'll be able to get a look at the Beta version on Monday, sometime around noon. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tucson's Poor Little Rich Kids

When the Lege whacks the education budget it is truly an "equal opportunity whacking." Schools in low income areas--say those serving the boys and girls who live around Three Points--get whacked with the same axe that batters the Catalina Foothills School District. Ain't equality grand?

The parents in the Foothills have launched the 30/60 program. That's a push to raise enough money in 60 days to save 30 teaching positions possibly jeopardized by the legislature's budget "solutions." The goal---hold your breath now--- wait for it--- is $1.3 million. With three weeks of the campaign left, as of Memorial Day, the campaign had raised $208,000.00. Will they raise it all? My guess is probably not.
in an e-mail to The Data Port, Mark Kipphut, President of the Catalina Foothills School District Foundation, indicated that the full amount may not be needed. Kipphut wrote:
Tomorrow night, Tuesday, is another Catalina Foothills School District Governing Board meeting (starts at 6:30 PM at the high school) and funding for teaching positions is on the agenda. We will know more after the board meeting, but between our current fund raising efforts and favorable student enrollment numbers, the number of remaining positions at risk is declining and is around 18.
I don't fault the parents for wanting the best for their children, nor paying extra for it if they can afford it, but there are too many parents across our state who can't. The children of our communities are the responsibility of each of us, they are all "our children." Tax credit gimmicks, and tax deductions for donations to schools are inequitable at their heart. So, sorry, foothills folks-- no money for you this time around.
Let's work to raise taxes until every child across the state has Foothills quality facilities and small class size.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ripping and Reading in Tucson

The expression “rip and read” is used scornfully by print journalists who are annoyed to turn on their radios and hear one of their stories being read- after a possible light rewrite- by a radio news reader.

I was a radio news reader many years ago, possibly as punishment for sin in a previous life; or perhaps it was my listeners who were being punished. 

At WUOM, the broadcasting service of the University of Michigan, we subscribed to an Associated Press wire that regularly scrolled out fifteen minute news summaries, five minute “splits,” and assorted features. We dutifully ripped and read, occasionally rewriting to suit our individual speech rhythms and providing segues between stories. We never lifted stories from Michigan newspapers and we paid the Associated Press for the content.

The modern equivalent of the worst of “rip and read” is the practice of commercial web sites (Huffington Post, for instance) using newspapers to provide their journalistic content. (For Free? I imagine so.) You know the click on the BIG HEADLINE and up pops the Washington Post or The NY Times. This practice is called “news aggregation,” and I’m not totally opposed to it. After all, that’s what most bloggers do although, we seldom make a buck at it.

There has to be a limit to it, however, or we’re going to be like the town in which everyone makes a living by taking in the other guy’s laundry.

This brings us at last to the, which will be modeled after the HufPo. In a recent post Mark Evans introduced a daily feature, his Top Ten News Digs...ten stories he thinks are particularly interesting and his comments on the stories.

I quite like the idea. We’ll get to know Evans, what his tastes and interests are and the stories he likes (or doesn’t.) We’ll look forward to his choices, or we won’t. If

his choices don’t ring our bells and whistles we’ll read elsewhere, or rant in the comments thread. If we go elsewhere in, or swell the comment thread, it’s more eyeballs for the site and better ad revenue for Gannett.

Now here’s my question: Did pay anyone for the stories he linked to? Seven of the links were to papers owned by Gannett: USA Today, and the Republic. Three stories were from the Arizona Daily Star. Perhaps the quotes from other Gannett papers were simply some sort of bookkeeping swap. I don’t know.

What about the Star stories? Did the Star make a buck or two?

And simply as a point of information I’d like to know if Gannett has a prior financial agreement with AP to link to any copyrighted AP story. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

The New Tucson Citizen: Food Fight! Food Fight!

Tucson Journalism

The Data Port is going to be covering the development of Tucson as it transforms itself from a newspaper site to something entirely different. Exactly what, how different, and whether it's worth the while, remains to be seen.

News junkies and others interested in the destiny of journalism should take an interest in this transformation as it offers us a laboratory case study of what I suspect will be happening more frequently in the future.

An entertaining little wrangle popped up almost immediately when editor Mark Evans wrote: Reports of the Tucson Citizen's demise greatly exaggerated.

This generated the following exchange between Evans and Arizona Public Media reporter Robert Rappaport.

Mark Evans:

This morning, driving in to work at the TUCSON CITIZEN, the rip-and-read Arizona Public Media reporter said the Tucson Citizen was shut down.

If I was editing those reporters, I would have changed the copy to say "the Tucson Citizen has ceased printing a newspaper but continues to have an online presence and a skeleton staff."

The lights are still on. The computers still work. The site, is still up. We may be a work in progress, but we are still at work.

Hey Mark,

Arizona Public Media HAS mentioned the online site, but it was not included this morning, except I did say the "PRINTED EDITION." Let's face it, Gannett is keeping the name, but the Tucson Citizen is dead. The website is nothing more than a self-serving blog with built-in "viewers" from the previous newspaper site.

Heck, I even have a blog and talk about your site. Perhaps you should read it. FYI...the free promotion stories for this website are done, although I really do wish you good luck.

Robert Rappaport, Arizona Public Media


The Star, the AP, you and others have mentioned in previous news reports and some on their blogs, that Tucson Citizen's web site continues.

Thanks for that.

However, in your news report this morning you inaccurately said the Tucson Citizen is "shut down." That's wrong. For the listeners who may not have heard your previous reports or read your blog, you've now misinformed them about the status of

If you wanted to editorialize and say "effectively shut down" or relay any of your above opinions about what's left here, that would have been fine, as long as your listeners knew it was opinion and not news.

Additionally, I didn't know that reporting the news on Arizona Public Media equaled "free promotion stories."

In the interest of fairness, I suppose I shouldn't have called you "rip and read." I take it back.
Now, will you treat us fairly in the future?

Mark Evans originsal story here
The Comment Thread here

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tucson's New Police Chief "Glad He Came Out"

Went to Woody's Monday night for an LGBT gathering. It was a meet-and-greet with Tucson's new Chief of Police, Chief Roberto VillaseƱor. Lots of familiar faces, including the Mayor of South Tucson, a famous blogger/political candidate, Karen Uhlich, Rodney Glassman and a fair assortment of our town's movers and shakers, gay and straight.

Lots of credit to the Chief who "worked the crowd" like a pro, listening to comments about perceived issues and questions the community might have about the state of Police/Citizen relations.

At the end of his short address to the group he said something I thought was interesting because it indicates how tricky language can be. Thanking everyone for inviting him he said, "I'm glad I came out tonight" and the first two or three rows in the bar simply exploded. Laughter rippled back through the room. Puzzled, the chief asked what he'd said. It was explained to him. He was good natured about the whole thing, but it indicated that the Chief's visit was a two-way learning experience.


I am not one of those people who knock Starbucks. I think the coffee is terrific and my local has been a second office. When I'm not trying to work it's where I go to watch the passing parade or read the paper. The young people who work there seem to love it and it's been my understanding tht even part-timers have health insurance.

Still, I firmly believe in the right to organize for union representation. I thought the following was interesting:

Brave New Foundation has launched "" an online video and campaign. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks touts Starbucks as being at the forefront of progressive corporate responsibility: except of course when it comes to allowing its workers to organize. 

To view the video please visit,


Friday, April 17, 2009

More Susan Boyle

Here is more from Susan Boyle, this time from a charity CD
she made in 1999. Absolutely astonishing!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle Makes Me Happy

I’m probably the last person on the internet to discover this clip. Whatever. Just the thought of her success has given me joy and delight since I first heard it last night. Ms. Boyle was a contestant on “Britain's Got Talent.” When she walked on stage this 47 year old, slightly dumpy, woman elicited eye-rolling, ill concealed, smirks.

I’m sure the audience was expecting to have a little fun--something along the lines of Florence Foster Jenkins. With the first notes of “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables, when this simply enormous voice poured forth, it literally popped eyes open and snapped heads back.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Krugman On Tea Parties

Oh, what fun! The wacky world of the Republic Party.

".... President Obama is being called a “socialist” who seeks to destroy capitalism. Why? Because he wants to raise the tax rate on the highest-income Americans back to, um, about 10 percentage points less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Bizarre.

Read Krugman here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Speech From the Past, A Manifesto for The Future

Occasional readers of this occasional blog will remember that I regularly follow Professor David Kaiser’s blog, “History Unfolding.” In a recent post, dated April 4th, 2009, he quotes a campaign speech that FDR made on November 1, 1940. That speech is so eerily pertinent today that it justifies my re-quoting it here, despite its unbloglike length.

It perfectly characterizes and justifies what I believe to be the function of government and the unalterable opposition to that function by the Republican Party.

After nearly seventy years nothing has changed. 


Back in the 20's, in the years after the last World War, Americans worked and built many things, but few of our people then stopped to think why they were working and why they were building and whither they were tending.

Those were the days when prosperity was measured only by the stock ticker.

There were the factory workers forced to labor long hours at low wages in sweat-shop conditions. They could look forward to no security in their old age. They could look forward to no insurance during periods of unemployment. There were the farmers of the Nation, overburdened with debt and with farm surpluses, their income vanishing, their farms threatened with foreclosure.

There were the natural resources of the land, being wasted-soil, forests, minerals and water power.

There were millions of workers, unable to organize to protect their livelihoods, unable to form trade unions.

There were the small businesses of the Nation, threatened by the monopolies of concentrated wealth.

The savings of the many were entrusted to supposedly great financiers, who were to lose those savings in fantastic adventures of giant holding companies and giant investment trusts.

The crash came as it had to come. And then for three years the American people waited and suffered. For three years the American Government did nothing to help.In 1933, the American people began to bestir themselves. They had come to learn that inaction offered no escape from the problems of a troubled and changing world. The American people determined then and there that what could not be done by individual effort could be done through joint effort; that what the industrial and financial leaders could not do, or would not do, a democratic Government could do and would do

You all know the history of recovery, beginning in 1933, and progressing ever since.

Our economic system began again to function. Then came the suggestion from monopolistic finance that while the Government had done a good rescue job, the best thing it could do at that point was to forget all about it, and to turn the whole economic system back to Wall Street to run again.

But they little knew the temper of the American people. The New Deal was no mere rescue party to restore to a chosen few their old power over the people's savings, the people's labor, the people's lives.

We all remember how negligible was the opposition that this Administration met in the early days when it was cleaning up the wreckage, which had come from the era of speculation.

The bitter opposition from Republican leaders did not come until a little later. It came when this Administration made it clear that we were not merely salvaging afew things from the past, but that we were determined to make our system of private enterprise and private profit work more efficiently, more democratically, to fill the demands and needs of all the people of this land.

We understand the philosophy of those who offer resistance, of those who conduct a counter offensive against the American people's march of social progress. It is not an opposition which comes necessarily from wickedness—it is an opposition that comes from subconscious resistance to any measure that disturbs the position of privilege. It is an unfortunate human failing that a full pocketbook often groans more loudly than an empty stomach.

I am, as you know, a firm believer in private enterprise and in private property. I am a firm believer in the American opportunity of men and women to rise in private enterprise. But, of course, if private opportunity is to remain safe, average men and women must be able to have it as a part of their own individual satisfaction in life and their own stake in democracy.

With that in view, we have pushed ahead with social and economic reforms, determined that this period in American life should be written down as an heroic era—an era in which men fought not merely to preserve a past, but to build a future.

You and I have seen nations great and small go down in ruin, or get backed up against the wall, because the reactionary men who led them could not see the real danger that threatened. They were afraid of losing their own selfish privilege and power. They feared the legitimate forward surge of their own common people, more than they feared the menacing might of foreign dictators.

From them, we in the United States take warning. Most Republican leaders in our own country for the last seven years have bitterly fought and blocked that forward surge of average men and women in their pursuit of happiness. And let us not be deluded that overnight those leaders have suddenly become the real friends of these average men and women.Oh, they may say at election time that they approve the social gains and social objectives of the last seven years. But I say that these men have not yet proven that they even understand what these social gains or social objectives have been.

The people throughout this country know how many and how difficult were the battles that we have fought and won in the last seven years.

Do you want to abandon the protection of people's savings from fraudulent manipulators, the curbing of giant holding companies that despoiled investors and consumers alike, by delivering them into the hands of those who have fought those reforms?

Do you want to abandon the responsibility for the well-being of those who live and work on the farms of the Nation to those who fought against the farm program every inch of the way?

Do you want to abandon collective bargaining, the outlawing of child labor, the minimum wage, the time-and-a-half for overtime, the elimination of sweat-shop conditions, by turning them over to the proven enemies of labor?

Do you want to hamstring the old-age pension system, or unemployment insurance, or aid for children, or maternity welfare, or vocational training for the physically handicapped, or financial aid to the blind by delivering them into the hands of those who have fought and misrepresented those reforms?

Do you want to abandon slum clearance to those Republican leaders who have fought against every appropriation for decent housing?

Do you want to turn over your Government to those who failed to have confidence in the future of America and who now preach fear for the future of America? As an example of that doctrine of fear, certain insurance companies are now sending letters to their policyholders, warning them that if this Administration is retained in office, their policies will shrink in value.

That is just another form of things we have seen before, another form, for instance, of that pay-envelope campaign—that campaign of fear of the last week of 1936.

The fact is that the very existence of most of these insurance companies I speak of was saved by this Administration in 1933. They are today more solvent than they ever were before.

Our program in the past, our program for the future, is, as you know, equality of economic opportunity. Such a program calls for many things. It requires an orderly settlement of industrial disputes not by those devoted to company unions, but by agencies alert to the requirements of labor and mindful of the responsibilities of industry.

This program entails old-age insurance and unemployment insurance, operating on an increasingly wider base, so that eventually it will include every man and woman in the country.

It makes available cheap credit to impoverished tenants, to consumers, and to small business. In fact, it has always seemed to me that our program starts with small business, so that it may grow and flourish.

It curbs the old predatory activities of high finance and monopoly practices.

It guarantees that our national resources are used for the benefit of the whole people—and not exploited for the benefit of a few.

It provides for the resettlement of farmers from marginal lands to richer lands, and for farm ownership for enslaved tenants.

Monopoly does not like this program. Certain types of high finance do not like it. Most of the American plutocracy do not like it.

But the vast majority of American business, the backbone of American business, continues to grow and flourish under it. For that business is interested in reasonable profits, not in promoters' tribute. That business is interested in freedom from monopolistic restraints and economic imperialism. That business knows that the farmers and the workers, the great mass of our citizens, have never asked for more than equality and fair play.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is Rio Nuevo Based On A Mistake?

I’d like to suggest that it is. The mistake is a mixture of two things: A sentimental yearning for something that never quite existed in reality, and the failure to see that much of what we realistically expect of a downtown already exists.

This nostalgia for something that never was quite real is captured in this song by Petula Clark. Remember? A kind of fantasy land where all the good stuff was; lit by neon. My guess is that underlying our businesslike arguments for “development” is some similar emotional engine.

In the meantime we easily forget what is already there. Museums and galleries and the public library. The Symphony, Opera, a variety musicals, and performances at the Leo Rich. Theater? You bet: ATC, Beowulf Alley Theater, the Rogue Theatre upstairs at The Temple of Music and Art . At either end of Congress The Fox and The Rialto. Club Congress of course, although not for elderly ears.

It’s not likely that you’ll go hungry, either: Poca Cosa, The Cup Cafe, Barrio Grill, Maynards, El Minuto, and others that I can’t name. Fourth Avenue is alive and well and no more removed from the places I’ve named than some venues in Manhattan or Chicago’s Loop.

Finally, there’s more of Tucson’s great “downtown” actually spread all across the city, at its theaters, galleries and truly wonderful restaurants. Frankly I’m glad it isn’t all crammed into the handful of blocks in the old downtown area.

So... let’s build a new hotel and convention center, which I believe might actually be an important economic resource, get the trolley rolling... and then call it quits.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Fools These Mortals Be

Well, one mortal anyway. The Arizona Guardian reports that State Senator Thayer Verschoor has dipped into the Republic Party’s bag of tricks and come up with a nifty money saving strategy: No state employee should be paid more than the Governor; 95 thousand bucks a year.

Do that and the sucking sound you hear will be all the state’s highly paid professionals--docs, lawyers, scientists, university professors and administrators--- getting out of town.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Odd Editorial

There’s a very odd (dare we say snarky?) editorial in this morning’s Arizona daily Star. It respectfully bows in the direction of all those brave contributors to its Letters section who sign their names. 

This, of course, is not the case where commentators in the “comments” section are concerned, those folks are described as “stealthily posting a drive-by snipe or a gratuitous rant.” These snipes and rants are frequently directed at the Star itself.

I’ve always been a John Hancock sort of guy. Ever since I started blogging I have signed my name to what I write. When I comment on someone else’s blog I sign my name. I can’t really fault the Star’s requirement for full disclosure.

But at the same time there are many posters who might legitimately fear their comments would put their jobs at risk.

You can cruise all the comments here. I particularly direct your attention to comments #9 and #13.

The Star’s editorial is not signed. I'm shocked, shocked.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tucson Citizen...A Temporary Reprieve

A late story (on line) in the Tucson Citizen reports that the scheduled March 21st closing of the Citizen has been delayed while negotiations with two prospective buyers continue.

Renee Horton’s  article on the Tucson Citizen’s web site gives all the details that are available .

Pure speculation: The announcement that the Seattle Post Intelligencer was going all digital may have moved Gannett to drop the “no digital” barrier to sales. Who knows? 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Socialism? Yes, Please!

x4mr, over at “Sustainability...etc” has posted an excellent observation springing from Thomas Friedman’s NY Times piece “The Inflection is Near.” I recommend x4mr’s post and the comment thread it generated.

Perhaps Data Port readers would also be interested in the Barbara Ehrenreich/Bill Fletcher article in the March 6, 2009 issue of The Nation:

“If We Are in the Death Spiral of Capitalism, Can We Start Using the "S" Word?” (Click)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tucson Citizen- Is There a Buyers’ Group In The Wings?

Citizen reporter, Renee Shafer Horton, posted a report yesterday afternoon about the Justice Department’s querying of potential buyers. Her story appears in the Business section of today’s Citizen. click

What caught my eye was this: 

"Mike Hamila, owner of UNIsystems MS LLC in Phoenix, told the Citizen on Feb. 23 that he had been contacted by Justin Dempsey of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. Dempsey wanted details of Hamila's conversations with Broadwater. Though Hamila said Tuesday that he was working on a bid, he would not comment further, citing a confidentiality agreement he signed Monday as part of the bidding process."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Saying Goodbye to The Rocky Mountain News

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Tucson: A One Paper Town

No miracle is going to save the Tucson Citizen and the chance of a miraculous intervention saving the Citizen’s journalists is small to none. On March 21st Tucson will become a one newspaper town. That was perhaps inevitable, and we are at least better off than San Francisco, which runs the risk of becoming a no newspaper town with the possible demise of the San Francisco Chronicle.  

The only chance that a brave little band of Citizen alums might keep the Citizen alive as an all-digital paper has been put paid by Gannett’s conditions of sale, so if a group does strike out on its own it will not be as the Tucson Citizen.

The staff is going to receive what they have been assured is the “standard” separation compensation: One week’s pay for each year they’ve been employed up to a limit of twenty-six years. After which they will drift off to whatever fates await unemployed journalists: positions as corporate flacks, advertising copywriters, freelancers or taking school yearbook photos.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tucson Citizen Sale. The Department of Justice is Curious.

Because I wanted to nail down the details of Gannett’s sale of the Tucson Citizen I went right to what I hoped would be the horse’s mouth: Robert J. Broadwater.

Broadwater is the managing director of Broadwater & Associates. I e-mailed him asking to be sent any boilerplate he might have, outlining the details of the sale. In other words I asked for the offering memorandum. He e-mailed back saying he would be glad to talk to me. Note: No

offering memorandum was sent. I called.

During our conversation I confirmed what I had heard from another source, namely that the only things being sold were the name, “Tucson Citizen,” the archives, the subscriber list and the names of the carriers. The JOA was not for sale. Okay.

Being an online sort of guy I thought why not put a group together and publish an entirely digitized version, so I asked what might be considered a non-frivolous offer. I was told that it would probably take pretty deep pockets in addition to a substantial buying price because, get this: It would be a condition of the sale that the buyer would have to publish a dead tree (a paper) newspaper.

And of course since the JOA was not for sale that would mean finding a new printing plant.In other words the sale was being structured so that no one would buy the Citizen and Gannett could close it down but retain the income flow from the JOA with the Star.

When I expressed my dubiousness about the deal Mr. Broadwater indicated that it had been vetted by the DOJ.

I’m not the only person to make enquiries. An attorney friend, whose practice includes advising clients on investment opportunities, called.My friend was told that before any offering memorandum could be sent a full financial disclosure would have to be made by any potential buyer. That put paid (at least for now) to any further interest on my friend’s part.

I pretty much bagged stirring up the pot until yesterday, when I received a call from Justin Dempsey of the DOJ. He had heard, I don’t know how, that I had spoken with Broadwater and wanted to know the details of my conversation so far as I could remember them. I told him.

He seemed quite surprised when I said I thought the DOJ had already vetted and approved the deal.

More to come.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tucson Citizen Deathwatch

On March 21st the Tucson Citizen will fade into history and Tucson will be a one-newspaper town. Sadly, its passage will be mourned by few. The cranks who regularly add to the paper’s comments section understand the cause: The Citizen has become too liberal, too biased, too socialistic.

Huh? I suspect the real reason is that Gannett wants to profit from a phantom JOA, reaping the rewards of a joint operating agreement without actually jointly operating anything. 

Tucson will lose more than it realizes when the Citizen closes down; it will lose a large part of its corporate memory, for that’s what a newsroom staff is. They are the folks who remember and pass on to the new arrivals in the newsroom, and to their readers, our community’s history.

Historical context is important. It’s good for a city to remember where the bodies are buried and who buried them. We are less likely to be taken advantage of if we do.

More about the "phantom JOA" phenomenon later. (Added at 6:21 pm Monday)