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)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Welcome To The Class War

The expression “class warfare” suggests an enraged proletariat barricading the streets and tearing up paving stones to defend themselves against the tyranny of the ruling class.

That was then, this is now, and class warfare has a different face; it is subtler and the ordinary citizens who are its victims passively accept loss after loss. The ruling elites of Washington, the financial upper class, the corporate and financial interests and their party are more than willing to sacrifice the little guys in the interest of a “national good.”

They will wring their hands in despair at the prospect of increasing the national debt, unless that debt balloons for the benefit of the wealthy. What gets cut from legislation? Extension of unemployment benefits, health care, education. In short, the safety net we should all be willing to provide for the common good.

These rascals are like the guys who refuse to throw a rope to a drowning man because it won't do anything for the bathing suit industry. Here’s the rule for recovery: Privatize profit, Nationalize debt.

I recommend an article by William Greider in The Nation, reposted to

Here’s the lede:

Governing elites in Washington and Wall Street have devised a fiendishly clever "grand bargain" they want President Obama to embrace in the name of "fiscal responsibility." The government, they argue, having spent billions on bailing out the banks, can recover its costs by looting the Social Security system. They are also targeting Medicare and Medicaid. The pitch sounds preposterous to millions of ordinary working people anxious about their economic security and worried about their retirement years. But an impressive armada is lined up to push the idea--Washington's leading think tanks, the prestige media, tax-exempt foundations, skillful propagandists posing as economic experts and a self-righteous billionaire spending his fortune to save the nation from the elderly.

Read the whole piece here.