East Valley Tribune, a recent Pulitzer winner, to close Dec. 31

By Nick R. Martin | November 2nd, 2009 | 10:53 am | 26 Comments »

The East Valley Tribune, which has seen a roller coaster year that included laying off nearly half its staff and winning a Pulitzer Prize, will be shutting down on Dec. 31, staffers were told today.

Publisher Julie Moreno broke the bad news at about 10:30 a.m., telling employees that the Mesa newspaper’s parent company, Freedom Communications, has been unable to find a buyer for it, the company confirmed at about noon.

Freedom, which declared bankruptcy Sept. 1 awash in more than $1 billion in debt, had put the newspaper up for sale hoping to make some hard cash from the deal. But no serious buyer stepped forward before today’s announcement.

“There were people who expressed interest,” said Freedom spokeswoman Maya Pogoda. “However, none of the bids were suitable.”

The closing makes the Tribune the second Arizona newspaper to shutter this year. In May, the state’s oldest newspaper, the Tucson Citizen, was shut down by its owner, Gannett. The Citizen has since become a local blogging website for the media chain.

“This is probably the most difficult decision a company can make,” Freedom CEO Burl Osborne said in a news release. “But ultimately, after considering all available options, this is the best alternative for our company.”

It’s not yet clear how many employees are still at the Tribune, but its closure will not be a cheap proposition. A source who attended the meeting said staffers were told they will be given severance packages equal to one week for every year of service they had with the company.

Freedom’s other newspapers in the Phoenix area, including the Ahwatukee Foothills News and the Daily News-Sun in Sun City, will remain intact, said Pogoda.

The Tribune has had a year of ups and downs. Early in the year, the newspaper laid off about 40 percent of its staff and reduced its number of days in print from seven to just three. The remaining staffers were also forced to take pay cuts and time off without pay.

But the newspaper also rode a wave of praise this year as it racked up numerous statewide and national awards for a series it ran last year focusing on crime and immigration enforcement by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Among the awards was the highest given out to newspapers: the Pulitzer Prize. The Tribune was given the Pulitzer for local reporting in April.

In mid-September, the Tribune was put up for sale by its parent company, which bought the newspaper about a decade ago. Rumors of potential bidders spread in recent weeks, but no formal announcement was ever made.

Pogoda would not discuss specifics about the newspaper’s finances, however she said “economic and industry” forces had played a role in its demise.

“They’ve tried for about a year to make certain changes to improve it,” Pagoda said. “But they just weren’t able to.”

[Full disclosure: I was among the 140 staffers laid off from the Tribune in January.]


26 Responses to “East Valley Tribune, a recent Pulitzer winner, to close Dec. 31”

  1. happygrrrl says:

    OMG! What heart-wrenching news!

  2. Anonymous says:

    OMG! What heart-wrenching news!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Nick Martin broke the story! That is crazy.

  4. shannahogan says:

    Wow. Nick Martin broke the story! That is crazy.

  5. Anonymous says:

    very sad .. sorry for our friends who have been keeping it going this year…My best to all of them. Chris Lavelle

  6. chrislavelle says:

    very sad .. sorry for our friends who have been keeping it going this year…My best to all of them. Chris Lavelle

  7. Joseph Manna says:

    This is terrible to hear, but thanks for breaking the story in a non-snark kind of way. It amazes me that even quality distributions like EV Trib, who ARE embracing new media couldn’t find a buyer to help take it to the next level. It seems there are only two competing newspapers here — AZ Republic and Phoenix New Times.

    The only good this can spell is that those papers could probably acquire talented reporters from the EVT and keep them on the beat in the East Valley and share more insight than what they have to a larger audience.

    ~Joe

  8. Joseph Manna says:

    This is terrible to hear, but thanks for breaking the story in a non-snark kind of way. It amazes me that even quality distributions like EV Trib, who ARE embracing new media couldn't find a buyer to help take it to the next level. It seems there are only two competing newspapers here — AZ Republic and Phoenix New Times.

    The only good this can spell is that those papers could probably acquire talented reporters from the EVT and keep them on the beat in the East Valley and share more insight than what they have to a larger audience.

    ~Joe

  9. Anonymous says:

    I knew closing down was a strong possibility, so the announcement comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is how I feel. I’m deeply saddened by this news. What a shame.

  10. bradarmstrong says:

    I knew closing down was a strong possibility, so the announcement comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is how I feel. I'm deeply saddened by this news. What a shame.

  11. rshorton says:

    I hate this news, but WAY TO GO NICK!!!

  12. rshorton says:

    I hate this news, but WAY TO GO NICK!!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    This redundant journalist will raise a glass tonight for those soon to be at the Trib.

  14. dylansmith says:

    This redundant journalist will raise a glass tonight for those soon to be at the Trib.

  15. Anonymous says:

    As a laid-off journalist myself, this couldn’t be more disheartening. Trying to translate my skills into the other world hasn’t exactly worked out. This just means there are less opportunities and more journalists seeking them. What a bummer. Sad news and my condolences to all who have been laid off or will be laid off in December.

  16. deltonlowery says:

    As a laid-off journalist myself, this couldn't be more disheartening. Trying to translate my skills into the other world hasn't exactly worked out. This just means there are less opportunities and more journalists seeking them. What a bummer. Sad news and my condolences to all who have been laid off or will be laid off in December.

  17. Anonymous says:

    So sad. As a recently laid-off journalist, this is another bummer. Ooops, didn’t see my previous post actually made it, so this is a bit redundant.

  18. deltonlowery says:

    So sad. As a recently laid-off journalist, this is another bummer. Ooops, didn't see my previous post actually made it, so this is a bit redundant.

  19. Guest says:

    This is very sad news for the Newspaper Industry. As a previous Tribune employee (advertising) my heart goes out to the many talented people from all departments still there, it’s a hard time to be out of work.

  20. Guest says:

    This is very sad news for the Newspaper Industry. As a previous Tribune employee (advertising) my heart goes out to the many talented people from all departments still there, it's a hard time to be out of work.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I started there on the copy desk in 1984 when it was owned by Cox. Very sad news. Best of luck to all.

  22. Cato56 says:

    I started there on the copy desk in 1984 when it was owned by Cox. Very sad news. Best of luck to all.

  23. […] He Swiped Attorney’s File”. Nick and I met a few times to talk about the fate of the East Valley Tribune and how journalism will change in the near future. His vision for Heat City as an original, […]

  24. […] papers for some quick cash. However on Nov. 2, after no acceptable buyer had emerged, Freedom said it would close the Tribune by Dec. 31 and lay off the remaining 140 employees. The company said it would keep its other […]

  25. […] months of layoffs and cost cutting, Freedom announced in November the cuts had not been enough; it planned to shut down the newspaper by the end of the […]

  26. […] of November, Freedom Communications, which had recently entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, announced it planned to shut down the Tribune by the end of […]

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