In Tucson switch, a growing publisher exodus?

The decision by Michael Chihak (left) to retire as editor and publisher of the afternoon Tucson Citizen after eight years seems to have come abruptly. Newspaper division President Bob Dickey only told the Citizen in a story Saturday that a search for Chihak’s successor would start immediately; in the past, departing and new publishers generally were announced simultaneously. (The exceptions often came when there was something amiss. I don’t think that’s the case in Tucson, however, because — reading tea leaves here — Dickey wouldn’t have given a positive quote about Chihak to the Citizen.)

Chihak’s departure is at least the third change in publishers this month alone, suggesting there may be a rising cascade of new newspaper chiefs as Dickey asserts more control over the division he inherited in late February from the now-retired Sue Clark-Johnson. The division includes 84 community papers; USA Today Publisher Craig Moon, I believe, still reports directly to CEO Craig Dubow.

The question: How deep is Gannett’s bench of would-be publishers? New Fort Collins Coloradoan Publisher Kim Roegner, for example, was display advertising director at The Courier-Journal in Louisville rather than, say, overall head of that paper’s advertising sales.

The Citizen is unusual within Gannett: It’s an afternoon paper in a joint operating agreement with the morning Arizona Daily Star, owned by Lee Enterprises. (Here’s a history of the JOA.) The Citizen‘s circulation is 23,863. The Star‘s circulation is 113,373 daily, and 164,033 Sunday.

Meanwhile, unless I missed something, Dickey’s old post still remains unfilled. He ran the Pacific Group, a portfolio that includes publications in Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.

Related: New publishers in Montgomery, Ala., and in Fort Collins, Colo.

Have I missed a recent change in publishers? Your response, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo: Citizen]

14 Responses to “In Tucson switch, a growing publisher exodus?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    The situation in Arizona is nothing new for Gannett, where dysfunctional operations seem to be a trademark. In Asheville (N.C.) the Big G has paraded 3 publishers and 3 editors through town in the past 8 years — all with the Gannett Inner Circle pedigree. The last publisher and editor unceremoniously “resigned” since January (pedigrees revoked), and the paper has been without an Executive Editor and a Marketing Director since May. Meanwhile, ad revenues, circulation and news hole have been going down like midgets at an orgy. (Oh, shit, I meant “little people” — there goes my next Gannett promotion.)

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I live in Tucson. At some point you run out of enough publishers willing to “take the bullet.”

    Something here has always been foul or just not right. Top executives with good repuations within Gannett served very, very short stays as the VP of Advertising…exiting with no mention of them.

    The JOA must still be working for Gannett given the major circulation variance. And the Citizen never got any decent marketing pressure. The margins must be pretty bad.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, not aware of any major training or advertising initiatives since Don Stinson. He left too???

    Gannett really handles all of its “press” badly. The rest of the industry gets quoted but Gannett just sits there on their ass. Too ashamed to make any comment or too afraid that someone might be misquoted.

    No gusto, and no guts.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    What’s with all the advertising drones taking honcho gigs?

    In Tucson, at least, the position is _Editor_ & Publisher, not just bean-counter.

    Are there no journalists in Gannett who want to step up and take the reins of a newspaper?

    Or is Gannett so wedded to retabulating an ever-shrinking sack of shekels that the actual content (you know, the stuff the readers just might pay for?) fall by the wayside?

    Is my question rhetorical, or just redundant?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    In Tucson, the top honcho doesn’t have to do quite as much bean counting. There’s still a fair bit, of course, but most of the operation is managed by the JOA. The publisher has a say in that but so does the publisher of the other paper involved, as does the CEO of the JOA. Most of the JOA mandates are going to come down from the corporate offices of Lee and Gannett. The fear is that they’re going to send down more of a bean counter than a journalist to replace Chihak. That could prove disastrous in the environment here. Chihak was already doing what he could do allocate the resources available (reporters, editors, etc.) as best as he could and still put out a solid news product. If someone comes in more worried about numbers than good journalism, it could be fatal to the Citizen.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I wouldn’t get all worked up about Chihak in Tuscon…his was a figure head postion as all newspaper publishers are at the the much smaller JOA paper. He had no real power although Gannett still gets the majority of the dough from a very old agreement where the papers were once upon a time much closer in circ. The way Gannett is hiring pubs now they will probably replace him with a copy editor. Thanks to Big Gary and $500 buzzword a minute SCJ they ran off just about everybody that had publisher potential. Once upon a time, new publishers came from dept head positions at big papers to cut their teeth and the tiny paper publisher moved on up the food chain in circ size to the next level. Not anymore. Hell, they put a guy from Guam of all places and the smallest paper in the company to one of their largest papers in the chain to Honolulu. That would have never happended 20 even 5 years ago….No talent left. It’s just that simple.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    yeah I heard the ex publisher in Ashville said something nasty…and scj wasn’t happy thus his early exit after just being pub for a few months. Anybody know what it was??

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Tucson is just too competitive for the typical daily newspaper routine malaise. They lost direction on the sales side after having lost four (4) VP’s of Advertising over the last six years. Susan Linsey being one of them.

    Lee is not exactly some marketing genius.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    23,000 circulation in a county of over 1,000,000 people. What relevance is that? And the Sunday Star has a meager Business Section.
    Take away the Sunday advertising supplements and little is left.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    @ 9:57 – there’s only a ~10% break for a single-paper buy, which certainly encourages advertisers to run in both.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    You all mostly miss the point. The centralization of power, thrust, input, feedback, and energy killed Gannett and others. Smaller, less debt driven, less stock driven newspapers are surviving.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Key phrase: “less stock driven.” Gannett newspapers are extremely profitable by any standard. But Wall Street is about growth and future earnings, and the future for information delivery isn’t newspapers amymore — hence, newspapers aren’t growing, the stock is tanking and all those corporate financial wizards (Warren Buffett said your nephew could run a newspaper and be widly successful the last 30 years — my nephew is 4 years old) are scrambling for some good news. Are newspapers still profitable? Hell yes. I challenge everybody to start posting your bottom line profit numbers to corporate each month. You’ll see a half million a month in profit going to Gannett for even small papers in these “bad” times. But the stock will keep sinking, and Gannett will keep cutting to “grow.”

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