TUCSON (CN) – Attorney General Terry Goddard’s last-ditch effort to save the state’s oldest daily newspaper ended Tuesday when a judge denied his request for a temporary restraining order. Goddard sued the Gannett and Lee Enterprises chains, saying their agreement to close the Tucson Citizen, an afternoon daily, violated antitrust laws by eliminating competition among daily newspapers in Tucson.
But U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ruled, “The court finds at this point the plaintiff has failed to show the likelihood of success at trial that the defendant committed an antitrust violation that caused irreparable harm by closing the Tucson Citizen. While regrettable that the Citizen’s illustrious legacy must come to end, it can not be said at this time, the decision to close the Citizen involves an anti-trust violation.”
With the Citizen closed, Lee’s Arizona Daily Star becomes the city’s only daily.
The two newspapers have competed for more than 100 years. Since 1940 they have shared print, circulation, advertising and marketing costs through a Joint Operating Agreement, currently under the name TNI Partners, while their news and editorial departments have operated separately.
In January, Gannett and Lee agreed to continue to share the profits of the Star after the Citizen – which has been losing readership and circulation for a decade – closed or was sold. But when buyers offered to purchase the Citizen, “Gannett rejected the offer,” according to Goddard’s lawsuit.
“Gannett and Lee plan to close the Citizen and share the profits generated by the Star after it becomes a monopoly newspaper,” Goddard claimed. “Because they each have a right to half of TNI’s profits, they share incentives to reduce TNI’s expenses by closing the Citizen, and, after the Citizen closes, reducing spending on the Star.”
Stephen Hadland, CEO of Santa Monica Media Co., told Tucson Citizen reporters that he had offered Gannett “close to half a million dollars” for the afternoon daily but was turned down.
The Citizen printed its last edition Saturday. It will become a Web publication, concentrating on editorials and commentary, the newspaper announced. The Citizen began publishing in 1870 as a weekly, more than 40 years before Arizona became a state.