McGuire on Media

East Valley Tribune making dramatic move

In one of the most dramatic announcements in the recent decline of newspapers, The East Valley Tribune in Mesa Az. announced Monday that in January the publication will transform from a daily publication into a four-day-a-week free print newspaper and a seven-day online newspaper. Publisher Julie Moreno made the announcement about 11:30 a.m. (PST).  Moreno said  the workforce will “be reduced by 142 associates. 46 of those will be in the newsroom. I am told that will account for about half of the current newsroom.

The nature of the reporting in the new four-day-a-week paper is unclear, bit the online announcement said, “The print edition will have two sections ‑ one for local news and a second for sports, entertainment and late-breaking news. Both sections will be the same long-tabloid format.”

Moreno told me about 1:30 (PST)the coverage will concentrate on the cities of Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Queen Creek.  That means the Scottsdale Bureau will be closed and the paper will no longer cover the city of Tempe.  Moreno said, “our editorial resources will focus on four zones and allow us to hone in on local community journalism in those areas.” She called the move a “continuation of our zoning strategy.” 

Moreno said the announcement was made far ahead of the January shift and staff reduction to:

  • give ample time for “our associates to figure out their futures”
  • to make sure employees received the news of the shift from Moreno
  • to give the executives an opportunity to discuss the shift with advertisers and readers

The Tribune took a big swing last August when it tried to reinvent itself by making the A section a tabloid wraparound for the rest of the broadsheet paper.  I wrote at the time that the “line between desperation and bold innovation is mighty thin.” Thinner than I would have hoped, as it turns out.

Despite great predictions of success by former publisher Terry Horne it has been obvious for some time that the effort was more desperate than clever. It simply never took hold. There did not seem to be enough racks for the free distribution of that local tabloid A section. The newspaper, as a business, did not seem to be part of many local meaningful conversations.

Editorially it has remained a scrappy pain the rear for the much bigger and much better funded Arizona Republic. In July the Tribune caused a stir with a tough expose on Maricopa County’s controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the  Republic just followed this past weekend. 

However, I am told  by people close to the staff, that for some months now the newsroom has dwindled by almost a third. The indication was that there have been a few layoffs here and there, but most of them just quit on their own. The impression left by my source is that many of them went into Public Relations. I have been unable to confirm any of that.

Julie Moreno became publisher of The Tribune in late August of 2007 and presided over the move to the the tabloid A section even though it had been conceived by a previous publisher. When I blogged last year I said this: “”There is simply no question that the Arizona Republic is firmly entrenched throughout the Valley, and the new strategy probably won’t cause the republic to break a sweat.”  Those words have been proven true. The Republic has been sweating, but that’s due to the industry malaise and not anything the East Valley Tribune has done.

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