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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The end is near

    As the Tucson Citizen prepares to cease publication after 138 years, former Arizona Daily Wildcat and Citizen employees share some of their thoughts and memories.

    The deadline for a buyer to bid on the Citizen has passed, leading most to believe that the paper will soon be a thing of the past.

    The Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star are owned by separate companies, but share a building at 4850 S. Park Ave. On Jan. 16, Gannett Co. Inc. announced it was putting the Citizen up for sale, and so far, no buyer has stepped up.

    Many former Daily Wildcat employees and members of the Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame began their careers in journalism at the Citizen. Though some continued on to other jobs, a few reporters, namely Mike Chesnick and Mark Kimble, are currently at the Citizen with successful careers.

    “”I’ve always liked working for an underdog newspaper, trying to scoop the bigger paper. It had the feel of the Wildcat. Guess that’s what I liked about the Citizen. We’ve always been like a small ‘family’,”” Chesnick wrote in an e-mail.

    Chesnick has worked at the Citizen since 1980, with the exception of a five-year hiatus when he worked for USA Today before returning to the Citizen.

    “”I’ve done all sorts of different things here since I started working here in December of 1974 and I’ve enjoyed it all,”” Kimble said. “”I’m going to be very sorry to leave the Citizen and to leave the people I’ve been working with for all these years.””

    Former Citizen publisher and member of the Daily Wildcat Hall of Fame Mike Chihak has also had a long history with the Citizen.

    “”All I’ll say is I’m heartbroken about it,”” he said, “”I’m a Tucson native and I grew up with the Citizen; my grandfather was a pressman at the Citizen before I was born.””

    Chihak is currently executive director of the Communications Leadership Institute.

    “”I delivered the Citizen on my bicycle as a kid, I worked there in high school as a freelancer, my college internship was at the Citizen and my first professional job was at the Citizen,”” Chihak said. “”It wasn’t just a place I worked, it was a part of my life.””

    Dave Cieslak, former editor-in-chief at the Wildcat and former reporter at the Citizen shared similar sentiments.

    “”I just think that this is devastating, it’s a historic organization and it just breaks my heart to see it go,”” Cieslak said. “”They have such a hard-working staff there and these people stop at nothing to get the best story, new angles, to do award-winning investigations, and to do everything they could to beat the (Arizona Daily) Star,”” he said.

    Cieslak is now the senior manager of public relations at Moses Anshell in Phoenix.

    Phil Matier, a member of the Wildcat Hall of Fame and former Citizen reporter who is now at the San Francisco Chronicle, cited his time at the Wildcat and UA as what jumpstarted his career.

    “”I don’t think I would have been at the Tucson Citizen or San Francisco Examiner or Chronicle without what I learned at both the Wildcat and the UA journalism department,”” Matier said.

    “”The Wildcat trained students … gave the Citizen some of that newspaper’s top interns, some people who learned on the job at the Wildcat about covering crime and student issues,”” Cieslak said. “”So when I hit the Citizen, thanks to the Wildcat, I was really able to hit the ground running.””

    “”We hired lots of University of Arizona grads at the Citizen and we loved ’em,”” Chihak said. About a year ago, Chihak counted 35 employees at the Citizen as UA grads, including “”almost every top manager,”” he said.

    One of the things Cieslak remembers most from his time at the Citizen is covering a plane crash in Marana on a Saturday night, he said.

    “”Nineteen marines onboard were killed. I think it was the largest loss of life in the Tucson area since a hotel fire in the early ’70s. The Citizen allowed me, as an intern, to cover that story,”” Cieslak said, which gave him the opportunity to interview people at the U.S. Pentagon and cover “”what was a front-page story for days and days.””

    “”They helped me launch my career in journalism and helped me achieve everything I’ve worked for today. And it just makes me so sad to see that great newspaper having to close down,”” Cieslak said.

    The Citizen is only one of many newspapers across the country potentially shutting down due to costs and a declining newspaper industry.

    “”It doesn’t help to be the afternoon paper in a two newspaper town. There was a time when the Citizen was the larger paper in terms of circulation but as peoples’ reading habits and work schedules changed, people moved away from afternoon newspapers,”” Kimble said.

    Chesnick faults being an afternoon newspaper and the Internet as the two things that “”doomed the Citizen.””

    “”Before the mining industry declined, we had a huge circulation because the miners liked to read the paper in the evening … The Web, of course, has affected all newspapers, but it especially hurt us because (The Arizona Daily Star’s Web site) was more established than our Web site,”” Chesnick said.

    “”Afternoon newspapers, you know, they don’t sell anymore and in some ways it was a miracle it managed to stay on for as long as it did,”” Matier said. “”But it shows that no place is immune to the changing in the media and the changing in the economy.””

    “”The staff at the Citizen is an incredibly hard-working group of dedicated people, it is a terrible shame to see those wonderful people lose their jobs,”” Cieslak said, “”But unfortunately, this is something that is happening across the industry. And in this economy, it is virtually impossible to stop this runaway train.””

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