Albuquerque Tribune closing down

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The Albuquerque Tribune, a victim of plunging circulation in the Internet age, will publish its last edition Saturday.

Editor Phill Casaus said the newspaper’s 38 editorial employees were told of the decision during a staff meeting Wednesday morning.

Casaus said the last three editions will feature stories about The Tribune’s role in Albuquerque journalism, starting with a story Thursday about “the fedora and press card era in Albuquerque … when it was a smaller town and probably a smaller newspaper, but it was a very aggressive newspaper.”

Friday’s story will look at the more modern Tribune, centering on the newspaper winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for a series about the experiences of Americans who had been used without their knowledge in government radiation experiments nearly 50 years earlier. The Tribune was a Pulitzer finalist in 1996, and a first-place winner in the 1998 and 2001 National Headliner Awards.

The final edition will be a retrospective, “with some thoughts and feelings,” and a lot of photographs, since the newspaper was known for its use of photos, Casaus said.

“We’re sensitive about it not being so much about us, oh, poor us. I believe and most people in this newsroom believe it’s not about us, it’s about the city. The Tribune is a historic place. It reflects an era in Albuquerque, certainly an era in Albuquerque journalism. We should honor that and celebrate it,” Casaus said.

The Tribune’s Cincinnati-based owner, E.W. Scripps Co., announced last August that the afternoon newspaper would close unless a buyer could be found.

The president of a New Mexico advertising and public relations firm and his business partner made an offer for the newspaper in October, but withdrew it early this month, saying they could not put the deal together.

“As The Tribune passes into history, we take some solace in the knowledge that Albuquerque and New Mexico are better places to live today thanks to the newspaper’s commitment to community service,” said Rich Boehne, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Scripps.

According to Editor and Publisher Yearbook data, The Tribune was one of about 600 U.S. afternoon dailies still in business, down from about 1,000 in 1990. Scripps stopped publishing two of its other afternoon newspapers, The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post, on Dec. 31.

The Tribune’s circulation had dropped from 42,000 in 1988 to about 9,600 as readers shunned newsprint for the Internet, and advertisers followed.

The Tribune was published Monday through Saturday as part of the country’s first and longest-running joint operating agreement, or JOA, created in 1933.

Under the JOA, The Tribune and the Albuquerque Journal operated separate newsrooms, but business operations — including advertising and subscription sales, production and distribution — were managed jointly.

The Journal Publishing Co., which owns the Journal, is the controlling partner in the agreement, set to expire in 2022.

With newspaper circulation declining, Scripps has diversified with popular cable TV networks, such as HGTV and the Food Network, and other businesses including the online search and comparison shopping services Shopzilla and uSwitch.

Scripps purchased the Tribune in 1923, a year after it was founded by Carlton Cole “Carl” Magee, whose columns titled “Turning on the Light” were the inspiration for Scripps’ “Give Light” slogan and lighthouse logo.

Scripps operates such newspapers as the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star; and 10 broadcast TV stations, including six ABC-affiliated stations, three NBC affiliates and one independent. It also has an interest in the United Media licensing and syndication company.