Arizona Republic Kills Its Community Opinion Pages in Aftermath of Layoffs

How do you submit a My Turn column or letter to the editor to the Arizona Republic's community opinion pages?

Trick question.

Don't bother to submit anything. As of this week, the Republic's community opinion sections no longer exist.

See also: - Arizona Republic Layoffs Include Veteran Journos

The move to eliminate those sections comes on the heels of a Gannett-wide downsizing that resulted in 29 people being laid off from the Arizona Republic. New Times named about half of those who got the ax in a blog post last Friday.

As we learned today, the layoff's aftermath is coming with a significant change for Republic readers and contributors. Not only are the broadsheet community sections now lacking the opinion pages, but so are the online community sites on Clicking on the links to the website's community opinion pages shows that no columns or letters have been published there since the end of July.

Three of the current or former community opinion page editors were among those cut in the downsizing: Grant Martin, (whose Republic Twitter account is now down); Stephanie Russo; and Mike Tulumello.

While the Republic will continue to publish an opinion section for the general paper, the shrinking opinion hole means a large swath of Valley suburbs, from Surprise to Scottsdale, have lost an important venue for the voices of residents and officials.

"I think it's a real disservice to the people to take away something like this," says Dick McComb, a former city manager for Surprise who had an article published recently in the community pages about deceased former Surprise mayor Roy Villanueva.

Phil Boas, editorial director for the Arizona Republic, acknowledged the loss as something to be lamented.

"It was a tough decision," Boas says. "It's a tough economic environment."

New technologies and efficiencies are, on one hand, a boon to the news industry, he says. But they also "disrupt the business model. It's progress -- and it's painful."

The paper is looking for ways to keep providing a forum for various community voices, Boas adds.

Of course, there's always Facebook, and commenting at the bottom of Republic articles. But those venues -- where writers of insightful comments are mixed in with the anonymous meanies, racists and wackos -- are a poor substitute for the more distinguished platforms of guest columns or sections for vetted letters to the editor.

Your Turn? Not any more.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.