Wick Communications Pledges to Carry On Biggers' Legacy.
With two small children at home, Doug Biggers felt it was time to set the teenager free. So sixteen years after founding the Tucson Weekly, Biggers decided last week to sell his paper. “I was feeling like now is as good a time as any to make a break,” he says. “My wife and I decided it would be a good time to rest and regroup and start off in a new direction.”
Biggers sold the paper to Wick Communications, Inc., a newspaper chain with 40 publications in twelve states. Headquartered one hour south of Tucson in Sierra Vista, Wick is a family-owned company that already publishes two papers in the Tucson market, The Daily Territorial and Inside Tucson Business.
(According to its website, The Daily Territorial “includes breaking news reports on Tucson and Pima County government issues, area financial and economic news, legal and bid notices and a variety of lists essential to businesses sales leads.” The major dailies in Tucson are the Arizona Daily Star — a morning paper published by Pulitzer, Inc. — and the Tucson Citizen — an afternoon paper owned by Gannett.)
Wick was founded in 1926 by Milton Wick and his brother, James. The enterprise is now headed by Milton’s sons, Wick Communications President Walter Wick and Vice President Robert Wick. Biggers says brothers Walt and Bob are longtime fans of the Weekly. “They love the paper, and I really felt that [out of] all potential suitors, they would probably most keep the Weekly what it is in the community. I think they’re going to leave it alone and allow the editorial staff to continue doing what they’re doing. They’ve given me almost absolute assurance on that.”
Although Wick primarily publishes community papers, it has some familiarity with the alternative newsweekly world, having owned Las Vegas CityLife since 1992. Bob Wick says he likes the “vigorous editorial product that the alternatives have.” And he claims his company is prepared to carry on Biggers’ legacy. “Our intent is to keep it the same way: very aggressive and very strong editorial product. What we’re trying to do is make newspapers that speak the truth and present issues that we feel are truly important to the community. The success of the alternatives is that they do deal with the issues that the public is concerned about and will give them answers.”
Although Biggers is the only boss they’ve ever worked for, the Tucson Weekly staff appears to be adopting a wait-and-see attitude about the sale. Advertising Director John Hankinson, who has been with the paper for ten years, says “fear of the unknown” is mitigated by “anticipation about the resources we’ll be able to [gain from the new owners], which will enable us to take the paper to an even higher level.” Hankinson predicts “the more we get to know [Wick] as a corporation, the more comfortable we’ll feel.”
After hearing Bob Wick speak to the staff at a recent lunch, Managing Editor Mari Wadsworth was relieved to learn that the Wicks are committed to Tucson and to preserving Biggers’ legacy. “The local control of a newspaper is really the heart of it. That is being maintained,” she says. “I was very impressed with what he had to say about a newspaper’s role in a community, taking an opinionated stance, a newspaper’s integrity. Seeing the newspaper as an entity that’s more important than the individuals that put it out. There’s a level of idealism there. It wasn’t merely the transfer of a commodity, but the passing on of a legacy.”
Biggers will remain at the Weekly for the next two months to ease the transition to Tom Lee, a new hire who will oversee all of Wick’s Tucson papers. Biggers says it’s going to be tough to leave. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had, so I haven’t worked a day in my life.”