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Media Watch

Gannett Seeks a Foothills Toehold


Guy Atchley fell out of my mailbox one afternoon last week.

No, not really. The KGUN-TV anchor's face graced the front cover of The Foothills, a glossy magazine from Phoenix-based RBC Publications, which is a subsidiary of a subsidiary of Gannett, which also owns the Tucson Citizen. RBC, which Gannett bought in November 2003, publishes free-distribution lifestyle magazines in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, and plans to launch similar slicks in the posh 'burbs of other cities.

RBC also publishes AZ Health and LV Health magazines. It looks to be challenging Tucson Lifestyle for the hearts and minds of the horsey set in the Catalina Foothills and the north end of the Tanque Verde Valley.

But back to the inaugural issue of the self-proclaimed "Magazine for Tucson's Premier Community." My interest waned pretty quickly, primarily because 15 pages of real estate, medical and jewelry advertising stood between me and the table of contents. Front-loading that much advertising is a potential turn-off, because it may suggest to the reader that the stories exist to fill the space between the ads.

The letter from editor Kirk Kern promised a profile piece on Atchley. The story turned out to be a mix of comments from a talk Atchley gave at Pima Community College, a semi-review of his book Now for the Good News and a vague discussion of civic journalism. And there wasn't enough detail on any one part of the package to create new insights.

Part of the lead-in made absolutely no sense--"On local news, anchors tend of have the lifespan of UA football coaches." Looking beyond Atchley's 20 years at the tenures of Tom McNamara, Randy Garsee and Kris Pickel, all we can say is, "John Mackovic should have been so lucky."

The writing style of several other features had a similar nomadic quality, and we found ourselves swimming in some real shallow water. The Atchley profile made reference to how much ground KGUN had made up in the ratings against the "market news leader," but left the reader to guess as to the leader's identity. (KVOA was the runaway leader for many years.)

And in a review of Ric's Café, a writer raises the question, "Who is this Ric guy anyway?" and tells us that Ric was the original owner. Ric's last name is never mentioned. And we don't know if he was the one who sold the restaurant four years ago to Jack and Lorna Ahern.

The foothills-area dining guide includes quite a few restaurants along East Speedway Boulevard, with one restaurant appearing sans address and one address that appears to be completely wrong.

But there were some good reads, including a feature on Esther Tang and a nicely woven short piece on Sandy Stein, a multiple sclerosis patient who has raised more than $66,000 to help fight the disease.

Everyone who's ever launched a publication knows the truism once espoused in dandruff shampoo ads: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The biggest worry publishers face with new products is how to deliver a killer launch issue without raising the audience's expectations to an unsustainable level.

In my house, anyway, first impression of The Foothills was that it has a long way to go editorially to catch up with Tucson Lifestyle.


It wasn't all that surprising that the Arizona Supreme Court recently dismissed a suit filed by two local Muslims against the Tucson Citizen over an inflammatory letter to the editor that called for killing Muslims at mosques in retaliation for atrocities against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Justice Andrew Hurwitz's decision is an interesting look at the history and definition of protected political speech, and, without saying so in so many words, indicates that the case, Citizen Publishing v. Miller/Elleithee et al, is a shining example of the system working at its best.

One of Hurwitz's key arguments follows the "time to answer" concept Justice Louis Brandeis laid out in a concurrence to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1927 decision in Whitney v. California. Brandeis wrote: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."

If you'd like to take a look for yourself, point your Web browser to:, and select 2005 Opinions in the upper left corner. It's worth the visit and gives you something to play with the next time some neocon rantmeister tries to tell you everything you know is wrong.


I left a loose end in last week's column about an effort to close Willcox's only FM radio station and move the frequency to the Tucson area. Sells will have an FM radio frequency. But what frequency will be assigned is up in the air, and may remain there until the Federal Communications Commission rules on Lakeshore Media's request for reconsideration.

When the FCC rejected Lakeshore's original proposal in November, it assigned the 104.9 MHz frequency to Rural Pima Broadcasting, seeing as Sells and Willcox are far enough apart that there would be no interference. Rural Pima said it would be willing to apply for a different frequency if the FCC granted Lakeshore's request.


Steve Emerine has a whole bunch of "formers" in his life--a former co-owner of the Green Valley News (before it merged with the Green Valley Sun), former newspaper reporter and editor, former television newsguy, former Pima County assessor, former University of Arizona journalism instructor, former columnist.

Scratch the "former columnist" part. Emerine, who left the county assessor's post in 1980 to join the Arizona Daily Star, was a columnist during his early years there as an assistant city editor.

He's at it again, commenting on economic development and related issues for Inside Tucson Business, which, like the Tucson Weekly, is part of Territorial Newspapers, a subsidiary of Wick Communications.

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