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Media Watch

The Maiden Voyage

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After a friend tipped me off to the location of the Tucson Weekly advertisement for a Media Watch columnist (in the Oct. 13 edition--it's part of my "personal recycling plan"; read "dreadful apartment clutter"), I shot a résumé and letter of interest via e-mail to Jimmy Boegle.

Amazingly, he called me back.

In said e-mail, I was pretty up front about my strengths and weaknesses, and I'll share those with you while providing some background about my media involvement in this community.

I moved to Tucson in 1991 to attend the UA, but needed to find employment to make it work. Some students choose a university based on the academic rankings, others for the comfort of the setting, still others because of party placement in Playboy. I opted for the UA not because of its stellar sociology credentials, but because I had contacts that could help me get jobs here while I pretended to study.

Those positions were with KTUC-AM 1400 and Cat Tracks Magazine. This is during the era when KTUC was a local news and sports-talk station. Mike Gabrielson, who hosted Sportstalk Tucson, was instrumental in my hiring, but while there, I also worked with radio stalwarts John C. Scott, Vic Caputo, Bert Lee and a slew of others who are escaping my mind.

Eventually, Cat Tracks expanded to the point where they could afford the salary of an assistant editor, and I moved into that position, continuing a working relationship with then-editor John Moredich, who currently handles football-beat-writing duties for the Tucson Citizen. For those of you not familiar, Cat Tracks was a privately owned publication dedicated to covering UA sports. During my 14 years with the magazine, it went from a weekly tabloid to a monthly glossy as times and demands changed. It is presently in a state of flux in print form, but maintains a presence via a Web site under the Fox Sports/Scout.com umbrella.

In the spring of 1998, I received a phone call from Eric Thomae, then the latest in a line of hosts of an evening sports talk show on KNST-AM 790. Someone had tipped off Thomae about my radio background, so he wondered if I'd help him fill in while co-host Steve Quis, also a sports anchor at KOLD Channel 13, went on vacation. The pairing worked well, or at least we got along, and when Quis pursued other opportunities, I moved into the time slot.

Quis' timing was impeccable. He bailed on the show in April, the onset of Tucson's sports downtime. Sports talk radio is tough everywhere in the summer, but it's downright grueling in Tucson, where the core interest is Wildcat athletics. From the moment the Cats lose in the NCAA Tournament, the host might as well get accustomed to talking to the wall, as the wall provides greater interaction than the seemingly nonexistent listenership. Eric and I endured some long, tedious shows.

However, in August 1998, KNST, then owned by CapStar (or was it PrimeStar, or was it ... ?) made an effort to push for a local afternoon presence, and Eric and I occupied the 3 to 6 p.m. slot, moving from sports to a political/current-events format. The experiment didn't work. The program director promised 18 months, saying that it takes that long to catch in a market. We were off the air in 17.

I remember the experience more for the WKRP-esque occurrences behind the scenes than the quality of the product over the microphone. Eric moved on to other endeavors while I made the switch to postgame basketball commentary alongside Ryan Radtke.

It was around this time another opportunity came my way. Tucson Media Monitoring needed someone to keep daily diaries of local news broadcasts. I've filled that role since. As a result, it gives me a unique opportunity to keep an eye on what takes place on the three major networks, along with KUAT Channel 6 and KMSB Channel 11. (KWBA scrapped its 9 p.m. newscast earlier this month.) It's safe to say I probably watch as much local news--albeit often in fast-forward--as anyone in town.

At the moment, I'm still involved in radio. In a roundabout way, I was part of the mass exodus from the Clear Channel conglomerate (KRQ, KNST, KWMT [The Mountain], KOHT and others) to what is now Citadel (KSZR 97.5 [BOB FM], KIIM, classic rocker KHYT 107.5, and KCUB and KTUC on the AM band). When KNST made a change in its basketball postgame coverage, I got hired to co-host a similar program on KCUB, now better known as 1290 The Source. When Citadel outbid Clear Channel for the UA sports package, I remained on board, along with Cat Tracks editor Brad Allis, as a co-host for Wildcat football and basketball broadcasts. I continue those duties with host Pete Delgado to this day.

So in a nutshell, I possess print magazine, Web site and radio experience while keeping a close watch on television news. I openly admit not possessing the insight into the daily publications that Walt Nett brought to this space on a weekly basis, but will work to improve in that capacity.

As for potential conflicts of interest, let me say up front that there are a number of people who work in the media in this community with whom I have friendships and valuable acquaintances, even if I'm not necessarily overwhelmed with the corporate structure of the companies who employ them--and the way those entities often seem to view Tucson in terms of its overall importance, which is in not particularly high regard.

That said, I think it's safe to say that from time to time, I'm going to upset some of those friends and acquaintances in the weeks and months ahead. I hope they can appreciate that's part of the job, just as they are more than welcome to respond to anything I write in this space, although preferably not with a punch to the mouth, because that would hurt.

I tend to be pretty thick-skinned when it comes to what others think. Radio has helped in this regard. I already recognize there are people who listen, and who have read my materials in the past, who pretty much think I suck. There are those who even like what I say. The overwhelming majority, however, have other more important things to do.

I tend to be pretty approachable, so if you feel like chiming in or come across something you believe affects the landscape of media in this community, just let me know ...

... so let the media watching begin.


MUSICAL CHAIRS

December certainly hasn't been short of changes in the industry. Two significant moves have taken place at the Arizona Daily Star, which you probably already know about. John M. Humenik was tabbed as the new editor and publisher, replacing David Stoeffler, who left just six months after assuming the position.

In a story announcing the hiring, Humenik told the Star he would continue the re-evaluation process that Stoeffler began shortly after his arrival. If anything, Lee Enterprises is clearly placing its stamp on the Star product. The company that now operates the Daily Star opted for Humenik, who occupied the editor position with the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa, since December 1998. Davenport is the home base of Lee's operations.

An early order of business might include calming some ruffled feathers of longtime Star staff members, many of whom were in the corner of executive editor Bobbie Jo Buel, a veteran of the Star who was the other significant candidate for the position.

Humenik also oversaw several niche publications, an approach that could find its share of competition in Southern Arizona as other publishing firms try to gain a foothold in the outlying regions

Meanwhile, Shannon Conner has begun her third stint with the Daily Star, this time around as sports editor. Conner served as prep editor and team lead on the news side. Her experience includes the University of Missouri athletics beat at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and weekend sports editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Conner is in the midst of a two-month evaluation of the sports staff. It is possible the sports department could have a different look once those evaluations are complete.

In television, Journal has lost its first employee since its official purchase of KGUN Channel 9. News director Fernando Lopez has accepted a position as news director for ESPN's international operations. His duties will include managing a staff of more than 200 in producing the SportsCenter product in Mexico, South America and Europe. If there's a drawback, it's that the position requires relocation to Connecticut.

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