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RADIO NOSTALGIA, PRESCOTT-STYLE

Occasionally—like last week—family obligations require a trip to Prescott.

Prescott is where I grew up, and it's one of the places where I cut my broadcasting teeth. Sandwiched around a story-filled three-year stint at radio stations KAAA and KZZZ in Kingman, I enjoyed brief tenures in Prescott radio.

For a little more than a year, I worked at KYCA, the market's news/talk station (if you can really call Prescott a "market"). When I return nowadays, I find a certain nostalgia listening to KYCA.

Most of the time, KYCA is a syndicated news/talker. It runs the typical conservative-talk lineup; I think it has carried Rush Limbaugh since he went national. But during morning drive (and in Prescott, if the drive to work takes more than six minutes, you're on the other side of town), KYCA operates an old-style news clock, complete with 15 minutes of local news. KYCA uses the same format at noon and 5 p.m.

Well ... to put it bluntly, there's no such thing as 15 minutes of local news every day in a city the size of Prescott. As a result, the stories that do get featured receive lengthier coverage than one might expect—like a lead story about how graffiti and vandalism has closed down the bathrooms at the local skate park.

But in no way is the news block the highlight of the hour. That distinction belongs to the Morning Report, an eight- to 10-minute interview conducted over the phone by J.P. Mulligan. J.P. Mulligan is actually the station owner, Lou Silverstein. Everybody knows that J.P. Mulligan is Lou Silverstein, yet Lou Silverstein still insists on recording that segment as J.P. Mulligan, and he's been doing this probably for the better part of the last half-century.

Silverstein is a UA grad who at one point was an elite senior-level swimmer. That was while I was working there, when he was well into his 60s. He's now in his 80s.

During my stint as board operator, Mulligan/Silverstein would record his interviews on reel-to-reel. He would do the typical countdown—three, two, one—and before starting, he'd let out a heavy breath. The fellow board op and I would make sure to cue the tape to the point between the one and the breath, so that the deep, boisterous Mulligan inhale would find its way into the aging ears of many a Prescottonian.

This was probably our way of getting back at an owner who treated his cat better than his employees.

Aquanetta was a scraggly black feline that basically ran the joint. It didn't matter if we were on the air reading the news or a weather report or the top-of-the-hour ID. If the cat wanted to get close to the microphone and meow into the damn thing, well, we had no say in the matter.

During one frustrating shift—highlighted by Aquanetta getting its tail stuck in the reel-to-reel machine and then bellowing relentlessly into the mic—the aforementioned board-op cohort grabbed the thing by the scruff of its neck, in the middle of a newscast, and tossed it to the other side of the room. After bellowing for a while, the fluff-filled annoyance scurried out.

I think the board op was fired the next day. Meanwhile, Aquanetta is buried on the premises, with a very nice memorial.

Why can't Tucson radio be crazy like that?

Well, maybe there is an example of crazy Tucson radio happening today ... but that's a story for another time.


KGUN, KNST LAND MURROWS FOR COVERAGE OF SB 1070, HELICOPTER CRASH

KGUN Channel 9 and KNST AM 790 have earned regional Edward R. Murrow Awards.

KGUN's honor came as a result of its coverage of a medical helicopter crash that killed three last July. KGUN was placed in the small-market television category.

KNST's honor came through the work of news reporter Paul Birmingham, who is quite familiar with Murrows; this is his third honor. Birmingham landed the regional accolade for his coverage of SB 1070 protests.

The efforts of KGUN and Birmingham now advance to national Murrow judging.

Birmingham was also nominated in the Best Spot News Story category in the 2010 Associated Press Television-Radio Association Mark Twain Awards for his coverage of the fatal helicopter crash.


LEE SELLS JUNK BONDS, IRKS FINANCIAL VULTURES

Saddled with about a billion dollars in looming debt, it would appear on the surface that Lee Enterprises, the Davenport, Iowa, publishing outlet that owns the Arizona Daily Star, is ripe for bankruptcy.

Instead, Lee is selling off junk bonds to help its position in what might still be a desperate effort to survive the daily-newspaper print-model slide.

Had Lee defaulted—and a couple of years ago, that seemed like a near-certainty—financial organizations that had banked on that happening would have had an inside track on Lee's assets. But market moods have changed somewhat, and Lee's ability to sell the bonds will give it a financial influx that may play a major role in getting on the right side of a steep ledger.

The big financial entities to whom Lee owes money are getting paid back—but because Lee is making those payments, they won't reap the big reward, which would have been the assets of a bankrupt publishing company.


PEDERSEN LOSES WRONGFUL-TERMINATION CASE AGAINST 'STAR'

The National Labor Relations Board has dismissed a wrongful-termination suit filed by former Arizona Daily Star reporter Brian Pedersen.

Pedersen felt he was fired without enough cause when the newspaper let him go based on comments Pedersen made on his Twitter account.

A second case—related to whether the Star has, or should be required to create, a documented policy for employees on social-media etiquette—is still under consideration.

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