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MISSED OPPORTUNITY: COULD KVOA HAVE APPROACHED VAZQUEZ SITUATION DIFFERENTLY?

Former KVOA Channel 4 anchor Martha Vazquez was slated to face a court hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 22, on a misdemeanor charge for allegedly shoplifting at the Dillard's in Tucson Mall on Saturday, Feb. 11.

News of Vazquez's abrupt resignation from KVOA was reported by various news outlets, including the Arizona Daily Star, but it was the Tucson Weekly's website that first mentioned the shoplifting connection, even though other news outlets were aware of the incident; they initially chose not to report on it. (More on that later.)

KVOA says it doesn't discuss personnel matters, and Vazquez did not return calls seeking comment, but connecting her resignation to the shoplifting charge is not a big stretch.

If the shoplifting charge is true, what she did was obviously stupid and wrong. But the price Vazquez is paying seems rather high, given her 26 years in the industry, and two-plus decades at the local NBC affiliate.

I've never been in a management situation where hiring and firing were involved, so perhaps I'm really naïve here, but it seems to me that KVOA might have missed a chance to connect with its viewers through Vazquez's alleged misdeed.

Only Vazquez and upper management know what happened in the meeting or meetings that led to her resignation. Perhaps she didn't want to deal with what she perceived as the possibility of continuing humiliation and decided to step away. Or perhaps KVOA management forced her to resign and, in the process, gave the station a golden opportunity to separate itself from another hefty salary.

I'm inclined to believe I would have approached this differently. If she indeed has a shoplifting problem, Vazquez could have used her unique forum to explain the situation, why she did it, and what she's trying to do about it, if indeed did it: Does it strike anyone as odd that a person on apparently strong financial footing would attempt to pilfer items from a store? What's the likelihood it was the first time? And if it wasn't, what's the real problem here?

Vazquez, or anyone else for that matter, probably wouldn't be thrilled about airing dirty laundry on TV. But by resigning suddenly and refusing to comment on the matter, she's become the butt of jokes, as has the KVOA staff. Instead, there might have been a chance to use her situation as a forum for addiction-related topics.

What some don't seem to comprehend is that—despite all the easy jokes—there are many people willing to forgive. For whatever reason, the community feels invested in celebrity, even at the most local level. Coming clean on TV and using a personal issue as the bridge to increasing awareness could have benefitted a number of parties, and may have even led to something severely lacking in local media venues: compelling television.

Under that hypothetical scenario, the process eventually runs its course, and KVOA looks good for showing support for one of its own—as opposed to looking like the TV ogre that took advantage of the chance to replace her with someone younger and cheaper. Meanwhile, the public would have appreciated the fact that Vazquez displayed an upfront attitude and overcame her circumstances.


TELEVISION OUTLETS IN MORAL QUANDARY OVER VAZQUEZ STORY

KVOA did not report the Vazquez shoplifting angle, nor did KGUN Channel 9 or KOLD Channel 13, even though it was clearly a newsworthy story involving a well-known public figure.

Forrest Carr, the news director at KGUN, explained his reasoning in a Facebook post to a viewer:

"Reporting on alleged misdeeds by a direct competitor presents an ethical challenge. It gives the impression that the report might be motivated, in whole or in part, by a desire to make a competitor look bad. Ethical news reporting does not allow hidden agendas, real or perceived. So, misdeeds by a direct competitor must rise to a pretty high level in order to overcome that perception. Had it been our own anchor, we would have felt compelled to report it, but in this case, not otherwise. Newspaper reporters don't face this problem, given that they compete only indirectly with TV, which leaves them free to pursue the story."


RAGUSE, GUGGENMOS, NALLAN LEAVING THE MARKET

Former KMSB Channel 11 news anchor Lou Raguse has landed a job with WIVB television in Buffalo, N.Y. Raguse was an on-air casualty in KMSB's shared-services agreement that transferred the station's news operations to KOLD.

His wife, Emily Guggenmos, will join Raguse at WIVB. She is a reporter/weekend news anchor for KVOA. Guggenmos' last day is slated to be March 6.

Meteorologist Chris Nallan is leaving KVOA as well. Jeff Beamish has replaced Nallan on KVOA's morning news broadcasts.


ARIZONA PUBLIC MEDIA ADDS TWO

Arizona Public Media, which operates the UA's affiliations with PBS and NPR, has made a pair of hires.

Fernanda Echavarri joins AZPM after reporting stints with the Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star. Echavarri will cover current events and education as she makes her transition to broadcast journalism.

AZPM has named Marti Jager as an underwriting consultant. She makes the move to Tucson from Bend, Ore., and will maintain sales accounts. She also had a brief stint at Territorial Newspapers, which includes the Tucson Weekly.

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