Two reporters and an upper-level manager are the latest employees to leave Tucson's Journal Broadcast Group, which owns a cluster of radio stations and KGUN Channel 9.
On the KGUN side, Sal Quijada concluded his 17-year stint on Friday, Jan. 11. Quijada's ouster had been rumored for months. Quijada refused comment.
A week before, Mark Horner parted ways with KGUN after an impasse in contract talks. The sticking point: Journal's insistence that Horner, completing a two-year contract, sign a one-year deal.
"I was in no rush to race away from KGUN," Horner said. "I truly hoped that after giving them two years and honoring my contract and doing a good job at what I do, they'd allow me to work without a contract indefinitely, and whatever notice they'd want, I'd be happy to give them. I was told, 'Either you sign a contract, or you don't work here.' We tried to do something shorter than one year, but we weren't able to come to terms."
While Journal played hardball with Horner, sources say another reporter at the station is working without a contract. In any case, the impasse brought to a conclusion Horner's second run with KGUN. He was a reporter at the station 15 years ago.
"I do appreciate the opportunity I had to work here, and to work with some tremendous people here," Horner said. "One of the highlights for me was working with Guy Atchley again. Guy and I previously worked together when I was here from '91 to '94. (Current KOLD political reporter) Bud Foster was here at that time, too. It was nice to come back and work again with Guy, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for."
Horner is the author of September Sacrifice, which chronicles the 1999 murder of Albuquerque resident Girly Chew Hossencofft. His expertise led to interview segments on Dateline NBC, A&E's American Justice and The Investigators on Court TV. Locally, he was the only television reporter to interview Green Valley resident David Taub, accused of killing his wife during a trip through New Mexico last year.
"Ideally, I would like to continue in some sort of news. Print would not be out of the question. I love telling stories. I love investigating and digging stuff up. I don't have to be in front of the camera," Horner said.
For Diane Frisch, her departure as general manager of Journal's Tucson radio operations came abruptly. She did double duty for Journal during a six-month period, stepping in as KGUN's interim GM between the departure of Andrew Stewart and the hiring of current GM Julie Brinks--who will follow in Frisch's footsteps to oversee both KGUN and the radio stations.
The official Journal press release says Frisch is leaving the organization to pursue other interests, but since this is the same company that said KMXZ FM 94.9 MIX FM morning co-host Brad Behan left on his own accord when he was actually fired, perhaps one can forgive my skepticism.
Frisch could not be reached for comment.