KVOA'S JIMMY STEWART CALLS IT QUITS
Jimmy Stewart says he was part of the golden years of radio and the golden years of television. Now Stewart will spend his own golden years away from the profession that made him a household name in Tucson.
The long-time KVOA Channel 4 meteorologist announced his retirement last week.
"I've got a little pension I can't touch until I retire," said Stewart, 69, who plans to spend a good portion of his free time at his house in Bisbee, golfing throughout Southern Arizona and assisting school districts in a volunteer capacity. "I actually told (KVOA) I wanted to retire last May, but they worked out a deal for one more year. At that time, I told them it would be just one more year. I seem to remember not too long ago when the retirement age was 65. I'm almost five years beyond that now."
Stewart got the radio bug in 1959 while taking pharmacy courses at Drake University in Iowa. He dropped out of school and worked his way up the ladder at a number of stations in the Midwest, and then landed a high-profile gig with WEAM radio in Washington D.C. He later moved to Minneapolis and then had some general-manager stints at stations in Des Moines, Iowa.
The transition to Tucson occurred because Stewart didn't care for the management aspect of the business. He preferred being on the air, and was KNST AM 790's first morning talk-show host after it changed formats to news/talk.
"I was in radio in the best of times, when it was personality-driven and lots of fun," Stewart said.
One phone call changed that.
"Jay Watson, who was the general manager of (KOLD) Channel 13, called me on the hotline one day while I was on the air, and said, 'My name is Jay Watson; do you know who I am?' 'Yeah, I've heard your name.' 'You're pretty good.' 'Thank you.' He said, 'Do you know anything about weather?' 'No, not really.' 'You interested in weather at all?' I said, 'No, not really.' He said, 'You're qualified; let's talk.' He was looking for a weekend weather person, so I auditioned in front of the camera, got the job and, after a while, thought this might be a nice change for me."
Stewart quit radio to attend the UA, where he received a degree in atmospheric physics.
"While I was in school, the lead weather guy got into some trouble, and they named me the head guy. In 1990, I wanted out of Channel 13. It was a bad situation," Stewart said. "A new company came in, and they ran it into the ground, so I was about to sign a contract with (KGUN) Channel 9 when Channel 4 called me and said, 'Let's talk.'"
Stewart has seen his share of changes in the broadcast business.
"In 1980, when I started in television, there were four selections: You had NBC, ABC, CBS and Channel 11, which wasn't affiliated," Stewart said. "Now, how many choices do you have? Not only that, but the Internet has just kicked television in the pants. Television stations are still viable and great ways to advertise, but (TV) is just not the money-making machine it used to be."
Stewart was courted with other opportunities on occasion, but never left Tucson.
"I've been really fortunate to be able to stay in one place throughout my entire television career," said Stewart, whose final day on the job is slated to be May 25. "I'm taking quite a bit of vacation in March and April, so I only have 52 working days left (as of last Friday), but who's counting?"
WOLF HALTS LAWSUIT PLANS FOLLOWING OUTCRY
Following last week's Media Watch column, which detailed local photographer Jon Wolf's intent to file litigation against numerous media outlets for their use of a portrait photo he took of shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green, local television outlets picked up the story.
After an outcry—including some TV stations reporting that the Green family had issued a statement saying that they did not support Wolf's legal efforts—Wolf announced he was backing off his lawsuit plans.
"My intent from the beginning always has been to use the proceeds from my creative work to make a charitable donation in Christina Green's memory," Wolf said in a statement released on Monday, Feb. 14. "I sought and received the Green family's approval to do so. At no time did I intend to profit personally from this tragedy. As a result of the mischaracterizations in the news coverage and the resulting community outcry, and in the hope of saving the Green family from further association with this matter, I have chosen to halt filing legal action in the hopes of reaching negotiated settlements with those that have used this image."
KGUN Channel 9 was especially aggressive and made the story a focal point of its newscasts starting Thursday, Feb. 10, through the weekend and into this week. KVOA Channel 4, which received the photo in question directly from the Green family, ran the story during its 10 p.m. newscast Friday night. KOLD Channel 13 made a cursory mention on the Friday 10 p.m. newscast as well.
DIGITAL ISSUES PLAGUE ANTENNA VIEWERS
Bruce Springsteen penned a musical ditty called "57 Channels (and Nothin' On)." By today's television viewing standards, 57 channels is a paltry tally—unless, that is, you're a Tucson television viewer relegated to using an antenna.
That small number of channels took a bit of a hit earlier this month when KTTU Channel 18 and KUAT Channel 6 had separate signal problems. KMSB, owned by Belo, had to do some on-the-fly adjusting that affected much of its programming on KTTU and alternate HD stations for a five-day period.
"(On) Feb. 3, there was a Trico power outage on Mount Bigelow," said Belo general manager Bob Simone via e-mail. "When our systems switched to backup, some components in one of our power supply cabinets arced, and they were destroyed. The result was that the Channel 18 transmitter lost its power feed."
In order to keep Channel 18 on the air, Belo moved the KTTU signal to one of its KMSB Channel 11 digital signals.
Arizona Public Media lost the feed to all its signals on Channel 6 on Feb. 8. The problem was corrected within a day.