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MUSICAL CHAIRS

The latest Tucson Citizen staffer to skip up the hall to the north wing--also known as the Arizona Daily Star--is Joyesha Chesnick. Actually, she's going even farther north than the Star's newsroom; last week, she emptied her desk at the Citizen and carted the boxes to the Star's downtown office, where she'll job-share with Patty Machelor, another Citizen alumna, who mainly fills in on the city and county government beats.

Based as they are at the Star's downtown outpost, both Chesnick and Machelor are now having to keep some distance from their husbands during business hours. Machelor is married to Tim Steller, a fine reporter who wrote some good stories on the drug economy a few years ago, but who's currently stuck in the Star's Business section writing worshipful things about Rio Nuevo. Chesnick's husband, Mike, is the Citizen's sports editor, overseeing reporters who write worshipful things about high school sports.

One Star alum who went on to bigger and better (-paying) things is looking for a new job again. Robert S. Cauthorn started out at the Star as one of the best film and art critics this city has ever seen. About 10 years ago, he began staying up late inventing StarNet, which was then an innovative combination Internet service provider and newspaper Web site; thanks to Cauthorn, the Star was only about the third paper to get online. StarNet dropped its ISP activity several years ago, and everybody's on the Web these days, so it's easy to forget what a pioneer Cauthorn was, staying up all night to write software programs and contend with hardware failure, then putting on a tie and driving across town to try to sell banner ads to Jim Click.

Cauthorn, a Web guru among online journalists, left the Star four years ago for a cushy job as vice president of digital media for the San Francisco Chronicle. But last week, he cut himself loose from the Chronicle in a departure that looks at least a little acrimonious.

Chronicle publisher Steve Falk issued a memo to staff noting that the paper's digital division had finally delivered its first profitable year, but that "Cauthorn and Chronicle management have different views on the future direction of digital operations at The Chronicle," and Cauthorn had tendered his resignation, effective immediately.

What was the source of Cauthorn's discontent? Read between the lines of these comments he made last month to the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review:

"How many newspapers have online editions that are truly free to do what the online producers think will satisfy the online audience? Radio and TV became independent within years because they were free to experiment, which most newspaper online operations today aren't."

Don't look to StarNet for sustained experimentation--nor, for that matter, to the Tucson Weekly's sleek but print-bound site. Bob--we need you here.

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