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Weiss on the Way Out

By now, you surely know that KVOA news anchor Patty Weiss is being yanked out of the 10 p.m. newscast, and her continued presence at 6 p.m. seems dubious beyond June 5, when her contract expires. How could you have missed the news? The Arizona Daily Star slapped a teaser for the story into its "skybox" promo space at the top of Page 1 on Sunday, and inside was a fairly long article by Weiss' friend and former colleague, David Hatfield, the paper's freelance broadcasting columnist who was himself fired from KVOA earlier this year.

It must have been interesting for Hatfield to call up his one-time boss and terminator, general manager Gary Nielsen, to demand an explanation for the impromptu meeting in which Nielsen told Weiss she could start going to bed earlier.

Weiss' treatment isn't surprising or unusual. KVOA's news ratings have been slipping over the past several Nielsen ratings books, an alarming trend for a station that enjoyed dominance during the first 25 of Weiss' nearly 30 years as KVOA's primary anchor. When ratings fall, heads roll.

What's more remarkable is Weiss' longevity in a business that is loath to keep women older than 35 on the air.

Weiss was just 25 when she became Arizona's first female anchor in 1975. (She was by no means the first woman in local TV news; indeed, KGUN's top news executive was a woman, but that was a behind-the-scenes job.) Weiss entered the profession when stations everywhere were trying to reach new viewers by putting more female faces on the air and by injecting informal "happy talk" into newscasts.

But in the intervening years, women have tended to be rotated out of on-air positions as soon as they begin to lose their youthful glamour. Women anchors are on hand to provide warmth, but they've often been paired with older men, who supposedly provide authority.

And now, sure enough, Weiss' 10 p.m. slot is going to be filled by Kristi Tedesco, an attractive 33-year-old UA graduate and one-time KVOA intern most recently posted at WRTV in Indianapolis, where she was the 5:30 p.m. anchor. (She's already been purged from the station's Web site.)

And what of Martha Vazquez, who's been waiting in the 5 p.m. wings to inherit Weiss' crown? Whatever's going on, it's not an instance of life imitating art. Remember the finale of the old Mary Tyler Moore show? When the ratings dropped, everybody in the newsroom except the anchorman got fired.


JUST THE FACTS?

Available around town is the second issue of Latino Perspectives, a monthly slick out of Phoenix geared to Hispanic readers, but publishing in English. So far, what's more interesting than the content is who's on the masthead. One of the major contributors is Julie Amparano, who was fired from the Arizona Republic five years ago when editors delicately admitted they were "unable to confirm" some of the sources in Amparano's columns and articles.

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