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On the Doorstep

The snowbirds are back, and that means it's time for the Star's annual winter circulation bounce. According to figures Pulitzer Inc. released last week, the morning paper finished November with an average daily circulation of 114,309, up 4.5 percent over last year's 109,412. Sunday paper sales dropped by 1.4 percent from 175,493 to 172,941.

For the first 11 months of 2004, the Star's circulation averaged 106,399, a 2.6 percent improvement over 2003.

The numbers for the Tucson Citizen, also released in the Pulitzer financial statement, weren't pretty. The Gannett paper's circulation for November averaged 30,545, down 5.9 percent from last November's 32,458. For the first 11 months of this year, the Citizen's circulation averaged 31,056 per day, down 7.2 percent from last year.

For the record, Pulitzer notes those figures are unaudited.

Pulitzer's financials also indicate a pretty healthy November at Tucson Newspapers. Pulitzer reported revenues on its half of the agency at $4.87 million, up 9.9 percent from November a year ago. For the first 11 months of the year, revenues stood at $51.2 million, compared with $49.1 million a year ago.


NEW IN TOWN

In all the hullabaloo surrounding Patty Weiss' pending departure from the 10 p.m. co-anchor slot at KVOA Channel 4, we've overlooked the arrival of Todd Kunz, who started co-anchoring Eyewitness News Daybreak last week. He spent the last eight years at KIFI in Idaho Falls, Idaho, where his last gigs were anchoring the ABC affiliate's 5 p.m. newscast and a 10:35 p.m. show called Newsline.


CANADIAN EMIGRE

A belated tip of the touque to BOB-FM, a format change that started Nov. 24 at Citadel Broadcasting's KSZR-FM, replacing the station's Star 97.5 adult contemporary format with something a lot broader. Citadel's operations manager, Herb Crowe, says it's the deepest playlist in town "except for KXCI, and those guys bring their records from home." The hybrid "hot adult contemporary-classic rock" format was born at CFWM in Winnipeg, Manitoba about three years ago.

CFWM's corporate parent, CHUM Limited, parlayed it into ratings successes in Winnipeg and three other Canadian markets. The trend crossed the 49th parallel last year in Honolulu, then went to Citadel's KQOB in Oklahoma City, and has been bounding across the country with increasing speed. It's a package deal--with station jingles and common Internet graphics for station Web sites--built on the idea that the broader the playlist, the more likely more listeners will find some connection. While the Canadian form promises music "from the 80s, the 90s, whatever," the U.S. version seems to target music from the '70s and '80s (except for Bob 106.1 FM in Minnesota's Twin Cities area, which plays new and classic country).


CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL

The Federal Communications Commission torpedoed radio giant Clear Channel's bid to bring another radio station into the Tucson market. This column reported in October that Clear Channel agreed to buy Willcox FM station KWCX from Chicago-based Lakeshore Media for $2.5 million, contingent on the FCC agreeing to re-allocate the frequency to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The decision was announced Nov. 22, and was placed in the Federal Register Dec. 9.

Assigning the frequency to Sells is a victory for Rural Pima Broadcasting, which asked the FCC for a frequency allocation in 2002.


DARTED

Last summer's controversy involving David Hecht's dual role as KGUN Channel 9's weekend weather guy and public affairs officer for the local Navy and Marine Corps Reserve detachment went national. In the current issue of media watchdog Columbia Journalism Review, KGUN received a "dart" in the "Darts and Laurels" section, because the station's former news director didn't see Hecht's dual roles as a conflict of interest, even though Hecht gave KGUN the inside track on the announcement of a Tucson Marine's death in Iraq last summer.

But a dart to thee, CJR, for taking a gratuitous poke at the "curiously named" station's call sign. Apparently some news, such as l'affaire Hecht, travels swiftly to your ears. But KGUN's call sign predates the 41-year-old magazine by a couple of years. Imagine how much more politically incorrect fun folks today could have had with its original moniker. Founding owner D.W. Ingram, a local rancher, branded the station in 1956 with his initials--KDWI.


SHUSH MONEY

Pulitzer Inc will pay departing newspaper operations boss Mark Contreras $300,000 to keep the St. Louis-based newspaper chain's secrets to himself after he moves to a similar job with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps. Pulitzer announced the terms of the non-disclosure agreement in a Form 8-K filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The agreement limits Contreras' use or discussion of confidential information, and his ability to hire anyone away from Pulitzer, until Oct. 1. He gets $150,000 when he leaves the company Jan. 3, with the rest to be paid Oct. 1.

According to Pulitzer's 2004 proxy statement, Contreras' pay for 2003 was $435,470--base pay of $294,079 and bonuses totaling $141,391. He also had unexercised stock options for 33,333 shares, and in 2003, the company awarded him nearly 4,000 shares of stock but retained the right to take them back if he quit the company before September 2006.


MONEY MATTERS

Michael E. Pulitzer continues to ever-so-slowly dilute the majority stake in Pulitzer Inc. family business. He sold another 4,500 shares in three 1,500-share blocks last week with a combined transaction value of $287,130. Despite his sale so far this year of 133,000 shares, insiders still control about 51.4 percent of the company's stock.

Gannett will pay a quarterly dividend of 27 cents a share Jan. 3. About 82 percent of the company's stock is held by institutional investors and mutual funds.

Clear Channel's dividend, payable Jan. 15 to shareholders of record Dec. 31, will be 12.5 cents per share.

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