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Media Watch 

News on 9 p.m.

Tucson's 9 p.m. news experiment took a big hit when KWBA (cable channel 8) canceled its half-hour foray into the local arena on Dec. 15. In 2001, the WB beat KMSB Channel 11 to the punch, but now the Fox affiliate is the only one with a foothold on the time slot.

Both stations utilized information trade agreements with larger, more-established news entities to handle the bulk of the product. The KWBA newscast was filmed at the KOLD Channel 13 studios. Even anchor Heather Rowe was technically employed under the KOLD banner. The WB also used KOLD reporters.

In many ways, the WB entry was something of a hybrid. Its lead story would often act as a prelude to the lead on KOLD's 10 p.m. newscast, but from there, much of the newscast would resemble what KOLD ran at 6 p.m., generally including identical scripts.

KMSB Channel 11's 9 p.m. news often uses scripts, soundbites and package feeds that were broadcast earlier on KVOA Channel 4, the organization with which KMSB maintains a relationship. However, KMSB utilizes anchors from its Phoenix sister station, KTVK--generally Heather Moore on weeknights, and longtime Valley newscaster Frank Camacho during the weekends.

KMSB does employ two reporters based in Tucson. Deanna Morgan and Ryan O'Donnell regularly file live news reports. Furthermore, KMSB has tweaked the model by focusing similar energies on sports. Channel 11 hired Vinnie Vinzetta and Brandon Nash this fall. The Sports Force is a 20-minute program broadcast from the KMSB studios that features a traditional sportscast, packaged features and live interviews with Glenn Parker. Much of the material is geared toward University of Arizona athletics.

For stations on a smaller budget, television news can provide tempting possibilities. Commercial breaks occur with greater regularity; with more local ad availability, the opportunity to sell specific sponsorships increases. This is especially true in sports, and KMSB has already garnered success with segments like the Sakura Slam of the Week.

Snagging news from Phoenix is a mainstay of KMSB's programming. It broadcasts KTVK's Good Morning Arizona from 5-9 a.m. weekdays, then lifts Good Day Arizona, before borrowing its anchor talent at 9 p.m. So between Monday and Friday, news originating from Phoenix makes up nearly 25 percent of the Channel 11 schedule.

It's something of a challenge to fill a TV schedule that has limited network options, as is the case with FOX, UPN and WB affiliates, which on most days broadcast two hours of primetime instead of the three-hour blocks provided by the three major networks.

It will probably be difficult for Tucson's only 9 p.m. newscast to make much of a dent in the ratings when competition includes some heavy hitters in primetime on the three major networks, but if there's profit to be made, the Valley's version of news in the Old Pueblo might be here to stay.

More by John Schuster

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