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Sac-ed Again: California Station Raids Third Tucson Talent

Jeff James, we barely knew ye. First it was KOLD Channel 13 sports reporter Arran Andersen, and then it was KOLD news anchor Kris Pickel. Now KGUN Channel 9 meteorologist Jeff James has joined the on-air exodus from Tucson to Sacramento's KOVR.

James spent barely six months in the Old Pueblo. He was brought in as the replacement for Paul Huttner, but was moved off prime time when KGUN hired Erin Christiansen from crosstown rival KOLD.

"He and Erin have worked very well as a team here," KGUN news director Lena Sadiwskyj said. "I was very happy with how both of them were doing their weather and working together as a team."

James concludes his KGUN duties July 21. Christiansen takes over as chief meteorologist on July 24.


PATEL HOPES MARKET NO. 7 IS LUCKY

KOLD weekend anchor/reporter Kaushal Patel has accepted a prime-time news anchor/reporter position with KTXA in Dallas. KTXA is a UPN affiliate at the moment, although that will change when the network dissolves on Labor Day. The station has a direct partnership with KTVT, the Dallas CBS affiliate.

Patel will act as one of four anchors on a 7-9 p.m. weeknight newscast modeled after a format that has found some success in Los Angeles.

"They're trying it out, so of course, there's a lot of risk in it. It's kind of like KCBS and KCAL in L.A.," Patel said. "There are millions of dollars of advertising to be had. They're not expecting us to bring in tons of numbers in the first year, but if it takes off, Atlanta and some of the other bigger cities will follow suit. We're like a guinea pig."

For Patel, it is a major jump in market size, and with market size comes the possibility of more on-site opportunities.

"It is market (No.) 7, so the company does have a lot more resources," Patel said. "They sent a crew to the tsunami. They sent the whole morning show to New Orleans to cover Katrina. Those are the things I like to do. In Tucson, we don't really do stuff like that. Dallas took its whole morning show on the road to Miami (during the NBA finals)."

Even with the numerous recent departures, Patel says it was tough to say goodbye to KOLD.

"I think this is the best station," Patel said. "We have the best talent. It's not one person that makes that station. It's everybody. I'm really going to miss working with them.

"It's not just that I'm going to (market No.) 7. It had to be a good fit. It had to be somewhere I liked, where I had a family environment, just like here. I was offered several different jobs in the two years I was here, and I didn't take any of them, because it had to be the it job."

In many ways, the atmosphere in Dallas reminds Patel of the general vibe at KOLD as it made its way up the ratings ladder, where it has remained perched at the top for the past few years.

"When I was visiting (during) the (Dallas) interview, I fell in love with the news director. He's a great guy," Patel said. "He's very well-known in the TV industry. The morale at the station is very high. It's kind of like the KOLD story, where we were No. 3 for 27 years. Now we're No. 1. It's the same situation there, but the morale is good."

Patel's final day at KOLD will be July 30.


SPINDLE THREADS WAY BACK TO TUCSON

Southern Arizona native Dan Spindle has been hired as KGUN's new weekend anchor/reporter.

"Even though he was working in Medford, Ore., at KOBI TV as an anchor/reporter, he wanted to get back to the Southwest," Sadiwskyj said. "He was one of a couple dozen people I talked to and interviewed with, and I really liked him. He wanted to work in Tucson. A lot of people want to be anchors, but they don't have that real feel and love for the community that Dan Spindle has. That was a huge plus for me in looking at him. He's fully bilingual."

Spindle teams with fellow anchor Myrna Membrila on weekends. Spindle is a native of Willcox.


KNAPP JOINS KGUN SPORTS TEAM

Jake Knapp is making the trek from Flagstaff to Tucson as the newest member of the KGUN sports crew, but his college background might ruffle the fur of some die-hard Wildcat fans in the Old Pueblo.

"This is going to look bad since I'm in Tucson, but I went to Arizona State University and got my broadcast degree at the Walter Cronkite School," Knapp said. "I worked at KVOA (Channel 4) as a morning editor. As soon as I got that job, I had applied for a job in Flagstaff, and they gave me a call about a month into my job at KVOA. I went there, interviewed and landed the job at KNAZ. After two years, my contract was up, so I decided to take the next step, looked around and am looking forward to continuing my career."

Despite his Sun Devil allegiance, Knapp feels at ease in his new position.

"I really like Tucson. I'll have to tell you the truth: I had mixed feelings about Tucson when I went to school in Tempe, but now I have family down here. My brother is down here. My grandparents are in Green Valley. I have a couple of cousins down here. This is home to me already. KGUN has certainly helped me feel comfortable down here."

Knapp replaces Ben Arnet, who is pursuing other career options in his home state of Missouri.

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