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Grinch Hits KWBA

Cascade Broadcasting Group, operators of KWBA Channel 58 (cable Channel 8) in Tucson, concluded a gradual production-related layoff process by giving pink slips to the three remaining members of the creative-services staff--including Joan Lee, who for seven years acted as the face of the station.

"When I started, there were four or five editors, and at the end, there were two," said Lee, who took the position when KWBA began its ties as an affiliate for the fledgling WB network. "You hope for the best. In the back of your mind, it's always there, but you don't really expect it when it happens."

Earlier this year, KWBA made a move to the new CW network, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. The network includes programming from the now-defunct WB and UPN networks.

"If anything, they did have to spend a lot of money for their part in that affiliation," Lee said regarding the Cascade deal with CW. "I know that cash was laid out. Maybe that had something to do with it."

Without production and creative-services personnel, KWBA will have its promotional material produced from Cascade's home base in Spokane, Wash., or its other television outlet in Louisville, Ky. Subcontracting is a possibility as well.

Cascade officials did not return requests for comment before deadline.

While KWBA dabbled with local on-air talent--including a short-lived 9 p.m. newscast that featured current KOLD Channel 13 news anchor Heather Rowe--Lee was the station's most consistent and enduring presence.

Lee hopes to remain in Tucson and expand upon her two-decade broadcast run in the market, most of which took place on the radio end. She already has leads for future opportunities, and last Friday participated in KUAT's winter fundraising drive.


MEDIA OUTLETS USE AIRWAVES FOR HOLIDAY CHARITY EVENTS

Local television and radio conglomerates are taking advantage of the holiday season to collect for local charities.

On the TV side, Journal Broadcast Group-owned KGUN Channel 9 uses the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas to engage in a number of activities. The holiday focal points are a series of Stuff the Bus events for the Food Bank, gathering gifts for the Salvation Army Christmas Angel program and assisting the troops by helping purchase phone cards for military personnel.

"Our focus is to empower our viewers to make good decisions for themselves and their families," KGUN news director Lena Sadiwskyj said.

At KVOA Channel 4, the focus in the news department is more localized. It participated in the Adopt-a-Family program through a suggestion from the El Rio Foundation. The family that received assistance was victimized by a significant tragedy, and KVOA personnel stepped up in an effort to improve their holiday season.

"News stories often touch us emotionally, but as journalists, we don't show that emotion," KVOA news director Kathleen Choal said. "This gave us the chance to get involved and hopefully help a family in need. We couldn't have been happier with the end result. Station staffers responded with several cars full of toys, clothes, gift cards, other gifts and food. All of the items were (slated to be) delivered by staffers on Dec. 13 as a complete surprise to the family."

KVOA has also produced a series of thank-you spots for public servants.

"We take a little bit of a different approach at the holidays by taping tributes for members of the military and their families, as well as for police officers and firefighters in our community," said Yvette Perez, KVOA's director of marketing and communication. "We first did this last year during the holidays and received so much positive feedback from our viewers that we decided to do it again."

On the radio side, Journal is involved in a couple of projects.

"At (KMXZ 94.9) MIX-FM, it's all about the diaper drive," said Diane Frisch, vice president and general manager of the Journal radio group in Tucson. "We encourage people to bring diapers or cash we can turn into diapers during the entire month of December, so that we can drop them off at the diaper bank. Every year gets better and better. Every year, we've exceeded the amount of diapers we received the year before. It's near and dear to our hearts, because Tucson was the first diaper bank. There's a need for young and for elderly."

Meanwhile, KZPT FM 104.1 FM has joined with Belo TV (KMSB Channel 11 and KTTU Channel 18) to promote the Casa de los Ninos Holiday Wish Tree.

At Citadel, FM anchor KIIM FM 99.5 is conducting its 11th annual Penny Pinch drive. Donations go to the emergency fund for the Arizona's Children Association, dedicated to keeping families together.

"Our goal is one million pennies, which is $10,000," said KIIM Program Director Buzz Jackson. "Listeners can donate in person, or by phone or online. We will be broadcasting from the food court at the Foothills Mall from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 20-22 collecting pennies."

Clear Channel is involved in the Christmas Wish program through KRQ FM 93.7; and Toys for Tots and donations for the Marine Corps via Hot (KOHT) FM 98.3; Spanish-language La Preciosa (KTZR FM 97.1) and Tejano (KXEW AM 1600) have ties to Chicanos por la Causa; KNST AM 790 is involved in 12 charities with a 12 days of Christmas theme.

The Lotus radio group has again offered its signal strength to the Sun Riders Motorcycle Toy Drive, celebrating its 25th anniversary. It's a collection movement for Aviva Children's Services and the Andrea's Closet program at University Medical Center, a nonprofit that distributes toys to children with painful medical conditions.

"All the major (Lotus) stations are involved, but it's still mainly KLPX FM 96.1, because it speaks to that demo," KLPX program director Jonas Hunter said.

More by John Schuster

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