Walt Nett, who got into the reporting business in 1976--and, among other things, penned this very column before I took over--returns from a stint in California to become editor at the 48,000-circulation Explorer.
Nett has spent the overwhelming majority of his life in Tucson, so he certainly understands the makeup. Even so, the northwest is dramatically different than when he started. The Explorer covers events important to the areas north of the Rillito, along the western end of the Catalina Foothills area, through Marana and into some of the burgeoning developments in Pinal County.
"We do claim Oracle as part of our coverage area. If I had ever thought of a northwest side paper as far out as Oracle, I would have said, 'Let me have what you're smoking,'" Nett said. "I think the next step will be what that area's identity will become. The model in my head is that demographically, it will become similar to the relationship the East Valley cities have with Phoenix. If you said to someone who lives in Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale or Gilbert that they're a part of Phoenix, you'd better hope they're not armed. Metropolitan Phoenix doesn't exist.
"The question is going to be whether the northwest has an identity crisis. At what point do these people living there say they're not really Tucson? The root of Oro Valley's incorporation was a move specifically designed to not be Tucson. They were concerned about the mountain-to-mountain annexation policies the city had for years. ... Now that Oro Valley has developed some huge commercial properties and has some huge employers in place, the question becomes: How long before there's enough of a population working base that the northwest gradually ceases to become a bedroom community?"
Nett dabbled in some managerial roles, but never to this degree.
"I did an interim hitch as a managing editor of the Territorial before joining the Arizona Daily Star. When I was at Starnet (the Star's online operation), I was the newsroom department head, but we were so different and so distinct that it was kind of a separate existence," Nett said. "This is my first time sitting in the big office, although a) the office isn't that big, and b) I intend to be spending more time out in the field."
Nett's versatile career even included time in the classroom as a journalism instructor at the UA, but he prefers the opportunity to hone his craft and improve the reporting of others in this format.
"I function a lot better working 1-on-1," Nett said. "The newsroom, working 1-on-1, you're really working out a lot of problem-solving. Every story becomes an opportunity to teach a specific lesson away from the lesson plan.
"Coming back, it's occurred to me there are people who knew me way back when I was 22, 23, 24, just cutting my teeth as a reporter. Hopefully, I'm in a position where I can show them I've grown professionally and show a willingness to try some new things."
"I'm very familiar with the community," said Perry. "My kids go to school (in Vail). There's currently no local news (coverage), other than monthly tabs handed throughout homeowners' associations, but nothing that gives parents and local residents the information they need to know about what's going on. That's how we came up with the idea of creating the Vail Sun."
The Sun's circulation is currently 15,000.
To be fair, local news graphics screw up spellings with alarming regularity, and KUAT is far and away the best at getting it right. Either that, or it's an interesting way to make a living. What IRS form would cover that?