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And That's 'The Truth': 104.1 Becomes Tucson's First FM Talk Station

As mentioned in last week's Media Watch ("Talk Radio Landscape Changing"), an FM station in Tucson finally made the foray into the talk realm. This format has gained steam in some larger markets of late, and finally, Journal Broadcast Group-owned KZPT FM 104.1 has announced the decision to give it a go.

Local radio insiders have rumbled about the possibility of an FM talk entry since KVOI AM 690 and KJLL AM 1330 found out they had syndicated programming removed from their schedules, and the speculation was 104.1, perhaps best known recently as The Point, would make the move.

It seems every corporate-owned conglomerate in the market has a signal that performs below ratings expectations. At Journal, that station is 104.1, which scrapped The Point and launched a modern-hits format it called Z 104.1 on April 1, 2006.

The joke was on Journal: That format lasted all of 53 weeks.

Journal management did not return repeated phone calls over the last couple of weeks, when speculation really started running amok. (However, general manager Diane Frisch, who is also doubling as interim GM at KGUN Channel 9 since the departure of Andrew Stewart to KWBA Channel 58, agreed to an interview after this week's press deadline; I'll have that follow-up in an upcoming Media Watch.)

The FM station pulled the plug on its modern-hits debacle Friday night, April 6, only to spend all of Saturday simulcasting programming from Journal-operated KMXZ 94.9 MIX FM. Then on Sunday, it installed a hodgepodge of music separated by famous quotations. The thread: songs and quotations with truth as their theme.

That clever little routine ran its course way before the two days of airspace it actually occupied had passed. On Tuesday, April 10, 104.1 was slated to finally unveil "the New 104.1 FM The Truth."

"The decision to launch an FM news/talk station was made after extensive research and fulfills our desire to respond to the needs of the Tucson community. Until now, listeners had to sort through a variety of AM signals--sometimes hard to hear--to find their favorite news shows," said Frisch in a press release.

I've never had the opportunity to program a radio station--many of the so-called program directors in this market have nothing to do with actually programming their respective radio stations these days, anyway--but if I were programming, my FM news/talk station would be a hell of a lot more ballsy than the lineup that includes Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, Neil Boortz, Jerry Doyle, Mike Gallagher and Greg Knapp. Not that there's anything wrong with those shows. They're done by perfectly talented and successful hosts, but I see them as entities I'd expect to hear on politically driven AM signals. My vision of an FM talk format is something more edgy, more rude, more current events-oriented as opposed to politically motivated--and certainly more local, which hasn't been a strong point at 104.1 since it opted for its Z format and piped in most of its morning show from the Lone Star State.

"The Truth" does promise a local talk show, The Morning Truth, weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m., but a host has yet to be selected. I personally don't think that's enough, even with local news updates from KGUN personalities.

If this comes off as a generic, syndicated news/talk station, its presence on the FM band won't be a benefit. The truth is, we might be talking about another format change 53 weeks from now.


DR. LAURA TO MAKE TUCSON APPEARANCE

Syndicated talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger descends on the Fox Tucson Theater at 8 p.m., Friday, April 20, for a performance of In My Never to Be Humble Opinion, a two-hour show co-sponsored by KJLL AM 1330, which plays the long-running, often-blunt relationship and family-values show weekdays from noon-3 p.m.

"I love having the audience right there to eyeball," said Schlessinger, whose show has aired on stations in Tucson for at least a decade. "There's drama, humor and a lot of pithy wisdom. I'll have people crying and laughing. It's a theatrical performance. ... I do everything from answering questions the (audience) writes beforehand to sharing stories about my life. It's a blend of taking some of the e-mails I get and having a ball with them, questions from the audience, my interpretation on the psych-science tidbits that come out. It's a lot of fun."

Schlessinger considers her live performance--she started performing before audiences about a year and a half ago with stops in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Salt Lake City--different from the usual talk-show stopover fare.

"Those are mostly prepared lectures. This is totally nonscripted," Schlessinger said. "There's not even an outline. I get up there and have two hours to have a good time with the audience. I don't have anything to fall back on other than my brain, and as my mother would say, 'your good looks,' and at 60, I love saying that."

Schlessinger has reserved the Fox balcony for members of the military, free of charge, as a gesture to her son, who is currently engaged in combat duty overseas.

Ticket info--they'll cost you $42 to $62--is available through at foxtucsontheatre.com, at drlaura.com or tucsonsjolt.com.


I THOUGHT I WAS WATCHING 'STEEL MAGNOLIAS'

During KGUN Channel 9's 6 p.m. newscast on Friday, March 30, anchor Jennifer Waddell and weather personality Erin Christiansen shared a few tearful moments on the set.

It was at the conclusion of the second block, leading into the tease for the upcoming weather segment. KGUN had just finished running a story about a boy in Washington State who had an emotional reunion with his father, Iraq war veteran Bill Hawes.

As the story concluded, Waddell and Christiansen, with tissues in hand, engaged in this exchange:

Waddell: "Oh my gosh. You just feel for him, you know. The poor thing."

Christiansen: "I was specifically not watching and still crying."

Waddell: "You have to know there are so many kids out there feeling the same way with parents overseas right now. Your heart just goes out to them."

A touching story, certainly, but--not to be too jaded here--there are a lot of kids feeling the same way, and they've been featured in a lot of stories pretty similar to this one.

But there was more. After the spot break, Christiansen kicked off the weather segment with this:

"After watching that last story, I think I can keep some dry eyes for at least 2 1/2 or three minutes. I'll keep my fingers crossed. Don't show me that story again."

Maybe this is taking the personal touch a little too far.


DAVIS NEW WEEKEND ANCHOR AT KGUN

Tucson's ABC affiliate has added Selena Davis to its news crew. Davis, who moved to Tucson after a broadcast stint in Medford, Ore., anchors the weekend newscasts.

Myrna Membrila has been reassigned. She will handle field reporting duties Monday-Friday.


TECHNICAL GLITCHES HAMPER KOLD

It was not a good week for KOLD Channel 13 in terms of technical prowess. Twice, it had newscasts adversely affected by technical malfunctions.

The 6 p.m. newscast on Tuesday, April 3, suffered from what anchor Dan Marries called a switching problem. Test bars popped up during seemingly random times throughout the course of the newscast. The problem was so severe that KOLD had to scrap its 6 p.m. Wednesday newscast altogether.


PETS PLACED ON HIATUS

For you KVOA Channel 4 noon news junkies who might be wondering where all the pets have gone during the "Kitty Korner" segment on Mondays, and on "Tailwagger Friday": News director Kathleen Choal says the community-service features have been put on hold during construction of a new studio as the station moves closer to its high-definition launch. Assuming everything goes as planned with the studio upgrade, the dogs and cats will be back in May.


STARNET PASSES 1 MILLION; DUCOTE MOVES TO PR

For the first time in the history of its Web site, azstarnet.com, the Internet presence for the Arizona Daily Star, recorded more than 1 million unique users in a month. The March tally--1,095,441--was a 20 percent jump from the same period a year ago. Audio, video, live chats and blogs were cited as the major reasons for the rise.

Economy and mining reporter Richard Ducote has wrapped up his 21-year relationship with the Star. He has accepted a communications related position with Phelps Dodge in Bisbee.

More by John Schuster

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