"Usually, they'd tell us about declining ad revenues (at the staff meetings). They'd serve pizza or Mexican food, and what (Citizen editor-publisher Michael Chihak, at the most recent meeting) said was this was the last meal, the last supper, in essence, where there would be food served at this thing," said a source close to the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "They'd still serve the birthday cake with 'Happy Birthday' on it, and maybe 20 cans of soda."
According to another source, Chihak said the cost-cutting measure "is like three weeks of meals for our food critic." It's safe to say the Citizen won't be making up the difference with additional restaurant reviews.
But that's not the only Gannett-mandated cutback: The days of providing coffee are over.
"They've had a coffee service since the time they've been in this building. It's a contractor. It's a black machine. It's pretty typical of the kind of coffee service a law or doctor's office would have for its employees," the source said. "(The Citizen) rents the machine, and the company provides premeasured packets you pour into the machine.
"(Chihak) said that was costing them a couple hundred bucks a month, because people were drinking so much coffee. There was an interoffice e-mail asking whether people wanted to pool their money and pay for it themselves or try some other way of having coffee in there."
This move will be especially difficult on Citizen employees who want to show company pride and use their Christmas-party presents: Now what to do with those Tucson Citizen coffee mugs?
"From an employee-morale standpoint, it's a real blow to people, because it's a petty cost-cutting measure," the source said. "For a couple hundred bucks a month, why doesn't (Chihak) take it out of his own pocket? It's an indication to people about maybe how bad we're doing.
"Four employees are leaving in a six-week period. ... They aren't replacing those people, as far as we know. I don't understand why they couldn't find that money somewhere just for the reason that they don't have people frightened. Out here in this part of town (Park Avenue and Irvington Road), you can't just go across the street to get a cup of coffee. It's a nice, not-too-expensive perk for employees."
A perk that brews no longer.
As for the monthly get-togethers, "I expect attendance at Citizen staff meetings to decrease by 50 percent," the other insider said.
That's pretty much on par with the paper's dwindling circulation numbers.
"She decided to leave KVOA to pursue educational opportunities and employment offers in other parts of the country. She's been a consummate professional in all her work here at the station and leaves with our best wishes in her future endeavors."
That's the official KVOA line, from news director Kathleen Choal. Demi declined to comment on the situation.
At the very least, her departure came at a bad time. The move happened in the midst of the July ratings book and shortly after a fairly extensive promotional campaign featuring Demi and other members of the KVOA morning team.
"We are searching for her replacement," Choal said. "We have internal and external candidates. We want to hire the right person. We're not going to hire someone just to fill the position. I just don't know how long that's going to take."
"She will soon become a permanent member of the morning team," general manager Jim Arnold said.
"When the Wildcats are playing at night, we do very well. Otherwise, we don't do so well," said Source program director Chuck Meyer. "For the past three years, our station has taken steps toward becoming more of a news and talk station and less of an all-sports operation. The addition of Don and Mike and Phil Hendrie--which fall under the umbrella of 'entertainment talk'--helps us get closer to becoming a full-fledged 'talk' station."
Hendrie is a familiar figure on the talk circuit. A master of numerous voices and characters, Hendrie would interview fake guests that he voiced, then take real callers who would berate the absurd comments of Hendrie's guests. About a year ago, The Source garnered the contract to Hendrie's show just weeks prior to his retirement. He's back after that brief hiatus with a more traditional approach.
The Don and Mike Show has a polarizing quality.
"The Don and Mike Show is pretty wild and bawdy at times, but personally, I think it's the most entertaining talk show on the radio in Tucson right now," Meyer said. "Hendrie's new show touches more on current events, but he still employs some of the same devices, and that has made his show almost like a parody of itself. I've worked with Phil before--we were in Miami together--and he is an outstanding, unique talent."