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'Star,' Citing Advertising Slump, Lays Off 11

Citing a dramatic sag in advertising-sales revenue and a home-building slide in a slumping housing market, the Arizona Daily Star gave pink slips to 11 editorial employees last week.

"The reason for the staff reductions is, we need to reduce costs," said Star publisher and editor John M. Humenik said in a story that ran in the Star. "Advertisers are advertising less because their sales are down."

According to information obtained by the Tucson Weekly, some of the laid-off employees worked at the newspaper in excess of 20 years.

The Star also implemented some other changes for cost-cutting purposes. Online sites for zoned publications have been scrapped; Accent and the Business section are being combined on Monday; the op-ed page on Saturdays is gone; the TV Week and At Home sections are being reduced, while Mapping the News and BYO Brain have been eliminated. Student Achievers and the Star 200 will be reduced; high school Web casts will be dumped; staffers will have to work on 110 Degrees magazine on their own time; some wire columnists have been pulled; McClatchy and Scripps wire services are gone.

Sadly, this is the norm, not the exception in the daily print-news world. Across the hall, the Tucson Citizen has been battling with budget issues due to slipping circulation numbers for a decade. The San Diego Union Tribune had a major layoff swath within the last month.

Additionally, Lee Enterprises, the Star's parent company, sold the DeKalb (Ill.) Daily Chronicle last week. The company's stock has plummeted in 2007.

The TW blog and Michael Marizco's borderreporter.com have more detailed information on the Star layoffs and cutbacks.


LONG NO LONGER AT 'STAR'

Prior to and separate from the Star's budget-cutting announcement, TV and feature reporter Levi Long resigned from the paper after a mid-November run-in with the law.

According to a police report, Long punched a man in the face, among other actions, in the man's bedroom the morning of Nov. 20. Apologetic, Long sent a heartfelt letter to staff members at the Star upon his resignation, and e-mailed this statement to the Weekly: "After much soul searching, I decided to resign from the Star effective Monday, Dec. 3. It was a difficult decision, but in light of current circumstances, it's in my best interest to resolve some personal matters with the hopes to regain some balance in my life. I'd like to thank my family and friends, who've offered many prayers and kind words of support. I feel truly blessed to know so many wonderful people."


MORE MORNING-SHOW MAYHEM

Apparently feeling it needed to join the morning-show ax party attended by Journal (Brad Behan, formerly of Bobby and Brad at KMXZ FM 94.9, aka MIX FM) and Clear Channel (CK at KOHT FM 98.3), Lotus decided the time had come to pull the plug on the a.m. drive shenanigans of Jonas Hunter and Andy Taylor at classic rocker KLPX FM 96.1.

"They're great guys, but the ratings weren't there. It's consistently underperformed the rest of the station," said Lotus Tucson general manager Steve Groesbeck.

Midday jock Scott Barnett has been promoted to morning drive. His new show, Wake Up Call, premiered Monday, Dec. 10.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me," said Barnett via a press release. "I love everything about living in Tucson and feel like I've developed a wonderful relationship with our listeners in my time here. I'm excited to build upon that relationship with this new show."

Groesbeck says the midday shift is being handled by former Tucson jock Larry Mack, who most recently worked at KUPD in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, Taylor remains busy in local media. He participates in a tech segment Tuesday mornings at KOLD Channel 13 and hosts TechTalkRadio Sundays on KNST AM 790.

Hunter has taken to handyman duties after the dissolution of his 11-year tenure with KLPX. He's been helping his wife and daughter open a new clothing store, Bombshells, on East Broadway Boulevard, in time for the holiday shopping season.


CITADEL PARTS WAYS WITH MORNING-SHOW PRODUCER

On a personal note, Jim Edwards was released from his responsibilities at KCUB AM 1290, my employer for UA pregame and postgame shows. A six-year employee, Edwards most recently handled morning-show producer duties, but when 1290 pulled the plug on Mike Rapp and Betsy Bruce's morning endeavor a couple of months ago, Edwards' position was in limbo.

Problem is, Edwards only worked in that capacity for a relatively short time. He was a glue guy, the employee who could handle an on-air shift for one of Citadel's FM stations, take on traffic or news shifts when necessary, operate the controls for any number of live shows on 1290, or book guests and handle producing responsibilities for the station's live programming. On the occasions Brad Allis and I fill in for Glenn Parker's In the House afternoon talk show--and for the afternoon fare that aired prior to Parker's arrival--Edwards was always extremely helpful in providing us with information and guests.

He is largely responsible for tutoring the staff currently employed behind the scenes at 1290.


HOLIDAY FIX-UPS AT KUAT

Fortunately, the only thing being fired right now at KUAT is old equipment. KUAT digital Channel 30, KUAT Channel 20 and KUAT-FM will experience outages for the next two weeks due to a technical upgrade. The digital Channel 30 antenna on Mount Bigelow was destroyed by lightning during an August monsoon.

Cox and DirecTV customers will not be affected, though Comcast viewers will lose signal occasionally on the digital stations. Over-the-air antenna users who might face viewing issues may be able to watch KUAT on Channel 27.

Some other TV and radio stations will experience power percentage drops, but not outages, during this construction window.


AT LEAST THERE'S STILL CHARITY

Despite all the holiday layoff blues, some media outlets are stepping up for their annual charity assistance efforts. The KIIM FM 99.5 Penny Pitch campaign is underway again. Penny Pitch benefits the Arizona Children's Association. If you're in the area of the Foothills Mall from Dec. 19-21, bring some loose change, and toss it in a bin.

I mention KIIM, because Buzz Jackson was smart enough to send me some info on this charity. To other media outlets: If you want to get a cheap holiday-charity plug, I might consider mentions next year. Sure beats talking about December layoffs.

More by John Schuster

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