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Cook Out; KNST Looking for New Chief

Tucson's news/talk ratings leader, KNST AM 790, has relieved Alan Cook of his program director responsibilities. Cook worked within the local Clear Channel cluster for more than eight years.

"Our ratings upside is greater if we have the right program director," said Clear Channel Tucson operations manager Tim Richards. "We feel that while Alan did a great job, the market has grown, and the radio station has grown, and we feel like we can get greater results with a programmer who is news/talk to the core."

The new program director, whom Richards hopes to have hired by March, will face his or her share of issues. On the positive end, KNST should benefit from the upcoming election. As the market's most established conservative talk outlet, increased political interest could lead to a positive bump in numbers.

On the flipside, KNST is the only AM station in Tucson that generates strong ratings numbers. At a time when sound and signal concerns are making the future of AM radio seem uncertain, how much better can KNST really be? The station ranked fifth in the market in the fall book, with a share of 5.5 among listeners 12 and older. That was KNST's best book of the year, and its worst number in the last 12 months was a 4.7, so the station appears to be pretty stable. Even losing the UA sports contract to KCUB AM 1290, my part-time employer, has done little to cut into KNST's ratings.

There are four other stations in the market that are either completely or partially news/talk, yet KNST still has 60 percent of the news/talk market share. As a result, it seems unlikely that major format changes would be in the works. Morning host Jim Parisi is the only local weekday talent, and KNST probably isn't going to jettison its midday block of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity anytime soon. Despite the curious contract quandary that pushed Michael Savage to nights on KNST while the same show runs live in the afternoons on Journal Broadcast Group competitor KQTH FM 104.1, don't expect any drastic changes, like, say, local talk during the afternoon drive. That experiment went to Dodoville with Eric and John--I was the John part--in the late '90s.

"I don't think there will be wholesale drastic changes to the station, but look for our next (program director) to inject more excitement into the sound of the radio station," Richards said.

Cook declined to comment.


BEAMISH GOES GREEN AT KVOA

KVOA Channel 4 has welcomed Jeff Beamish to the weekend weather desk. Beamish graduated from St. Cloud State in Minnesota with a meteorology degree, a specialty that has a tendency to limit one's career options.

"There are two different sectors, and in college, they weed you out into what sector you're going to go into," Beamish said. "Are you going to go into theory and work for the government? Well, that's all fine and dandy, but you also have to like math. I hated math. I struggled at math so much. I decided to go into the forecasting and TV sector, and St. Cloud State has some great studio programs there. ... I was very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of good professors."

He was also fortunate to discover Tucson.

"I love Tucson," said Beamish. "I keep calling home and asking my parents how the weather is back there. 'Oh, really? I'm driving to the grocery store in shorts with the window down. Turned the air conditioning on in my car today.' They get mad and jealous and drop an expletive or two. Last year, I came down here for vacation, and the mountains, scenery and landscape--I just fell in love with it. I told myself that if I could get a job down here, I would. I've been blessed to get a job in Tucson."

In addition to weekend weather responsibilities, Beamish also reports for the KVOA Green Team, a new feature niche focusing on the impact of local environmentalists.

"We run those stories every Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Beamish said. "So far, the reaction we've been getting has been incredibly positive. People love it, and I'm happy to do it. As a meteorologist, the environmental focus is something I can relate to."


VO NEW KGUN WEEKEND ANCHOR

Tammy Vo has now pretty much covered Arizona. She grew up in Phoenix, and reported there for a number of years; she also spent some time in Yuma and often covered stories focusing on Northern Arizona.

Now it's Tucson's turn. Vo joined KGUN Channel 9 as a weekend anchor/general-news reporter earlier this year.

"I spent five years in Phoenix before deciding maybe I wanted to tackle something more challenging," Vo said. "I heard of the position here. I know the news director (Lena Sadiwskyj) from Phoenix, and I talked to her, and the opportunity seemed great. I've been here for a week and a half, and everything has been wonderful."

While her stint has been brief, Vo already senses differences between Phoenix and Tucson.

"Phoenix is just too big. There's a lot of crime, and you lose a lot of focus on the news that matters," Vo said. "In Tucson, I still feel like people really care about what they're watching. KGUN really cares about asking, 'What do people want to see?' You're going to see more than just blood and guts at 5 and 10."

Vo relishes the opportunity to handle the roles of anchor and reporter at KGUN.

"I really believe a good reporter makes a good news anchor," Vo said. "You have to know what you're talking about. That's a key foundation. If you were to ask someone who is an anchor you look up to, I'm sure all of them have a strong news and reporting background. That's extremely important. Also, when you're in the field, you meet people. You hear what the issues are. You come up with story ideas that really matter, and that makes you a good journalist. It's not just being an anchor. It's about being a journalist."

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