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Chihak Announces Retirement from 'Citizen'

Tucson Citizen editor and publisher Michael Chihak will serve his last day with the Gannett-owned afternoon daily on July 3. He will then become the executive director of the nonprofit Communications Leadership Institute, based in San Francisco.

"In moving on, I leave behind the best group of journalists with whom I have ever worked, and that includes comparing them to the journalists I worked with in eight years as an editor at USA Today. Citizen staff members stand above all others," said Chihak in the Citizen on June 14. "The Citizen staff has worked hard--and successfully--at transitioning to the new information age to keep us viable and long-lasting, not only in print but in the digital world of new media. Thus, I depart with a great sense of security that the Citizen will continue to grow as a distinct news, information and editorial voice in the community."

Despite Chihak's upbeat words, it hasn't been easy sledding for the Citizen. In Chihak's eight years at the helm, the Citizen has continued to endure an eroding circulation, as new-media options have made the afternoon daily newspaper model difficult to sustain.

Chihak concludes the journalism portion of his working life in the same place it started. He began his news media career with the Citizen in 1970 as a photographer and reporting intern, and even delivered newspapers for the Citizen during his school years.


ARNOLD REFLECTS AFTER HALL OF FAME NOD

Jim Arnold began the Tucson portion of his broadcasting career as a weekend disc jockey with the old KOLD AM during his college days at the UA.

Today, he doesn't work obscure Saturday and Sunday shifts for minimum wage, and he makes a few more decisions behind the large desk at KOLD Channel 13, Tucson's CBS TV affiliate--but at least the name of the station is the same.

"The crummy white building on Drachman was the KOLD (TV) news department, and behind the crummy old white building was a smaller crummy white building. That used to be the radio station, in the alley by the Tucson Inn," said Arnold. "My first radio job, I was a weekend disc jockey at KOLD AM, and hopefully, my last job (will be as) general manager at KOLD TV. Full circle."

Arnold was recently accepted into the Arizona Broadcasters Hall of Fame, in large part due to a Tucson career that featured a highly successful radio run in addition to his current role at KOLD. Arnold's best-known radio work is probably as morning-drive DJ for KCUB AM 1290, then owned and operated by Jim Slone.

"We got international recognition, and I got a couple of good chunks of national recognition at the time, and the station did tremendously well," said Arnold.

He also double-dipped on the TV side with KVOA Channel 4: "I worked for Channel 4 on a part-time basis, did news, weather and sports fill-in and co-anchored the 5 o'clock news with Lou Waters for a short period of time."

Arnold garnered some notoriety as the host of a bingo show. The half-hour program, broadcast live on KVOA every weekday at 2:30, had a short run in the mid-'70s.

"You'd go to the store and pick up the green color for this week, and then we'd play bingo on the air. The next week, you'd have to go to the store to pick up the blue thing," Arnold explained. "I had a very attractive assistant who was my Vanna White. She would light up the numbers when I called them out. She'd push the button that let out G-49 or whatever it was. My deep-seated desire for doing the bingo show was making a little extra money and getting my face on television."

Arnold accepted a management opportunity with one of Slone's radio stations outside of Tucson, and when Slone sold those interests, Arnold transitioned into TV. He returned to Tucson as KOLD's GM eight years ago, and oversaw the rise of KOLD's news department from doormat to market leader within three years.

Nowadays, Arnold's on-air career is limited to a pair of editorials a week; there's far more to concern a general manager who wants his station to remain relevant in a landscape of new media and entertainment options.

"TV didn't change much until cable started expanding and selling advertising, and now with the digital transition and the Web, it's a whole different ballgame," Arnold said. "There are so many other things to think about when you're trying to build and operate a company. What are you doing, Web-wise? What are you doing digital-wise? Are you multitasking? What kind of video streaming do you have? What kind of programming repositioning do you have on the Web? It used to be you turned on the transmitter in the morning, ran a few programs during the day and shut it off at midnight, and you did a 20 rating. As Ted Turner's book said, now it's not as easy as it looks."

Arnold is keenly aware of the changes radio has endured as well.

"In the early days, it was just a lot of fun," Arnold said. "You were disc-jockeying; you did your shtick and got paid very little for it. The biggest change in radio is the fragmentation and the research that's done, and all the music is played off computer now. Then with the proliferation of talk radio, radio has changed quite a bit, in my mind."

Arnold looks back on his radio days with a great deal of fondness.

"I worked with Frank Kalil on KTKT. Jim Slone was my mentor. Bob Scholz, who used to run the old 1330 AM, actually came up with the nickname "Sunny Jim." There are so many different people I had a chance to work with. Today, business is tougher because of the conglomerations and publicly traded companies, but the people are still a lot of fun in radio and TV. We're basically a good group of people, I think."

More by John Schuster

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