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Locals Edgy After 'East Valley Tribune' Layoffs

Last week, the Mesa-based East Valley Tribune announced major cutbacks to its workforce and its printing schedule.

Parent-company Freedom Communications was positioning the paper as a geographically focused alternative to The Arizona Republic, but the plague that has struck the daily-newspaper industry--slumping ad sales, a struggling economy and circulation declines as people migrate toward other technologies to get their news--pretty much set into motion the doom cycle.

In addition to 142 layoffs--40 percent of the staff--the East Valley Tribune will limit print publication to four days a week and start offering the product for free.

Freedom, based out of Irvine, Calif., owns 110 newspapers and eight television stations. Many of the newspapers are of the neighborhood variety, a model that has found success as the business changes--and this move closes the books, for now, on any real effort to compete head-to-head with the state's largest newspaper, the Gannett-owned Republic.

While the East Valley Tribune's moves have no direct impact on the dailies in Tucson, the massive cutbacks at a paper so close to home certainly got the attention of many who make their living in the industry. It's a slap-in-the-face reminder that the daily newspaper model doesn't have any prospects of getting healthy anytime soon.

Many continue to wonder how long Tucson will be a two-daily town. The dynamics of Tucson Newspapers' joint operating agreement have played a major role in keeping both products afloat, and that agreement doesn't expire for several more years. But the morning paper, the Arizona Daily Star, while on much better footing, circulation-wise, than the afternoon Tucson Citizen, is operated by Lee Enterprises, a company that one year ago had a stock value in the $18 range. Lately, it's been hovering a lot closer to $2.

Meanwhile, the Gannett-owned Citizen, with its six-day printing cycle, has been bleeding readership for the last decade. On one hand, it's owned by a company on firmer financial ground than Lee. On the other, Gannett's stock value has also plummeted, from $46 to $12 in the last year.

In any case, many folks employed within the daily newspaper model are rightfully nervous--about the very future of their profession in an online information world. As a friend shared with me recently: "I'm trying to enjoy it and collect stories to tell my grandchildren about how back in the day, there was this thing called journalism."

Meanwhile, business reporter Jack Gillum has made the jump from Lee to Gannett. Gillum left the Star for a Washington, D.C., position with USA Today.


MORE NOT-SO-GREAT ECONOMICS NEWS

As the economy has transitioned from head-buried-in-the-sand mode to crisis mode, media stocks across the board have taken a beating.

Take Citadel Broadcasting (which cuts me a paycheck for my UA pregame and postgame work on KCUB AM 1290), for example. There was a time not so long ago when Citadel stock had a value of about $18. It was down to 40 cents when the market opened on Monday, Oct. 13--after sliding more than 50 percent from just last month, when it was hemorrhaging at 87 cents.

Things aren't as bad at Clear Channel, with its $7 stock value; it was more than $28 a year ago. Stock at Journal Communications was valued at around $10 a year ago. It's in the $3 range now.

In television, Belo was at $14 this time last year. It was less than $4 on Monday.


JOURNALISM 101: MAKING UP PEOPLE IS BAD

The Arizona Daily Wildcat pulled the plug on a reporter who editors determined had falsified names and quotes in a series of stories.

The UA student newspaper ran this explanation: "Following an internal investigation, the Daily Wildcat is unable to ascertain the existence of students quoted in at least four stories written by reporter Jim Myers. These stories include: 'UA programs rank again,' on Sept. 26; 'Courting the college vote,' on Sept. 22; 'Drugs in the Water?' on Aug. 27; and 'Budget to bring more UA building,' on Aug. 27. The Daily Wildcat regrets this betrayal of trust. The reporter has been terminated."

Wildcat editor Lauren LePage says she found problems in a story she was copyediting. In that story, which didn't run, she could not find proof that any of the quoted subjects were real. This prompted LePage to check out other stories by Myers, thus leading to his removal from the paper.

Myers did not return an e-mail request for comment.


MIXfm GETS PROPS; TV STATIONS GET EMMYS

KMXZ FM 94.9, aka MIXfm, was named Adult Contemporary Station of the Year (in market sizes 50 to 100) in the Radio and Records Industry Achievement Awards. Meanwhile, morning show host Bobby Rich was named Adult Contemporary Personality of the Year by the publication.

"Winning the Station of the Year Award is a testament to the hard work that each and every staff member does all year long, and it's a great honor to be recognized by the radio community," said KMXZ operations manager Darla Thomas in a press release. "We're thrilled that our industry has recognized Bobby's incredible talent and all that he brings to our listeners every weekday as the MIX morning host."

Over in TV land, KOLD Channel 13 and Tucson 12 (the city of Tucson's station) had good showings at this year's Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards ceremony.

Tucson 12 claimed seven awards, while KOLD walked away with three statues. UAnews.org landed a couple of new-media honors, and Amber Lyon, formerly of KVOA Channel 4, rounded out the Old Pueblo's representation with a Rocky Mountain Emmy for on-camera talent.

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