Kim Kelly is out; John C. Scott is in, and the new operations manager at KJLL AM 1330 has a lot of issues to deal with.
From a programming perspective, KJLL's syndicated lineup of Don Imus, Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz will remain intact, as will Dr. Laura's show, but Scott is in the process of putting together a revolving local lineup weekdays at 11 a.m.
"We're making it Tucson's radio station," Scott said. "We're going to try to bring in as many local talk shows as we possibly can to the format. We're talking with Bruce Ash and John Strobeck and Emil Franzi to do hours during midday, and we almost have that lined up. We're approaching people who have an opinion and an outlook and an understanding ... and we'll just put them on, and sell the block out to the local talkers."
Barney Brenner, Mike Harris and Paul Eckerstrom figure to be part of the local talk equation as well.
Meanwhile, Scott occupies the 3 to 5 p.m. slot Monday through Thursday, and the 3 to 4 p.m. slot on Friday; for the last 15 months, he's broadcast two staggered hours each weekday at KVOI AM 690.
But the behind-the-scenes happenings will ultimately determine the future of the station, which has been hampered by financial constraints for much of its decade-long existence.
"The (owners) were dissatisfied with the direction the station was taking," Scott said. "I have a whole radio station to sell and program. Our attitude is Tucson: We're going to expand our local news. We're going to expand our local talk. We're going to be Tucson's radio station.
"We bring a good chunk of billing. ... All broadcasters are suffering with this downturn, and you just have to survive it. I don't think you can sell widgets anymore. You have to sell ideas and philosophies. The day of the widget-selling for radio is over. I've had to change everything I do. We've been business advocates ever since we've been on the air. It's the 21st year of the radio show. We started at KTUC then went to KTKT; they go Spanish, then we go to the Jolt and KVOI and back to the Jolt."
Scott's return to the Jolt led to Kelly's departure. She had served as the station's operations manager for three years. During her tenure, KJLL enjoyed some of its best ratings books, but the relationship between Kelly and Scott during his first Jolt tenure was strained.
She expressed displeasure with Scott's return.
"I got an e-mail from one of our listeners ... and she said, 'I'm just appalled that John C. Scott is coming back to the Jolt,'" Kelly said. "I had heard no such rumor of John's return. So I called a reliable source to confirm or put the rumor to rest, and it was verified.
"I had heard that John C. Scott had approached the owners behind my back, even though the owner swore she would never bring (him) back in. In doing so much, acting (in a number of management capacities), I was overloaded and taken aback by this news. When I heard that John C. Scott was coming back, and that I, as the manager, was not part of the decision-making process, I knew I had to leave."
Scott insisted on finding a place at the station for Nicole Cox, who has worked at KJLL in numerous on-air capacities pretty much since its inception. Cox has limited her work time of late for maternity reasons, but Scott feels she can be an asset as the station's new business manager.
"Nicole handling the money and business end (separate from other management duties) is something they've not had before. They've always had just one person doing (everything), and it didn't seem to work out for them," Scott said. "Nicole understands contracts. She understands programming. She understands it all. She understands money. She has an accounting degree. She really knows the business end of radio. I said to them, 'You have to find somebody, and Nicole's the perfect person.' That's what she exclusively does. I'll program and manage and do the talk show, and we'll try to make it Tucson's radio station. I think the owners are going to be happy with that. They seem thrilled with the direction we're moving in. In this climate, in this day and age, it's a great opportunity."
Meanwhile, Kelly hints that she won't be without a job for long.
"I do have something in process, and it might not be long from now that we have Tucson's only solid progressive talk station—not all sides, but only progressive talk. I'm excited about it," Kelly said. "Everything is going to be fine. The Jolt is now a great AM station—I made sure of it. I walk away proud of a station I took to the No. 2 spot from nothing."
(KJLL was fourth among talk formats in the 12-year-old-plus fall 2008 rating period.)
"I wish John nothing but the best in attempting to fill my many pairs of shoes."
The Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcast Group, which operates four Tucson radio stations and two TV stations—KGUN Channel 9 and KWBA Channel 58—has put a 6 percent pay reduction in place for full-time employees through at least the remainder of 2009.
However, the employees will get an extra 10 paid days off before the end of the year.
According to a memo released to Journal personnel, the company hopes to reinstate pay to its previous level by 2010, but "of course the decision depends upon the business conditions at that time."
Said the memo, attributed to Journal CEO Steven J. Smith, "Our goal is to achieve a meaningful reduction in payroll expense while providing time off for those employees whose pay is reduced. Many of you have told us that you would be willing to make this sacrifice and would value the flexibility of days off.
"All executives, managers, market managers, supervisors, exempt and some nonexempt personnel whom we designate, as well as corporate staff, will participate. We are asking contract on-air talent and most union employees to join us and participate in this program."