After failing to keep Gannett from bringing an end to the print existence of the Tucson Citizen, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard last week dropped his antitrust lawsuit against the publishing company and Lee Enterprises.
The move was a passing post-mortem for the newspaper, which shut down its print operations on May 16, nearly two months after Gannett had initially intended to close the struggling afternoon daily. Gannett's efforts to close the Citizen were delayed by an investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice—a case that has since been dropped—and by interest from the Santa Monica Media Company. When the two sides couldn't come to financial terms, the Citizen's last-ditch hope was a court ruling.
Goddard asked for a restraining order to keep the Citizen going, but U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ruled in favor of Gannett and Lee Enterprises—which owns the Arizona Daily Star and is Gannett's 50-50 partner in Tucson Newspapers—on May 19, and Goddard dropped the whole suit a week later. Theoretically, the case could be filed again at a later date, although the logistics of such a decision would seem unlikely and impractical, given that many of the reporters from the defunct Citizen have or are attempting to move forward with their lives.
The dramatically slimmed-down TucsonCitizen.com is now a Web site focusing on opinion pieces and community conversation. A "beta" version of a revamped TucsonCitizen.com—using WordPress, a type of free blogging software—launched somewhat clumsily on Monday, June 1.
As expected, the Federal Communications Commission approved the sale of radio station KCEE AM 1030 to Good News Broadcasting, which operates KVOI AM 690.
The move, instigated by Doug Martin of Good News and accepted by longtime Tucson radio mainstay Jim Slone, means the stations will eventually trade formats. The 1030 slot will soon broadcast KVOI's mostly syndicated conservative-talk format, while 69O will play adult standards.
Slone's personally programmed format was leading other adult-standards competitors in the market in the latest ratings book, and ranked as the second-most listened to AM station in Tucson behind news/talker KNST AM 790. However, that success may not continue at the new KVOI; Slone isn't expected to have any hand in programming the station, and the signal isn't as strong.
Signal strength is what attracted Martin to KCEE in the first place. KVOI is tough to get in many parts of Tucson—one of the factors that has put the station near the bottom of the ratings on a regular basis. KCEE's signal strength stacks up favorably with many of the AM signals in the market. KCEE's recent ratings (a 2.7 12-and-older share in the winter 2009 Arbitron book) were three times that of KVOI's ratings.
Martin hopes the improved frequency will help boost the numbers for its talk lineup of Wake Up Tucson from 6 to 7 a.m., weekdays, hosted by Chris DeSimone and Joe Higgins, followed by syndicated entries The Dennis Miller Show (7 to 9 a.m.), The Dennis Prager Show (9 a.m. to noon), The Michael Medved Show (noon to 3 p.m.) and Hugh Hewitt (3 to 6 p.m.).
Community radio KXCI FM 91.3 seems to have avoided the recession blues.
While commercial media entities continue to lay off employees and battle to right their respective financial ships, KCXI celebrated its 25th year with optimism and record assistance.
"In March, we did our single largest fund drive we've ever had, in 25 years. We raised more than $100,000," said acting general manager Randy Peterson.
The reason? Contributors seem to like what they're getting from KXCI.
"What I'm hearing from people is folks who are used to donating to more than a half-dozen charities are really (now) picking the one or two that are most important to them and trying to make a significant gift to keep those entities going," Peterson said. "We actually saw an increase in the average gift size. It went up to $101 from the (typical) $92 or $93 average. We had a lot of first-time donors—folks who had been listening for a few years who maybe thought this was the time. We were quite happy. We had more than 1,000 callers, which is also a record."
KXCI also appears to be benefitting from a period of calm. It has been anything but smooth sailing during much of KXCI's quarter-century existence. Three years ago, then-general manager Larry Bruce contentiously parted ways. It took a year to name his replacement. It appeared things were going well with Ryan Bruce (no relation) at the helm, but he abruptly resigned in April 2008, in the midst of a strategic-planning study that he helped to implement.
However, the atmosphere of stability that he helped to foster seems to have remained intact.
It has also helped that Peterson is familiar with the inner workings of KXCI and the community-radio model.
"I've been here nearly 10 years. September will be a decade," Peterson said. "Our music director is (celebrating) 10 years as well now. We've been here for a significant amount of the station's history. I'm certainly a member of this community and always interested in what fellow Tucsonans think.
"I am still acting general manager. We went through a strategic-plan process, very in-depth, to come up with a new five-year plan for the station, and that plan indicates we might split the historic general manager's position into a fundraising and marketing position, and create an operations position, keeping an eye on the building, the equipment (and) the programming. Until we get that figured out, we're not going to hire the wrong person to fill a job that may not exist in six months.
"I'm happy to fill in. This is my third stint as general manager. I'm happy to be of service to the station. I find that if I keep ahead of oncoming trains, it's easier to avoid them."