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SMITH LEAVES TUCSON FOR BELO POSITION IN VIRGINIA

Tod Smith, the general manager of Belo-operated KMSB Channel 11 and KTTU Channel 18, accepted a promotion to the company's Norfolk, Va., outlet, WVEC, bringing an end to his three-year stint in Tucson.

"Tod has done an outstanding job as president and general manager in Tucson. His general management and sales and marketing experience make him a great choice to lead our Hampton/Norfolk television operations," said Kathy Clements, Belo's senior vice president for television operations, in a press release.

Smith took over as GM of the Tucson outlet in 2006 after advertising and TV stints in New Orleans.

Smith inherited a station cluster on solid footing and built upon the foundation. He oversaw an increase in ratings at both stations, with a special emphasis on Fox affiliate KMSB, which completely localized its news operation.

"(I'm happy) obviously the growth of our news product, from operating out of Phoenix to taking care of it on our own. It's headed in a certain direction, and there are obviously a lot of growth opportunities still there," Smith said. "Just to see that develop from where it was to where it is today is extremely rewarding. There have been some positives in terms of ratings, but no. 1, is the staff is happy. People like working here. They want to work here."

On the flip side, Smith wishes he'd had an opportunity to build upon the Belo cluster's local presence.

"Our opportunities to produce local programs—I would have liked seeing that expand, be it local news or something else," Smith said. "We did launch Tucson Treasures, and we're doing our own news, but I would have liked to have seen us do a little bit more on the local side, and I think that's the direction you'll probably see the stations moving in.

"Whoever gets in here will have an extremely happy and motivated staff. People love the station, and they're dedicated to it. We find creative ways to get things done. From the perspective of the general manager, you can't ask for anything better than that. These folks are dedicated to making things happen. It's never easy to get that done. It's even more difficult with the business conditions the way they are, but they're motivated and want to continuously improve."

From a terrain standpoint, Norfolk probably more closely resembles the New Orleans of Smith's roots, but he looks back fondly on his experience here, he said.

"If people are living there, there's a reason they're living there, and you have to find out what that reason is. You can't try to go in and make an area suit your particular vision of what you think it should be. You have to find out what makes it special and embrace that and become a part of it. In the three years being here, we've done that," said Smith. "I'm going to miss it. I love being 15 minutes away from walking up a mountain or trail and feeling like you're miles and miles away from the city. It's amazing."


LEE TAKES OVER TRAFFIC DUTIES AT KOLD

Joan Lee has been pegged to handle morning traffic responsibilities on KOLD Channel 13.

"I'm really excited about going back there," said Lee, who worked with KOLD as part of a partnership the station had with then-WB affiliate KWBA Channel 58/Cable Channel 8, where Lee acted the station's on-air personality before being laid off. "Probably the most exciting part of me doing television was doing the whole thing at KOLD. ... It will be great working with them again."

While technically employed by Metro Traffic, Lee joins Jenny Anchondo, Scott Kilbury and Erin Jordan as part of the CBS affiliate's local morning news block.

"I've worked with all three of them in some capacity over the years," Lee said. "It was really nice to walk in and have my audition with them and already have a rapport with them."

In addition to the morning traffic gig, Lee also works at Jon Wolf Photography, so her plate is full: "I'm going to be a very, very tired girl. It will be a long day, but I've done this before in my life."


KVOI: I WAS HOPING FOR SPACE ALIENS ...

The transition from AM 690 to 1030 has been anything but smooth for talk station KVOI. Since the July 1 frequency switch between KVOI and "pop classics" station KCEE, KVOI has endured a series of lengthy signal interruptions, which in turn has led to a series of inventive conspiracy theories from some listeners.

"The phones have been ringing off the hook as we have experienced these long outages," said Doug Martin, president of Good News Radio Broadcasting, via a press release. "Some of the theories the listeners have expressed have us concerned. One listener called and thought that the station had been taken off the air by the competition; another listener had a conspiracy theory that involved a government takeover. The truth is much more benign. No, Dick Cheney was not taking target practice at our tower site, and this is not something the Illuminati did. The reason we have had these outages is because of the fine tuning of a complex directional tower system."

That's a boring explanation.

"(Former KCEE AM 1030 owner) Jim Slone has the best ear in broadcasting," said Martin in the press release, "and he was not happy with the sound of 1030 AM. This prompted Slone to secure the talents of Elliott Klein (one of the top engineers in broadcasting) to design and build the massive system that controls the power variables and enhances the sound of the complex four-tower directional system. This will also allow KVOI to broadcast at 10,000 watts and be the most powerful talk station in Tucson. We are excited to hear the final outcome of this very expensive and sophisticated engineering feat, but we needed to quell the rumors."

No. Don't quell the rumors. They're imaginative, as well as outlandish and absurd. Since when has mundane and logical been a working model for talk radio?

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