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PORTILLO IN, MERINO OUT AS EDITOR OF 'LA ESTRELLA'

La Estrella de Tucsón, the Arizona Daily Star's Spanish-language publication, has made a rather abrupt change at the top.

Out is Jose Merino, who acted as editor for nearly five years. In is Ernesto Portillo Jr. While Star officials will not go into details about the transition, it doesn't look as though the move was particularly amicable.

First, consider this e-mail comment contribution from Star executive editor Bobbie Jo Buel, responding to a question about the matter from the Weekly: "La Estrella is a very important part of the Star family and our future. We do not have more to say."

Now, Merino's e-mail response: "I was the editor of La Estrella from October 2004 'til (July 30), but I am afraid I can't comment on it."

Brrr. Shivers like that are usually welcome during a Tucson summer.

At least Portillo, who has held down his share of positions with the Star, provided an optimistic outlook about his role and the future of the publication.

"I am excited about the challenge to be editor of La Estrella de Tucsón," he e-mailed. "I intend to build on an already strong publication which serves a growing audience in Southern Arizona and Nogales, Sonora. No major changes are planned, but, like other good publications, we will strive to improve content to attract more readers and advertisers.

"Personally, it is my sincere privilege and an honor. I was born and raised in Tucson. I am the son of a Mexican immigrant father and Tucson-born mother, both of whom imbued me with deep appreciation and love for Tucson. My father for 50 years was a strong voice in Spanish-language radio. I have spent many years observing the changing role of Spanish-language media and the changing demographics in Tucson and Southern Arizona, which I have continued to do for more than nine years as a columnist for the Arizona Daily Star.

"My goal is to help La Estrella become even more dominant as the source of news and information for the fast-growing, monolingual and bilingual Latino communities."


ASSOCIATED PRESS' TUCSON REPORTER TAKES EARLY OUT

When The Associated Press offered early retirement to about 100 employees nationally, Tucson/Southern Arizona reporter Art Rotstein accepted the buyout.

Granted, saying that Rotstein utilized the "early" part of the package might be semantics, given that he worked for the organization for 35 years and spent 28 of those in Tucson. Nonetheless, his departure has forced the AP to scramble a bit to fill the void.

"There are a lot of things in flux," said Arizona and New Mexico bureau chief Michelle Williams. "What we're doing in the short term is (using) Jacques Billeaud, an immigration and border reporter for us based in Phoenix who is on a national reporting team that includes California, Arizona and Texas. He and Art have worked on many stories together over the years. Jacques will resume part of that responsibility. He will now follow the stories as needed in Tucson."

Williams is also hopeful that in the interim—however long "interim" may be—the AP's contributing partners can help.

"Because AP is a cooperative organization, we rely on our other members to stay abreast of the situation," Williams said. "We have the Arizona Daily Star (and AP member newspapers in) Sierra Vista, Green Valley, Yuma, the TV and radio stations. That's part of what we do. They share their news, and we generate our own so we can keep the coverage and maintain the coverage we have and, in this case, exceed the coverage they expect from us in Southern Arizona. I feel confident that during this time of transition, we'll be covered very well in Tucson."


NO MORE MOTEN AT KRQ

Carrie Moten, the third (untitled) voice on the otherwise aptly named Johnjay and Rich morning show on KRQQ FM 93.7 that's now broadcast out of Phoenix, announced her departure from the program last week.

"The cool thing for me is I sat in that chair for seven years and just acted like who I was," said Moten in a recent radioexiles.com podcast. "It was a rollercoaster. It was cool that over the course of seven years, I was able to come in and get the support of some kickass people. And as the show started to grow and expand into different cities, that was cool. I couldn't think of a more perfect place to leave things. Trust me, I'm aware and conscious every second.

"It's not like it's not scary, and I don't have fear and doubt (over leaving the show), but I'd much rather be in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, and you find out whether you're strong enough and smart enough for the challenge. I'm ready for whatever. The second I told people—immediate support."

Moten did not get into specifics about future plans, but is contributing to a Phoenix-based entertainment blog for 944 Magazine (944.com), continuing to host The Very Bad Movie on KTTU Channel 18, and keeping up her podcast at radioexiles.com.

"It's like a relationship. It runs its course. I couldn't pick a better time," Moten said about the KRQ split. "It was the right decision and a good decision for everybody. The show is amazing. They're going to do some amazing things. I'm so happy, and it's the right thing to do. I wish the boys nothing but the best.

"I want to say thank you to all the people who turned on the radio and supported the chick with the annoying voice. I don't have the words to say how thankful I am."

In addition to KRQ, the Johnjay and Rich Show is broadcast on Clear Channel-owned stations in Phoenix (from the KISS FM 104.1 FM studios); Portland, Ore.; and Colorado Springs and Fort Collins in Colorado.

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