Lena Sadiwskyj's three-plus-year run as KGUN Channel 9 news director came to an abrupt end last week. While she may not have made the final hiring and firing decisions, Sadiwskyj certainly had a lot to do with KGUN's dramatic changeover in reporters during her tenure—and she didn't make a lot of friends in the process, although much of the new blood had a better opinion of her.
Sadiwskyj may have been a somewhat ironic scapegoat for the station's problems, considering KGUN's enhanced emphasis on its "Nine on Your Side" moniker, designed as an effort to better connect on a one-on-one basis with the viewer.
While parent company Journal Broadcast Group refuses to comment on pretty much anything related to the station's happenings, insiders indicate that at a meeting earlier this month, upper management from the company's home base in Milwaukee pushed for a more intense news approach, with the long-utilized "Nine on Your Side" tagline as the lynchpin.
With Sadiwskyj as news director, KGUN had already taken a number of steps to follow Journal's requests. While some ratings books showed improvement, upper management may have decided on a change based on recent numbers and trends.
Sources say former KGUN news director Forrest Carr was given a tour by local management last week. Carr served as KGUN news director from 1997 to 2001. From there, he held similar positions with WFLA in Tampa, Fla., WFTX in Fort Meyers, Fla., and KRQE in Albuquerque, N.M.
What impact the next news director will have, considering the desires of corporate management, remains to be seen.
In other local TV news: A more significant change in the way local television news will be presented is in the works at KVOA Channel 4, which last week held a meeting announcing a movement toward what some insiders call the "one-man band" approach, meaning reporters, as they are, will be required to photograph and edit their own stories.
In the grand local-news tradition of including a good story tease: More on that developing situation in Media Watch in a couple of weeks.
Political reporter Daniel Scarpinato is concluding a five-year stint with the Arizona Daily Star and will join "political tip sheet" the Yellow Sheet Report starting Sept. 1.
"Working at the Star has been a complete thrill. This sounds corny, I know, but I took great pride in waking up everyday and covering such an important beat for the community I was raised in," said Scarpinato via Facebook correspondence. "I truly am grateful to everyone at the Star, particularly my editors, and I'm glad to be leaving on great terms.
"I'm also really excited about this next step. The Yellow Sheet is a legendary and influential institution in Arizona politics. It has a very sophisticated and keen audience. From a journalist's perspective, it presents a host of great opportunities and challenges.
"I think the next year will be one of the most interesting ever in Arizona politics. I'm looking forward to the challenge of putting all the pieces together for my new readers, an audience that relies on the Yellow Sheet to get their own jobs done.
Scarpinato joined the Star in 2004, where he covered K-12 education before moving to politics in 2006.
TucsonCitizen.com is one of five outlets nationally—and the only exclusively Web-based entity—participating in a pilot project put forth by J-Lab at American University's School of Communication.
The pilot project—which also includes input from and funding for The Seattle Times, The Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina, and the Asheville Citizen-Times in North Carolina—is an experiment to meld traditional newspaper-style reporting with input from other community sources.
"In these days where anyone can publish local information, we hope that a guided partnership between local newspapers and local bloggers or citizen journalists can increase the amount of local information available in a community and raise its quality," said Gary Kebbel of the Knight Foundation, the program funding the project, in a press release. "We see this as a win/win for the community."
The Tucson Citizen ceased its print run in May. Tucsoncitizen.com remains operational with a skeleton crew and unpaid community bloggers. The amount of the grant was not disclosed.
In an effort to balance the business benefits of social networking with the potential for abuses by employees, Clear Channel has nixed work-time visits to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter over concerns that the possibility of distraction is interfering with the bottom line.
"During these tough economic times, the success of our business and this market requires our full focus and attention," said Tom Zlaket, Clear Channel Tucson's market manager, in an internal memo acquired by the Weekly. "The increased use of social-networking sites such as Facebook and/or MySpace can be contributors to distractions within our building. In an effort to mitigate distractions, the use of these social networking sites in our building is now prohibited until further notice unless they are being used, and only used, towards an increase in ratings."
While Clear Channel isn't the first, and probably won't be the last, business to nix social-network scanning on the company dime, it might very well be a sign of more ominous concerns, and the Zlaket memo suggests as much: When business is good, fool around all you want. When times are tough, it's Facebook's fault.
How Clear Channel employees will attempt to balance the marketing potential of social-networking sites while remaining in accordance with the mandate remains to be seen.