TucsonCitizen.com recently received a $50,000 grant.
Well, now the money is here. How did the Gannett-owned Web site go about best spending it?
Editor Mark Evans had two approaches in mind.
"The two areas I wanted to focus on were watchdog journalism/watchdog community reporting; and sports," Evans said. "For watchdogs ... there aren't that many (worthy bloggers to hire) that are Tucson- and county-driven. There are a lot of blog sites with strong political opinions where they're doing some citizen journalism, but it wasn't watchdog stuff where people are holding feet to the fire on budgets and accounting diligence and so forth. So I fell back to sports and scratched my head to try to figure out how I was going to pull that off."
Evans' option was Anthony Gimino, who has experience covering the UA football beat with the Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star. He also put in a stint at a national Web site and most recently acted as the sports columnist for the Citizen prior to the paper's print closure in May.
"Anthony's great," said Evans. "He is a phenomenal sports journalist and was hip to the idea."
In addition to making his own online contributions, Gimino's job is to attract a corps of local bloggers and cross-promote their respective Web sites while using TucsonCitizen.com as something of a one-stop online shop for perspectives on UA and high school sports. Two people with lengthy print journalism résumés—Javier Morales, who worked for the Citizen and the Star in the '90s, and longtime Citizen UA men's basketball beat writer Steve Rivera—are already in the fold.
"The initiative from the grant at (American University) J-Lab is to bring in independent voices in the community and put them under one umbrella," Gimino said. "Javier fits in that category, because he's running wildaboutazcats.com. We're bringing in a guy who writes and posts for UAsports.net. Rivera has his own Web site. I'll be looking for a couple of other people to fill out the roster. We're trying to bring in people who are writing independently about Tucson sports."
The effort will focus mostly on contributions involving UA sports and high school athletics.
"You can't have enough UA sports blogs in this town," Evans said. "The demand is sensational. And the readers go from one to the next to another, and they'll comment on each one of them. We're looking at the UA and high school stuff (and may) even find someone who will blog about Phoenix pro teams. I know in Tucson, the pro-sports connection has more to do with where you're from than being an affiliate with the Phoenix pro team, but there's a lot of interest in the Cardinals and Diamondbacks and the Suns down here. Anthony is looking at maybe getting someone to write about those. And as much as I'd hate to admit it, there are some people down here who went to school in Tempe who are more interested in Arizona State University, so you might even see some Sparky lovers on TucsonCitizen.com."
Of the five outlets that received the J-Lab grant, TucsonCitizen.com is the only one that doesn't have a print presence. The other grant recipients might approach the experiment in a more scattershot fashion, attempting to incorporate bloggers with a variety of interests—entertainment, business, travel, etc.—within the newspaper site umbrella, whereas Evans decided on a more focused effort.
"We'll see if it works," Evans said. "It's definitely going to be unique to what some of the other newspapers are doing, but I think it's something that can generate interest."
Said Gimino, "What TucsonCitizen.com in general is doing is new. They're trying to add new bloggers all the time. It's part of the reason they want to study this, (to) see what works, what doesn't work and maybe get out in front of a trend in terms of consolidation. Sports-wise, there are a lot of independent sports voices in town other than the Daily Star. Because we can bring in at least five other people, it will be a mix. We'll have guys who might be able to break news (and) guys who will sit back and analyze from a fan's point of view. Somebody who goes to the site will find something they like. If we can grow a community, it's good for us and good for the fans."
MOTEN CUTS TUCSON TIES
Carrie Moten, who recently left the JohnJay and Rich radio program—which broadcast from Phoenix but syndicated on four other Clear Channel stations, including KRQQ FM 93.7 in Tucson—has also discontinued her involvement with two other projects that have an Old Pueblo connection.
Moten is no longer the host of The Very Bad Movie, which airs Saturday nights/Sunday mornings from midnight to 2 a.m. on KTTU Channel 18. Additionally, she has stopped podcasting at Tucson-based radioexiles.com.
"The Very Bad Movie was great, and I loved being the force behind its launch three years ago, and I enjoyed radioexiles a ton, but unfortunately, at this stage of my career, and (considering) the fact that I'm not in Tucson as much as I'd wish to be, I can't devote the time to those projects that they deserve," Moten said via e-mail.
The Very Bad Movie began its fourth season on Sept. 26 with new co-hosts Shannon Black and ... um ... some schlub named John Schuster.
"I'm so excited about co-hosting The Very Bad Movie—to go on TV and do something silly. Why not?" said Black.
Belo Tucson creative services director Brian Baltosiewich, who founded radioexiles, explains: "I'm sure I will live to regret asking John to be involved, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Shannon was the natural choice. Schu? Any port in the storm."
Black co-hosts the morning show on KIIM FM 99.5.
Schuster is also on the radio. He co-hosts UA football and men's basketball pregame and postgame shows on KCUB AM 1290 and podcasts at radioexiles.com. He also writes the Media Watch column for the Tucson Weekly, where he sometimes gets to refer to himself in the third person.