Various stresses finally took their toll on KOLD Channel 13 general manager Jim Arnold, who ended his near-decade stint at the local CBS affiliate this week.
Arnold said discussions to part ways with KOLD and its parent company, Raycom, were in the works for a couple of weeks before being finalized last week. He announced the decision to the staff last Thursday, March 25, and was slated to work his final day on Wednesday, March 31.
"It's pretty common that with our company, if you're leaving, you don't lame-duck it," Arnold said.
Arnold has been enduring family issues, and something had to give.
"I have a son who's been battling a brain tumor most of his life," Arnold explained. "He's lost most of his vision. He does a wonderful job working at the UA Athletic Department. He's a remarkable young man. He's been with us now for the past eight years, and when your kid is sick, it's just a natural layer of stress, no matter how well they're doing.
"Over the last year, that stress has taken a toll on my wife and myself. I can't eliminate the family stress. That is something we deal with on a daily basis. ... I can rid myself of the stress of day-to-day work. For the past year, I've been very tired. It's a grind. I don't need to be told it's a grind every day. I know it's a grind. I finally said, 'Timeout, enough, I'm going to take some family time and Jim time.'"
In the nearly 10 years since Arnold took the helm, KOLD has been transformed from a foundering CBS affiliate with wretched ratings into the top-rated station in the market.
"I made a conscious effort to change the culture, to be open to anyone on the staff at any level who needed to talk to me, to try to create a fun atmosphere with a family attitude," Arnold said. "I take great pride in clients and visitors at the station commenting about how much energy there is, and how friendly it is, and how happy everybody seems. They mentioned they didn't see that everywhere they go, and that makes me proud. If you can't have fun, and you can't laugh every day, and not have a competitive spark about you, it's no use.
"I tried real hard to relax everybody. We have people who are incredibly competitive. We're friends with the other stations, but every day, our goal is to kick their tails, and more days than not, I think we have over the past years. It's been a lot of fun."
Raycom has promoted news director Michelle Germano to interim GM while the company undergoes a more detailed search process. Germano was an Arnold hire, one of many people he credits with changing the landscape at KOLD.
"They're really good, dedicated people who I think enjoyed working for me, and I certainly enjoyed working with them," Arnold said.
Arnold worked in the media for 25 years in Tucson. He was a popular radio personality in the '70s and moved up the management ladder. He then helped turn two separate TV entities into moneymakers in other markets, including a station in Madison, Wis., that went from being $8 million in the hole to $26 million in the black. He later played a major role in a media sale that approached a billion dollars.
A member of the Arizona Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame, Arnold said he is uncertain about his future in the workforce, but he feels good about leaving KOLD in a better place than where it was upon his arrival.
"The day I took over in June 2000, the ratings came out, and KOLD was a distant third, if not fourth, in many areas," Arnold said. "KVOA had been the dominant station for years, and over the years, we turned it around and moved forward, and I am very proud of the fact that I am leaving a station that is No. 1 in the ratings (and) No. 1 in revenue in the market. I think it's No. 1 in community service, in what we give back to the community, so I feel I'm going out on top."
KVOA Channel 4 morning-news personality Josh Benson is en route to Orlando, Fla., where he will handle weekend-anchor and weekday-reporting responsibilities for ABC affiliate WFTV.
Benson will conclude his five-year stint in Tucson on May 28; he starts in Orlando the first part of July.
"It's been great. They have treated me so well. That's the thing I'll leave Tucson with: The company, Evening Post, I'm impressed with them," Benson said of the organization that operates KVOA. "The last two years, I've seen a lot of friends in the business (with other companies) get hurt while they were just trying to survive. With Evening Post, they warned us what was coming, and they planned for it, so while we weren't unscathed, we made it through a tough time. We made it through the (high-definition) conversion, which was great to get behind us. I've seen a lot in five years, and that's a testament to how the company does business. I'm really happy to have been a part of it, and they've treated me well."
Said KVOA general manager Bill Shaw via e-mail, "Josh is a true professional in every respect, and a very likable person as well. We are sorry to lose Josh, but a great opportunity presented itself. Josh will be missed here at the station and by the Tucson community as well. We wish Josh nothing but the best."
Meanwhile, KVOA has hired Chris Nallan as a morning-weather personality. Nallan has a degree in Earth and atmospheric sciences from Salisbury University in Maryland and was a weekend weather personality and environmental reporter at WICZ in Binghamton, N.Y.