More often than not, the goal of television reporters who accept positions in Tucson is to use the experience to climb the ladder toward a bigger payday and more prestige in a larger market.
But for some, Tucson is the last rung.
The market has lost three reporters in the last month. Sports reporters Brandon Nash and Eric Villalobos have decided to get out of the business entirely, while news reporter Linda Garrett is giving TV news a go in her home state of California.
"I want more family time, honestly," said Nash, who worked as KMSB Channel 11's No. 2 sportscaster for five years. "You get into this business as a single male with not too many commitments, and this business calls for a big commitment in terms of your time and hours, late nights and odd off days. With my off days being Wednesday and Thursday, going to the bank is fantastic, because there's no waiting in line, but at the same time, working every weekend and working late nights, it just wasn't that appealing to me in the end."
To the sports-loving outsider, covering games sounds pretty cool. But there's a flip side: Games are often scheduled during the free time of the viewing populace.
"Christmas Day games, bowl games on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, New Year's Day—sports happens (on holidays), in the evenings and on weekends," said Nash during a trip to the Reid Park Zoo with his wife and two young children. "Those are quality times you might want to set aside for family, and you're just not allowed to do that. If you're willing to sacrifice, more power to you, and I did for a few years. It's just not really that attractive and that appealing to me anymore as far as a career goal."
Nash will head for Willamette University in Salem, Ore., in pursuit of a degree in sustainability management. The move will also give him an opportunity to take in the UA football game at Oregon this fall as a fan, a first since his Wildcats playing days a decade ago.
"I'm looking forward to actually tailgating and not having to worry about making deadline," Nash said. "I want to see what it's like again, to really enjoy a UA football game."
KMSB was slated to announce Nash's replacement this week.
Meanwhile, Garrett and Villalobos—a couple—blame homesickness and budget cuts for their Tucson departures. Garrett worked as a news reporter at KGUN Channel 9. Villalobos was employed part-time as KOLD Channel 13's No. 3 sportscaster.
"Linda's contract had expired. Rather than renew, she decided to move back to her home state of California to seek opportunities there," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr via e-mail. "We hated to see her go, and certainly wish her the best of luck."
KGUN's version of "hating to see her go" apparently included a proposed salary reduction, something Garrett turned down.
"I felt I had improved over the 2 1/2 years I was in Tucson, but like most other news organizations, KGUN was cutting back on salaries and asking its reporters to take on more responsibilities," Garrett said via e-mail.
Garrett said it had become difficult to live so far away from her loved ones.
"I'm very close to my triplet sisters and my parents, and Eric comes from a large Hispanic family that gets together almost every weekend," said Garrett, who moved to Tucson with Villalobos. "We both felt as if we were missing out on their lives. Also, Eric was having a hard time transitioning from full-time sports anchor in Chico, to part time reporter/photographer in Tucson. He had asked to go full-time, but the company (KOLD) said they couldn't afford to do that. So ultimately, we decided to move back home to California to pursue our careers: me, in television news; Eric, in marketing/PR.But we both made a lot of great friends in Tucson and felt very much a part of the community."
KGUN has already added Claire Doan to its reporting circle.
In June 1980, Alan Michaels took over the reins of "Cool," the oldies station that featured music from the '50s and '60s. He eventually became one of the market's most recognizable radio personalities, and one of the most visible in terms of his connection to a specific format.
After becoming one of the many victims of Clear Channel's recent rash of personnel cutbacks, Michaels has returned to mornings at the curiously labeled KWFM AM 1450, aka Cool 1450.
"(Clear Channel Tucson operations manager) Tim Richards called me and asked if I was interested in returning to Cool for mornings," said Michaels. "Of course, having radio in my blood, I said yes. When you think of oldies, you think of Alan Michaels."
Michaels started at the format when it was broadcast on AM 790. The format transitioned to 92.9 FM in its heyday before ownership attempted a short-lived endeavor called Coyote Country that bombed. The move forced Cool to its current location at 1450.
During Michaels' most recent hiatus, he picked up a sales position with Jim Click's Mazda/Hyundai Auto Mall location, which he'll keep, since his morning show is a part-time job.
"I love the music, love the oldies, love the listeners," said Michaels. "I'm happy doing it, and I know the people of greater Tucson are happy, because I've gotten so many e-mails, so many messages on Facebook, so many calls."
KLPX FM 96.1 afternoon personality Chita is no longer with the Lotus-owned classic rock station.
"Lotus has been great with my departure, and generous," said Chita via e-mail. "I have had so many great opportunities in this business and have met some amazing people. I have no regrets and hope the best for everyone."
Chita worked at KLPX for 10 years, and spent the last two as the station's program director.