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WADDELL SIGNS THREE-YEAR EXTENSION WITH KGUN

KGUN Channel 9 anchor Jennifer Waddell has signed a three-year contract extension with the ABC affiliate.

"We're thrilled to have renewed our contract with Jennifer and look forward to more success," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr.

Waddell made an impact on the market immediately upon her arrival. She has an engaging personality and an ability to connect with the audience—and her knowledge on a variety of topics makes the usually unbearable end-of-segment chat aspect of television news palatable.

Her previous contract came to a close last month, and in the waning days of negotiations, KGUN placed an anchor-position posting on its Web site and national job sites. Now that Waddell and the station have agreed to terms, that job posting will probably be removed.

Oddly, Waddell was not allowed to comment for this story.


BIG NEWS DAY: TV NEWS BALANCES STORIES, NEW TECHNOLOGIES, LOCAL VS. NATIONAL COVERAGE

Local television-news outlets had a busy couple of days in late July.

Coverage of the fatal medical-helicopter crash near Park Avenue and Glenn Street dominated headlines on Wednesday, July 28, and on the 29th, the stations had to balance continuing coverage of that story with the injunction against much of SB 1070—and the accompanying protests downtown.

On the 29th, while focusing almost all of their coverage on the civil disobedience related to the judicial ruling that watered down most of the key components the immigration bill, two of the local stations—KGUN Channel 9 and KOLD Channel 13—decided to pre-empt national news at 5:30 p.m. and stay live on the scene while police were clearing downtown streets.

"We have pre-empted numerous times for breaking-news events," said KOLD news director Michelle Germano. "The Aspen Fire, the (murder of Tucson Police Department officer Patrick Hardesty)—news events that are developing."

KOLD stuck with the protests for most of the 5:30 block, but rejoined the CBS Evening News for about the final 10 minutes. KOLD showed a brief Skype video of the protest scene at 5 before leading with an update on the helicopter crash, and then spent most of the rest of the block using Skype from the protest scene.

KOLD loves using the Skype computer phone/video technique. The station's logic is that by using a computer connection, the reporter can get to a scene and start reporting more quickly. It's also more flexible in terms of providing video from scenes that would be otherwise difficult to reach.

"The other crews that were there and did not use Skype were parked where they were parked since very early in the morning. We weren't," said Germano. "Once we got there, it would have required an impossible cable-line run. We never could have done it. A lot of the (video) sequence didn't even have the reporter in front of it. We pointed it so you could see the scene. ... Channel 9, as I understand it, had parked there since very early in the morning, and (KVOA) Channel 4 was parked farther away, did use their live truck, and the shot they had would have been what we would have had, had we used a live truck. ... To get closer to the scene, that's what we did."

That's the good side of Skype. The bad side: The quality of the Skype footage paled in comparison to the more traditional live video displayed on the other two stations.

Meanwhile, KGUN—which has pursued immigration and border issues like a runaway freight train for the past few months—committed its entire 5 o'clock newscast to reporters live on scene. At 5:28—after the studio anchors had announced they were about to transition to World News Tonight—a change in circumstances led the station to remain with local coverage.

"We did expect to go to World News Tonight," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr, who noted that this was the first time KGUN pre-empted ABC's national news since he returned to the station almost a year ago. "We were about to break away, and then there was new activity on the scene—specifically, a group of people came in on bicycles. They caused something of a stir in the crowd, and police started responding to that. We didn't know what was going to happen. So, yes, there was an audible in the booth. I made the decision: 'Let's see what's going to happen here.'"

That decision irked a number of viewers—to the point that Carr addressed the issue, complete with some viewer comments, on the KGUN Web site.

KGUN stayed downtown from 5:30 to 6—and didn't even mention an update to the helicopter-crash story until the second block in its 6 o'clock newscast.

KVOA, which had the benefit of its 4 p.m. newscast, led with the helicopter crash at 5 before returning to the immigration protest for the remainder of the newscast. Anchor Tom McNamara did an excellent job of resetting the situation from the studio.

KVOA was the only station to run national news in its entirety at 5:30 p.m.

"We covered the protest and arrests extensively during our 5 (p.m.) news and in later newscasts as well," said KVOA station manager Kathleen Choal. "Because the situation did not turn violent and appeared to be under control, we decided it was important for our viewers to receive the national news they count on each day. We would have broken into programming with any new, vital information, and we were continuously updating on kvoa.com.

"In hindsight, I believe we made the right decision. Even a week later, I (was) still receiving calls and e-mails from viewers thanking me for being the only station in town to go to national news."

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