Bill Buckmaster's days are officially done at Arizona Public Media.
Buckmaster announced two months ago that he was giving up nightly anchor duties on the UA-operated media outlet's weeknight news program, Arizona Illustrated, but he hoped to keep doing the Friday Roundtable, which was devoted to interviewing newsmakers and media members on current event issues.
"I am saddened by KUAT's decision to kill the Friday Roundtable," said Buckmaster via e-mail. "I don't understand it. Why would you pull the plug on the most popular segment of Arizona Illustrated? A segment over the past 30 years that has been such a vital part of the community's conversation? As far back as last July, I heard rumors about the Roundtable going away. It was one of the major factors in my decision to leave AZPM."
Wendy Erika Werden, Arizona Public Media's director of marketing and brand management, suggests that Buckmaster is overreacting.
"We've been communicating all along that Bill's decision to leave AZPM means that (Arizona Illustrated) will need to evolve and improve, and that's exactly what it's doing," said Werden via e-mail.
The Friday Roundtable's successor will be separated from Arizona Illustrated. AZPM has inked a deal with Michael Chihak to operate a weekly program that will air Friday nights at 8:30 p.m. AZPM hopes Arizona Week, modeled after the PBS program Washington Week with Gwen Ifill, will absorb the Roundtable components.
Chihak is a seventh-generation Tucsonan who served as editor/publisher of the Tucson Citizen before retiring—or, as some might suggest, abandoning the sinking ship that was the city's afternoon daily—in 2008. He accepted a position as executive director of the nonprofit Communications Leadership Institute in San Francisco. He held that job for a year. After studying at the California Culinary Academy, he returned to Tucson in July 2010.
Arizona Week is slated to debut Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, Buckmaster's radio undertaking at KJLL AM 1330 launches Jan. 3.
"As I look forward, I see this as a golden opportunity for my new radio show, where the Roundtable format will still live every Friday morning," said Buckmaster, who occupied the anchor seat at Arizona Illustrated for 23 years.
It looks as though it will take two people to replace Deanna Morgan.
KMSB Channel 11 has promoted Samantha Ptashkin and Marcelino Benito to handle the weekend-anchor responsibilities being vacated by Morgan when she departs KMSB later this month.
Ptashkin and Benito graduated from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. They joined KMSB over the summer.
In other TV-related news: KOLD Channel 13 sportscaster Dave Cooney will leave the CBS affiliate at some point in the near future. Cooney will occupy the No. 2 sportscaster position until KOLD locks down a replacement.
Longtime Tucson radio geeks probably recall when KWFM FM 92.9 launched as the city's first rock station in the early '70s. Many of the DJs and programmers who participated in the station's roots will rekindle those days during a two-hour program this Sunday, Dec. 19, from 8 to 10 a.m. on KWFM AM 1450.
Former KWFMers Allan Browning, Jim Ray, Jim Brady, Margie Wrye, Dave LaRussa, Charlie Morriss and Kimberly Craft will be among those participating in the roundtable reminiscence that will feature air checks and commercials from the era.
The current KWFM AM 1450 has an oldies format. The 92.9 FM frequency is operated by modern adult-contemporary station KWMT, aka The Mountain. Both stations are owned by Clear Channel.
In other news at Clear Channel, Mike Irby has accepted a position as chief engineer for the company's Denver market, where he oversees the technical responsibilities for the company's eight-station cluster. Irby has been handling IT/engineering duties in both Denver and Tucson while Clear Channel searches for his successor.
"If we didn't already have a great team of engineers and other department leaders in Tucson, I wouldn't be able to split my time like this," said Irby via e-mail.
Longtime UA men's basketball beat writer Steve Rivera has put the finishing touches on his third book package related to the history of Arizona basketball. The University of Arizona Basketball Vault: The History of the Wildcats chronicles many of the program's most memorable moments—with a more graphic approach.
"It's a glorified scrapbook: color photos, media passes, old posters, things like that," said Rivera. "It's a different concept. When the guy sent (a sample) to me for review to see if I wanted to be a part of it, I thought it was great. They sent me one from Syracuse. I said, 'Yeah, I'll do it.' It was unbelievably different, and when I got it after completing it, I was pretty stunned."
Rivera has covered the Wildcats for most of the last two decades. He was the men's basketball beat writer at the Tucson Citizen up until last year's shutdown and continues to contribute to TucsonCitizen.com.
"I've been to all but two games at the UA in my time covering them, so I know a lot of the history of the last 20 years," Rivera said. "It was originally scheduled to come out in 2009, but because of the recession, it was pushed back a year, which was better, because I was also able to include the first year for (current head coach) Sean Miller. The reaction has been very positive."
The University of Arizona Basketball Vault is available through traditional book-purchasing channels. You can also contact Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll track one down for you.