When Savannah Guthrie speaks to graduates at the UA's 2011 spring-semester undergraduate commencement ceremony this weekend, she'll laud the institution for playing a major role in laying out a path that has made her perhaps the most recognizable national media figure with significant ties to Tucson.
"I consider my education at the UA to be very important," said Guthrie, who earlier this week was named the co-host of the third hour of NBC's Today show. "I graduated from the UA with a print-journalism degree. I think those fundamentals I've learned, I still apply. The values the journalism school teaches, I still cling to."
Like many students, Guthrie meandered through the education process for a couple of years, but once she dabbled in some journalism courses, the reporting bug stuck.
"I recognized I really loved to report," Guthrie said. "Professor (Jacqueline) Sharkey, who is the head of the journalism (school) now, her encouragement meant everything to me. When you're at that age, getting a vision for yourself of what you might be able to do and what you might be good at is so important. I look at that period as very informative and quite important."
From there, Guthrie at first took what would be considered a typical broadcast path. She landed her first job at a TV station in Columbia, Mo., before an opportunity at KVOA Channel 4 allowed her to return to her hometown. She handled reporter and anchor duties.
"I have great memories of KVOA," said the Amphitheater High School grad. "A lot of the people I loved at KVOA are still there. When I come home, I try to see them: Martha Vasquez and Tom McNamara, and a lot of the photographers and crew are still there. I was there in January during the shootings, and not only were they wonderful to see, but they helped a lot with NBC's coverage. We're a tight group. ... Work gets busy, but we feel connected to that time and place."
However, it was Guthrie's next move—and KVOA's willingness to allow her to pursue it— that some would find surprising. Generally, upward mobility in the broadcast business is defined by a series of jobs in increasingly larger markets. Many former Tucson media personalities, for instance, have moved on to markets like Phoenix, perhaps with designs on Los Angeles, Chicago, New York or even national-broadcast opportunities.
Instead, Guthrie went to law school and eventually earned her law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. She practiced briefly before landing a reporting position with Court TV.
She was hired by NBC in 2008 as a White House correspondent.
"There clearly was a time for me when I needed to take the next step if I was going to be career-oriented in journalism. It was time to move on to a bigger city," said Guthrie of her decision to leave KVOA. "But I was also interested in the law, having covered a bunch of trials, and there was a part of me that really wanted to try out this law-school path. I dreamed of combining them somehow, some day, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to. When I got the opportunity to go to Georgetown, I took it. I jumped at it.
"I'm thankful to KVOA. At the time, I was under contract. I went to my bosses and said, 'I think I'd really like to try this and go in this direction.' They could have held me back, but they said, 'We're not going to stand in your way.' I'm very appreciative of that.
"Going home and giving the graduation speech is such an honor. I'm so excited, and maybe a little intimidated by it. I hope to talk to the graduates in a real down-to-earth way. I don't plan on making any lofty pronouncements. I just hope to congratulate them and pass on a little bit of wisdom I've collected over the ages. I am really excited. I think it's just a great opportunity and honor for me."
Guthrie also co-hosts The Daily Rundown on MSNBC.
On Monday, May 9, NBC announced that Meredith Vieira will leave the nation's top-rated morning news/variety program. Guthrie was slotted into the Today show as the result of promotions for Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. Curry, who handled newsreader duties on the show, will take Vieira's place. Morales will replace Curry, leaving Guthrie to fill the third-hour vacancy left by Morales.
Last week, we reported that Lee Enterprises planned to sell somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars in junk bonds in an effort to improve the company's shaky financial situation.
However, Lee—the Davenport, Iowa, publishing outlet that owns the Arizona Daily Star—has made an about-face.
"Although we were pleased with investor interest, the proposed offerings did not result in terms and conditions that met our expectations or recognize the future value we expect for Lee stockholders," said Mary Junck, Lee's chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. "Refinancing our credit agreement and the Pulitzer notes debt is among our highest priorities. We will continue to pursue alternatives and intend to refinance our long-term debt before it matures in April 2012."
Lee stock, which had rebounded to levels higher than $2 once the market started recovering—after the stock was in danger of being delisted from the New York Stock for failing to maintain a consistent stock price at or above $1—was again in free-fall mode and hovering around the $1 range earlier this week.