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KGUN'S WALDMAN MAKES LEAP TO NEW YORK CITY

The harsh reality of news coverage is that when a major story puts a community in the national spotlight, the local reporters covering that story receive attention they probably wouldn't have received otherwise.

The Jan. 8 shooting was just such a story. And Joel Waldman got noticed.

"It's bittersweet, because I got recognized partly because of the coverage of Gabby Giffords and the shooting," said Waldman. "Obviously, that is a huge tragedy. ... I think about Gabby and the victims all the time. But the way the news business works, the coverage of that is what also helped me get recognized."

Waldman, a New Jersey native who spent the last four years as a reporter at KGUN Channel 9, leaves next week for WNYW Channel 5, the Fox network's flagship affiliate.

"I'll be helping out with a couple of their different units, but primarily, they want me to work on the investigative unit there," Waldman said. "There's a lot of interchange between the Fox flagship and Fox News Channel, and they talked to me briefly about doing some fill-in work on the Fox News Channel network. I'm hoping that everyone in Southern Arizona will see me on Fox News at some point. It's unusual to go from market 66 to No. 1, but I'm happy to be the one to take (the leap). I really hope to make Southern Arizona proud. I've been in the business 16 years, but in relation to reporting, what I've learned, I learned while I was here. I'm grateful for that."

Waldman credits current KGUN news director Forrest Carr for much of his development.

"I've worked for a lot of people in this business, well-known people, like Matt Lauer and Brian Williams, when I was in New York, but Forrest Carr and the others are doing a really great job at KGUN 9," Waldman said. "The whole notion of being 'on your side' and viewer advocacy, he really has made that a No. 1 concern.

"Forrest is tough as nails. He's as hard a boss as I've had, but he's also the most fair, and he really lets you swing the bat. That's what I've done. He's given us a lot of leeway."

Waldman developed a fondness for Tucson during his four-year stint in the Old Pueblo.

"I don't think I've seen a community that defines itself as a true community the way Tucson does," Waldman said. "People really care about issues here. A lot of times, people don't seem to agree on a lot, whether it's Rio Nuevo or ethnic studies, but one thing that's clear about Tucson is everybody around here really cares about the issues, and they really step up. It sounds kind of corny, but there really is a feeling there's sort of one family here. This is the most unique and nicest community I think I've been a part of. I'm definitely going to miss it."

That said, there are some who are probably not sad to learn about Waldman's departure—including a well-known figure at the Tucson Weekly.

"Jim Nintzel doesn't like me too much," Waldman said. "I was in the (2009) 'Get Out of Town!' issue, and I just wanted Jim Nintzel to know that I'm getting out of town, but I'll miss all of Southern Arizona, and him—and he has an open invite to New York City whenever he wants to come visit."


'WEEKLY' MARIJUANA-CRITIC SEARCH GARNERS INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION

As Arizona's new medical-marijuana law goes into effect, the Tucson Weekly has plans to hire a freelancer responsible for analyzing the customer-service aspects of the numerous dispensaries poised to open in and around the community.

"Obviously, we'll have some fun with things, because that's what the Weekly does, but it's going to be done rather seriously. We're not just going to be going in and making ridiculous Half Baked-style pot jokes," said editor Jimmy Boegle. "In this column, the person will talk about how the parking situation is, how the prices are, how effective the stuff is, what the selection is. We're probably going to expand a little bit if we can figure out how, in terms of trying to do some reviews on these clinics that are popping up that people can go to, to get a prescription to apply for a medical-marijuana card."

After the Weekly announced the freelance opening two weeks ago, the world's media noticed. A KGUN Channel 9 story on the job was picked up by TV stations across the country; eventually, CNN ran a piece using KGUN's footage, and included a link to it on the CNN.com front page. London's Daily Mail reported on the issue as well.

While modeled after a similar and successfully received column in Denver's alternative weekly, Westword, the Tucson Weekly coverage will be a bit different due to the differences between Colorado's medical-marijuana legislation and the ways the rules are written in Arizona. In Colorado, marijuana dispensaries are as common as payday-loan outlets are in the Old Pueblo.

"Here, there will be a very limited number (of dispensaries). ... It might be a column that only runs six months to a year, and then comes back on occasion," Boegle said. "I think people will enjoy it, and people will get a lot out of it."

The position—similar in approach to what one might expect from a restaurant review—is unique in that the reporter will use an alias.

"When you go into a restaurant, you can pay via cash or have (someone else) use their credit card," Boegle said. "Here, you're going to have your card with your name on it ... to prove you are eligible to buy medical marijuana products. If we didn't use a pseudonym in this case, then every one of these medical-marijuana businesses will know (the visit) is probably going to be for a review. ... Marijuana in some segments is still illegal. It's still a felony in the state of Arizona to be carrying marijuana. In wanting to protect the anonymity so the reviewer gets a true customer experience at these businesses, and because of the legal issues, we (will allow a pseudonym). We allow pseudonyms in very few exceptions; this is one of those exceptions."

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