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KGUN ELIMINATES OVERTIME, ENACTS OTHER CUTBACKS

The Arizona Daily Star isn't the only media outlet in Tucson suffering from economic woes.

Late last week, Journal Broadcast Group, which owns KGUN Channel 9, announced the elimination of overtime in the newsroom. While the station has avoided staff layoffs so far, overtime was utilized on a regular basis—clearly too regularly for Journal.

"Some of you have heard me say that the Tucson broadcast economy has been stuttering lately. The problem has now grown worse—much worse. As a result, effective immediately, we are going to have to tighten our belts in ways that will not be comfortable," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr in a memo obtained by the Weekly.

"First, we have been instructed to eliminate overtime. Note that I did not say 'reduce.' We will do what is necessary to properly cover the truly big stories, but in selecting stories for a response requiring overtime, we'll set a high bar. All other overtime expenditures will be cut to the fullest extent possible."

The memo outlines a number of cutbacks, including the expectation to get stories covered within the confines of an eight-hour day. The station is also eliminating the practice of shift extensions, a process in which members of the morning-news shift stay a bit longer, until the evening-news shift arrives earlier than scheduled—a practice used to always have someone in the newsroom in case a major story breaks, such as high-profile trial verdicts. The station is also scrapping overtime for missed lunches, and will not be replacing an hourly employee during a shift when that employee calls in sick.

Additional cost-cutting components include a more-selective approach to stories requiring extensive travel; substituting the use of Skype for the more-traditional satellite uplink (Skype has become one of the more absurd technological gimmicks in television news as of late); instituting a hiring freeze on open positions (KGUN had been accepting applications for a number of vacancies); and putting the kibosh on discretionary purchases. Presumably, if a camera or a computer or a satellite truck isn't working properly, it might take some time to get it operational again.

"I very much regret that we are in this position—and I hasten to point out that news ratings are not the issue," said the memo. "It's the economy. Quite simply, we are personally feeling the effects of some of the very issues on which we report every day in our newscasts, and Tucson is feeling those effects worse than most other places."

While the tone of the memo has an economic focus, KGUN's ratings trail those of chief competitors KVOA Channel 4 and KOLD Channel 13 in every major newscast and critical demographic.

Sources suggest the utilization of overtime may have been a way to appease staff members who haven't received raises in a number of years.

Jim Thomas, the company's vice president of marketing, programming and interactive media, said from the Journal home base in Milwaukee that the company had "nothing to add."

Fortunately—depending on one's definition of fortunate—Corinne Hautala made it in just before the hiring freeze. Hautala will join KGUN as a reporter. An Arizona native, Hautala most recently worked in Jacksonville, Fla., and also spent some time in Hastings, Neb. She has reporter and anchor experience and is scheduled to start at the station on Aug. 22.


KMSB PICKS KELLY FOR SPORTS POSITION

David Kelly debuted this week as the new sports director/anchor of KMSB Channel 11's 9 p.m. news and the Sunday Night Sports Force.

Kelly arrived in Tucson a few years ago to handle radio duties for IMG's network coverage of UA football and men's basketball pregame and postgame shows, broadcast locally on flagship station KCUB AM 1290 (which employs me on a local level for broadcasts before and after network programming). He was also part of the Wildcats baseball and softball broadcasts in a play-by-play capacity.

Kelly was removed from the position toward the end of 2010, in the middle of the basketball season, because he was unable to reach IMG's sales quota. He was the first person in the Tucson market in that position required to satisfy both on-air and sales roles with the company. (See "UA Contractor Fires Kelly," Media Watch, Nov. 11, 2010.)

In the past, IMG hired announcers on a per-broadcast basis. Ryan Hansen moved into the position after Kelly's departure, and used the forum as a fundraising opportunity for UA athletics, an excellent tie-in with his role within the UA Athletic Department.

IMG appears likely to return to the per-broadcast model when it officially replaces Kelly for football broadcasts, a hire that has yet to be finalized.

While Kelly struggled to generate advertising revenue—becoming an excellent example of why announcers should announce, and sales people should sell, and rarely shall the two be the same—the preparation he put into his broadcasts has been a topic of admiration among other sports-media personalities in the market. That behind-the-scenes work ethic figures to serve him well at KMSB, a station that puts an emphasis on its sports product, most notably the time dedicated to its Friday high school football coverage and the 40-minute Sunday Night Sports Force.

"We are pleased to have David join our Sports Force team," said KMSB and Belo Tucson general manager Bob Simone via e-mail. "David's 19 years in both news and sports, and the winner of awards as best sports broadcaster and for spot news coverage, bring a wealth of experience to our newscast."

Kelly replaces Vinnie Vinzetta, who accepted a sports position with Belo partner KENS-TV in San Antonio.

More by John Schuster

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