CICALA RETURNS TO ROOTS
Finally, the timing was right. Former KOLD Channel 13 reporter Paul Cicala had spent the bulk of his media career in the desert Southwest, but wanted to return to Tucson at some point after leaving to pursue jobs in Las Vegas and, most recently, El Paso.
"A lot of times when a job opportunity comes my way, I'm under contract. And when I'm not under contract, there aren't any good openings," Cicala said.
But when Ryan Recker accepted a position in Pittsburgh, it opened up the sports director slot at KVOA Channel 4, and Cicala jumped at the opportunity.
"I was at the ABC affiliate in El Paso as sports director and did special assignment reports, including border issues and things like that," Cicala said. "I was happy. KVIA, the station I came from, was the dominant news leader out there, and I had done some good things in that market. It had similarities to Tucson, so I was happy. It's only a four-hour drive from Tucson, so I'd come back pretty often. But when I found out about this job opportunity at KVOA, I had to take advantage of at least looking into it. This is where I was born and raised. I'm a product of the Sunnyside Unified School District and have strong ties to Tucson. To me, it's a big deal to come back, and I was fortunate enough to make it."
Since leaving KOLD about seven years ago, Cicala has found success at other stops. His résumé includes a regional Edward R. Murrow reporting award and a number of regional Emmy nominations. Cicala will focus exclusively on sports for KVOA, but should more opportunities present themselves, he would not be adverse to assisting in the newsroom.
"I take pride in my news background and hope in the future I'll be able to do what I've done in the past in other markets, and that's do special assignment reports. That's still up in the air," Cicala said. "I still need to establish myself in sports here. A lot of people still think of me as a news reporter, even though I've been doing sports for years as well. The nature of the business these days is, if there's breaking news, sometimes they'll throw a sports guy on a news story. When I started in El Paso, I took the job knowing I could do sports and special assignments. I like doing stories on border culture and border history. The Edward R. Murrow Award I won out there, and the other Emmy nominations, were all for news stories, not for sports. I'm a newshound and always will be."
His days at KVOA have been busy. Cicala quips that his workload has dipped from about 18 hours a day when he was getting up to speed on the nuances of the technical equipment in the newsroom to his current 10 hours per day. He also arrived at the onset of UA football season, which added to the necessity of learning on the fly. But if that was the tradeoff for getting back into his home market, he'd sign off on that acquisition every time.
"It's been tough to be away. I've explored other opportunities, but I'm here to stay," Cicala said. "I have nothing but Tucson and Southern Arizona pride. I'm pumped up. I've been working a lot, but it's pure passion and enjoyment. You get a different sense of satisfaction when you know you're reporting in your own community. That's how I feel in Tucson. It's great to be back home."
THOMAE LAUNCHES HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SITE
In an effort to fill the void in broadcasts of high school football in Tucson, Eric Thomae, who you may remember from previous hosting duties on KNST, has unveiled mybroadcastbox.com, a streaming website dedicated to play-by-play of local games. Listeners can access live game feeds on their iPhones, Windows-based smartphones, PCs and tablets.
The project is very much in its infancy, but Thomae is hoping to do what traditional radio can't: broadcast numerous games at the same time. In smaller communities, it's easier for radio stations to broadcast regional high school games because there aren't that many high schools. Obviously, Tucson has a bunch, so a lot of schools get left out.
"You can't put it on one radio signal, so what we're trying to do is webcast these games," Thomae said. "Over the course of time we'd like to have a network of broadcasters in Tucson and maybe have as many as five games. That's a way down the road. The idea, by the end of the season, is to maybe have as many as three games on at any given time. We're also talking about basketball, softball, maybe wrestling, volleyball. The concept is to have an entire network to cover high school sports in the community."
The debut broadcast certainly got off to an electrifying start.
"The first game we broadcast was delayed by lightning," Thomae said. "We made the decision we couldn't broadcast in the rain because our brand-new equipment was getting wet. We've learned. I carry a tarp in the back seat of my car now. Every week we go on, we learn something more about how it can be done better and marketed better."
The ability to promote broadcasts on specific school Facebook pages has been the most noteworthy marketing approach to date.
"Every high school has a Facebook page for the football team run by the parents," Thomae said. "Being allowed to post on those has been beneficial."
The next step is finding funding.
"We are looking for advertisers," Thomae said. "I'm not doing this to make millions. I just wanted to get back into broadcasting. I like covering sports."