Media Watch

Gannett in Hot Water for Half-Assing 'Citizen' Sale

When Gannett announced in January that it would shut down the Tucson Citizen on March 21 if a buyer could not be located, most observers figured Citizen had almost no chance of getting sold, and that in essence, Gannett was simply going through the motions to find a buyer.

After all, the Citizen, the state's longest continually published daily, has long been a dying afternoon newspaper that has bled circulation for more than a decade.

Still, it appears that Gannett's efforts to find a buyer have apparently been a little too through-the-motions for the U.S. Department of Justice's tastes.

The DOJ has reportedly forced the broker supposedly looking for a buyer, Robert J. Broadwater of Broadwater and Associates in Bronxville, N.Y., to rekindle contacts he's had with potential new owners. Apparently, Gannett's requirement that any would-be new owners keep the Citizen going as a print publication with at least three issues a week has upset the feds.

As it stands, if Gannett closes the Citizen, it will still receive revenue from Tucson Newspapers as a result of the federally sanctioned joint operating agreement with Lee Enterprises, the owner of the Arizona Daily Star, without having to fork over the expenses of actually operating a daily newspaper.

Broadwater and the Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.


For years, KSAZ AM 580 was a steady adult-standard-rock station. Owned by Bill Ehlinger and the Owl Broadcasting Group, the signal was the envy of others on the AM band--its daytime signal strength is among the best in the state, and would even get the station occasional mentions in the Phoenix ratings books.

But when Phyllis Ehlinger passed away, the station was put on the market by Bill. When a sale didn't immediately materialize, KSAZ attempted to strengthen its foothold by changing to a traditional country format.

Now the format has changed again. Kasa Radio Hogar Inc. , a Phoenix-based ownership group, purchased the station on March 1--and KSAZ now has a Spanish-language religious talk/music format.

"Everything is going to be broadcast from Tucson," said new assistant station manager Fred Aragon. "We're keeping it local here. Everything is going to be broadcast from the station in Tucson."

KASA AM 1540 operates the same format in Phoenix, but doesn't have the signal strength of its Tucson counterpart.

"This is a beautiful opportunity that we hope to use to help our community here," Aragon said about the signal strength.

"We thoroughly enjoyed servicing your needs and wish the best to you and yours and the new KASA Radio/KSAZ 580," said business manager Joy Renee Karr in a posting on the station Web site.


Rain is better than sizzling summers, at least for KGUN Channel 9 weekend weathercaster Seth Wayne.

Wayne returned to his former station in Eugene, Ore., after a brief stint at the local ABC affiliate. Versatile reporter April Madison has replaced Wayne and is taking meteorology classes to earn accreditation.


KJLL AM 1330 threatened to hold an impromptu parking-lot town hall on Saturday, March 7, when a scheduling conflict threatened talk-show host Ed Schultz's appearance at the Tucson Convention Center's Leo Rich Theater.

"We were going to set up in the courtyard of Leo Rich, and there were going to be hundreds of angry liberals in the parking lot," said KJLL operations manager Kim Kelly. "We signed a contract Jan. 15. The (Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival) doesn't even have a signed contract, and they had the day set up for a rehearsal. They were going to boot us out for a fricking rehearsal."

The issue blew into a brief frenzy last Wednesday, but was resolved within 24 hours.

"The (Arizona Friends of Chamber Music) in June requested dates, like they do all the time," said TCC interim director Tommy Obermaier. "There was an issue with the Saturday, and it went back and forth. Eventually, we sent them a contract starting on Sunday (March 8). They signed it and executed it; it was done. But they operated under the belief that they had the Saturday (March 7).

"The person who signs the contract and the person who programs for them are not the same, so they didn't communicate amongst themselves. We tried to move Ed Schultz to the Music Hall. He said no. We moved the chamber to the Music Hall on Saturday, since they don't have a contract anyhow, and Ed Schultz (got) Leo Rich."

Schultz is one of the nation's more popular liberal--"progressive," as they like to be called--talk-show hosts. His show, based out of Fargo, N.D., is syndicated in 98 markets.


So you're a big-time media trader, and you're thinking, "It was nice when my portfolio wasn't always in the red. But I have faith: I just know Citadel Broadcasting is going to turn the corner. After all, it's a bargain at mere pennies. And by mere, I mean, oh, about 5 cents, so this would be a great time to buy.

"But wait ... where's CDL, the symbol for Citadel? It got delisted? Say what? You mean that happens when stocks fall below a dollar for a period of time (keep an eye on Lee Enterprises), and after efforts to get it back over the dollar threshold, like a reverse stock split (check into Sirius XM Radio for more info on that), are exhausted? Who knew?"

After Citadel's initial public offering, the stock opened in the $19 range. It briefly peaked in the low 20s before experiencing a freefall. The Citadel story is more the norm than the exception: Media stocks have been blitzed in the economic downturn. (Citadel operates five stations in Tucson, and employs me for UA football and basketball pre and postgame shows.)