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Greetings from Iowa

Lee Enterprises officials wasted little time in getting the word out Sunday night (Jan. 30) about the Davenport, Iowa-based company's acquisition of Pulitzer Inc., owner of the Arizona Daily Star--while rolling out an electronic welcome mat to Pulitzer's 4,000 employees.

Business Wire (a shotgun-style news-release service) sent the announcement across the Internet at 9 p.m. Tucson time, and Lee's corporate Web site was already primed--with a full-on downloadable press kit and a streaming video welcome for Pulitzer employees from chairman and CEO Mary Junck.

Junck spoke of the company's commitment to "quality journalism, our employees and the communities we serve." She also said the merger would mean more opportunities for advancement--words that may be of special interest to Star staffers.

Lee has a reputation for promoting from within; in the past, some Star staffers wondered why they were part of the Pulitzer structure, yet job openings at the flagship St. Louis Post-Dispatch weren't posted in the Star newsroom.

It's a big change in culture. Lee takes a unified look at its properties, with companywide competitions and a Web site with tips for better writing, editing and design, and online discussion groups. Pulitzer's structure was chunky, for lack of a better term. The P-D stood alone; the Star stood alone; and Pulitzer Community Newspapers--its dozen smaller dailies and horde of nondaily papers--also stood alone.

Lee's Q&A for shareholders said no layoffs are planned, and all union contracts will be honored--a big deal in St. Louis, where 11 unions represent workers at the Post-Dispatch. Only one union in Tucson would be affected, Phoenix Local 58-M of the Graphics Communications International Union, which represents TNI's press operators.

It should be fun to watch what effect the deal will have on the TNI Partners joint operating agreement, which has another 10 years to run. While the Lee stockholders Q&A says the company expects to have good relations with Gannett, it's worth wondering whether Lee--which will be the fourth-largest newspaper chain in the United States after the sale is finalized--will settle for the status quo here.

For now, Tucson remains one of the last two-newspaper towns. And a whole lot of antitrust investigators can sleep better tonight.


TNI LABOR STRIFE

Distribution center workers at TNI Partners, the agency that oversees advertising, business and circulation operations for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen, are scheduled to vote Feb. 22 on joining the union that represents pressroom employees.

It's the second time the election has been scheduled. An earlier vote was postponed when Phoenix Local 58-M of the Graphics Communications International Union filed an unfair labor practices complaint against TNI with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint accused TNI supervisors of telling mailroom workers that they could be fired, lose benefits or get fewer scheduled hours if they supported the union. The complaint also accused TNI of making false remarks about collective bargaining.

The complaint was settled, with terms posted in the plant Nov. 2. Under NLRB regulations, settlements are no-fault agreements posted on-site for 60 days--there's no statement of guilt, but the business promises to not engage in certain behaviors in the future.

Union officials said recently that after the posters came down in January, mailroom supervisors have been eavesdropping on conversations, denying workers "privacy breaks" and "treating Hispanics and women in threatening and demeaning ways," according to a letter delivered to the Tucson Weekly.

Larry Urrutia, TNI's vice president for operations, said he had heard nothing about harassment and other labor issues in the mailroom, and added that was an issue he would not discuss anyway.

As of Jan. 31, a story about the issue hadn't appeared in either paper.


SUDDEN EXIT

Without a chance for formal goodbyes, the Barry and Andy in the Morning show disappeared from the KLPX (96.1 FM) lineup after signing off Friday. Co-host Andy Taylor put the word out via a radio-industry Internet bulletin board in a classy posting. The note said "the show was let go" immediately after Friday's broadcast. It went on to say that they "love Tucson and the extremely cool people in this town."

No word on what's next for Andy and co-host Barry Donovan. A note on the barryandandy.com home page Monday thanked Tucson fans for their support and promised an announcement later in the week.

General Manager Steve Groesbeck would not discuss the decision. He said program director Jonas Hunter is filling in for now.

Taylor and Donovan hooked up at KPSI in Palm Springs Calif. in 1989, and came to KLPX in November 2000.


THAT (BLEEPING) MACHINE

A malfunctioning tape-delay machine at KRQ (93.7 FM) is being blamed for a couple of F-bombs loosed last week during Johnjay and Rich's interview with Saturday Night Live alum Jim Breuer.

Debra Wagner, general manager for Clear Channel's seven Tucson stations, acknowledged the incident, but added that nobody called the station about it until we asked her about the situation Friday, Jan. 28.

Considering Clear Channel's problems last year, this could get sticky. In June, the nation's largest radio station owner paid $1.75 million to settle indecency complaints, and promised the Federal Communications Commission it would use tape delays and carry out a compliance program to ensure that on-air personalities followed the rules.

The going rate for an infraction, should things get to that point, is $27,000 per F-word, although outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell has suggested bumping the penalty to $270,000 per honk-off. It's possible that the malfunction could lead to leniency, if someone formally complains.

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