Media Watch

One Event, Two Newsies, Three Stories

We've heard more than a few folks over the years compare coverage of the same event in the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen and raise this amazing question: "Were those guys really at the same meeting?"

The Star and Citizen covered the Tucson Airport Authority's March 1 board meeting, and frankly, as of Monday, neither paper had given you the whole story. The Star sent Dave Wichner, while reporter/columnist David Pittman worked it for the Citizen.

In the interest of full disclosure, Wichner and I worked together at the Star, while Pittman was a competitor when we were covering the Legislature years ago. They're both good guys and solid journalists.

The airport authority meeting had a real hot-button issue for folks whose memory of local economic mayhem goes back a couple of decades: Ted Welp, the former Tucson Electric Power chief whose penchant for self-dealing with the utility's assets in the 1980s made him a wealthy man and nearly bankrupted TEP, applied for life-member status.

Citizen business columnist David Pittman gave the Citizen's 30,500 or so customers the first clue on March 1, offering a well-researched column that neatly summarized Welp's machinations. He opined that granting Welp a life membership in the authority would be a slur on the 30 existing life members, who are part of the city's business elite.

On March 2, both papers carried stories about the meeting. The 113,000-daily circulation Star gave the meeting a squib in the Industry News and Notes column, mentioning hangar and warehouse leases with renewal options to Hamilton Aerospace Technologies. No Welp.

Welp wasn't the lead item in Pittman's March 2 story, either. That honor went to the board's decision to oppose a Federal Aviation Administration decision that would close air-traffic control operations at Tucson International Airport between midnight and 5 a.m. daily when the new federal budget kicks in Oct. 1. As of Monday morning, the Star had nothing on the tower issue.

The Welp discussion and the board's decision to table the application was in the lower half of the story. But Pittman said nothing about the Hamilton leases, which is a decent little economic development story considering the company's business legacy.

On March 4, the Star caught up with the Welp story, which got a mention in business columnist Richard Ducote's piece. There's some irony to that; Ducote was covering utilities for the Star when TEP went into financial meltdown, and frankly, he was all over the story--and Welp's misdeeds--like a beagle on a lame rabbit.


How many Star reporters saw Sunday's paper on the newsstand and thought about updating their resumes or changing careers? The skyboxes atop A-1--normally used to give strong stories inside the paper a "front-page presence"--pimped "nearly $140 in coupons," along with the help-wanted and cars-for-sale classified ads.

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