Media Watch

Choal's Goals for KVOA

When KVOA Channel 4 unveiled its new graphics package the night of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, it marked the first visually noticeable change during the three-month tenure of news director Kathleen Choal.

"The look of the television station definitely needed to be updated, so we decided to do a new graphics package, an updated version of what we already have on the air," Choal said. "I think it's fabulous. It will really move the station ahead by leaps and bounds. Everything from the logo to the open to the reopens and full-screen graphics, all of that is different."

But Choal hopes to be the guiding force behind more than a new look. She comes to Tucson with designs on returning KVOA to the top news perch. There was a time when the local NBC affiliate controlled the ratings in Tucson's television news game, but that mantle is now occupied by KOLD Channel 13. It's Choal's responsibility to turn the tide, but it's a process that will take time.

"A lot of times, television stations are, 'OK, what did you do for me in February? What did you do for me last week? How much money did you save me? How much money did you make me?'" Choal said. "This company is committed to the long-term success of this television station. It's not about what are you going to do for me in the next sweep, but what are you going to do for me in the next five years. That's one of the main reasons I took this position."

Choal returns to television media after a two-year stint with the Surprise, Ariz., Police Department. Her media career spans 13 years. In that time, she's been an executive producer, managing editor and news director and boasts a tour of duty with stops in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston and Denver.

Choal's arrival did not bring sweeping changes or mass house cleaning.

"There are lots of things I like," Choal said. "There are some very talented people who work here and put their hearts and souls into the work they do every day. I was not going to change that, because that's clearly a driving force of this news room."

But Choal addressed issues that were brought to her attention.

"When I came here, I sat down with every single person in the news department. 'What do you like, what don't you like, what can I help you do to make your job better?' Those types of things," Choal said. "It came very loud and clear to me that the staff needed new equipment, so we fixed that. The other frustration was we were short-staffed, so I've done a lot of hiring in the last two months, from editors to producers to reporters. Three reporters have started since I've been here, a new photographer, a new producer, new editor; I'll be adding a night side manager to the staff."

Additional crew, updated equipment and new graphics package--while helpful, it takes a backseat to what Choal hopes will ultimately separate KVOA from its competition.

"Our focus is real journalism every day," Choal said.

A nice slogan, to be sure, but to achieve it, Choal hopes to utilize some of the station's veteran talent to uncover stories not readily available elsewhere.

"We have reporters here who have long-term connections to this market," Choal said. "They get lots of story ideas and lots of tips. Even our new reporters get lots of story ideas and lots of tips. We like to have stories that are only on 4.That's a definite goal of ours. It doesn't mean we aren't going to cover what's the news of the day, which everybody will consider the news of the day, but I think viewers will find we work harder to find stories that they'll only see on our television station.

"Why should we report a story that's in the newspaper that day? Viewers already have that. They need us to provide them with other news, or advance the newspaper story. My goal would be to have our newscast, and the next day, all those stories are in the newspaper.

"I'm very excited. I think this television station is definitely moving in the right direction. I think the staff is excited. I think they get what my vision is. They're excited that we're doing real journalism. They get that I have high standards and high expectations, and I let them know when they make those expectations and when they don't. I'm very excited about what I see on the air every day."


The KUAT Communications Group named Jack Gibson its new director and general Manager. A 26-year veteran of Public Broadcasting, Gibson comes to Tucson from WPBT-TV in Miami, where he served as that station's senior vice president of programming and production.

"I sincerely appreciate the support the KUAT search committee has given me," Gibson said in a press release. "I'm honored to have been selected for this challenging position and look forward to working with the KUAT staff and the community in Southern Arizona as we take on the many exciting opportunities available to public broadcasting in the digital age."

Gibson has spent most of his 2 1/2-decade television career at WPBT. Highlights of his tenure include spearheading significant advances in local television programming and production, creating a children's program service, launching the station's first digital program service and starting a statewide news magazine program.

Gibson was on the front line in terms of program development, production, program acquisition, research and scheduling, program operations and advertising and promotion.

Gibson replaces Jack Parris, who retired as KUAT general manager in October.

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