Media Watch

After Journal Takeover, a Revolving Door Installed at KGUN

A little more than two years ago, Journal Communications finalized its purchase of Emmis Communications, which included KGUN Channel 9 in Tucson. Since then, the station has all but installed a revolving door to handle the number of departures--in all departments.

In what is admittedly a transient business, KGUN has experienced an abnormal amount of employee turnover in the 24 months since the Journal/Emmis switch was finalized.

The list that follows is not complete, but should help to illustrate the nature of what is--and what has been--taking place during Journal's two-year Tucson TV tenure.

On camera: morning anchor Phil Buehler (a 10-year veteran), morning anchor Destry Jetton, reporters Stephanie Sanchez, Jenny Rose and Selena Davis, weather and personality reporters Dave Hecht, Jeff James and Bill Harris, traffic reporter Dee Cortez and sports reporter Ben Arnet.

Other reporting changes loom as possibilities in the near future.

Among those behind the scenes: production manager Michael Bryant (a KGUN employee for 20 years), managing editor Bob Dickey, producers Garth Kant and Sarah Stark, and photographers Sean Byrd and Darci Bianchi.

Sales in television and radio is always tumultuous in this market, and new sales manager Adam Johnston has been on hand for plenty of turnover in that area at KGUN, including the likes of Jane Ward and Michelle Thornton.

Upper management has seen its share of new faces. Ray Depa stepped down as general manager four months after the transition. He was replaced by long-time sales manager Andrew Stewart, who lasted about a year in the position before accepting a similar spot at KWBA Channel 58. Tucson Journal radio GM Diane Frisch handled interim KGUN GM responsibilities for about five months until Journal hired Julie Brinks, who started in October. There's a new human-relations director, and new faces in community relations.

"We do not comment on personnel issues," said Brinks when reached for comment.

And all this doesn't even tackle the changes over at Journal's radio wing, highlighted by the removal of Brad Behan from the city's top-rated morning show and the departure of sales manager Cathy Green, who accepted a position with Jim Slone's new station, KCEE AM 1030.

Journal reported an October 2007 revenue drop of 10.7 percent, which it blamed on a decline in political and issue ad sales. Total revenue in the company's TV and radio segment dipped nearly 15 percent. Through the first three quarters of 2007, Journal reported a 5.6 percent slide in revenue ($144.4 million compared to $153 million) from the same period in 2006.


KUAT Channel 6's The Desert Speaks program received a $90,000 challenge grant from the Stonewall Foundation. It's not the first time the Stonewall Foundation has helped fund the multiple-Emmy Award-winning program, which is in production on its 18th year on public-broadcasting outlets throughout the country.

"I am pleased to offer this grant to KUAT for support of The Desert Speaks, and I hope others step forward to join us," said Stonewall Foundation president Rick Small in a press release.

"We are profoundly grateful for this grant which helps ensure the future of The Desert Speaks," said KUAT general manager Jack Gibson in the press release. "We hope the generosity and high profile of the Stonewall Foundation will serve as an example and help in our efforts to recruit other foundations and individuals to join in support of the series."

WILDCATINSIDER MOVES FROM SCOUT TO ESPN, a Web site dedicated to coverage of UA athletics with an emphasis on recruiting, has changed online affiliations. The privately operated site is now part of ESPN, severing its ties with

"When the opportunity arose to join a new network that's aligned with ESPN, based on ESPN's reputation and the financials and freedom involved, not to mention the collection of other sites coming aboard, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up," said site manager Brad Allis, who in addition to his duties at, co-hosts the UA football and basketball pregame and postgame shows with me on KCUB AM 1290 and acts as sports editor of the Marana Weekly News. "Subscribers also get access to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine coverage. It was the best value for our subscribers. The revenue sharing plan made more sense. We can provide more features and more coverage for our fans."

The site can also be reached via

"ESPN is going to have additional college content on their site and (give) a boost to recruiting coverage," Allis said. "Recruiting can be the life blood of college sports sites on the Internet."


From the value-in-making-contacts file, Derrick Palmer has replaced Paul Johnson as the radio voice of UA women's basketball.

When Johnson took a pastor's position in Canada, Palmer pounced on the opportunity, and used his connections with Wildcat football and basketball play-by-play announcer Brian Jeffries and Ryan Radtke to enhance his chances.

"I interned at KNST (AM 790) with Ryan Radtke and then graduated and found a job in the Show Low/Pinetop area managing a small radio station," Palmer said. "I took that job, because it gave me a chance to do football play-by-play for Round Valley High School in 2004. On a whim, I sent Ryan and Brian my resume, and I was contacted about this opening in October."

UA women's basketball is broadcast on KTUC AM 1400.

"I grew up following the UA," Palmer said. "That I could catch my first really big break covering the school, I try not to sound too melodramatic, but it really is a dream come true. I'm having so much fun going to McKale (Center). It's almost surreal."

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Tucson Weekly

Best of Tucson Weekly

Tucson Weekly