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Media Mayhem: for Many, '07 Was Far from Lucky

Sick of the end-of-the-year recap pieces yet? Well, if not, here's another one to get you closer to said sickness.

Of course, as part of this year in review, I was the one who had to scan more than 50 Media Watch columns, so who's really enduring the torture here?

Downsizing seemed to be a recurring theme in Tucson media in 2007. In radio, a number of high-profile morning shows were shown the door, while the newspaper biz took some serious hits.

Television's often tempestuous terrain seemed tame by comparison.


RADIO FLIERS

In the autumn, chaos reigned in morning radio in this market.

Between September and November, four significant morning-drive entries endured massive changes. The carnage began at KCUB AM 1290, where long-time morning host Mike Rapp and news reporter Betsy Bruce were let go. Rapp has appeared on four morning shows in Tucson, including two under the Citadel umbrella. He was transferred to 1290 when KHYT FM 107.5 split up the reincarnation of Rapp and Tim Tyler (they partnered together in the '90s at KLPX FM 96. 1) in favor of Opie and Anthony, a syndicated show that never took hold. Tyler has since returned to morning duties on 107.5.

This was Bruce's second stint with a Citadel station as well. She was reassigned to 1290 from the KIIM FM 99.5 morning show. Bruce has also worked at KRQQ FM 93.7, now owned by Clear Channel, and the former KZPT at 104.1 FM, owned and operated by Journal. She filled in at KNST AM 790 for morning host Jim Parisi just last week.

Got all that?

Shortly thereafter, KMXZ FM 94.9, MIX FM, parted company with Brad Behan, who for 10 years had teamed with Bobby Rich on the Bobby and Brad Show. The move was made shortly before ratings were released--showing Bobby and Brad was the top-rated show in the market.

Not to be outdone, Clear Channel pulled the plug on morning host CK at KOHT FM 98.3, and Lotus-operated KLPX blew up the Jonas Hunter/Andy Taylor offering. Hunter was an 11-year employee at Tucson's top-rated rock station. Management at both FMs claimed the morning-show performances did not live up to their respective stations' otherwise strong ratings.

In other radio news, the aforementioned KZPT 104.1 FM (which later changed its call letters to KQTH) became the first FM station in Tucson to go news/talk. Its early April launch featured a nationally syndicated conservative lineup of shows, many of which were airing on AM entries KVOI AM 690 and KJLL AM 1330 The Jolt just the week before. It also pulled Michael Savage from KNST, sort of. Savage now airs live on KQTH and later in the evening on KNST. Jon Justice is KQTH's lone local host. He can be heard weekday mornings.

KJLL recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, despite being the Tucson station that lost the most from the Don Imus controversy. Imus had been a KJLL fixture for years.

Jim Slone came out of retirement. Slone, who sold his station cluster to Citadel nearly six years ago, bought KCEE AM 1030 and turned it into a nostalgia format.

Ryan J. Bruce was pegged as new general manager at community radio KXCI FM 91.3.


ALL THAT'S FIT TO PRINT

It was a year of cost-cutting at Tucson's two daily newspapers. In December, the Arizona Daily Star laid off 11 editorial employees, many of whom had worked at the paper for 20 years or more. Lee Enterprises, the Star's owner, blamed a drop in advertising and a slumping housing market as the impetus for the cutbacks.

"The reason for the staff reductions is, we need to reduce costs," said Star publisher and editor John M. Humenik in a story that ran in the Star. "Advertisers are advertising less because their sales are down."

On a couple of occasions, the Star trimmed or combined sections. It also enhanced its business presence online.

In personnel changes at the Tucson Citizen, the Gannett-owned afternoon daily, added former Explorer editor Mark Evans to the staff and promoted Anthony Gimino to a sports-columnist slot, but lost reporter Claudine LoMonaco and business reporter Gabriella Rico, who joined the business section at the Star.

Oh, and the Citizen scrapped its coffee service and cut back on food at its monthly meeting. Citizen librarians Charlotte Kenan and Jeannie Jett retired after a combined 77 years at the newspaper.

It was a year of instability at the Explorer. Longtime owners Melanie Larson and Terry Brashear sold the paper to Randy Miller of Thirteenth Street Media, who made layoffs the first order of business, followed shortly thereafter by a move of the paper in a possible public-relations direction.

Editor Dan Stebbins was among those let go. He lasted as editor for about two months in what might have been the most transient media position in the city. Five different names occupied the Explorer's editor chair in 2007.


REMOTE CONTROL

KVOA Channel 4 made the high-definition plunge. Tucson's NBC affiliate embarked on the high-def transition last May, completely renovating its studio and upgrading equipment in what was a monster undertaking. It paid a price in the May ratings book with horrendous numbers, although the numbers have improved since then.

Over the summer, KVOA also added a 4 p.m. newscast anchored by John Overall and Martha Vasquez.

Meanwhile, KOLD Channel 13 named Dan Marries as the primetime anchor replacement for Randy Garsee. He teams with Heather Rowe. Former sportscaster Scott Kilbury was named morning-news co-anchor.

KGUN Channel 9 endured its share of personnel activity. Less than a year into his new general-manager job, Andrew Stewart, the heir apparent to Ray Depa, jumped ship to operate Cascade-owned KWBA Channel 58. Julie Brinks took over GM duties in October. KGUN also parted ways with at least three reporters, including current Humane Society spokesperson Jenny Rose, a weather personality, and morning-show anchor and 10-year employee Phil Buehler. Morning anchor Kimberly Romo, whose family has long and deep ties to Southern Arizona, joined KGUN in March.

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