"He's coordinating our efforts on the weekends and posting original content for the Web site," said KMSB general manager Tod A. Smith.
While there are no immediate plans to give Quijada an on-air presence, he has more industry experience than the rest of KMSB's local news and sports reporting staff members combined.
"That was the most exciting thing, to bring someone in who has experience in the market and knows news gathering and story development," Smith said. "For us, it was a big step forward. We're really, really excited about having him on our team."
Quijada and KGUN parted ways at the end of December. During his tenure with Tucson's ABC affiliate, he was one of the more enduring and familiar reporting figures in local news.
For instance, KOLD Channel 13 has become the Howard Hughes-paranoia station, spending lengthy amounts of time telling viewers how their vacuum cleaners and cell phones are riddled with germs. Meanwhile, KVOA Channel 4 looks like Richard Kimble TV, informing us about pretty much every fugitive from Pima County.
Station managers will sit in meetings and elicit the assistance of consultants and other larger-market news sources in an effort to gauge what might be effective--all in an effort to land better Nielsen Ratings than the competition this month.
But all that labor and time spent trying to hook viewers is often lost on a demographic that doesn't take the ratings books as seriously as the network affiliates would like.
"Nielsen's editing process is close enough to being an accurate representation of the information they receive," said KOLD general manager Jim Arnold. "The problem is the system is so cumbersome and so archaic that (viewers participating in the diary-based ratings process) have to write down who is watching TV, what channel, what the name of the program is, and it's so bogged down that one thing you'll see is a five-television household that watches (according to the diary) one television set three to five days a week. I don't believe that happens. I believe there is diary keeper's fatigue that leads them to say, 'I'm not going to do this anymore. I did this for a couple of days and wore myself out. I have a nub for a No. 2 pencil now.'"
Arnold recently traveled to Nielsen headquarters to get a gauge as to what he and the rest of the market are facing.
"I go about every four or five years just to see if there are any editing issues," said Arnold, who finds his one-time No. 1 news ratings leader in a heated three-way battle for market supremacy with KVOA and rising player KGUN. "This was the right time to go. We went to look at the editing process and to see how people are filling out the diaries."
Based on what he saw, it's pretty apparent the system has major flaws.
"Each diary keeper keeps the diary for a week, and there are many diaries that look like they're filled out at the end of the week based on what they usually watched or what they felt they watched," Arnold said. "Then there are other diaries where they'd watch pretty heavily Thursday and Friday, then it decreases some over the weekend and disappears into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday."
Nielsen has made a concerted effort to take advantage of improved technology. Many larger markets are now electronically monitored, although some of the upgrades--like Nielsen's version of the People Meter--also result controversial readings. KMSB's Tod A. Smith saw the differences between paper ratings and electronic numbers first-hand during his days as a television executive in New Orleans.
"The most prevalent thing is that you find there's a lot more viewing in some time periods than you'd assume, like overnights," Smith said. "New Orleans and Tucson are different, but one of the similarities is they both have a lot of employees in the service industry and tourism. People are working different hours, so there may be television viewing at different hours of the night and overnight that you never would have anticipated. The viewing levels went up when we switched (to electronic monitoring), which is typical of a market that goes from the diary methodology to something electronic. There's viewing in day parts that you'd never see, and then what typically happens is you find pockets of people that may have been difficult for Nielsen to (previously) recruit, and you see more viewing from those groups. It does have an impact."
But as it stands, when the February sweeps numbers are announced in a month or so, despite the system's flaws, the winners will trumpet the outcome, while the less fortunate will try to convince advertisers they remain a viable viewing option.
"It can be disheartening when you see the quality of some of the diaries and just some of the things you notice because of the way the system works," Arnold said, "but it's what we all live by."
"We've made a conscious effort to get ahead of the game and brand ourselves as the Match Play station," said KVOA sports director Ryan Recker. "The planning for this started in October. We continually built and tried to find ways to incorporate it. I don't think you can underscore how big of an event this is. I think after the (four major golf tournaments), you could argue this is at the next tier. We said we wanted to put a stranglehold on this."
KVOA has incorporated a sequence of lead-up features for much of the last two weeks, highlighted on its newscasts with a fan-friendly hole-by-hole breakdown courtesy of Gallery golf pro Paul Nolen. The station will broadcast live Saturday and Sunday prior to NBC's network coverage.
"There are endless stories and possibilities with this tournament, and we're trying to dive into as many as possible," Recker said. "With a tournament this big and the economic impact, look at Tiger (Woods') schedule alone. He basically plays in this, the majors and anything he's affiliated with sponsor-wise. That's all you need to know about the enormity of the tournament. By local television standards, we are going all out."