Media Watch

Bruce Out at KXCI

Less than a week after KXCI FM 91.3's Strategic-Planning Town Hall, Ryan J. Bruce was out as general manager.

Bruce abruptly departed shortly after a separate meeting, during which the KXCI board of directors questioned alleged lost underwriting information and other issues.

Bruce did not respond to requests for comment, and KXCI management stood behind the tried-and-true "no comment" on personnel issues.

Bruce's departure comes after it appeared that KXCI was finally enjoying some semblance of stability, a recent rarity at the community-radio outlet. Furthermore, the town hall, which took place April 19, was a major first step toward creating a comprehensive plan of action that could be used as a template for years to come. That was Bruce's baby.

"The last strategic plan was not completely useful, so we've spent a good deal of time creating a plan that's useful that will direct us not just for three or five years, but hopefully for my tenure and beyond," Bruce said in an interview touting the town hall.

Obviously, the "beyond" part is now key for KXCI, which also has to be careful about how it handles members who felt Bruce gave them a platform to express their concerns. This core had felt ostracized by prior regimes.

"That's the only way we can get better, is to listen to everybody, even the people who have felt disenfranchised by the organization for a period of time," Bruce told the Weekly before the April 19 town hall and his departure. "Those people have a very active and positive role to play in this organization. We have to figure out a way to build the bridges to those people."

Longtime KXCI employee Randy Peterson is now in his third stint as acting GM. Peterson handled the reins for the first time from June 2003 to January 2004 after the resignation of Tony Ford. The board of directors then hired Larry Bruce (no relation), but that marriage lasted just more than two years and ended controversially in March 2006. Peterson stepped in for his second stint, which lasted 13 months, but he was passed over for the permanent job in favor of Ryan J. Bruce, who stayed on for a year.

"I've always wanted the board to choose the best person, whether that's myself or someone else," said Peterson, who intends to again pursue the permanent position.

Given the board of directors' history of taking its time to move through the search process, the new GM may not be announced for some time.


Morning-show and 11 a.m. weather personality Len Johnson is the latest casualty at KGUN Channel 9. Johnson was shown the door immediately after the 11 a.m. newscast on April 18. The Journal Broadcast Group-operated ABC affiliate refused to renew Johnson's contract, which was to expire on May 22, but this was the first in a litany of recent forced departures in which KGUN pulled the trigger on an on-air employee before a contract expired.

News reporters Sal Quijada, Mark Horner and Myrna Membrila were among the ousted staff allowed to work through the end of their deals. Membrila even worked without a contract until KGUN could find a suitable replacement.

KGUN, however, wasted no time finding Johnson's successor. Brian Basham started the following Monday. Basham made the jump from KTSM, the NBC affiliate in El Paso, Texas.

Johnson would not comment on his ouster. In all-too-familiar media parlance, KGUN does not discuss personnel issues.


Arizona Public Media, the umbrella entity that operates PBS affiliate KUAT Channel 6, NPR outlet KUAZ FM 89.1/AM 1550 and classical music radio station KUAT FM 90.5, got the public support it desired during an extended spring fundraising campaign.

"Increased PBS and NPR fees and expenses relating to securing our programming added to our annual budget and necessitated extending the length of two of our pledge drives this spring," said Arizona Public Media general manager Jack Gibson in a press release. "Compared to our budget for last year to cover broadcast dues, we have had to make significant adjustments. Our PBS dues increased by 7 percent, and our NPR dues increased 10 percent. Factoring in the additional American Public Television dues increase of 4 percent and the 6 percent Associated Press dues increase, it's easy to see that we had a bigger challenge with these pledge drives. In addition, our revenue from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) decreased by 20 percent, and our UA funding was trimmed by 2.5 percent. We are grateful to our loyal viewers and listeners who helped us close our budget gaps."

The 18-day fundraising campaign for KUAT TV led to 1,952 pledges. That's a 21 percent increase from 2006 and a 17 percent improvement on fundraising from a year ago.

On the radio side, KUAZ received 1,708 pledges and surpassed its goal of $150,000. Classical-music KUAT netted 313 pledges. Of those, 46 percent came from new members.


With the writer's-strike uncertainty that marred the February sweeps period now resolved, it remains to be seen whether May will provide a fair assessment of how local news in Tucson stacks up, ratings-wise. Recent numbers have shown a general steadiness at KOLD Channel 13, which has led in the ratings for much of the last few years, but those same numbers have suggested a nice rebound at KVOA Channel 4 and continued improvement at once-lagging KGUN Channel 9.

The May book is vital in Tucson. While there's a July ratings period, it isn't viewed with the same priority as the November, February and May ratings--which means the May book looms as the benchmark for the longest period of time. This is the book that sales reps must rely on for six months out of the year.

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