Media Watch

Summer Adjustments at the 'Star'

A pair of departures and a couple of summer sabbaticals have led to some changes at Tucson's morning daily.

Education reporter George B. Sanchez accepted a position covering the Los Angeles Unified School District for the Los Angeles Daily News. That led to Rhonda Bodfield's transition to education, while Stephanie Innes wears two hats: the family/children and religion beats.

Carla McClain and Rob O'Dell have taken unpaid leaves through the remainder of the summer.

On a national front, the prognosis for the daily newspaper industry seemingly gets glummer by the day. Cutbacks are in the works at Tribune-owned The Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant; the Daytona Beach News-Journal; The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press. The Boston Herald could layoff in the neighborhood of 160 employees as it outsources printing; McClatchy will lay off 10 percent of its workforce.

According to the World Association of Newspapers, the U.S. and Western European products are taking the greatest hits. Circulation numbers in those areas are down about 2 percent since last year.

The Internet is hurting the dailies in terms of classified revenue as well. Sites like Craigslist have taken a healthy bite out of the dailies' one-time cash cow.


Local Fox affiliate KMSB Channel 11 announced last week that it will increase the local portion of its news product.

The first step is cutting the cord with Phoenix news partner KTVK by hiring an anchor, although KMSB does plan to keep the weather presence up in the Valley for the time being.

"We're excited about that. It's a natural progression," said KMSB general manager Tod A. Smith. "We've intended to do it for some time. We're in the process of getting it put together."

As it stands, the Belo-owned Tucson station partners with Belo's Phoenix operation for anchor duties and weather on its nightly 9 p.m. newscast, but two things have occurred within the last month to illustrate the value of Old Pueblo autonomy. First, KTVK chopped its staff, including anchor Heather Moore, who was let go when the station decided to scrap its 8 p.m. newscast in Phoenix. Second, KTVK recently launched a 9 p.m. newscast. Problem is, the station only has one news studio. As a result, KMSB's 9 p.m. news is now prerecorded.

Add to this the looming specter of KWBA Channel 58's likely addition of a 9 p.m. newscast (the station was recently purchased by Journal, which owns KGUN Channel 9 and a radio cluster in Tucson), and it's clear KMSB needed to get the ball rolling.

That said, news can be an expensive undertaking, and it's probably safe to say that adding a local news anchor won't be the only hire. At the moment, local on-air talent includes two field reporters, Deanna Morgan and Delane Cleveland, and sports reporters Vinnie Vinzetta and Brandon Nash. KMSB also has a news-story share agreement with KVOA Channel 4.

Plans in the early stages are to keep the newscast in its current half-hour format.

"The first thing is for us to get it working like we want it," Smith said. "If there's enough of a demand, we might look at other things in the future, but for right now, let's get it down here, and let's get it working."


Speaking of KMSB: Those who watch the station may have noticed the addition of another reporter, Phil Anaya, who will provide occasional story contributions.

"Phil's with us temporarily," Smith said. "He's a student at a university in New Mexico. He's unique inasmuch as he needed an internship as part of his NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) scholarship. We decided to work with him. He's a video journalist, one of those who has the skill set to do almost anything. He can report; he can write; he can produce; he can edit, he can shoot (video)."

While internships are commonplace in media, garnering on-air face time as an intern capacity is not.

"It's beneficial to both of us," said Smith. "We can take a look at how he works and how the program he's with operates, and it gives him an opportunity to work for a television station and qualify for his scholarship with NAB."

Anaya will wrap up his stint with KMSB before entering his senior year in the fall.


The all-important May ratings numbers say KVOA Channel 4 took significant strides in terms of news viewership.

The NBC affiliate was especially strong in the bookend news periods of 6 a.m. (where it improved seven points from the same book a year ago) and 10 p.m. (where it made a four-point jump).

KGUN Channel 9 won a close battle with KVOA for the top spot on the weekday 5 p.m. newscasts, while KOLD Channel 13 edged KGUN at 6 p.m., with KVOA closing the gap. KVOA trended upward while the other two affiliates must now analyze their losses of market share.

Inside the numbers, KVOA increased its ratings and share position in every newscast, although its 4 p.m. hour-long offering still gets hammered by other programming on KGUN and KOLD.

Meanwhile, KGUN and KOLD were down across the board. KGUN endured an eight-point slide in its morning-news product, lost four points at 11 a.m., one point at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and two points at 10 p.m.

KOLD slipped one point in the morning, three points at noon, one point at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and seven points in its 10 p.m. newscast.

The May book is significant in that it's considered the last important ratings barometer until the November sweeps period. There's a July ratings period as well, but given Tucson's summer viewership numbers, it doesn't hold great credence.

The May book was very tough on KVOA a year ago, when ratings were down despite its expensive high-definition launch. The new numbers should offer some vindication.

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