Media Watch

Lee Gets Refinancing Buffer

Lee Enterprises, the Davenport, Iowa, company that owns the Arizona Daily Star, was allowed to restructure its debt in an effort to stay afloat.

Lee last week repaid $120 million of $306 million in debt that was coming due in April, part of the price of its purchase of Pulitzer. Under the agreement, Lee was able to reduce its payment structure in the short-term--with a significant increase in what will come due in 2012.

Star employees endured a couple of harrowing days while the plan was in negotiations. Star employees were actually paid several days early, apparently due to an accounting error, leading to speculation about whether or not that was a precursor to a bankruptcy filing.


The Arizona Daily Star has filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against the band Awful Truth for their use of a photo depicting officers administering medical assistance to slain Tucson Police Officer Erik Hite. The band put the pic on the cover of their album Kill a Cop for God.

"This is an image that is obviously ... very sensitive to our community," managing editor Teri Hayt said in a Star story on Feb. 17. "A police officer killed in our community, it doesn't get more serious than that."


Gannett, the parent company of the Tucson Citizen, set a flexible Feb. 19 deadline for accepting purchase offers for the Old Pueblo's afternoon daily. That deadline has passed sans offers--which means the paper will almost certainly conclude operations on March 21.

Gannett, which says the deadline is not set in stone, is not selling its 50 percent interest in the profitable joint operating agreement it has in Tucson Newspapers with Arizona Daily Star owner Lee Enterprises. Therefore, it's highly unlikely a buyer will emerge.


KOLD Channel 13 weather head Chuck George, is not your stereotypical science geek, yet his knowledge, combined with his relentless willingness to take his show to the street, has helped him become one of the most recognizable television-media personalities in the market.

Drawn to weather since before he can remember--his mother told him he became fascinated with nature's fury at the age of 3 during a tornado warning that sent his Oklahoma family to the cellar--George took a scientific route to his current position. He has a bachelor's degree in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma and a master's in water resources from the UA.

"I got a job at Pima County Flood Control, taking care of their flood-warning sensors," George said. "When I was out servicing them, I was alone, and when I was in the office, I was alone in a cubicle, and I was going crazy. This isn't what I want to do. There were opportunities. I could have ... moved up and held a nice government job, but I knew that wasn't for me."

George gravitated toward television, and landed an internship at KOLD in 1991. From there, he did weekend weather at the CBS affiliate in Phoenix--commuting from Tucson--before moving to Houston, where he spent five years.

He returned to Tucson about six years ago.

"People I really cared about were here," he said. "I left everything I cared about behind when I went to Houston."

Since then, he's carved the community's most recognizable weather niche. Because of Southern Arizona's generally nonthreatening weather patterns, he's afforded the opportunity to get out and about, raising awareness for numerous charities and local activities along the way.

"I'm not doing that stuff during the monsoon, because I'm being the serious meteorologist in the studio, but a lot of the time, I'm able to shed some light on charities that otherwise wouldn't get attention, like juvenile diabetes," said George, who received the Tucson Advertising Federation Golden Mic Award last weekend. "We highlight different events. It's all about highlighting things you and your family can do for affordable fun, but it's also making a difference at the same time.

"I've got a great job, and I love it, but if I didn't get to do things like that, I'd be bored. Sitting behind a desk, talking for 2 1/2 minutes, it would drive me crazy. It's sort of a self-contained department."

But George is more than a weather personality who pimps local activities in the field. Following George's lead, the members of KOLD's weather staff--Aaron Pickering and Erin Jordan have science degrees as well, and Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D.--try to explain why weather happens the way it does.

"Sometimes, people have degrees in dance and English, and take some correspondence courses and get a seal for TV and do weather, and they do a fine job, but that probably doesn't afford them the opportunity to be the station scientist," George said. "So I can do stories when there's a flooded wash on how fast that water is flowing, how deep it's going to get, when it's going to crest. ... When an earthquake happens in Alaska, I feel comfortable talking about it.

"That's what this career, television meteorology, is going to have to morph into, because you can get the weather in less than 10 seconds on your computer or PDA. Why do people need to watch?"

Well, they watch George because he connects the science of weather with its impact on Tucson. If you watch George, maybe you can explain things a bit more in-depth when someone asks: How's the weather?

"I like the science, and I have the science education and background, and that helps, because I don't have to second-guess the analysis. I talk about things like La Niña, which does impact us, and it's the reason we're having such beautiful weather right now," George said. "The science helps me come up with ... the story today, because when it's sunny and 75, I could be bored out of my mind."

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