Media Watch


Barbara Grijalva has probably forgotten more about Tucson than most in local media know about our city. That's how it goes when—in a notoriously nomadic profession—you've spent your entire career in one place. But it doesn't mean Grijalva has stagnated. Anything but.

"This is a business of survival," said Grijalva, who was recently inducted into the Rocky Mountain Emmys Silver Circle, which recognizes the achievements of media standouts who have served in the industry in the Rocky Mountains region for 25 years or longer. "Not only do you have to do good work, but to stay at it this long you have to really like it."

In Grijalva's case, her versatility has been a valuable commodity. For years, Grijalva teamed with Mindy Blake behind the anchor desk at KOLD Channel 13 during its noon and 5 p.m. blocks, but when she was reassigned to reporting functions, the veteran newswoman handled the transition with ease.

"I love reporting, but didn't know if I'd like it full time. But I really like it," Grijalva said. "I like getting out of the building. It's great to get out in the community."

And community is something Grijalva clearly understands. She has the kind of deep knowledge that develops only when you've spent years in the same place.

"The story isn't just what happened today," Grijalva said. "You have to have a historical perspective to it. You need to know what happened 10 years ago, and that's what led to this. Long-term reporters are rare. You can do research, but when you actually lived it, you bring an element to the story that goes deeper. The first year I was in radio, the TUSD desegregation order came down. That was 30-whatever years ago, and that story goes on forever. You know the history of the university, you know the history of Davis-Monthan, you know people who served as mayor. The ability to go back in history and be able to convey that to a viewer adds so much more to the story."

Grijalva started her broadcasting career in the 1980s in radio, at a station that no longer exists. "I worked at KIKX. All those towers on North Swan, that used to be a radio station."

Shortly thereafter, Grijalva handled news director and producer duties at KNST, which at the time had its AM frequency at 940 and was just beginning to launch what would be the format that salvaged the signal and propelled the station to years of success.

"KNST was just starting talk radio," Grijalva said. "We had local programming, and then talk radio started while I was there. I produced ... four hours a day [five days a week]. They wanted a different guest every hour. I had people like Ann Landers booked ahead of time. I was in radio for about six years."

And it could have been longer had KOLD made a different decision. As is the case in local media even today, folks would split time in different jobs. Grijalva started her TV career at KOLD, which led to the end of her radio days.

"I was managing editor and worked evenings, and then did the morning show at KOLD. After a year I told KOLD to either hire me full time or I have to quit. I was working from 4 in the morning until 7 at night for almost a year to the day," Grijalva said. "They hired me and I anchored every show they had, including shows they don't have anymore. I worked with Hank Hubbard, Jimmy Stewart. I had tons of co-anchors, weekend shows, pretty much everything there was to do there. That's the reason it wasn't boring. I kept moving around."

Yet stayed in one place.

"At first my husband and I were going to leave, get a radio job somewhere else and then get a TV job somewhere else. And then when we decided to start our family, we realized that most of our families are in Tucson, and we liked the idea of raising our kids around the families, around their cousins," Grijalva said. "We were lucky enough to be able to stay."

She was also lucky enough to weather consistent managerial and ownership transitions, especially in her early days at KOLD, prior to the station's now lengthy relationship with Raycom.

"I consider myself fortunate. The key is just to survive. You go through managers all the time. KOLD used to get sold constantly. We've been pretty stable for many years now, but for a while we were getting sold every two years. Once someone owned us for exactly one year. Everybody got lopped off. They'd get rid of all the managers and all the anchors, and somehow I managed to survive that. The very first sale I went up to our general manager, Jay Watson, and said everybody is really scared. Never in your life would you think this is a good thing to hear, but he said, 'Don't worry, Barbara. You don't make enough money and you're not important enough.' You know what. Those are the greatest words I ever heard. He was right. The people who were making the most money or were the most popular all got laid off and let go. It was a great thing to hear. Somehow I've survived since then."

And she's set to continue working at KOLD for many more years. Grijalva recently signed a long-term contract extension.

"I'm very happy they wanted to keep me," Grijalva said. "I was really happy they agreed to a ... longer-term contract. Right now I don't really have to think about it, and that's kind of nice."