Media Watch

Phil Villarreal Out at the Star


What does 17 years of being among the most versatile writers at the local daily newspaper get you? Out of a job if you're Phil Villarreal, and if those 17 years happened to be spent with the Arizona Daily Star.

"I had worried about layoffs for many of the past several years, but strangely had slipped into a comfort zone, assuming that my job was as safe as any, and that the herd had been thinned out as much as possible for the time being," said Villarreal in a blog post at, referring to the rash of layoffs that gutted the Lee Enterprises property a few years ago.

"As soon as I stepped into the office and saw a higher-up waiting for me, I knew what was going on ... I accepted my fate with solemn dignity. Or apathy? I was told I'd be paid for the remainder of the day, receive a last paycheck and lose my benefits at midnight. They asked me to hand over my badge and lanyard and told me they'd box up all the junk in my desk for me and ship it home. The upshot, encased in kindness, was that I'd never be allowed to go anywhere near my desk again. Just like that, it was no longer my desk, but just a desk.

"I was handed a two-page contract that offered me a severance check in return for my signature. To get my hands on that money I would have signed a sworn affidavit accepting responsibility for the Kennedy assassination, the Hindenburg disaster and New Coke, so I didn't much care about the specifics. Still, I read every word, signed two copies and was escorted to the parking lot by a tiny little security guard who surprised me by not selling me Girl Scout cookies afterward."

And that was that. In the now typical corporate way of downsizing, where the "fear" of somehow stealing company secrets or taking a hammer or some other device to the desk and its surroundings has made it an acceptable way of conducting business. As if being laid off isn't degrading enough, it's now ok to treat the long-time dedicated employee to a security-accompanied trek out of the building.

By eliminating Villarreal's regional reporter position, the Star also said an unceremonious good-bye to a talented reporter who had transitioned flawlessly through a number of assignments. Villarreal started with the paper as a freelance sports reporter at the age of 18, then became the paper's movie critic for an eight-year stint until 2009 when the newspaper decided a local film reviewer wasn't necessary, and opted for syndicated coverage instead. He survived that decision with a general assignment position and later northwest side regional reporter duties.

He received 10 awards from various journalism organizations and even garnered the Star's Employee of the Year honor in 2003. He continues to write movie and video game reviews in a freelance capacity for and a personal finance humor column entitled Funny Money at

Villarreal has published two books: Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, released by Skyhorse Publishing in 2009, and the self-published Stormin' Mormon on the Kindle platform. He plans on distributing numerous other projects on Kindle over the next few years.


KEVT AM 1210 had to make a quick adjustment to its afternoon lineup a few weeks ago when syndicated liberal talker Randi Rhodes announced she was ending her show, broadcast on roughly 35 stations nationwide. To fill the void, Operations Manager Jim Parisi went with Thom Hartmann. Hartmann now airs noon to 3.

But that isn't the only change on the docket.

Starting Monday, two-time KGUN news director Forrest Carr enters the local talk show foray weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

"Forrest and I together, for a five hour block of talk time, is probably the most journalistically strong lineup on radio, maybe in the history of Tucson," said KEVT Operations Manager Jim Parisi, whose show runs weekday mornings from 7 to 10. "Who needs a kid ripping and reading AP stories when if something ever happens in this town, we have it covered better than anyone has ever had it covered on local radio in this town. I respect the heck out of Forrest."

Carr has spent a good portion of his career in television newsrooms, including a pair of stints at KGUN TV 9, the second of which came to a conclusion a little over a year ago.

"I'm thrilled with how the station is coming along," Parisi said. "We have the best local talk lineup in town."

Additionally, KEVT has agreed to air Arizona State football and men's basketball games.

"I don't want to have to rely on just Fox Sports talk programming to bring sports fans in, so I thought that's hard to pass up. It fit in really nicely with programming," said Parisi, who balances a mixture of local and national political talk with an overnight and weekend affiliation with Fox Sports Radio. "There are a lot of alums who went to ASU in Tucson, and the last game is Arizona, so I'll be able to market that game, sell that game, get tickets for that game. Basketball is just fun. I'd rather flip around and hear a basketball game on, and they'll be playing teams that Arizona fans will want to hear too. I just like being an affiliate of a major college. I haven't hated a station for carrying the enemy, so hopefully nobody will hold it against us."

The last Tucson station to carry ASU broadcasts was 1330 AM, which then went by KJLL. That station is now KWFM.


The Journal Broadcast Group has tabbed Leon Clark to head its Tucson radio division. Clark's broadcast background includes stints as sales manager for online streaming outlet Tunein, CBS Radio Atlanta, Emmis Communications in New York and the CBS radio cluster in San Diego.

"I am honored to lead the Tucson team forward and become part of a broadcast group that shares the same core values that I do," said Clark in a Journal Broadcast Group press release announcing the hiring. "We have some incredible opportunities ahead of us and I look forward to much success for our Tucson team."

Clark is the company's first official hire since Journal decided to separate television and radio managerial roles. Operations Manager Shaun Holly had been handling VP/GM responsibilities on the radio side in an interim capacity.

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