Media Watch

Buel retires from Star, final day May 20

Bobbie Jo Buel was a rare constant in an ever-changing industry. That's why it caught so many folks in the Arizona Daily Star newsroom off-guard when she announced to staff her plans to retire effective May 20.

Buel has worked at the paper since 1980, and spent the majority of that 36-year tenure in managerial positions. She is currently the paper's editor.

Following her announcement, outpouring for her role with the Star was universal among a lengthy list of staff with whom she had worked throughout the years.

Myles Standish, the Star's assistant sports editor, wrote on Facebook, "Bobbie Jo Buel was the first person I actually met in Tucson when I came here to interview. I'm heartbroken that she's leaving the trenches, but excited for her next adventure, where ever it may lead."

Columnist Tim Steller on the same platform wrote, "We at the Star remain in shock—I think I can fairly say that—at our editor Bobbie Jo Buel's announcement Wednesday of her impending retirement. She has been a Tucson institution for decades and is a powerful newsroom presence and journalist. I know I'll feel the absence when she leaves May 20."

Buel, who declined to be interviewed by the Weekly, cut her teeth in the UA journalism department, where she graduated in 1979. Her lengthy run at the Star began shortly thereafter.

Is Lee primed for a buyout?

Lee Enterprises, the publisher that owns and operates the Arizona Daily Star, saw its stock price jump significantly following news of Gannett's interest in purchasing Tribune Publishing Company.

Once that news surfaced, investors looked to other publishing outlets as possible buyout prospects, and Lee's stock price jumped more than 10 percent as a result, to about $2.25 per share, where it held steady for a few days as buyout fever dissipated.

Unfortunately for Lee, that brief bubbly stock attitude burst once the company released its quarterly earnings report May 5. In Lee's business PR way, the publisher spent plenty of time highlighting its efforts to continue paying down its bankruptcy debt, and slight improvements in digital advertising and online subscription numbers, but managed to bury the part where overall revenue decreased 6.2 percent in the second quarter.

The reason, from the depths of the Lee financial press release, "Advertising and marketing services revenue combined decreased 9.1 percent to $194.4 million, retail advertising decreased 8.7 percent, classified decreased 13.3 percent and national decreased 3 percent. Digital advertising and marketing services revenue on a stand-alone basis increased 6.6 percent to $42.1 million. Mobile advertising revenue increased 15.2 percent. National digital advertising increased 25.7 percent."

Unfortunately, while digital continues to uptick, it still accounts for only 21.6 percent of Lee's total advertising funding.

Subscription revenue was off by 1.4 percent as well.

Lee countered those numbers by continuing to trim operating expenses.

As per the presser, "Operating expenses for the 26 weeks ended March 27, 2016 decreased 5.5 percent. Cash costs decreased 5.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Compensation decreased 4.6 percent, due to a decrease in the average number of full-time equivalent employees of 7.9 percent, partially offset by higher medical costs. Newsprint and ink expense decreased 22.8 percent, due to the combination of lower newsprint prices and a reduction in newsprint volume of 11.6 percent. Other operating expenses decreased 3.5 percent."

Locally, it feels like a lot of that newsprint savings occurred as a result of the Arizona Daily Star's Monday and Tuesday print offerings. Lee continues to benefit from revenue sharing arrangements via TNI.

Lee still owes $656.5 million as part of its bankruptcy arrangement.

Elsewhere on the Lee front, the publisher nabbed Robert Fleck as Vice President of Business Development. Fleck spent 24 years with the Tribune Company and Chicago Tribune and was most recently the publisher of the Suburban Media Group, a division of the Chicago Tribune Media Group.

Creepy Pete and Carolina out at KFMA

Lotus owned new rocker KFMA 102.1 FM announced changes to its on-air and management lineup. Pete McNair, known to listeners as "Creepy Pete," ended his 12-year stint with the station. He was Assistant Program Director/Music Director/Afternoon Drive Host for KFMA, and also played a role in programming the station's alternate HD signals.

Carolina, the Carolina part of the Shmonty and Carolina morning show, is no longer at KFMA. She had worked at the station in a number of DJ capacities, which included plenty of off-hour overnight shifts, during her two-year run, but got promoted to the morning show shortly after Fook and Mishell jumped ship to Salt Lake City in August of 2014.

Shmonty in the Mornings is now the order of the day.

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