Media Watch

Star layoffs cut across departments

Given the continued swoon of print journalism and numerous rounds of previous layoffs at the Arizona Daily Star, it's hard to imagine the local daily had 15-20 people to release, but that's what happened Friday.

The Star, owned by Davenport, Iowa-based publisher Lee Enterprises, slashed between 15 and 20 positions, according to multiple sources. They included casualties among reporters, design and on the copy desk. The Star also gutted its prep reporter positions on the sports desk, one area that had been largely protected from previous swaths.

The downsizing occurred nearly five years removed from the paper's massive summer of 2011 cutback, which led to the dissolution of 52 positions.

And it occurred within two months of the "departure, not retirement," of Daily Star editor Bobbie Jo Buel.

 Lee Enterprises continues to try to improve its financial position, dramatically affected by a series of payments to debt holders it has made since a bankruptcy restructuring plan that took hold largely as a result of its decision to overextend in its purchase of Pulitzer properties. Many of those balloon payments are about to increase significantly.

 As a result, Lee has sold a number of physical land assets and remains consistent fodder for buyout rumors. 

KXCI improves community visibility with Hotel Congress studio

Consider it Tucson's version of The Today Show, minus the pap and with better music.

Community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM has reached a deal with Hotel Congress to use a 300-square-foot space in the hotel's lobby for its new live broadcasting presence.

"My dream was always to try to get KXCI in the heart of the community," said Executive Director Cathy Rivers. "We are downtown in a historic building, but we've continued to grow and we really needed more space, so why not put a satellite station downtown so we can have two functioning studios and swap back and forth at any time. Hotel Congress panned out. It was the perfect mix."

KXCI plans to expand its educational presence beyond traditional radio DJ courses, although those remain an integral part of the program, and include instructional tutoring on podcasting, public speaking and DJing in public venues. Moving the studio location to Hotel Congress certainly provides some logistical benefits in that regard, thus freeing up space in the station location on Fourth Avenue. However, visibility is the real upside.

"You'll be able to see us from the street on Congress. You'll also be able to see us from the interior of the lobby at Hotel Congress," Rivers said. "When we started wrapping up our capital campaign, I was pitching this mission to (the Warden family), one of our donors a year or so ago, and that's when I started identifying the space. I identified a family who really decided this was a great way for KXCI to be seen, to gain new listeners and new members, to really get the community involved. They really believe in community treasures, so they gave us a check last year and this year. I think this is something we can continue. I promised the Board of Directors and staff we wouldn't use existing funds for this, that I'd cultivate new funds, and I think it's going to bring on more funds because it builds that sense of community through community radio."

Construction on the studio is set for later in the summer. Rivers hopes to be operational in the satellite location by September.

"I'd love to utilize it full-time, but we'll have to go in stages. I want to make sure our DJs are super comfortable with the idea and location," Rivers said. "With modern technology and with equipment more affordable, it's not like the old days when you needed all this money to build a giant studio. Our largest expense is sound proofing the studio and putting in the console. The visual is so people can feel comfortable, stop on in and find out more about us."

But the point is to build upon what KXCI's mantra has been since it flipped the switch and started broadcasting 32 years ago: Continue its role as a station that is distinctively Tucson. "For me it's really important to get away from the homogenization of radio and be better connected to our community," Rivers said. "People want to know what's going on in their community, and I think this is an excellent way for a lot of people who haven't had the opportunity to discover us to do so now."

Mix news reporter Bruce Daniels dies

Long-time Tucson radio personality Bruce Daniels died over the July 4 weekend. Daniels spent more than two decades on Old Pueblo airwaves in a variety of capacities, but was most recognized of late for news and traffic reports during Scripps station morning broadcasts, highlighted by his direct involvement with KMXZ 94.9 FM.

Long-time Mix morning show host Bobby Rich was among those who paid their respects to Daniels on the station's website.

"Bruce loved radio. We know that because he worked for the station part time since I first hired him away from KIIMfm in 1995. He was on MIXfm every Saturday morning ever since and occasionally did some fill-in work on other days. Once he went full time with news and traffic reporting, he became more involved with station things like our MIXfm radio play, baby fair and other events. We could tell then that he really liked being with people and doing live reports from the events.

"Throughout the years he also took other day jobs. He also was a taxi driver for a couple of years. We know that because one day he was standing in our parking lot next to his cab while his client was in the station for a meeting. I consider it personally a great loss that Bruce Daniels is no longer in my life, on our show ... or in your radios. Rest in peace, Bruce."