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Broadcast Career

Take 2 By Romi Carrell Wittman

Retirement just didn’t “take” for Journal Broadcast Group’s Jim Arnold. After a three-decade career in radio and television broadcasting, Arnold retired in 2010. Yet with broadcasting still in his blood, he didn’t spend that time relaxing. Instead, he crisscrossed the country working as a consultant and giving seminars to broadcast professionals on television station management. Arnold also spent a year caring for his terminally ill son, Jeffrey, who passed away last May at age 35 from a brain tumor. “Being retired and going through the loss, I had a lot of time on my hands and a lot of energy,” he said. He knew he needed something to do, and luckily, that’s when Journal Broadcast came calling. Journal was seeking a VP and GM to manage its Tucson operations, which include five radio stations, KGUN 9 and the CW network affiliate, as well as their digital operations. Headquartered in Wisconsin, Journal Broadcast Group owns and operates 34 radio stations and 15 television stations in 12 states. Arnold started at Journal last December. “It was a good match for my background,” he said. “The dynamic is much more complicated – and I’m busier than I expected to be. But I enjoy what we can do on a cross-platform basis. We’re the only media company that can offer that all in one location.” With some 154 employees to manage across a variety of platforms, Arnold adds that it has been a whirlwind. “It’s been fun. It’s been busy. I inherited a wonderful group of people.” Arnold’s history in broadcasting – and Tucson – go back a long way. He originally came to the Old Pueblo to attend the University of Arizona. Having worked at a small TV station in Indiana while still in high school, he already had an avid interest in broadcasting. In college, he was bitten by the radio bug and www.BizTucson.com

worked at several stations while studying for a degree in speech arts with an emphasis on radio and television. With a wife and growing family, he eventually quit school after completing all the requirements for his major. He considers working as morning DJ “Sunny Jim” at all-country KCUB in the 1970s the highlight of his career. In 1976, Billboard Magazine awarded the station the Grand International Station of the Year Award. At the time, Tucson was considered a small market, with just four TV stations and 12 radio stations, making the win all the more remarkable. “That was like winning best picture at the Academy Awards,” Arnold said. “The team was so spirited and so bonded. No ego. No in-fighting. It was just a magical time where everything and everyone came together. They called us the KCUB Bunch. It was a different time.” Seeking to advance his career and earn a better living, Arnold moved into station operations and spent seven years running radio stations in Texas. “I liked the idea of trying management – and it’s worked out pretty well,” he said. By 1985, he had moved to the television side of broadcasting, taking a position at a station in Lubbock, Texas. “I had done some fill-in work at KVOA and thought it a great way to learn about each area of the station.” In 1991, Arnold took his first GM position at the Fox affiliate in Madison, Wis. From there, he did a short stint in Rockford, Ill., and then it was back to Texas for a job in Amarillo. In 2000, he returned to Tucson to take the reins as VP and GM of KOLD. He was there for 10 years, and, during his tenure, KOLD went from the No. 3 spot in local news, market revenue and community image to No. 1. “When I was starting out, I was a part-time DJ on KOLD AM, and later,

I was KOLD TV’s general manager. So, I’ve come full circle,” he said. The GM opening at Journal Broadcast in Tucson was a happy coincidence. “This is something I wanted to do. I like living here. I have a lot of dear friends that live here,” he said. Arnold acknowledged that the broadcasting business has changed dramatically since he started. And there is still much to be learned. “It’s a little intimidating and it changes so rapidly.” With so much information readily available from so many sources, Arnold says that TV and radio stations have to differentiate themselves. “The big trick is being local. There are so many outlets for national news, we’ve got to be hyper-local with what’s going on,” he said. “With all the choices people have, you have to be on top of things locally to attract them.” He believes that the companies that will succeed are those that are deeply involved in their communities – from charitable giving and philanthropy, to active community engagement. “The way people gather information is different,” he said. “It used to be ‘We can’t put it on our website because it hasn’t been on TV yet.’ That way of thinking is gone. With mobile app alerts, people can now go two places – on the air or online.” Arnold believes there is a potential downside to the proliferation of all this up-to-the-minute technology. “The networks, Hulu, everyone is making things available online. There is so much content being produced – and people are used to not paying for it. Something has to give at some point in time,” he said. “There has to be a way to pay producers of content – or they will go away.” So what’s next for Arnold? “Retirement,” he said, laughing. “I care very deeply for what I do and the future of the company – but I know this will be my last job.” Biz Winter 2014 > > > BizTucson 229

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