After what seemed like years with few, if any, on-air personnel changes, the newsroom at Channel 6 (WOWT) has seen lots of turnover in the past several months.
Most promising is the recent addition of Malorie Maddox, who comes to Omaha from Joplin, Missouri's KODE, where she was the main anchor for that station's 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts. Rather than being stuck on the weekend evening shift, Maddox has been smartly inserted into the "Live at Daybreak" anchor chair next to Trey Jones, who himself has been moved from the weekend morning show. Like Jones, Maddox seems inordinately poised, and the new team seems to have injected the show with some much-needed energy. Meterologist Scott Akin, who moved into Powell's spot from the weekend morning position during the summer, fills out the weekday morning roster.
The Saturday and Sunday evening news programs have been transformed into a two-anchor format, with former "Daybreak" anchor Courtny Gerrish moving into one chair and newcomer Paul Baltes sliding into the other. They join veteran news-reporter-turned-sports-anchor John Chapman and meterologist Jeff Jensen, both of whom have staffed that newscast for several years now.
Jones' departure from the weekend morning show leaves Andrea McMaster as that program's only anchor and newcomer Michael Born delivering the weather. It's not clear if the station intends to add a male co-anchor to work with McMaster, but the long (nearly two-month) delay suggests it won't.
This game of musical chairs began this past summer when longtime "Live at Daybreak" meteorolgist Patrick Powell, left the Big Six to take a Chief Meteorologist position in Green Bay, WI. Not long thereafter came the departures of weekend morning co-anchor Megan Dardnell and reporter Dana Dykesterhuis. Dardnell took a TV gig back in her home state of Pennsylvania, while Dykesterhuis left for a PR position with the QwestCenter Omaha.
Thom Knight, who had co-anchored the "Live at Daybreak" show for what must have been a decade, disappeared from the airwaves not long thereafter; while there may have been an explanation for his exit, I missed it and haven't had any luck finding one. Longtime weekend anchor Kara Rovere also left, in a move ostensibly related to her recent marriage.
The extent to which these exits are ratings-related isn't clear. However the Omaha World-Herald reported in a fall story that Channel 7 (KETV) had narrowed the gap between itself and ratings-leader Channel 6 in the 6 and 10 p.m. periods. What is clear is that Channel 6 is using the opportunity created by the departures to shore up a lineup that was becoming more than a little stagnant.
All-in-all, the changes appear to position the station well in the re-staffed dayparts. They may not help the sagging 5, 6, and 10 p.m. casts, but they at least breathe new life into some of the station's key programs.
(Thanks to an alert reader for corrections. Updated 2/3/05)