Monday, February 28, 2005

Sunday Night Fight

It was a rare Sunday night face-off for local TV news, but a bizarre one. And really, it wasn't much of a face-off, since the two stations thumping their chests aired their newscasts nearly two hours apart.

Pouncing on one of the local media's favorite angles--the "Omaha connection"--KETV dispatched the annoyingly earnest Tom Elser to Hollywood to cover the Oscars, due to Omaha native Alexander Payne's nominations for his film, "Sideways." Now we hate the "Omaha connection" story as much as anyone, but this one strikes us as legitimate, particularly since Payne has shot several previous films (most recently, "About Schmidt") in his hometown, and it IS the Ocars, after all.

Promos that aired during local commercial breaks in ABC's Oscars programming featured Elser outside the Kodak Theater with tags by Channel 7 anchors Rob McCartney and Julie Cornell. In a remarkable contrast to KPTM's recent coverage of the Maynard Triplets' embarrassing appearance as rejects on "American Idol," KETV's promos were understated and professional in their tone. In other words, they didn't give us the "Green Acres" feel that we get from most Omaha connection stories.

Meanwhile, over on Channel 6, the twitchings and flailings of the clueless continued, unabated. In the weirdest counter-programming we can remember (and we can remember quite a bit), WOWT spent three days relentlessly hyping an Andrea McMaster story on (and we still can't believe we're even typing this) DANCE STUDIOS!

Watching the build-up for this piece, and then the story itself, makes us wonder if there's not someone inside the station trying to sabotage the whole operation. A competing station could not invent a more effective scenario for making the Big Six look ridiculous.

What did this story teach us? Well, if you're sending your kid to a dance studio, it should be a GOOD one. The dance teacher should be QUALIFIED. With dancers practicing in the background, Andrea did a stand-up warning us that some studios teach ballet (Andrea holds up ballet shoe), jazz (holds up another shoe), and tap (holds up tap shoe) in ONE 45-MINUTE SESSION! That means they'll spend A LOT OF TIME CHANGING SHOES!

So while some reporters might dream of exposing the dark side of the packing industry, and others might aspire to uncovering political corruption, reporters at Channel 6 are keeping OUR HEARTLAND CHILDREN safe from the horrors of a poorly executed Fan Kick or Jazz Square.

The station has a significant problem in McMaster, whose work as anchor of the Saturday and Sunday morning newscasts is a weekly train wreck. Her pronunciation is odd, at best ("grown" comes out as "GROW-un," Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, sounds different every time she says it, and many vowels and consonants are over-enunciated). Add to the pronunciation issues the fact that her writing skills would embarrass a high school journalism student, and it's obvious that McMaster is out of her element as an anchor.

Those shortcomings were on display Sunday morning, when she reported that Oscar producers were planning to adjust the tone of their ceremony if the Pope's health took "a turn for the worse." "Speaking of a turn for the worse," she continued, creating a particularly inapproprate segue, the "Rozzies" were handed out last night in Los Angeles. (Don't most of us pronounce it "Razzies"?)

WOWT suffers from an even bigger problem, however. Success has made the station lazy, arrogant, or some combination of the two. Too many people, both in front of and behind the camera, seem to believe that viewers will watch anything they put on the air. Story ideas are stale, the writing is sloppy, and most afternoon/evening anchors appear to be totally uninterested in their work.

While the "Ten at Ten" format may have been adopted to give viewers a consistent, research-driven product, it has a consultant's stink all over it and, more imporantly, it has gotten old, sapping the station of its creativity. (The nightly giggle-fest that occurs each weeknight at 10:35 makes that painfully clear.) It's little wonder that both KETV and KMTV have nibbled away at WOWT's lead in recent ratings battles. Here's hoping that someone can help snap that outfit out of its rut, and soon.


Anonymous said...

Train wreck? I think Andrea does a great job on weekend mornings. She is a real treat, especially now that they unhitched Trey from the team to let her show her real talent. Andrea and Michael have good chemistry on the set - better than most other newscasts I think. Keep up the good work, Andrea! Don't let a pencil-necked geek and his sophomoric comments get you down.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding. McMaster is terrible. She doesn't belong on TV.

Michael Born? Biggest loser in Omaha weather since Ron Gerard.

Anonymous said...

McMaster a real talent? What planet are you from? She is by far one of the worst anchors I've ever seen...and I've lived and/or worked in ten different TV markets, including four top fifty markets. The only good anchors I've noticed in this market have been Pamela Jones, Trey Jones, Knicely, and McCartney. I can't for the life of me figure out why seven didn't hang on to Jones... but I think she may have left TV to pursue other things.

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