Wednesday, March 16, 2005

In Which the Writers Extol the Virtues of Ms. Madden and Offer a Bit of Unsolicited Advice to Her Pinhead Boss(es)

In an effort to be positive about what’s going on at WOWT, let us focus for a moment on Tracy Madden. As we’ve already noted, we couldn’t be more happy with her promotion to lead female anchor at the Big Six. And it appears to suit her well, too. In the weeks since the announcement that she’d be “movin’ on up,” Madden appears to be absolutely glowing.

Don’t misunderstand: It’s not that she wasn’t already doing a fine job, but we’ve always felt she labored in the shadow of Queen Pat and that the station failed to showcase her properly. However, viewers these days are seeing a Tracy who looks more relaxed and confident than ever before. Whereas Pat comes across as aloof and arrogant, Tracy has always exuded warmth and accessibility, and those qualities are even more in evidence lately.

If Channel 6 learned anything from the PP experience, it should be that it’s possible to overexpose and burn out an anchor. Delivering three or four newscasts a day for ten years cannot be easy, and we’d like to believe that explains, at least partially, Pat’s diminishing performance over the past several years. The workload, combined with the overexposure, seems to have left her with nothing to say and us with little patience for her.

That lesson should not be lost on station management. As we asserted shortly after the announcement, this period is one of opportunity for the station. Instead of repeating the mistake and running Tracy into the ground, WOWT would be wise to exercise restraint in using her and set a pace that will allow her to thrive over the long haul. One way of doing that would be to move current morning anchor Malorie Maddox into the 4 and 5 p.m. newscasts and save Tracy for 6 and 10. (This would also allow Tracy to devote more time to her aging husband, Ed McMahon, who we understand recently took a tumble in their Los Angeles home.)

Using its strong bench to lighten the load on its lead female anchor would be a smart use of resources. Just as importantly, it might induce Maddox—the brightest new talent to hit Omaha in years—to extend her stay here. Such an arrangement would still leave Courtny Gerrish and Rebecca Kleeman to divvy up weekend evening and weekday morning anchor chores, and we can hope that the anchor/reporter who fills the vacancy created by PP’s departure might be used to replace the pleasant-but-dreadful Andrea McMaster on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

With its female lineup set, the bigwigs at the Big Six should then turn their attention to shoring up their male staff, which is not nearly so deep. John Knicely, while a serviceable anchor, will never be mistaken Tom Brokaw or Bryant Gumbel when it comes to intellect. Like Persaud, he suffers from a tendency, albeit somewhat less pronounced, to read news without seeming to understand it. If the station plans to keep him, it would be wise to reduce his workload, too. Morning anchor Trey Jones is the obvious choice to move to an afternoon/evening assignment. He has the tools for the job and, like Maddox, is more likely to remain in the market if he has a prime assignment.

Beyond Jones, however, the cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to male talent. Brian Mastre has always seemed like fish out of water on air, not to mention a perfect candidate for David Letterman’s “Hairpiece/Not a Hairpiece?” game. Paul Baltes, from what we’ve seen so far, is still recovering from charisma bypass surgery, as is Brian New. Gary Smollen, for whatever reason, usually looks more like he’s part of a hostage video than a news story. And Doug Walker sports not just a great radio face, but also a voice better suited to reading the noon farm report on KMA in Shenandoah.

In short, WOWT needs to do some serious cultivation or recruiting of male anchor/ reporters. If Knicely would happen to break a leg or Jones had an anvil dropped on his head, the Big Six would be hurtin’ for certain.


Will said...

I like Madden a lot on the air (that picture they put on the website makes her look like a castoff from The Island of Doctor Moreau, however).

She is much more warm than Pat Persaud. But I must interject that my one face-to-face with her (she was covering some story at my former employer, Mutual of Omaha) left me with the distinct impression that she is as arrogant and aloof in person as Persaud is on the air. But that was an impression formed in a very brief period of time, so maybe I'm wrong.

bigbigloser said...

Uh, no, you are just about right regarding her in person. Those fakey promos the've been playing to death with her telling us how to raise our kids -- total put on bullshit happy face. Here's a scary thought... if you thought Pat was aloof, wait until Madden has been the main anchor for a year or so.

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