Tuesday, February 28, 2006

People We Like

Today's note from yet another alert reader brings news that Z-92's Todd 'n' Tyler were discussing us on their Monday morning show. Our reader also tells us that TnT expressed surprise that we had nice things to say about some of the changes at KMTV because we "hate everything."

While we've noted numerous people and things we like on local TV stations, we'll supply a list of some of our current favorites.

Michelle Bandur (3)
Courtny Gerrish (6)
Molli Graham (3)
Joe Jordan (3)
Gary Johnson (6)
Rebecca Kleeman (6)
Tracy Madden (6)
Malorie Maddox (especially if she'd de-twang her voice and stop deferring to Gomer) (6)
Rob McCartney (7)
Ryan McPike (3)
Amanda Mueller (42)
Mary Nelson (3)
John Oakey (7)
Brandi Petersen (7)
Greg Peterson (3)
Kathy Sarantos-Niver (3)
Mike'l Severe (7)
Mike Sigmond (7)
Dave Webber (6)
Dean Wysocki (3)

So, as you can see, there's no shortage of people whose work we respect. These are the people who suffer most when insipid management decisions leave them doing idiotic stories and working alongside assorted tools and mental defectives.

Monday, February 27, 2006

KPTM Shakeup Underway?

An alert reader reports that KPTM has dismissed reporter Dave DeJohn, who is said to have told management that if he left, his wife, anchor Tracy Jacim would follow. Our source says that Jacim's year-long contract is set to expire this week and that this development suggests it won't be renewed at the behest of one party or another.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Losing Count

Watching multiple stations trying to cover a house fire in Council Bluffs Tuesday night was quite an adventure for anyone who might have been concerned about the facts. One alert reader was paying attention and notes the following:

Channel 7 reported 6 family members in the house, 4 of whom were children.
Channel 42 counted 8 in the house, 6 of them children.
Channel 6 found 12 people living there, with 8 being children.
Channel 3 scored it as 6 in the house and only one of them an adult.

The reader continues, noting that "Julie 'There's No Reason I Should Have a Job' Cornell" intro'd the two-alarm fire saying, 'There's a really big fire going on in Council Bluffs.' What the hell is that? How does that describe anything to the viewer?"

Maybe John Knicely is ghost-writing her copy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Knicely Extends String of Idiotic Remarks

Perhaps enjoying seeing his name mentioned in these posts and oblivious to the uncomplimentary remarks, WOWT anchor John Knicely on Wednesday's 5 p.m. newscast followed up yet another live report with a totally imbecillic comment.

After Gary Johnson and Rebecca Kleeman rolled tape of remarks by several of the Lincoln factory workers who won the Powerball jackpot, the two veteran reporters threw things back to the studio. Unfortunately, they had included in their footage one winner who was wearing a Husker stocking cap. Guess what caught John's eye.

"I notice that one guy had an 'N' there on his hat," Knicely said to Kleeman, as if this were a conversation starter. Luckily, Kleeman had the good fortune or quick thinking to be able to tell ol' John that she couldn't hear him, which is about the best a reporter can do when confronted with such ham-handed attempts at banter.

Just when you think he has nothing dumb left to offer, Knicely manages to surprise us with the gold mine of vacuuity that lies between his ears.

If WOWT wants to create some really entertaining TV, they should send some of their less skilled reporters out on live shots and let them try to handle the knuckleballs that Knicely chucks their way. We'd love to see Maniko Barthalamy try to fight one of those off, since she can barely hobble through stuff she has ostensibly had time to practice. Now that would be some amusing live television—maybe even better than what Channel 7 could get out of FUBAR Fazal.

Dare to Dream

This ad, we think, explains a lot about the current state of the talent at KMTV, in particular, and the market, in general. We're not sure it provides much insight into Travis Justice's presence there. Maybe they made an exception for Trav.

[BTW, are we the only ones who are irritated by the way he pronounces the word college (CAL-idge)?]

File This Under "Improvements"

KMTV reporter Kayla Thomas, whose shortcomings have been alluded to elsewhere on these pages, has requested and received reassignment to an off-air position. From what we're told, she'll now be handling marketing and promotions for the station. The only question left unanswered is whether she'll turn her collection ridiculous-looking hats over to reporter Michelle Bandur, who has also been known to show up on our screens sporting similar chapeaux.

Ron Burgundy Lives!

Anyone who wonders if WOWT anchor John Knicely is dumber than paste got additional evidence to consider during Tuesday's 6 p.m. newscast.

After reporter Gary Johnson recapped the media stakeout that filled Nebraska Lottery headquarters most of the day, he noted that eventually, an attorney "retained by the the winner or winners" contacted the lottery office and confirmed that his clients, indeed, possessed the $365 million winning ticket. A soundbite followed, featuring lottery official Tom Johnson saying that lottery staff had verified the ticket with "him" (clearly referring to the attorney). Shortly thereafter, Johnson threw it back to the studio.

Then, with a smugness common to stupid people who they think they've made a brilliant discovery, Knicely said: "Now Gary, Tom Johnson kinda gave something away there when he said they confirmed the winning ticket with 'him,' didn't he?"

Johnson, momentarily startled by Knicely's apparent denseness, fumbled for words and then reiterated that the winners are rumored to be workers at a Lincoln Con-Agra plant. It was a valiant attempt to steer Knicely back to the facts, but the veteran reporter undoubtedly knows what a fruitless effort that is.

What a sad situation that the Big Six has such an empty suit sitting next to Tracy Madden. If the station had any credible competition, we have a feeling that wouldn't be the case.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Breaking News: Nelson Resigns

A source that has proven reliable in the past tells us that KMTV reporter Mary Nelson has resigned from Channel 3, effective March 3rd. According to this tip, Nelson has accepted a position with the Nebraska Attorney General's office. No word on whether her departure is related in any way to her handling of the bogus lottery winner story she filed on Monday night's 5 p.m. newscast.

UPDATE: We were assured late Tuesday night by a source at the station that Nelson's resignation is NOT related to her Monday Powerball story. She apparently turned in her resignation last Friday.

Mary Nelson Says "Hell, Let's Just Make Up Some News"

We knew it was bullshit as we watched the story. On Monday, Action 3 News at 5 p.m. led with Mary Nelson reporting live from Lincoln that she had located the winner of the $365 million Powerball lottery. A "rags to riches story" if it's true, anchor Greg Peterson told us as he threw it to Nelson.

She proceeded to show us an extremely hairy man who held forth about what he wanted to do with the money, etc., even though, Nelson noted, Nebraska Lottery officials had told her that there was no sign of this guy on the store's surveillance camera at 3:09 p.m. on Saturday—the time when the winning ticket was purchased.

Inconvenient facts, apparently, weren't going to stop Mary from breathlessly sharing this prankster's cock-and-bull story with viewers.

Is this part of the "Action News" formula? Believe any local yokel who wanders up to a reporter? Whatever happened to fact-checking?

If this is Channel 3's new M.O., we'd better brace ourselves for alien abduction and Bigfoot stories. Next thing you know, they'll be doing stories about mysterious shadows that resemble Abe Lincoln.

Channel 7: WTF?!

Can someone please explain why KETV has suddenly imploded? Monday night's 10 o'clock news was stunning in its awfulness.

• During a story about folks in Papillion chasing a bobcat, viewers saw this title super'd: "Bob Cat Sighted." Did someone put FUBAR Fazal in charge of this? If Bob Cat is on the loose, can Frank Leopard be far behind?

• An I-Team "investigation" delivered by Carol Kloss and her Harry Caray-esque specs featured a Fremont man telling about how his wife and mother were rammed by a cart—months ago—while at the Minneapolis airport. We're still trying to figure out why anyone at 7 thought viewers would care about this story.

Bill Randby continued his puzzling behavior, spending most of his weathercast carrying on about how cold it was this past weekend and how cold it would be next weekend. He barely seemed to notice that temps will be in the 40s and 50s most of the week. Is this guy on some sort of medication?

• The Newsbotch 7 crew ended its night with a positively inane story about a "mysterious shadow" that resembles Abraham Lincoln. Turns out that a bear sculpture was casting the shadow. BFD.

We're truly baffled by whatever it is that has befallen KETV in the past month or two. Just six months ago, it was arguably Omaha's best TV news outlet; now, it's inexplicably one of the area's most pathetic. For those of us who were rooting for Channel 7 to increase competitive pressure on the sluggish WOWT, the meltdown at 27th & Douglas couldn't have come at a worse time.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Is Channel 3 Onto Something?

Say what you will about Action 3 News, it has certainly shaken things up and made for an interesting February sweeps period.

There is much to scoff at in KMTV's execution of the new format so far, and we've documented at least a couple of instances where the coverage is downright comical. Part of that is a function of having to implement the new strategy using existing staff, a staff which is considerably smaller than those at either WOWT or KETV.

But love it or hate it, credit Channel 3 with at least pumping something new into its own product and into the market in general. The faster-paced script, the reporter involvement, the new set—all these have, at the very least, gotten the attention of KMTV's chief competitiors.

KETV's I-Team is a very transparent attempt to inject a similar sense of "action" into Channel 7's coverage, and highlighting the four members of said "team" seems to be their answer to Action 3's reporter-centric stories.

Even WOWT has been seen trying to duplicate 3's approach to reporter involvement. Sunday night's post-Olympic newscast, for example, found reporter Gary Johnson displaying his own lottery ticket and then tossing it over his shoulder during a piece on the $365 million Powerball ticket sold in Lincoln.

All this raises the question: Why are stations with comfortable leads over KMTV suddenly aping the third-place station's approach? The answer seems pretty clear: they think it's a threat. We don't expect huge short-term changes in the ratings, but it'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple of years, particularly if KMTV increases the size and quality of its reporting staff, and ditches the repellent Travis Justice when his contract is up.

Another Wasted Opportunity

On Sunday night's post-Olympics newscast, WOWT anchor John Knicely proved, yet again, that he may be the least curious Omaha television anchor ever.

When a local affiliate gets the opportunity to interview Nebraska's claim to Winter Olympics fame, bobsledder Curt Tomasevicz, viewers might expect to find out how Tomasevicz ended up on the team, what it's like to be in Torino, etc. Not with Knicely asking the questions, though.

Instead, as he seems to do with virtually any conversation (remember when he and Pat Persaud got face time with NBC anchor Brian Williams in 2004?), Knicely's questions appear to have focused almost exclusively on how Tomasevicz's experience as a walk-on Husker football player contributed to his bobsledding skills. (We say "appear" because we didn't actually see John conversing with his interviewee; all we saw was a shot or two of Knicely sitting at the anchor desk grinning vacantly at a green-screen image of Tomsevicz.)

Arrrgh. Even when the Big Six has a story handed to it on a platter, its lead anchor appears to be so numbed by his dependence on canned segments and meaningless catch-phrases that he can't capitalize on what should be an excellent chance to break out of the station's monotonous routine.

Being John Knicely must be incredibly pleasant. With high ratings, a high salary, and no male talent at the station contending for his job, he certainly needn't try very hard to keep drawing that paycheck. Clearly, he's taking full advantage of the situation.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Channel 6 Cams Catch Breaking Story

For the first time in their many years of existence ( at least as far as we can remember), Channel 6's "CityCam Network" actually added something to the station's coverage on Thursday afternoon.

As law enforcement was chasing an erratically driven New Jersey-plated car—and eventually getting it to run into a concrete barrier on I-80—several CityCams provided good views of the action. We only caught the tail end of the live coverage, so someone can correct us where we're wrong, but anchor Tracy Madden interrupted NBC's Olympics between 4:00 and 4: 15 to provide information on the chase, which ended near 108th and Q Streets.

"Live at Five" featured Brian Mastre standing awkwardly near the interstate and apparently shivering as he stumbled through narrating highlights of the footage.

Mercifully, Action 3 News wasn't on the scene during the chase. We can just see Kayla Thomas running out onto I-80 wearing her stupid-looking-hat-of-the-day and trying to inject herself into the story. Now that we think of it, though, if she's gonna put herself into stories anyway, maybe the middle of a busy highway is a good place for her to do it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


This morning we found ourselves torn: should we watch local stations soil themselves over the prospect of 1-3 inches of snow or bask in the otherworldliness of the infomercial on KPTM that used phrases like "caked-on fecal matter"? Turns out there wasn't much difference.

Our favorite moments from Channel 7's exaggerated coverage:

Elictia Hammond standing on Douglas Street, just feet from the station's front door, pointing, as cars zoomed by at 35 m.p.h., to a two-foot-wide patch of snow that was maybe five flakes deep.

Andrea Bredow announcing in her most authoritative voice (which isn't very) that "moisture is making it to the ground."

• The cake-topper, however, came from superfluous in-studio beauty-pageant-has-been/traffic reporter Jana Murrell who, at least twice, exhorted viewers to keep their speeds down so that "we can turn those major-injury accidents into minor fender-benders!"

God Bless John Oakey. There must be days when he feels like he's doing volunteer work with the mentally retarded.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Another Positive Comment (Two in One Day?!)

Has anyone seen KMTV's new reporter Molli Graham? She seems quite capable and doesn't make us want to throw a hammer at the TV, which is unusual these days. Ditto regarding KETV's Owen Lei, whose work seems miles ahead of the crap turned in by the likes of fellow recent hires Laura Liggett and Farrah "FUBAR" Fazal. Note to every station in town: Graham and Lei are the kind of talent you should be hiring.

Fresh Air Is Severely Oakey Doakey

It's so rare to find uncanned, intelligent, on-air banter between local television personalities that it stands out like a sore thumb. Such was the case Tuesday morning when KETV morning anchor John Oakey followed up field reporter Mike'l Severe's live shot from a florist's shop.

When Oakey asked Severe to swipe some flowers so Oakey would have something for his wife, Severe looked into the camera and said with mock astonishment, "You want me to steal some flowers for you? You're gonna give your wife STOLEN FLOWERS?!" It was a nice moment, made even more so by the fact that Oakey didn't pretend to double over with laughter, as frequently happens on several other newscasts. He just chuckled, as we did, and moved on.

In the overall scheme of things, it's not a big deal, but it was nice to see something real, especially during a newscast that features a woman awkwardly reading traffic reports from an index card.

Monday, February 13, 2006

You Can't Make Anything Up That's This Good

That'll teach him to make WMD jokes, dammit.

Start your stopwatch now: How long 'til we get the first Aaron Burr reference?

(We know, we know. It's not a local story, and many reporters at Omaha stations have no idea who Aaron Burr even is. But a sitting vice-president only shoots a guy every 202 years; we couldn't help ourselves.)

Newsbotch 7: Farrah Fazal Fs Up Friday Frozen Freeway Report

The decision-makers at Channel 7 must be slow learners. What else could make them keep dispatching Farrah Fazal to cover live events?

Friday night found Fazal reporting from an exit on I-80 where a fatal accident had just occurred. When the folks in the studio threw it to her, viewers were treated to what sounded like incoherent babbling punctuated by a generous dose of "ums."

We didn't copy down her exact words, but it went something like, "I'm out here and it's umm (pause) icy and umm they've closed the interstate westbound. Umm it's very slick umm and it's snowing and ummm you can see the cars are moving very slowly. Umm we're hearing about the accident umm (pause) and we're umm hearing that there has been umm at least one fatality." PAINFUL to watch.

Um, how many times will viewers umm be subjected to this before KETV umm realizes that this hire just umm isn't working out when it comes to umm reporting?

Palestinians Take Over WOWT Control Room?


Speaking of the Big Six's weekend morning...

• Anchor Andrea McMaster, whose symptoms of idiocy seemed to be in remission during her first two weeks back from maternity leave, appears to be backsliding. For one thing, she's returned to over-enunciating (and emphasizing) the Ts and Ds in most words. Then there are the stupid remarks: on Sunday morning, for example, she urged those going to the station's website to "click on the word 'Reminders Board.'" Counting must not be her strong suit.

• Did we mention that she pronounces the word recognize "RECK-uh-nize"?

• Sunday morning also brought us another item to add to the list of stories soporific reporter Gary Smollen should not be allowed to cover, lest he be mistaken for the thing he's covering: sludge scraped out of a Henry Doorly Zoo pond.

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Head-Spinning Month, So Far

We can't say this year's February sweeps period is boring. Then again, we won't say it's particularly good, either. If nothing else, though, it's weird as hell.

• Has KETV chief meteorologist Bill Randby gotten into a crate of hysteria-inducing pills left behind by Jim Flowers? Thursday at 10 p.m., Randby led into a break by raising his voice to exclaim, "It's snowing RIGHT NOW!" and implying that said snow was "a preview" of Friday's weather, thereby suggesting that it'd be snowing all day. Those who stayed tuned learned, however, that Bill really thought we'd only get maybe an inch in "little bursts."

Randby's crazed-sounding teaser wouldn't be so bad if it weren't part of a recent pattern that began a few weeks ago, when he warned of a big snowstorm nearly a week in advance. It missed the area entirely. Then, toward the end of last week, he was warning of "arctic" temperatures for this week. (For those of you keeping score, highs were in the 30s and 40s during that period.)

It's unfortunate if Randby is being encouraged to overdramatize his remarks in an attempt to keep up with the Ejacu-Weather crowd at Channel 6. A few looks at WOWT lately suggest that Flowers and the boys are backing off their usual Chicken Little routine; on both occasions when Randby was literally shouting ominous predictions, Flowers was soft-pedaling the same weather systems. What station manager in his or her right mind wants to have a meteorologist who is more alarmist than Flowers? Somebody needs to tell Bill to settle down.

• While KETV began inflicting its "I-Team" reports on us this week, the first full week of "Action 3 News" made us think that KMTV should've kept the identifier for itself. (KMTV had its own I-Team within the last five years or so.) The Action 3 gang is the one really putting the "I" into its stories—not as in "Investigation," but as in "first-person singular." After a week or so of sampling the new format, even the most casual viewer can see that the goal is to inject their reporters into virtually every story. So far, the results have been comical.

On Wednesday at 10 p.m., for example, Devon "Lockjaw" Patton reported on a Council Bluffs resident who was understandably a little freaked out by a large number of dead birds on his lawn. Thinking they might have died from the much-reported "avian flu," the poor guy called everyone in the phone book who might be able to tell him what to do. "I tried to reassure him with information I got from the Department of Agriculture," Patton announced, as if that'd help the situation. It looked like something out of an SNL parody.

On Thursday, among the treats viewers got was Mary Nelson reporting live from the bedroom of missing teen Amber Harris. Honest-to-God, Nelson actually showed us her dresser, her bed, and even yarn Harris had put on the wall. Then, as if that weren't enough, Nelson announced that she had been digging into Amber's last day at school before she disappeared. Among the things we learned: Amber's music teacher wants her to come back. Amber's former kindergarten teacher has a strong feeling that Amber is still alive. And Amber's principal also wants Amber to return. It was painful to watch.

Add to this the other "I" Team's pathetic efforts over at Channel 7, and WOWT is looking better all the time. Hard to believe, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Ghost of Talent Exodus Future

Step right up and place your bets on how long 'til this one's outta here: Superb (especially for KPTM) weekend anchor Amanda Mueller is now listed among those searching for a better gig in the Medialine Talent Showcase.

If she could be persuaded to stay in Omaha, we can think of a number of slots where she'd fit quite nicely:
• KMTV's weekend anchor desk, which has an open seat (two if you count the one occupied by Devon Patton);
• KMTV's morning newscast, accompanying or replacing Mary Weeyums;
• WOWT's "Live at 4" (replacing Sheila Brummer) and either the 5 or 6 p.m. slot, to give Tracy Madden a little relief;
• KETV's weekday mornings: get rid of god-awful Elictia Hammond and give John Oakey at least one decent in-studio co-worker;
• Hell, give 'er the KMTV sports director post; they seem to think anyone can do that job.

Another Station Loses Talent, Retains the Mediocre

Our silence has been the result of some work-related out-of-townery that keeps us from seeing Omaha TV and the desperate assurances from KETV's "I-Team" that they're working to help us and our families.

(Hmmm...We need the house painted this summer. Perhaps the I-Team can help with that. Imagine: Suzanne Deyo scraping paint and littering her helmet with primer while Farrah Fazal shoots herself in the eye every time she looks into the nozzle of the paint sprayer. And Mike Sigmond shouting tips on the best paint to use. People would pay to watch the I-Team on that job. Talk about a new revenue stream for Hearst.)

But we digress. Sean Weide reports in his Reader column this week that WOWT's Courtny Gerrish is leaving the station to take a job anchoring the 4 p.m. newscast at a station in Milwaukee. This is the same Gerrish—the nine-year employee—who wanted the 4 p.m. slot at Channel 6, only to see it handed to smarmily repulsive (and then-unemployed) former Des Moines morning anchor Sheila Brummer.

This is another nice move by local station management—the latest in a string of recent blunders that has resulted in local viewers losing the services of talented on-air personnel. Among the others that got away:
Pamela Jones left in 2004 after languishing for years at KETV's weekend anchor desk;
Trey Jones vacated WOWT's morning anchor chair last May to pursue work outside of television;
• In September, KMTV's Sarah Walters left her weekend weather job for a higher-profile position in Phoenix;
• KETV reporter Tricia Meuret left Channel 7 in November to work in politics; and
• Channel 3's high-caliber weekend anchor, Sarah Simmons, recently departed for a gig in Washington, D.C.

The mismanagement of talent has been particularly costly at KETV—at least in terms of on-air product—where Meuret has been replaced by the hopelessly inept Fazal, who could apparently screw up the proverbial two-car parade.

What news directors John Clark (WOWT), Rose Ann Shannon (KETV), and whoever's in charge this week at KMTV can't seem to figure out is that if you don't provide your more talented on-air personnel with opportunities to showcase their skills and/or you pass them over for better slots in favor of lesser talent from inside or outside the market, someone else will recognize the superior talent and lure them elsewhere. Is that so tough to understand? Or anticipate?

Apparently it is, because we viewers end up having our news slung at us by the likes of Deyo, Fazal, Brummer, Kayla Thomas, Gary Smollen, and Jim Siedlecki.

A station that finds a way to reward the deserving and flush the inept could own this market. But we're not holding our breath.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday Morning Miscellany

• Super Bowl viewers got an unexpected knock upside the head Sunday when KETV peppered breaks with a seemingly endless supply of promos for something it's calling the "I-Team." Yeesh. (Didn't KMTV have an "I-Team" back in the '90s?) The promos promise that reporters Carol Kloss, Mike Sigmond, Suzanne Deyo, and Farrah Fazal will be digging into "stories that matter" and "keeping you and your family safe."

Okay, where do we start? Kloss, Sigmond, and Deyo have all been around for a few years, and they've all proven that they can report, if not "investigate." But Fazal has only been on the air a couple of weeks and has yet to demostrate that she can even put together a high school video project, let alone a story for a real TV station. How she got hired is mystery enough; why decision-makers at the Newsplex think she's up to this task is positively baffling. Memo to news director Rose Ann Shannon: Cut your losses and tell Fazal to hop the first "United Pacific" train out of town.

• Having spent several months in the wilderness of unemployment, thanks to his decision to interrupt an installment of the sacred "American Idol" to update viewers about some pesky severe weather that was bearing down on the area, former KPTM chief meteorologist Dean Wysocki is said to be starting at KMTV today, filling the vacancy created when Sarah Walters departed for Phoenix in September. It's unclear when he'll show up on-air.

• WOWT is advertising for another anchor/reporter. We're told that the new hire will join Andrea McMaster as co-anchor of the station's weekend morning newscasts, ostensibly to keep up with Channel 7's new weekend morning program.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Flooded By Bad Reporting

What the hell is happening? There are so many instances of horrible reporting that we can't keep up...

• An alert reader reminded us of KETV's Owen Lei, who kept referring to the engineer of a train as "the conductor."

• On Friday's "Action 3 News" at 5 p.m., reporter Kayla Thomas was sporting a green coat with matching hat, the latter of which looked like the hats worn by the "Wild and Crazy" Croatian brothers portrayed by Dan Ackroyd and Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live back in the late '70s.

• And then the normally solid Michelle Bandur on Channel 3's Thursday 'casts, as described by an alert reader:

I generally agree with your wait-and-see approach about 3's new format -- and your willingness to at least give them credit for trying something new -- but I'm concerned about something that apparently is a point of emphasis: The desire to make the reporter either THE story or a major part of it.

And I'm not just talking about Joe "lock-your-jaw-and-raise-one-eyebrow" Jordan. Thursday night, he made my skin crawl by referring to the stolen tissue issue as "skin-crawling" before recycling a bunch of footage of his oh-so-slimy interviews with a few guido N.Y. attorneys.

Then Thursday night, we saw Michelle Bandur literally grilling the guy who was paralyzed in the Benson Pawn Shop robbery. Twice, she ambushed him as his buddies helped him out of the car and into a wheelchair, saying: "I mean, you know, you lost your legs and your best friend and now they're charging you with robbery. Do you think that's fair?"

It might -- MIGHT -- be appropriate if the guy wanted to give his side but he clearly wanted nothing to do with her. I felt slimy just watching her trying to grill him. Then she tried to wrap up the garbage with the same reference to him losing his legs and his buddy -- and maybe his freedom! We get it, Michelle. He's paralyzed, though technically, he didn't lose his legs. He lost the use of them.

Wednesday night, they tried to spin a neighborhood's court victory over the liquor license of that tobacco/alcohol shop by going to a Benson neighborhood meeting. Never mind that the shop wasn't in Benson. The reporter asked some mild-mannered Benson leader how empowering this was for groups like his -- he understandably looked bewildered -- so the camera focused in on her as she intensely and intently repeated the question.

If they're focused on making the reporters the story, those reporters better come up with some better copy. So far, from the flashy graphics to the whooshing sound effects to the hot-dog reporters, this feels far too much like the Fox stations you see in Kansas City or Denver or Chicago. Fourth-rate and, typically, fourth-ranked in their markets.

C'mon people, you're making writing this blog too easy.

Sheila Brummer's Desperate Cry for Attention

Perhaps miffed that Farrah Fazal was getting too much recognition, Sheila Brummer delivered another of her "my mouth is moving and sounds are coming out but none of them are English words" moments.

Just before signing off "Live at 4" on Friday, she and co-anchor Brian "Fat Hands" Mastre told viewers that authorities had released the name of the pedestrian killed by a train on Wednesday. Brummer said the victim was a 14-year-old girl from Washington state named (it sounded like) "Marly LeDew." But she paused momentarily, then continued, "Mary Lizzddee was her name," her voice trailing off at the end.

So really, we didn't learn anything, other than authorities had released a name and Brummer couldn't communicate it in the time allotted. It's probably too much to hope that she's still in her probationary employment period.

It's February: Break Out the Stupid Stories!

With February sweeps comes the thrice-yearly pissing contest in which KETV and WOWT seek to make the biggest mountain out of the smallest molehill. Thursday night brought us Newswatch 7's Brandi Petersen telling viewers about how they're all in danger of OVERDOSING on OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATIONS.

Over on 6News, pun junkie Mike McKnight tried to throw a good scare into its viewers by investigating the correctional system's furlough program. "MURDERS! SEX OFFENDERS!" the promos intoned. Hell, we're more worried about the Big Six's daily assault on our intelligence than about being a victim of some jailbird. The thought of John Knicely trying to pronounce the names of foreign leaders—now that's scary.

If Diversity Includes the Untalented, Then She's a Double Threat

KETV Newswatch 7 is truly sinking before our eyes. Ont Thursday at 10 p.m., train wreck reporter Farrah Fazal was dispatched to cover the story of the three-year-old who wandered away from home before being picked up by police, who then set about trying to figure out where he belonged.

Fazal, whose voice is somewhat manly and comes with a halting delivery and yet-to-be-identified accent, kept referring to the tyke, named Riley, as "LID-dull RYE-lee," and couldn't seem to make sense for more than a sentence or two at a time. Consider this gem: "Deputies found him about seven blocks away [from his home]. His mother thinks he was only gone about four." WTF?!

It's interesting to note that the KETV website (at least, as of this writing) contains only Carol Kloss' 5 p.m. report.

If, like most employers, KETV has a probationary period during which it can dismiss new hires without cause, it should exercise that option on Fazal, post haste.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On 15 It's a Farrah Fawcett Wig; On 7 It's Farrah Fazal

While many of us were distracted by the flash and freneticism of Action 3 News, denizens of the Newsplex were cringing at the latest in a series of KETV staff gaffes, this one from newcomer Farrah Fazal.

First some background. Last month, when we noted that Fazal had been hired, we got a great email from an alert reader in the great state of Washington, who had interesting info on Ms Fazal:

Years back, I worked in Billings, Montana when Ms. (or Mr. maybe, squint real hard and she looks like a male Romulan from Star Trek) Fazal worked at KULR-8 NBC as the Weekend News Anchor and was our chief competitor on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you thrive on people who suck... you, my anonymous friend, are in for some new material.

Maybe she got better in St. Louis (I think she was a producer only), but as Butthead once told Beavis, "You can't polish a terd."

She fucked up so much anchoring and reporting that students in the dorms of both Rocky Mountain College and Montana State-Billings (or MSU-B) would play drinking games during the 10 o'clock news in which kids would have to take a shot everytime she fucked up on the air. It didn't take long to get drunk.

We rolled air-checks of our competitors' newscasts and of course had a blooper tape to dub all their mistakes (and to be fair, ours too) on... she got her own tape. AND... who cares about facts? A line made famous by Fazal that was recited in our newsroom for years... "Tonight, Timothy McVeigh sits alone in a jail cell, tomorrow, he'll sit alone in the electric chair." Forget him being executed by lethal injection... not electricity.

So it is with that in mind that we greet several emails this morning detailing what sounds like Fazal's total ineptitude in reporting on last night's fatal train-pedestrian accident.

According to accounts we've received, FF referred to Union Pacific as "United Pacific" at least four times, and during Q&A with the folks back in the Newsplex, stated that no one knew if the person had been walking or "inside a car." One alert readers asks, "Now, this may be graduate level J-School stuff, but would it not be fairly easy to see if there was a crumpled up car sitting by the tracks?" Adding to the FFupiness of the remark is the fact that the anchors led into the story by calling it a fatal train-pedestrian mishap.

To our alert reader in Washington: we can't say you didn't warn us.

Channel 3 Gets Some Action

Memo to KXVO anchor Calvert Collins: If you want to see how to attract younger viewers, drop the big wig and have someone bring you a tape of what they're doing at KMTV.

Moving at a break-neck pace, "Action 3 News" debuted Wednesday night, running viewers through its 35-minute newscast at what seemed to be at least twice the speed of WOWT's "Ten at 10." In terms of sheer quantity of stories, Action 3 must've run at least one-and-a-half times as many as either the Big Six or Newswatch 7. It was as if everyone on the set was hopped up on caffeine.

A first-time viewer, however, might have come away with the impression that the station has only three reporters. The opening story, "breaking news" about a train hitting a pedestrian near Oakview Mall, featured a live report by Michelle Bandur. Five minutes (and about 14 stories) later, after Joe Jordan had delivered another installment of his ongoing investigation into possibly diseased human tissue that made it from New York to Omaha, viewers saw another Bandur story—this one about efforts to revitalize the look of the Benson neighborhood. And Mary Nelson was out on the street showing us something or other. With all the "Action," though, you'd think they'd have all hands on deck for the premiere.

The set matches the pace: it's nothing if not busy. It is, as we were told yesterday, considerably more contemporary than anything else in the market. Meteorologist Ryan McPike's weather station (is it still a lab?) appears loaded with gizmos, and the opposite side of the set—from which Travis Justice (a.k.a. "The Big Tool") delivered his "Big Take" on sports—looks equally technified.

The anchor desk looks not altogether different from the old one, but behind Greg Peterson and Deb Ward appears to feature monitors flashing frenetically behind a pane of frosted glass. It's not entirely different from what appears behind Channel 6's big anchor desk, but it's somewhat more convincing.

The lighting is somewhat improved, although it's hard to escape the feeling that they could still use some more wattage in the place. In some cases, however, more light may not be a good thing. For Ward, the new scheme highlighted a few more wrinkles than she might have liked. Those might not have been as noticeable, though, due to the fact that she seemed to be trying to make her eyes about twice as open as they usually are. Think Lucille Ball doing her "surprised" take. As one alert reader asked this morning, "What the hell is wrong with Deb's eyes?!?!?! Is she wearing red contacts? Or possessed?"

Finally, if we could describe the graphics in one word, it would be this: Red. Departing from the soothing blue-leaning graphics that it has relied on for some time now, Action 3 News is all decorated in red—a color that extends, you'll see—clear out to its website. Like everything else, the graphics are busy and include what another alert reader calls a "spinning draedle" that sports the Action 3 News logo in the lower right hand corner.

Action 3 News isn't perfect. We're not even sure we like it; we felt pretty overwhelmed before they even got around to The Tool. But the new approach is a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for a station—and a market—that's been stuck in a rut for too long. Kudos to KMTV for trying something different and for showing KXVO how to launch a new format.

Like High School, Only with Money

One of our many alert readers tells us that NET—the latest name for Nebraska's public television outlet—was schedule to televise UNL wrestling last week only to have the plug pulled by the UNL athletic department. Their reason? They apparently didn't want Kevin Kugler covering a University of Nebraska event, perhaps due something(s) he said about Nebraska athletics on his AM1620/The Zone radio call-in show.

What we'd really like to know is where this vendetta—if that's truly what it is—originated: tone-deaf Husker Athletic Director Steve Pederson? Paul Aaron, head honcho of Pinnacle Sports, which owns the radio rights to Husker athletics?

Whatever the source, this can't be good for Kugler's chances of continuing his hosting duties on NET's "Big Red Wrap-Up" program next fall, can it?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

'Twas the Night Before Sweeps...

KMTV's switch to "Action 3 News" is underway. This screenshot of the station's new website (www.action3news.com) suggests that Journal Broadcasting is serious about at least trying to upgrade the look of 3's product (although having His Toolishness grinning like an idiot on the right-hand side of the class picture isn't helping matters).

Tonight at 10, we get a look at what could be the first major studio upgrade in this market since KETV unveiled its "Newsplex" in 1997. It's about time.

TONIGHT: Channel 3 Set Moves Into the 21st Century

After receiving a couple of tips from alert readers, we've done some digging and learned that KMTV will unveil a major overhaul of its newscasts tonight at 10. Among the changes will be a new name (Action 3 News) and a new set—said, by those who've seen it, to be very "contemporary."

We highly doubt, however, suggestions that Channel 3's "improvements" will include pixelating the face and digitally altering the voice of "Sports Director" (and, truth be told, entire sports staff) Travis Justice. That would just be wishful thinking. If we're lucky, though, they'll tell him to keep his opinions to himself and just give us the scores.
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