Thursday, June 29, 2006

KETV's Other Disaster: Laura Liggett

There are times when we wonder if KETV hasn't outsourced its hiring to WOWT.

The well-documented joke that is Farah "Fubar" Fazal is Exhibit A. Exhibit B is Laura Liggett.

Liggett is nearly as awful as Fubar, only considerably easier to watch and with a more pleasant voice, which is great, as long as you don't want any information.

Near the end of the 5 p.m. newscast on Thursday, anchors Rob McCartney and Julie Cornell threw it to Liggett, who was reporting on the grass fire in Council Bluffs. Delivering her report from the shoulder of a busy road, the L-Train(wreck) babbled for at least 60 seconds, unable to put together even one sentence without stumbling or having to resort to reading whatever notes she was clutching.

The only more desperate performance we've seen on Channel 7 is Exhibit C: morning traffic reporter Jana Murrell's daily struggle to remember the two items she has written on her pink index card while gesturing stiffly in the general direction of the greenscreen map behind her.

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see a mentally retarded person doing a traffic report, Murrell offers a pretty good approximation. And for an idea of what it might be like to see a 17-year-old with an 8th grade vocabulary doing live shots, keep an eye out for the L-Train(wreck).

WOWT Taking Its Cues from Channel 3, Again

Once again, apparently prodded by KMTV's Action 3 News format, lethargic WOWT is making changes to its otherwise stale product. This time, it's the opening sequences, graphics, and theme music.

We could give a long description of each, but it's just as informative to say that the graphics look like Channel 3's, only blue, and the music sounds like Channel 3's, only with the three-note NBC signature tacked on.

Oh, and the announcer on 6 seems to have pepped up a bit. And he identifies the 6 p.m. broadcast as "6 News, Live at 6."

This is the second wave of changes at the Big Sucks in the last three months. Following Channel 3's switch to the new format in February, WOWT tightened up its reports, mercifully axing the post-story "reporting live" banter with its reporters.

Perhaps Gray Communications could save a little money by firing their consultant and having GM Frank Jonas and news director John Clark take their orders directly from Channel 3's guy.

Maybe one day soon, we'll flip on the tube and find that Channel 6's John Knicely's hair has gone gray and they've forced Tracy Madden to die her locks brownish-black, since that's how Greg Peterson and Deb Ward wear their hair.

If that happens, then it's only a matter of time until they have a monkey delivering sports.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Readers Share Our Pain

We saw this story by Mike DCronemeyer on WOWT this morning but thought we were being too critical of the station's pathetic effort to match KETV's live reports during the early morning newscast. It turns out that we weren't the only ones who noticed, as evidenced by this alert reader's email:

This morning I happened to have the TV on and it was turned to Channel 6 by accident. They did a small diddy on house valuation protests and went live to Mike Cronemeyer, that must have been standing in front of his house or someone's house and read off a piece of paper, "To protest your valuation, call xxx-xxxx." then says "Reporting Live, Mike Cronemeyer." Then the people in the studio ran that same information on a graphic.

I mean what a waste of a remote just to say that? Man, Channel 6 is losing it. I turned over to Action 3 and got 6 stories of information in the time that Channel 6 did 1. Man, what a waste. I moved to Omaha 7 years ago and at the time thought Channel 6 did some great stuff, but now, I [want to] slit my wrists every time I end up watching that news.

The ratings may not reflect it yet, but Channel 6's product is growing long-in-the-tooth, not to mention the fact that the format is now being executed by talent that is not up to the station's previous standards. It'll be interesting how long it takes Omaha viewers to stop tuning in for such vapid offerings.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Local Outlets Stage "Phone-It-In Tuesday"

Even the most forgiving viewer might have been hard pressed to find evidence of anyone really trying on Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscasts. Examples?

• Channel 7 devoted early moments of its cast to two non-stories. The first centered on a kid being lost for about an hour. The reporter said that "everyone" found the little rascal, causing us to picture more of a mob scene than was probably present. The second story—by the same reporter—uncovered a shocking fact: many fireworks are flimsily constructed! Guess who the reporter was. (Hint: KETV management is said to have defended this dolt's continuing on-air presence by claiming that she's "getting better." Talk about damning with feint praise.)

• Over at Channel 6, it was one of those "monkeys in the control room" nights. At least four times in two minutes, the screen went black for a second or two. It cames on the heels of several weekend newscasts that were riddled with similar gaffes, not to mention Paul Baltes pronouncing the word "gyroscopes" as if he were getting advice from the guy in the King Kong gyros ads.

All this might not have bothered us so much had we not been turning onto L Street from 108th at about four on Tuesday afternoon and looked over to see Channel 3's King of Tools, Travis Justice, bleating into his cell phone from the driver's seat of his sporty black convertible. Where's a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher when you really need one?

Monday, June 26, 2006

How Low Can He Go?

It's gotta suck to be Brian McFayden.

It was bad enough that his career had withered to the point that he had to take a job at an Omaha TV station. But, to make matters worse, that station was cellar-dweller KXVO, whose Calvert Collins-anchored "news"cast was watched so little that it didn't even register in parts of the February sweeps.

Now comes word that the aforementioned Mr. McFayden was bumped from even that paltry gig on Friday.

Perhaps he'd look nice in a blue vest, saying, "Cart today?"

Friday, June 23, 2006

Aren't KPTM and KXVO Doing This Already?

Read all about Pappas Telecasting's latest "innovation" here.

Separated at Birth: Mubarak and FUBARak

The Egyptian President and the multiply-challenged "I-Team" member.

Monday, June 19, 2006

And the Award for Best Nickname of a Local Newscast Goes to...

An insider at one of Channel 6's rivals tells us that, in his newsroom, they now refer to WOWT's "First News Live at Four" as "Dumb and Brummer."

Swing and a Miss

WOWT's SucksNews on Saturday aired footage of that day's Juneteenth parade but somehow managed to totally miss the fact that the rest of the celebration was cancelled when a group of unruly youths created a ruckus at the entrance to Metro Community College's Fort Omaha Campus, where the event was to have taken place.

We aren't suggesting that Channel 6 was the only station to ignore the story because we didn't see what anyone else did. But shouldn't the "Heartland's News Leader" be able to keep up with what's going on right under their noses? And even if they totally whiffed on the coverage, couldn't they at least mention it on their website? Pathetic.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Few Random Observations

• Has anyone caught the Omaha Public Schools' latest offering on The Knowledge Network (Cox Channel 17)? It's hosted by district spokescrone LuAnn Nelson, who peppers some apparently over-coached youngsters with canned questions to set up their canned answers. It's reminiscent of old propaganda films cranked out by the Soviets during the Cold War. Is this the best OPS can come up with? How is it that students at Westside can produce a better show than OPS's adult PR squad can muster?

• Instead of hosting a four- or five-hour telethon for Children's hospital each year, maybe Channel 6 should raise money so it can get weekend Ejacuweather meteorologist Jeff Jensen some voice lessons. He’s always been a bit of a "high-talker," but we swear his voice is getting even more shrill. And perhaps while they’re getting him signed up for the voice classes, they could talk to him about his habit of prattling on about weather that has no impact on the viewing area. One recent evening, Jensen spent a good thirty seconds or so showing us radar of a thunderstorm up in North Dakota, only to end his digression by noting that “that’s a long way from here” (Gee, thanks, Jeff) and shouldn’t reach us. Such time-wasting has to leave more than a few viewers asking why the hell he brought it up.

• UNO’s public affairs program, formerly hosted by news legend Carol Schrader and now hosted by former WOWT weekend morning anchor Andrea McMaster proves one thing: it wasn’t Channel 6 that was making McMaster look stupid.

• On Tuesday's 6 p.m. newscast, KETV I-Teamer Farrah "FUBAR" Fazal reported that she didn't know "specifically" what searchers looking for as they scoured the area around Lake Cunningham for the remains of Jessica O'Grady. Apparently Fazal hadn't connected the dots: earlier this week, prosecutors indicated that they believe O’Grady was killed with a couple of Japanese swords. It seemed pretty clear—to everyone but FUBAR—that they were looking for a body. What we're wondering is how much more specific Fazal wanted the information to be. Was she wanting someone to name specific body parts? Or would the phrase "human remains" have satisfied her? Or had she not yet heard about the murder?

• KMTV's Travis Justice is getting lathered up about the "Cal-idge" World Series, slapping together an entire preview show tonight at 6. And while we're on the subject of The Tool, what's with his need to clutch a rolled-up script during his sports reports? Is it a security phallus of some sort? That would explain why, when he isn't waving the papers around, he's always got a pen in hand. The pen probably feels more like the real article.

• On the whole, KMTV's new approach has put it back in the game with KETV and WOWT, at least in the quality department. In fact, Channels 3 and 7 regularly turn out work that is noticeably superior to the stale old crap being recycled at Channel 6. Aside from Devon Patton, who always appears to be gesturing in a frenzied attempt to signal passing aircraft, the staff at 3 has generally risen to the occasion.

• If nothing else, Action 3 News has done the community a great service in forcing Channel 6 to alter the format of its live reports, thereby depriving John Knicely of the opportunity to lean on his “So-and-So, reporting live” crutch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Grading Channel 6's Latest Hires

Who's doing the hiring at WOWT? Are on-air jobs now an entry-level, minimum-wage phenomenon at Channel Sucks? Looking at the characters they've been hiring lately, one has to wonder.

Here's a brief report card on the latest batch of newbies at 35th and Farnam:

Jaime McCutcheon is far-and-away the best addition to the station since MalorieMaddox came on board in the fall of 2004. While McCutcheon leaned on her "I'll-have-to-get-used-to-this-since-I'm-from the South" schtick a little too long (she went to school in Georgia and came to Omaha from Florida), she is a calm, reasonably knowledgeable presence at the weekend evening anchor desk, who, like her predecessor, Courtny Gerrish does a good job of carrying the breathtakingly bland Paul Baltes through each broadcast. We're convinced that even if Baltes were to rob a bank, unmasked, in broad daylight before a hundred witnesses, not a single one would be able to recall anything about him. Our grade: B+

Rachel Pierce, on the other hand, looks like the sort of talent heretofore consigned to KPTM. Thanks to the Gray Television Group's low-budget management, folks like Pierce now have more options. It's hard to identify just one thing that annoys us about this woman; there's so much to choose from. The ignorance is a good candidate. One recent morning, she reported that Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie's baby was born in "Nambia." But there's also the crooked mouth, barely-concealed lisp, fake fingernails, cheap wardrobe, and ratty-looking hair. Our grade: F

Mike Cronemeyer. John Knicely is dumb (and no one who witnessed his pathetic attempt to ad-lib/anchor coverage of President Bush's Omaha visit would argue with that), but in Cronemeyer, the big-shots at the Big Six have somehow managed to find an anchor who looks and sounds even dumber. We'd try to describe what a disaster this guy is, but the only way to really get a sense of it is to turn on the TV some weekend morning and watch him for about two minutes. A more clueless man on TV you'd be hard-pressed to find. He seems like the kind of guy who was probably considered a bit of a retard even in frat party circles. Our grade: F

Maniko Barthalemy should get a failure analysis all to herself. Whoever hired this woman must've done so as the result of a lost bet or an affirmative action mandate. Characterizing her reports without sounding racially insensitive is next to impossible. Suffice it to say that she sounds shockingly like the "Queen Shaniqua" character played years ago by Saturday Night Live regular Ellen Cleghorne. Watching her deliver a live shot on weekend mornings is painful to the point of feeling embarrassed for her. What's worse is that anytime there's a story to be covered in North Omaha, Barthalemy seems to get the call. Apparently John Chapman is busy getting his weight up and can't be bothered. Our grade: F

Add this group to the hopeless Gary Smollen, Brian New, and beady-eyed Brian Mastre (on Tuesday, Mastre used his "Burglaries and Break-Ins" segment to blow the lid off a big story on stolen Tupperware) and you have a pretty pathetic lineup. By our count, the only decent quality news personnel at WOWT are Tracy Madden, Malorie Maddox, Mike McKnight, Gary Johnson, Rebecca Kleeman and McCutcheon.

Either the station needs to offer more money to lure better applicants, or its hiring process needs a severe overhaul. One decent hire every 17 or 18 months isn't gonna cut it, especially when you're bleeding staff the way Channel 6 has been. They can have Sheila Brummer shoot the camera sideways glances and drape her hair over the right half of her face all they like, but it doesn't erase the fact that they hired a lazy-eyed dimwit. Similar cases can be made regarding Gomer Pyle lookalike Jim "Loud-Talker/Last-Word/Nanny McPhee" Siedlecki and this latest crop of refugees from the Island of Misfit Toys. Until they get this situation under control, things will only get worse for what was once—years ago—a pretty impressive operation.
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