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.