Friday, December 29, 2006

Omaha TV Newser of the Year

When it came time to gather the editorial staff to choose our Newser of the Year for 2006, there was no clear consensus, as had been the case a year ago, when we bestowed the first annual award on WOWT's Tracy Madden.

A couple of voices suggested KMTV's GM, Steve Wexler, for giving Channel 3rd a makeover that pulled the station into the 21st Century and (finally) forced WOWT to adopt a new graphics and sounder package. In fact, Wexler might have landed the award, had it not been for his Scrooging of anchors Deb Ward and Greg Peterson on the Friday before Christmas.

Another popular choice was KETV's Kailyn Reed, who in 2006 was one of the few reporters-with-a-brain hired at any station. But we passed on her, too. (Same for Jaime McCutcheon, the only competent anchor hired here in years, it seems.)

We seriously considered anointing KETV Traffic Idiot Jana Murrell and her fill-in-cum-webcrawling-babbler, Veronica Todd as co-winners, but that idea fizzled when Todd left the station after management decided it wasn't comfortable having one of its on-air personalities appearing in TV ads it was running. And we thought giving it to Murrell alone might overwhelm her, especially if she tried to read two whole paragraphs explaining why she'd won.

Finally, there was Devon "Lockjaw" Patton, who was a triple threat: bad at anchoring, over-wrought when reporting, and, according to a complaint filed with law enforcement, a letch when off-camera.

But what we wanted—and eventually decided upon—was someone who best exemplified what Omaha TV stations were up to this year, someone who represented all the excrement that is Omaha TV at the moment. And we could think of no one who better fit the bill than (drumroll, please)...KETV's hideous anchor/reporter Farah "Fubar" Fazal!

Fazal emerged this year as the emblem of everything that is wrong with local TV. From her inability to get even the most basic details of a story right ("United Pacific," "North Bend, Iowa," etc.), to her awful voice and a face better-suited to radio, Fazal is symptomatic of a market in free-fall when it comes to talent. (Our favorite FUBAR utterance? Consider this one: "Deputies found him about seven blocks away. His mother thinks he was only gone about four.")

Remember, this was the year that brought us the likes of Mike "Unfrozen Caveman Anchor" Cronemeyer, Maniko "Crash Course in Standard English" Barthalemy, Laura Liggett, and the unforgivably stupid Rachel "Shlurpy Shpeech" Pierce. But Fubar stands out among this crop of dimwits as the poster-creature in the fight against bad broadcasting.

So congratulations, Fubar. If nothing else, you serve as an example to news directors everywhere of what not to hire.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Soul Brother Number One

WOWT joke of the day: Mike "John Knicely, Jr." Cronemeyer "reporting live" to lecture viewers on the intricacies Kwanzaa in 40 seconds or less.

Yeah, Cronemeyer seems the perfect candidate to discuss the rich traditions of an African-American holiday. Another brilliant move by the Channel Sux assignment desk.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Retractable Stadium Info

Okay, so it turns out that WOWT's John Knicely was citing one of several available figures regarding the number of tickets being sold for next Monday's Cotton Bowl game.

Knicely put the number at 68,000 on a Tuesday newscast, which we took to be yet another sign of his ineptitude, considering that the official Cotton Bowl website lists the stadium capacity at 71,252.

According to several alert readers, the local paper reports that a number of temporary seats used during the Texas-Oklahoma game in October are removed for this game, reducing the total to the aforementioned 68,000. However a story in the same publication on Monday put the figure at 76,000.

Who the hell knows how many seats are really there? But, in this case, Knicely wasn't any more in the dark than the rest of us. So we apologize for leaping to the conclusion that this was a symptom of his congenital stupidity. This will likely always be remembered as "that one time Knicely was right."

Knicely Begins Cotton Bowl Renovation

Following up a story by reporter Maniko Barthalemy on Tuesday, borderline retarded anchor John Knicely told viewers that the Cotton Bowl in Dallas holds 68,000.

Perhaps his information came from another of the station's pleas for viewer phone-ins, but the Cotton Bowl website suggests that folks in Dallas think the stadium holds over 71,000.

Then again, maybe big numbers, like big words, just aren't Knicely's strong suit.

Beyond Lazy

Latest sign that they're not even trying any more at Channel 6: Closing Wednesday morning's 7:55 Today Show local cut-in, loud-talking know-it-all Jimmy Thiedlecki asked viewers "with stories or personal connections" to newly-dead President Gerald Ford to give the station a call.

Um, doesn't the station have reporters to dig this kind of thing up?

Oh, wait. This is Sux News, where reporters like warbler Brian New and corpse-ish Gary Smollen don't really develop contacts so much as they just go out and report one isolated, insignificant story after another.

But then when a substantive story demands attention, you don't have any...Yeah, having folks call in is probably their best bet.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas from Journal Broadcasting. Oh, By the Way: You're Fired

It must be fun working for a company that would kick you out in the cold four days before Christmas.

That's what Journal Broadcasting did on Thursday, when it announced that it wouldn't be renewing the contracts of KMTV anchors Deb Ward and Greg Peterson.

While the station has been lagging in the ratings, much of that can be attributed to years of financial neglect by its previous owners. Emmis, which sold the station to Journal, even went so far as to remove the 6 p.m. newscast from the schedule.

But apparently, Journal either expected its switch to the "Action 3 News" format to miraculously turn things around, or it blamed Ward and Peterson for the station's low performance. Who knows?

It's unfortunate that these two were chosen to take the fall. While Ward has never been our favorite anchor, she has been a steady presence at the station for over two decades and deserved better.

Peterson's departure is even more lamentable. Both he and KETV's Rob McCartney put WOWT's straw-headed straw man John Knicely to shame. Peterson is a class act who will land on his feet, but if the suits at Channel 6 had a clue (and they clearly don't), they'd hire Peterson, wait out any non-compete clause, and put him in Knicely's place at the earliest possible moment.

The most idiotic aspect of this entire exercise at Channel 3rd, however, is the fact that GM Steve Wexler is still nursing his company's hard-on for bloated, nasal-voiced, viewer-repelling sports director Travis Justice.

Wexler is quoted in Sean Weide's Reader Media Notes as saying that there is no plan to change sports anchors.

If one were looking to fix problems at the station, Justice's would seem to be the first head to be placed on the chopping block. Why Journal is choosing to keep that tool on the air is just plain baffling.

Finally, and just as baffling, is why anyone in management would do this to people the Friday before Christmas. Would it have killed 'em to wait a week or two? Or would it have cost a few extra bucks? It was a tacky move by a station that doesn't need any help looking tacky.

Good luck, Greg and Deb. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays: KETV Dethrones WOWT

Ratings from November sweeps are in, and if the ones we've been provided are accurate, it appears viewers may finally have tired of SuxNews.

In the morning, KETV scored a 28.6, compared to 26.7 for WOWT and just 3.4 for KMTV.

At 5 p.m., the next time period in which all three stations go head-to-head, it was KETV 28, WOWT 22, AND KMTV 6.

Same order of finish at 6 p.m., with KETV at 23, a 17.5 for WOWT and a scant 4.4 for KMTV.

At 10 p.m., Monday through Sunday, KETV led with 29.2 to WOWT's 25.9 and KMTV's 6.3.

Granted these are the only numbers we've seen so far, and we're sure all stations will try to put their own spin on things by looking at total viewers or particular demographic groups in the way that puts the best face on things for them.

But this appears to be a pretty sound thumping of a WOWT operation that has seen its quality slip in recent years. Here's hoping for more where that came from.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Blog's Author Responds

One not-so-alert reader offered the following earlier today in the "Comments" section of our story on former KETV something-or-other Veronica Todd:

I will miss Veronica. I know the blog disliked her, but the blog's author seems to attack everything and everyone anymore, leaving me to wonder who does he/she actually like? Veronica is very sweet, funny, and talented. I am sorry to hear the blog's author decided to judge her without getting to know her.

Good gravy. Where to start?

First, we would agree that our posts lately have not been particularly warm or fuzzy. But we're kind of amused that anyone would come here expecting warm and fuzzy, or be surprised when they didn't find it.

See, we give the love when it's deserved. But we give it sparingly. We're not here to boost anyone's self-esteem or to give high-fives to people for doing their jobs properly. If someone does something extraordinarily well, then we try to make note of it.

But frankly, there hasn't been a lot to praise lately. Channel Sux is in the same basic rut it's been in for a decade now, as, apparently, are viewers who don't seem to care. Every time Channel 7 seems poised to make a run at the top, they manage to shoot themselves in the foot. Most recently, they've done this by chasing away talented, experienced reporters and replacing them with people who were probably turned away when applying for work at Wal-Mart (Lisa Stites and Kailyn Reed being exceptions). And Channel 3rd is Channel 3rd, keeping the revolting Travis Justice and wondering why their ratings are so low.

Finally, we couldn't care less how nice someone is. Nice doesn't do doodley-squat for those of us sitting at home watching these people. Competence is what counts, and lately, that seems like the last thing most of these outfits want. Veronica Todd came off as an idiot, both while filling in for equally stupid-sounding Jana Murrell and then giving us "tips" on worthless crap she found online.

You want nice? You want a "feel-good" blog about these people? Start your own. Then you and the denizens of local TV-land can have a perpetual circle-jerk, with you patting them on the head and them telling you how much they love reading about how great they are. Yeah. That's just what we need.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Veronica Todd Outta There

File this in the "Improvements" folder: Superfluous KETV morning dizzy blond Veronica Todd is no longer working for the station. Her last day was Friday.

According to a source at Channel 7, Todd told management she had too many commitments (appearing in TV ads, etc.) to keep up with the schedule.

Yeah, finding time to locate one item on the internet every half hour and talk about it for thirty seconds had to be exhausting, not to mention intellectually challenging.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brace Yourselves: Something Improved at Channel 6

No, they didn't fire John Knicely. Or Rachel Pierce. Or Jimmy Siedlecki. Or Gary Smollen. Or Brian New. Or Sheila Brummer.

But anyone comparing Maniko Barthalemy's recent taped reports to those she delivered when she first arrived can't help but notice the improvement in her diction. Gone is the streety, whiny "Queen Shaniqua" sound, and in its place is a much more palatable delivery.

While her taped reports have improved, Barthalemy seems to backslide into old habits when delivering a live shot. Here's hoping that, too, will improve. But give the woman credit: she's working on improving, which is an example that most of the Big Six's on-air types could stand to follow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Opening, Another Show

KETV is now advertising for a general assignment reporter. If we'll all just wait a few minutes, Sean Weide will tell us if this is a newly-created position or a replacement for someone who's leaving.

Yes, we're hoping it's a sign that Fubar Fazal is leaving. But what are the chances she'd willingly give up a gig in which she's allowed unlimited on-air incompetence? Not even she is that dumb.

Dumber Than Paste and a Bag of Doorknobs

We thought we heard her wrong on Wednesday. But today she repeated it.

Yes, for the second straight day, KETV former beauty queen/morning traffic airhead Jana Murrell warned viewers during her 6:10 report that "two east-bound lanes of 42nd Street" were closed.

That would be useful information, were it not for the fact that 42nd Street runs north-south.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weide Has the Answer

As usual, Sean Weide has dug up the story behind one of our questions—in this case, WOWT's ad for a new sportscaster. Merlyn Klaus is leaving. Read about it in The Reader's Media Notes blog.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

WOWT Ad Raises Questions

WOWT is advertising for a "sports reporter/photo/producer," leading us to wonder if the station is adding staff or if someone at the Big Six's "Sports Machine" (whatever the hell that means) is leaving.

Longtime sports anchor Dave Webber would seem the most likely candidate for an exit, given his age (isn't he about Bob Barker's age?) and his seemingly drunken live report from Kansas City on the eve of the Big 12 football championship game.

Read the ad for yourself, posted at and see what you think.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Help Wanted: Idiot

Are Jana Murrell and Veronica Todd having a stupidity contest?

That's the only conclusion we can draw after watching several days of KETV's "FirstNews" morning program.

What was the meeting like when it was decided to put these two dim bulbs on the same program? Is 77 KETV management's favorite I.Q., in the same way that 77 is supposedly meteorologist Bill Randby's favorite temperature?

It's been pretty well established that former beauty pageant winner Murrell hasn't a clue what she's doing. But we challenge anyone to either post or create a job description to convey what it is that Todd does at the top and bottom of the hour. It makes Channel 6's "Live at Four" features look like PBS's "Newshour."

You just can't make shit like this up.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Were These People Drunk?

Choose your favorite WOWT blunder from Saturday's broadcasts. Vote by posting in Comments section.

(A) Reporter Maniko Barthalemy calls horticulture expert John Fech "Jim."
(B) Title super'd over Barthalemy's 10 p.m. story reads "Mission Need Donations."
(C) Graphic quoting from Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning's press release says a defendant "prayed on the patriotism and emotions of Nebraska veterans." (The press release on the AG's site correctly spells the word preyed.)
(D) At the opening of the 10 p.m. newscast, milktoast anchor Paul Baltes can't decide which camera he's supposed to be looking at.

Let that be a lesson to you aspiring broadcasters: attention to detail is not a prerequisite for a career on TV.

Scott Fired in KC and Speculation Abounds

Former KETV and KMTV anchor Michael Scott, who had spent the past four years anchoring at KCTV in Kansas City, was abruptly dismissed this week. TV critic Aaron Barnhart delves into the rumors surrounding Scott's departure in this posting.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You Don't Have to Be Drunk to Work at Channel 6, But It Helps

More than a few people—some of them on air at Channel 6—were wondering if sports anchor Dave Webber was drunk during his 10 p.m. live report from Kansas City on Friday.

Standing in KC's Country Club Plaza on the eve of the Big 12 footbal championship game, Webber at times sang, giggled, shouted at those back in the studio, rambled incoherently, and generally gave the impression of having had about five too many before going on the air.

Anchor Tracey Madden described Webber as "loopy." Fill-in sports anchor Merlin Klaus seemed to have the same opinion, particularly when Webber confided on-air that he and several others were headed to the Cheesecake Factory and shouted in mock (we think) anger that Klaus couldn't go along. Klaus replied that there was a Cheesecake Factory here in Omaha and that a Webber invitation wouldn't be required.

Frankly, we're surprised that there aren't more drunk people on air at Channel 6. Considering some of the dolts they've hired recently and the lame product the station turns out, anyone with any competence and self-respect could hardly feel otherwise.
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