However, from time to time, we try to remind ourselves that there remain a few salvageable parts that could form the core of a reconstituted on-air team, were the station's management/ownership so inclined.
1. Caitlin Roth. We've sung her praises twice recently, so there's not a lot to add. But why it's taken years for the higher-ups to recognize (and put to good use) this woman's talent is a complete mystery. (The answer is probably related to why it's taken the station close to two decades to recognize the ineptitude of John Chapman and Gary Smollen.) As we've said previously, Roth should be put in charge of the weather department immediately, if not sooner.
2. Jaime McCutcheon. The longtime weekend anchor is SuxNews's second most recent high-quality hire. Her delivery is generally polished, her demeanor poised, and she does more than stare vacantly when something goes wrong, which on the weekends is often. In the events of a shakeup at 35th and Farnam, McCutcheon would be our choice to take over the 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts.
3. Rusty Lord. Prior to Roth's arrival on the morning scene, Lord was stuck in the Kingdom of the Dumbed, somehow retaining the ability to speak intelligently, despite spending most of his on-air time with Hee Haw candidates Jimmy "Jethro" Siedlecki and Malorie "Ellie May" Maddox. It's a wonder he's not playing a banjo and talking like Eb from Green Acres.
4. Tracy Madden. While she isn't perfect, Madden has done a reasonably good job of steering clear of the inanity thrown at her by co-anchor, John "J-Pa" Knicely. Honestly, who among us could prop this empty suit up through three newscasts a day and not become a drooling, babbling idiot? Not to mention putting up with all the idiotic consultant-driven gimmicks that keep creeping into the station's programming. Somehow, Madden has come through it relatively unscathed and displays a fairly low tolerance for the giggling antics of J-Pa, Giggly Jim Flowers, and gopher-voiced Ross Jernstrom. Give that woman a medal!
5. Mike McKnight. Yeah, the pun schtick has worn thin. But the guy actually does some real reporting and clearly puts thought and effort into his work. He's one of the last reporters of his generation still on the air in Omaha and he deserves a place as long as he wants one.
Aside from those five, everyone else deserves pink slips, because, unlike Channel 7 and even Channel 3, Channel Sux has done an embarrassingly bad job of developing talent. As one alert reader commented recently, "WOWT changes people once they've been on the air there for a while, and not for the better. . . . Something about how poorly that place does business just seems to eat away at them, killing them slowly. You don't get better there."
Evidence? Compare results.
KETV has reporters who often start out shaky but manage to develop into relatively competent personalities. And it's not like they truck talent in from all over the country. A surprising percentage of their roster includes high-performing natives of the area: Rob McCartney, Brandi Petersen, Melissa Fry, and Todd Andrews are the most notable of the current staff who hail from nearby. Someone is helping them improve, "coaching them up" to higher, more professional levels of performance.
By contrast, consider SuxNews's local "talent": Smollen has been at the station over 15 years and is no less boring today than when he started. Jodi Baker seems to have regressed since her arrival at Sux, developing an oddly-pitched on-air voice and stilted delivery. Brian Mastre's skills, if charted, would result in a flat line. And mousy, inarticulate Ann McIntire is beyond help. All of this is to say nothing of the station's penchant for clinging to dead wood like Chapman and J-Pa.
So, in addition to pink slipping most of the current staff (they're all either in too big a rut to change or lack the requisite talent altogether), those who are responsible for staff development at the Big Sux should also start packing up.