Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Five

With so many problems to document, WOWT seldom gives us cause (or pause) to praise its quality-challenged efforts.

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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cool

We can't remember the last time the management of SuxNews got a decison so right.

But we couldn't have been more surprised this morning when we awoke to the sight of meteorologist Caitlin Roth substituting for Maltard Maddox on the Daybreak program. (Maddox is on maternity leave, having delivered a baby last Friday.)

As mentioned in this space before, Roth has been stellar as anchor of the midday program the last several weeks, but stellar work has seldom been correlated with an increase in airtime at Channel Sux. In fact, the casual viewer might reasonably suspect an inverse relationship between the two.

Unfortunately for Roth, she must share the anchor desk with the poster boy for baseless self-satisfaction, the hickish Jimmy Siedlecki, who was all too eager this morning to play the role of knowing veteran showing a "new kid" the ropes. What Jethro doesn't seem to realize is that Roth is better at the anchor desk after a few weeks than he is after years of trying to get it right.

But, lest our message be lost against the specter of Jimmy's lispy quips, we offer our gratitude to SuxNews for its shocking display of good judgment.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Observations

A few odds and ends at the end of a snowy week . . .

• We happened to catch Action 3rd's 10 p.m. Thursday 'cast and must admit that it was surprisingly not awful. Bland anchor Carol Wang was working without her bland co-anchor, What's-His-Name. While no stories were outstanding, it was a solid, fairly well-executed effort. If all (or even most) of the station's evening newscasts are of similar quality, we'd have to say KMTV is second only to KETV when it comes to delivering a watchable product.

• Meanwhile, we can't avoid being irritated about Channel 7's new-found flirtations with pointlessness. First, there's the recent introduction of "7 Mobile Live" (a car with a cellphone), which on Friday morning gave viewers choppy video and audio of Melissa Fry driving around town. Other than giving them a chance to say "7 Mobile Live," we can't figure out what it was supposed to add to the broadcast.

• A second helping of stupidity has come with the station's decision to follow SuxNews's lead by making frequent references to its Facebook page. Why can't all stations realize that no one's tuning in to see something they can find online 24/7? And even if people were tuning in for that, what's the point of having an anchor read random posts? The extent to which stations must strain to accomplish this was displayed by Channel 3rd on Thursday at 10; one quoted comment was "That's right!" And we're not editing; that really was the entire quote.

• KETV has also decided to emulate its inferiors at WOWT by having anchors finish talking to a reporter in the field and then turn to the camera and tell viewers that "that was [insert name here], reporting live." Isn't Channel 7 above adopting such hackneyed habits?

• Finally, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the glee we feel each time SuxNews airs its "I on the Metro" during Live at Five and the anchor is forced to conclude the segment by begging viewers to send in their own 25-second mumbly clips. Actually, the glee comes from the fact that we have yet to see even one viewer-submitted shaky video. All we get is shaky video from the station's skeleton crew of reporters, which only shows us one more thing they're bad at.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Techmaginary

It may be cold outside, but in Omaha's TV newsrooms, idiotic gimmicks are in full bloom.

Exhibit A: KETV swung into action on Monday evening with Brandi Petersen breathlessly introducing a "7 Mobile Live" report from Lincoln, which ended up being no more than a reporter on a cell phone in a car.

Exhibit B: SuxNews's 5 p.m. Tuesday "I On the Metro" found charisma-challenged reporter Gary Smollen driving down Farnam Street taking cell phone video from the dashboard of his car and mumbling about street conditions. The best part of the whole piece was Smollen's brilliant choice of route: it took him right past Channel 7, giving viewers a nice, long look at the giant "7" logo and "KETV" on the side of the building.

Kudos to both outfits for enriching viewers' lives with this cutting-edge journalism.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Missed

Not sure what we were thinking when we wrote our predictions post and suggested that Channel 7 would try out Melissa Fry on the evening anchor desk during Brandi Petersen's maternity leave.

While that is certainly one option, a better one might to move current morning anchor Nichole Berlie to evenings.

Berlie, who holds a master's degree from broadcasting factory Syracuse has been at the station longer than Fry and is as smooth and credible an anchor as you'll find in this town.

When is the last time an Omaha station having two talented anchor candidates on its bench?

Speaking of qualified anchors, several alert readers (and Mrs. Brockman) have mentioned that SuxNews meteorologist Caitlin Roth seems to have taken over the 11:30 a.m. chair in addition to her weather duties. All give glowing reports.

Regular Channel Sux viewers must be stupefied to have switched so suddenly from small-timer Jimmy Thiedlecki to the poised, intelligent Penn State graduate Roth. (PSU is considered by many to be the top meteroology school in the U.S.)

If SuxNews management has any sense whatsoever (and there's no reason to believe they do), they'll move Giggly Jim Flowers toward the door and replace him with Roth, post haste.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Numbers

Happy New Year.

Since today is 1/1/11, we can only wonder how long it will take local newspaper columnist Mike Kelly to cobble together some bizarre anecdote about someone celebrating a first birthday (turning one) today, weighing 1,111 pounds, or living at 111 South 11th Street.
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