Shocking news

Sudden dismissal of TV news co-anchors is perplexing, upsetting

I got to know and like Jerry Olenyn and Kelli Saam when I was preparing my recent cover story profile of them (“The first couple of TV news,” May 20). We all enjoyed the back-and-forth that goes with such a project. They’re first-rate journalists, and as married co-anchors they brought an attractive warmth to the broadcasts. I assumed their bosses felt the same way.

So I was shocked when Olenyn called me last week to tell me that, after five years, Catamount Broadcasting had decided not to renew the couple’s contract. Apparently it was a financial decision, he said, something News Director Trisha Coder confirmed in a subsequent interview with the Chico Enterprise-Record.

Maybe there was more. Coder isn’t talking, saying it’s a personnel issue, and Olenyn and Saam aren’t burning any bridges. They want to stay in Chico and are looking for work. “These have been the best five years of our lives,” they stated graciously. “People get bad breaks every day. It must’ve been our turn. The Lord has been so good to us that it’s hard to be bitter because we have so many blessings to be thankful for.”

The irony was that the dismissal came just as they were getting ready to go to Anaheim for the Associated Press Television and Radio Association’s Mark Twain Awards June 11-13. Three of their pieces had been nominated—the only nominations from Chico. They didn’t win, but just being nominated was a great honor, Saam said in a phone interview from her hotel room. For the record, then, here are the three stories:

• “A Monk’s Life,” Olenyn’s atmospheric series on the Trappist monks of New Clairvaux Monastery in Vina, nominated in the category of Best Investigative Reporting.

• “Danger on the Mountain,” Saam’s series on the death of a Red Bluff boy on the Lassen Peak Trail, in the category of Best Coverage of an Ongoing Story.

• “ER Finale: Shelby’s Story,” Saam’s piece about a Redding woman whose death was the inspiration for the final episode of ER, nominated in the category of Best Serious Feature.

Congratulations, guys. And good luck.

Enough already with the vuvuzelas: At my barber’s Saturday, all the talk was about the World Cup. The United States had just tied England and almost won when a deflected strike hit the goal post. A tie was good, though, since England is one of the best teams in the world.

That guys in a Chico barber shop were talking about soccer was pretty cool. The shop is owned by a man named Manuelito, and half the customers were Latino, which might explain the soccer talk, but the two gabacho dudes present were as excited as everyone else.

My only complaint is about the incessant droning produced by those plastic horns the South Africans like to blow on so much. It’s like having a swarm of insects in your ear, and it drowns out the “oohs” and “aahs” of the crowd when players make great moves. I know it’s a South African custom, but this is the World Cup, after all.