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Gold Medal Wackos

And the journalists who love them

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I've got a cool new book idea for you. The working title is Crazy-Ass White Guys and the Women They Kill. Despite fierce fighting in Najaf, a presidential campaign and hurricanes, if you landed here from Mars, you'd think that Mark Hacking and Scott Peterson were the center of American life. Enough already.

Granted, America seems to be the gold medal standard for crazy-ass white guys who find inventive ways to kill their wives and try to get away with it. Mark Hacking's dead wife is on the cover of People. Scott Peterson's mug is on Fox News more than Brit Hume's, and the names "Amber" and "Laci" are used in a singular, familiar fashion, like "Cher" or "Madonna."

ABC devoted two hours recently to Michael Peterson's case, as well. He's the Durham nutjob who shoved one wife down a flight of stairs and may have done it before.

Are news consumers that interested in horrific domestic homicide, or do those stories just help feed the news beast? Whatever the reason, it's the equivalent of journalistic fast food: feed them what's bad for them, and they'll only want more.

THE O'BOYLE FACTOR? Since an on-set audition with Paul Cameron and subsequent house-hunting here, the worst-kept secret is out, as WBTV hires former Extra and A Current Affair host Maureen O'Boyle as a 12noon and 6pm anchor.

It's Channel 3's first decisive move and hire in a less-than-stellar 2004, with anchors and reporters leaving for various reasons (Michael Scott, Jan Jeffcoat, David Rhew, Melinda Law), and ratings flat. A question: if 11pm is the closest margin to make up between WBTV and WSOC-TV, why not put O'Boyle, a Charlotte native, on that newscast to get a possible ratings bounce?

Also worth watching at WBTV is the influence of new "executive editor" Ron Bilek, who's a veteran news director with stints in Cleveland, Columbus, and Atlanta, to name a few.

And there's a correction to last week's column: Time Warner and Belo have closed news operations in Houston and San Antonio, not Austin.

And there's no truth to the rumor that CL's Timothy C. Davis is naming his party pals in response to Charlotte Observer "Paid to Party" columnist Tonya Jameson. She recently revealed in print that her posse is the "T-Unit." Davis would not comment for this article, but we suggest perhaps using the "Woo-Tim Clan." Stay tuned.

E-mail with feedback and tips at Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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