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"There's not a more fun person to be around," says KSDK-TV (Channel 5) assignment editor Dave Keiser, who worked in the same capacity at KMOV (Channel 4) with Jamboretz before she moved to KPLR to replace former beauty queen Sandy Miller (now at Fox2) on the anchor desk. "Having a drink with Katie at Tom's in the Central West End [where Jamboretz lives] is just as much fun as being at a party with 50 people."
At KMOV, Jamboretz, then a field reporter, was an upbeat trouper whose presence was perhaps undervalued by the station.
"I don't think Katie was that appreciated at Channel 4. It was obvious to me that she had reached a point where she could have been promoted any number of times, but those opportunities were never given to her," says Keiser. "But she's one of those people who never bitched about anything."
But what of Jamboretz's move to a station whose daily half-hour of comparatively fluffy news is Play-Doh compared to the harder morning-noon-and-night content of the big three?
KMOV producer Steve Perron says, "She's the anchor of an evening newscast. That wasn't going to happen here for a long time. Her face is on billboards. That's a good thing. There are some people in this business who might say, 'Jesus, what are you going to [Channel] 11 for?' But there are plenty of people who worked at 11 who've gone on to bigger and better things. [For instance, take] Sandy Miller -- it certainly hasn't hurt her career.
"They do news just like we do news. They just have a little different approach in terms of the demographic they're trying to reach."
This different approach is evident the moment you walk into KPLR's early-afternoon editorial meeting. In a conference room a few feet from the anchor desk, the most popular story idea being bandied about is a feature on turducken -- a multibird entrée consisting of stuffing-lined turkey, chicken and duck layers (pause for dry heave here) -- and a proposed item on terrorism insurance is branded by an editor as "important but boring." It doesn't make the final cut.
In this environment, Jamboretz and Moon function as equals, pitching stories -- many already broken by national print outlets -- and giving verbal thumbs-ups or thumbs-downs along with their writers and editors. When the prospect of a piece on the now-infamous University City "eeny, meeny, miney, moe" events-calendar photo and the uproar over the rhyme's racist origin is brought up, Moon can hardly contain her venom.
"That's just PC oversensitive," she snaps.
In sharp contrast to the decapitated-chicken bustle of, say, KMOV -- which boasts roughly four times the news personnel of Channel 11 -- the afternoon hours in KPLR's command center are decidedly chill. The attire is hip and casual, with ties and logo parkas benched in favor of fly collars and knee-high leather boots.
"The deadline pressure is so different when you have newscasts every four hours or so," says Jamboretz. "Here, you can be a lot more selective."
Emanating not a drip of diva attitude between them, Jamboretz and Moon toil among the plebeians in open cubicles facing each other. Here, Jamboretz writes her own script for a piece on online shopping while Moon, charged with compiling entertainment tidbits for the broadcast's "Hotwire" segment, homes in on the closure of Britney Spears' New York restaurant Nyla and the Nicholas Cage-Lisa Marie Presley breakup as her lead items.
"I guess he wasn't weird enough," says Moon of Cage, an obvious comparison to Presley's prior marriage to Michael Jackson, which lasted considerably longer.
After filming promos -- taped lead-ins that air sporadically during the live half-hour newscast -- Jamboretz volunteers to grab takeout Thai food for the entire crew while Moon saunters down the hallway toward the weight room, one of the perks that came with the station's move from their comparatively archaic digs in the Central West End.
It is here where Moon regularly straps on a pair of boxing gloves and hits the heavy bag during breaks in her shift, a sharp contrast to her charmingly humble choirgirl demeanor. She may look like a SoCal sexpot, but, being a preacher's daughter from the South, she certainly doesn't act the part. To wit, whereas Jamboretz favors Ben Affleck, Moon confesses to being a Matt Damon-and-apple-pie kind of girl. Neither anchor is married -- FYI.
"I wouldn't trust him as far as I can throw him," Moon says of Affleck, the sort of debonair bad boy who is like romantic cocaine for women -- sensational until the inevitable letdown.
Over lunch and a hailstorm of policy-oriented inquisition at Crazy Fish in Clayton, it is obvious that Jamboretz -- a political junkie who forecasts a Rudy-Hillary war for the White House in '08 -- is the brains of the outfit, Velma to Moon's Daphne. Hence it would be easy to typecast Moon as the dumb blonde.
In reality, Moon is hardly an intellectual troglodyte. She's just not as charismatic and up-to-speed on issues as the indefatigable Jamboretz. But does it matter?
"There are people on the air in this town that I can't imagine how they ever got a job in television, but I wouldn't put Melanie in that category," says KSDK's Keiser. "I don't think personally that she comes across as the smartest person alive, but she doesn't necessarily embarrass herself.