This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 16)
05/19/08 08:52 AM
By ED BARK
Going live to scenes of crime or tragedy of course is nothing new on D-FW's late night newscasts.
Sometimes it's even justified, with Friday providing not one, but two such instances.
The multiple home explosions in McKinney, apparently triggered when workmen ruptured a gas line, found the four major TV news providers rushing to the scene early Friday evening. Later that night, an attempted car-jacking and shooting at NorthPark Mall likewise prompted live overhead shots and reporting from those stations quick enough to get there.
WFAA8's Gary Reaves had the most detailed reports from the second front. You might well ask, "Is it really that big a deal?" But when the city's oldest and most prestigious shopping center is in virtual police lockdown, it in fact merits the initial live report and two updates provided by WFAA8. The victim, shot in the face by a still at-large assailant, ended up watching her son's high school graduation Sunday from a hospital bed.
CBS11 had two NorthPark updates with live chopper pictures, but no visible reporter on the scene. Instead, anchor Doug Dunbar told viewers, "There is a suspect on the loose and an all-out search as we speak."
NBC5, far off in Fort Worth, had only a map and a cursory brief from anchor Mike Snyder. Fox4's 9 p.m newscast, the one monitored for these daily ratings sweeps briefings, had nothing on the NorthPark situation during that hour. But Fox4's Web site indicates it had a report on its 10 p.m. news.
Three of the four stations had live on-camera standups on the developing situation in McKinney.
"As you can see, still plenty of action," WFAA8 anchor Jeff Brady told viewers in setting up reporter Jonathan Betz's live report.
That wasn't an ideal way to describe the scene. But those overhead copter pictures still spoke volumes of what can happen when gas leaks strike without warning.
CBS11 had live reports from both Stephanie Lucero and J.D. Miles. NBC5 deployed Randy McIlwain and Scott Gordon. Fox4 led with Brandon Todd's detailed report. But unlike all of his competitors, Todd delivered his live dispatch on the telephone because of an apparent technical problem. So Fox4 suffered in comparison -- visually at least.
AND IN OTHER NEWS . . .
***NBC5 looked clueless in reporting that the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, pastor of Dallas' Friendship-West Baptist Church, remained one of three finalists in the running for the NAACP's national presidency. In fact he wasn't. Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 all reported accurately that Haynes in fact would not be getting the position.
***All four stations jumped on the story of a Prestonwood Baptist Church minister who drove 200 miles to Bryan with the intent of having sex with a 13-year-old girl he thought he'd met on the Internet. Instead it was a police sting operation.
"It's really, really sad that a man of God has this secret, sick, twisted life," a young woman told NBC reporter Grant Stinchfield. The problem is, she said this with an odd, camera-conscious half-smile on her face, as though she were trying to get that line just right during a retake.
Over on CBS11, a seemingly blissed-out parishioner had a novel way of looking at the situation after reporter Brooke Richie told viewers, "The word everyone is using is 'shock.' "
This woman wasn't, though. "It's a sad thing, but it's also a blessing for the church," she said. That's because she had prayed two weeks ago "for protection for the church and to expose anybody there who needs to be exposed."
***WFAA8's Brett Shipp followed up on Thursday's investigation of alleged grade-fixing at South Oak Cliff High School that could force it to forfeit a second state basketball title. The star player in question also was a key member of this year's Kansas Jayhawks national championship team, with that title also possibly in jeopardy, Shipp said.
South Oak Cliff basketball coach James Mays II participated in "an orchestrated campaign to cover it all up," alleges a former math teacher who on Thursday had shown Shipp a doctored grade book.
Mays had declined to be interviewed for Shipp's second investigation after the reporter confronted him at school during a February sweeps series that led to forfeiture of the 2006 state title. But Mays did talk to ESPN 103.3 personality Michael Irvin. In an excerpt played during Shipp's Friday's report, Mays said, "The media can make the public believe anything they wish, especially if it's presented in a certain type way."
Shipp's first reports made DISD officials believe that South Oak Cliff indeed had cheated. This investigation hasn't played out yet, but it again doesn't look pretty.
***NBC5 and CBS11 again went hard after women viewers -- who watch newscasts in much larger numbers than men -- with second-half-of-the-newscast reports of skin-deep depth.
For second time in this sweeps period, the Peacock drafted early morning anchor Deborah Ferguson, on this occasion for a report titled "Bargain Browlift."
"Tough times can mean tough choices," said anchor Jane McGarry, who recently blogged on her station's Web site about the pros and cons of bikini waxing. "But North Texas women don't have to skimp on beauty."
Ferguson then introduced viewers to the miracle of relatively low-cost eyebrow-arching, with one very satisfied customer proclaiming, "Believe it or not, I'm 56 years old. My daughter is 36. And I can pass for 42."
Um, no you can't, lady.
"It's kinda gross to see all that hair come out," Ferguson warned as NBC5's camera closed in. But, she added, the finished product is worth it.
***CBS11 anchor Karen Borta teased an "HD Makeup" story with the heartening news that "every woman can steal the same beauty secrets used to achieve a high-definition look."
The station's in-house high-definition makeup maestro found at least one over-the-counter product wanting, though. The so-called Smashbox High-Definition X Box Foundation worked OK. But the Dior Air Flash Spray Foundation pretty much missed its mark and got all over a model's hair.
"It's very overwhelming," she said. You're trapped in a big makeup cloud."
***The nightly Fox4 "Viewers' Voice" segment can be pretty depressing if you dare stop to realize that some callers and emailers appear to have the IQs of rutabagas. And they're your audience!
On Friday night, a male viewer drawled his opposition to Good Day anchor Tim Ryan doing oblique crunches on an exercise mat while a fitness trainer coached him.
"The last thing I want to see is Tim Ryan exercising his big fat butt right up into the camera," the caller carped.
Somehow this guy's just gotta have a beer gut and a cancer stick dangling from his yapper.
Three nights to go.