This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., Nov. 12)
11/13/12 01:53 PM
By ED BARK
It's the home stretch of the four-week November "sweeps" ratings period, which ends on the day before Thanksgiving.
So with election day and its aftermath fading from view, we rejoin D-FW's major TV news providers and revive unclebarky.com's long-running "Night in the Lives" feature. Stamina providing, we'll follow the weekday late nighters on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 from now through next Tuesday. In Fox4's case, that's the hour-long 9 p.m. newscast instead of the 10 p.m. edition, which basically is still a condensed regurgitation.
Little changed Monday night in terms of what gets top play whenever possible. The old "If it bleeds it leads" maxim long has given way to "If it drizzles it sizzles." Or variations thereof. Anything to get the weather front and center.
All four stations thereby acted in unison Monday, leading their newscasts with warnings of a big chill and possible freeze in many parts of the North Texas viewing area.
"The temperatures are already falling fast," NBC5 co-anchor Brian Curtis said with relish before turning it over to meteorologist Rick Mitchell. This is his first ratings sweeps period as the station's featured 10 p.m. forecaster, with D-FW weather dean David Finfrock segueing to earlier shifts en route to his planned retirement well down the road in 2018.
WFAA8's Pete Delkus warned of possible frosty temps while withstanding the elements "out on the patio" near the station's Victory Park studios.
CBS11 co-anchor Doug Dunbar twitted the "madness" of some Keller residents who were "braving the chill" in order to be among the first to buy the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which went on sale at midnight. He then threw it to meteorologist Larry Mowry and his urgings to protect "pipes, pets, plants, people."
Fox4 likewise led with its weathermeister, Dan Henry, and his assortment of freeze warnings. More than ever, changes in the weather are the principal selling points of local newscasts far and wide. Viewers get much of their news elsewhere these days. But a lot of them still dial up Dan, Rick, Pete and Larry for up-to-the-minute info on any imminent rain, snow, sleet, hail, high winds or temperature spikes. Station news directors act accordingly by double or triple-dipping whenever possible. Weather up top, the regular weather segment two-thirds of the way through and weather to close the show.
WFAA8 otherwise had the night's best news stories. Reporter Monika Diaz led the way with an extended, informative look at an oil boom-spiked job surge in the Midland/Odessa area. The offshoot is a severe housing shortage and price-gouging that affects current residents.
The station's David Schechter likewise had an interesting story on a North Lake Community College training exercise in which teachers were taught to literally gang up on campus terrorists. But some students were unaware of the exercise and made frantic 9-1-1 calls after they heard shots being fired.
WFAA8 promoted the story in an unfortunate manner, with co-anchor John McCaa telling viewers of "shots at school" while sounds of gunfire led to two fresh bullet holes in an accompanying graphic behind him. This is other known as shooting yourself in the foot with an over-the-top come-on.
Over on NBC5, veteran reporter Kevin Cokely had the best weather tie-in. Would a cold-weather snap serve to kill off the mosquitoes behind the West Nile virus? "Temperatures are dropping, Kristi," he told co-anchor Kristi Nelson (who's filling in for Meredith Land during her maternity leave). "But don't expect mosquitoes to drop like flies along with them."
Not a bad word play, with Cokely going on to explain that many of these mosquitoes will survive by burrowing into the ground or bushes. And when the weather warms back up, they'll be back.
Fox4 reporter Natalie Solis contributed the night's best heart-warmer. She documented efforts by Good Shepherd Episcopal School students on behalf of Hurricane Sandy victims in New Jersey. The kids solicited money and food donations before a Good Shepherd teacher and his crew drove to New Jersey to distribute the proceeds. On-location video then enabled students to see the tangible results of their efforts. Very nice -- picture-wise and otherwise.
Brandon Todd, Fox4's Fort Worth correspondent, did a good job with a story on the city's feral cat situation and an innovative "trap, neuter, return" program that seems to have all parties satisfied. Plus, viewers got to see Fuzz the feral cat happily eating a daily meal provided by a neighborly woman.
Both Fox4's Becky Oliver and CBS11's Jason Allen had stories on alleged substandard care by Veterans Hospitals. In each instance, VA officials promised to bolster their staffs and make things better. They seemed to genuinely mean it, and both reporters left cheap shrillness out of their pieces.
We'll close with a couple of ways not to use "social media," which is becoming almost as addictive as weather changes in many TV news rooms.
CBS11 spent a good deal of time ogling pictures of the Dallas Mavericks dancers in their new and somewhat scantier uniforms. Facebook comments were solicited and one respondent said, "The people that have a problem with their uniforms sound like the same group that thinks Hooters is a strip club."
Sports anchor Babe Laufenberg then rejoined, "I didn't know it wasn't." Dunbar put his head in his hands while the off-camera stagehands laughed it up. Dunbar later closed the newscast by telling Laufenberg, "I've got the chairman of Hooters on the phone."
Over on Fox4, longtime anchor Clarice Tinsley subbed for Heather Hays while also continuing with her nightly "Your Turn" segment. This is where Facebook-ians address a station-supplied topic, which on Monday night was the plummeting temperatures.
Mary Jane Medlock got the last word with her Facebook comment, which Tinsley read in full. Said Medlock: "I am sitting in my recliner with a heated blanket over me sipping on a hot beverage watching my friends on Fox News. Ahhhh, perfect evening."
"Mary Jane, thank you so much," Tinsley replied. "We feel the warmth and we feel your love."
Pardon me for feeling nauseous. And that's a wrap for Monday.