This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., Feb. 16)
02/17/11 02:26 PM
By ED BARK
CBS11's resourceful ladies of the night certainly aren't doing anything illegal. They are, however, lately dominating the air time given to reporters on the station's 10 p.m. newscasts.
On Wednesday's edition, all five stories with reporter IDs were by women. On Tuesday night, it was five of six stories. And on Monday's 10 p.m. program, our first night of ratings "sweeps" monitoring, women did three of the four stories. That's 13 out of 15, with nothing from either Jay Gormley or J.D. Miles, both of whom used to be almost nightly contributors.
No, these are not the bitter beer ramblings of an ancient male mariner. But it's a notable change in the 10 p.m. terrain under news director Adrienne Roark, who joined CBS11 in March of last year from the network's owned-and-operated station in Miami. And so far, with the usual help from its network's potent 9 p.m. lead-in programming, CBS11 leads WFAA8 by an average of just over 18,000 viewers per weeknight through the first half of the February sweeps.
(Roark replied to an email query early Thursday evening. "This actually is entirely coincidental," she said. "It's based on the stories themselves, the pitches, and what we decide makes it into the newscasts.")
Wednesday's CBS11 late nighter began with Melissa Newton's live report from Denton on the "Breaking News" guilty verdict in the case of a man who had been accused of murdering his estranged wife in 2004. All four major TV news providers had this story, but CBS11 was the only one to lead with it.
CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen next had an eye-opener on long-dormant cases in which accused wrongdoers were indicted but never really pursued by police.
"We read one horrific criminal case after another," said Allen, who focused on a woman who had been sexually assaulted as a child more than 17 years ago. But her assailant has never been arrested or brought to trial, despite being charged at the time.
"Does this make you feel like the system had forgotten you?" Allen asked rhetorically. The woman, who was silhouetted and also had her voice disguised, gave the answer that Allen of course knew was coming: "Yes, ma'am, it does."
It would be a refreshing departure if any and all reporters would refrain from asking standard-issue leading questions of this sort. But that's just not likely to happen anytime soon.
Allen also went on belated police raids that came up empty. And she interviewed Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who says he's trying to clean up the seemingly abundant cold cases left behind by his predecessors. Watkins was asked if it's "unnerving" for him to know there are so many indicted people still at large. Watkins said it should be unnerving for all Dallas County residents.
This was a very worthy story by an investigator who's still refining her skills.
CBS11 also had 10 p.m. newscast stories by Jane Slater (on the storm-damaged Annie's House for battered women); Arezow Doost (on "Virtual Church" ministers who preach via the Internet ) and Carol Cavazos (on a budding Justin Bieber -- shudder -- from North Richland Hills).
Viewers otherwise were treated to a promo by former WFAA8 weathercaster Troy Dungan, who as previously posted on unclebarky.com will be profiled this week along with ex-WFAA8 anchor Tracy Rowlett. Both made their names at WFAA8, with each spending more than a quarter-century at the ABC station. Rowlett also worked a decade at CBS11 after leaving WFAA8.
But that was then. "Hi, I'm Troy Dungan," said Dungan in his promo. "And I'll see you (Thursday) at 10 on CBS11 news."
Dungan and Rowlett (who will be profiled on Friday's late nighter), are scheduled to appear together live Thursday on the CBS11 news set, according to a tease on Rowlett's Facebook page. Anchor Karen Borta is doing the two pieces while WFAA8 management perhaps considers mounting a pair of Dungan/Rowlett dart boards in the news room. Who would have ever thought it would or could come to this -- and in a ratings "sweeps" period no less.
AND IN OTHER NEWS . . .
NBC5 topped its Wednesday 10 p.m. edition with reporter Scott Gordon's "exclusive" look at an alleged sex scandal involving the father of the wife of Daystar Christian TV network evangelist Marcus Lamb, who late last year admitted to his flock that he had cheated on her.
"I don't even blame the devil," Lamb said on the air while his wife, Jodi, sat alongside him and tried not to get further soiled by dye from his hair, mustache or goatee. Now Jodi's dad, Bill Trammell, is being accused by an ex-Daystar employee of making improper sexual advances toward her during "Quiet Time" in his office.
Daystar terms the lawsuit "outrageous" and pledges to "vigorously defend itself," Gordon told viewers.
Sex scandals involving TV evangelists are barely news these days. Except that they're still fun to report and chortle over, so thanks for that, NBC5.
The station was on much higher ground, though, with co-anchor Meredith Land's well-told human interest story on a 12-year-old-girl who was attacked by a wild animal as a five-year-old. After undergoing more than 20 surgeries for severe scalp wounds, her disposition remains irresistibly upbeat. She continues to wear a wig, though, and willingly doffed it for Land. That takes courage, and it also helped to make this particular story even more special.
Wednesday also marked the debut of new substitute sports anchor/backpack journalist Rontina McCann, who subbed for Newy Scruggs while he headed for Texas Rangers spring training camp in Arizona. McCann got through her first night in pretty good shape, although she buried the lead in her Dallas Mavericks highlights segment, waiting until the end to note in passing that the home victory over the Sacramento Kings also marked the long-awaited return of guard Rodrigue "Roddy B" Beaubois.
"Welcome to our wacky little family," co-anchor Brian Curtis said after she finished. We'll leave it at that.
***Fox4 continued to make interesting use of its nightly extended live interview segment with a split-screen debate on the John Wiley Price controversy between conservative talk show host Mark Davis of WBAP radio (820 AM) and liberal Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders.
Co-anchor Heather Hays refereed their lively exchanges, which included Davis opining that "If a white official had done this, he'd have been gone by dinnertime yesterday."
"No he wouldn't," Sanders said.
Frankly, in this case, yes he would. Because there's just no way a white county commissioner would have been allowed to stay in office if he'd singled out a group of African-American people by race and then repeatedly told them to "Go to hell."
Price, who remains unapologetic, says he was provoked by white attorney Jeff Turner's repeated references to him as "the chief mullah" during Tuesday's county commission hearing. Turner pronounced it "MOO-lah," and Price saw this as having a racist connotation. Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb did a good job of setting the stage for the Sanders-Davis debate by playing footage from the hearing in the context of what both Turner and Price said. "Right now a lot of word wounds to be nursed on both sides of this issue," Rabb concluded before Davis and Sanders let loose without insulting or torching one another.
***On WFAA8, reporter Jason Whitely led the newscast with a story on DISD spending that he deemed questionable in light of the big budget shortfalls now facing North Texas school districts.
Whitely stood in front of Dallas' Ritz Carlton while noting that the DISD had spent more than $1,300 last year to rent a meeting room at the posh hotel. Other publicly owned spaces are readily available at no cost, according to a consumer watchdog interviewed by Whitely.
All told, $66,000 was spent last year on meetings in various "off-campus" locales, Whitely said. That might not seem like all that much, he added, but is "certainly an unwelcome appearance as layoffs loom."
Reporter Jim Douglas, one of the station's best, also may have been part of questionable spending -- by WFAA8. Douglas and a photo-journalist were dispatched to San Diego to interview Texans working aboard the USS Carl Vinson. Their duty is important and hazardous. And the video was nicely shot and assembled. But was this really money well-spent by WFAA8? Or more to the point, would it pass the Jason Whitely smell test?
In this view, reporter Gary Reaves got more bang for the buck with his trip to nearby Seagoville for a well-told story on the fight to preserve a condemned historic school building from demolition this summer by the DISD.
Here's the video of Reaves' story, followed by Land's.
View more videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com.