This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 17)
05/18/10 03:13 PM
By ED BARK
They weren't and still aren't heavy lifters when it comes to their reporting and story choices.
Still, NBC5's Brian Curtis and Meredith Land at least merit credit for getting out there and doing something on a regular basis. Can any other D-FW station's featured late night news anchors say as much? Nope.
On Monday's 10 p.m. newscast, Land visited the North Texas-based Frito Lay plant for a story on how some of their snacks lately are being regionalized to suit area tastes. Tangy Carolina BBQ chips, for instance. Or Balsamic Sweet Onion. You've gotta keep strategizing in the ongoing snack food wars.
During Friday's late nighter, Curtis donned a hard hat and bright orange work vest to report on the ongoing rebuilding of the signature Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags.
Earlier in the ongoing May "sweeps" ratings period, Land interviewed Neiman Marcus' new CEO, company veteran and Dallas native Karen Katz. And Curtis spent a day at Arlington's General Motors plant for a story on the car maker's remarkable resurgence in the past year.
Each of these stories had the faint whiff of an infomercial. But a lot of stuff does these days. Above all, they were interesting topics that in fact made better use of the station's news time than more breathless reports about shootings, sexual assaults or heavy rainfall. The "Glimmer Twins," as they were once dubbed in these spaces, also are doing something more than merely sitting prettily and reading the news.
Most contemporary news anchors get "out in the field" only to accept accolades from various groups or act as emcees. Curtis and Land aren't likely to get all gritty on us. But they deserve a back-pat for at least trying to show viewers more than their latest outfits and suits.
Elsewhere Monday, rain and hail in Seagoville topped three of the four late night newscasts, with only CBS11 initially resisting by doing a jailhouse interview with a sorry excuse for humanity who ran over and killed a 17-year-old bicyclist on a country road before fleeing the scene.
Reporter Jane Slater interviewed Donald Lewis Cassell III, who has a previous DWI conviction and admitted to drinking that night. His excuse: he thought he had hit some livestock in the dark, and later sent a friend to investigate while he looked to see if his vehicle was damaged.
Fox4 also reported on Cassell's alleged hit and run, but only displayed his mug shot on its 9 p.m. newscast. On CBS11, he told Slater how sorry he was, but succeeded only in showing how sorry he is -- as a human being. So in this view, the interview served a purpose. Sometimes we need to see dirt bags in all their glory.
CBS11's Stephanie Lucero later had an interesting story on how breakthroughs in digital sketching are helping to bring more criminals to justice. Exhibit A was a 2005 rape victim whose attacker had remained at large until "the next frontier in identifying a criminal" helped to apprehend the so-called "Blue Bandana Rapist."
WFAA8 had solid enterprise stories from reporters Chris Hawes and Janet St. James.
Hawes looked closely and tellingly at allegations that a minister is bilking an elderly couple who trusted him to pay the monthly rent for living in their Fort Worth home while they relocated to the Hill Country. That hasn't happened. Instead their old home is a mess and the minister is suspected of setting himself up as a landlord who is collecting money from tenants living on the property. Hawes got the goods and then interviewed Pastor Cornelius Hudson, whose constant denials seemed palpably false.
St. James later profiled former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton, who had become so "super-obese" that he couldn't even play catch with his son.
"When he left pro football, he called french fries his best friend," said St. James before Newton added, "That and a quart of Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull."
But Newton has lost 71 pounds in a month -- he's now down to 330 -- after a relatively new surgical procedure called a "vertical sleeve gastrectomy. He hopes to drop 100 more. For now, Newton "still huffs after a bit of exercise," says St. James, but is able to toss a football with his kid for the first time in over a year.
Fox4's featured story was from veteran reporter Shaun Rabb, who had amateur video of uniformed off-duty Garland cops creating a major stir during a May 2nd Sunday service at the Dallas Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Police reportedly were called in to arrest "an unruly disruptive person" who objected to both new church leadership and changes in the worship service. But a woman who in the end wasn't charged with anything brandished bruises she says were inflicted by undue police activity. She has hired an attorney, of course, whom Rabb interviewed in addition to getting comment from a police spokesman who said an internal investigation is still in progress.
The video was pretty arresting, so to speak. Whether this story merited such extended and prominent play is another matter.
We'll close with a few notes on Monday night's weather coverage, which brought visions of a little accumulated hail in Seagoville plus some broken windows in a few homes.
WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely was all over it in that sometimes aggravating way of his after anchor Gloria Campos chirped, "Hail and high water" before colleague John McCaa added, "Storms hit North Texas and it's just a taste of what's to come this week."
Whitely interviewed two Seagoville residents billed as "storm victims" while also trumpeting video of high school kids exiting a bus and then sloshing through standing water on their way home.
The intrepid reporter noted that he had warned the kids not to brave "rushing" water that he said was 12-to-15 inches deep. They ignored him, but "fortunately they made it with only wet legs and feet," Whitely said. Yes, he actually said that.
Meanwhile, Fox4 let viewers marvel at the earlier downpour at Rangers Ballpark after co-anchor Heather Hays asked hopefully, "Could more bad weather be in our future?"
"Some Rangers fans were nervous about the status of the game," Fox4's Brandon Todd reported from the scene. But the opening pitch was only delayed for 15 minutes.
Finally, on NBC5, anchor Curtis rhapsodized in the opening seconds about "Chopper 5 with an incredible view of today's storms."
Frankly, it wasn't that incredible. And again, neither were the storms.
Seven nights to go.