This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., Feb. 17)
02/18/11 01:22 PM
By ED BARK
Time heals all wounds, but maybe not this one.
In the heart of the February "sweeps" ratings period, Tracy Rowlett and Troy Dungan joined forces at 10 p.m. on the station that wants to beat their old employer into the ground.
And as noted in an earlier post, CBS11 ended up crunching WFAA8 in Thursday's D-FW Nielsens with help from a potent lead from The Mentalist.
Rowlett, formerly WFAA8's signature anchor, and Dungan, its famed bow-tied weatherman, spoke of their mutual admiration for one another while seated at the CBS11 news desk with co-anchor Karen Borta. She had just profiled Dungan in his retirement years and will do the same for Rowlett on Friday's late nighter. The two of them hadn't been live together on a news set since Rowlett jumped from WFAA8 to CBS11 in 1999 -- and spent a decade there.
"He disappeared from the airwaves in 2007, gone but not forgotten," Borta said of Dungan, who's better known of late for endorsing a home foundation repair company and an electrician in a notably poorly lit commercial.
Dungan, recurringly shown with a wine glass in hand, did not exactly drink to his WFAA8 successor, Pete Delkus, during Borta's piece.
"I really like the way Larry Mowry does the weather," he told her. " 'Cause, honestly, he does it kind of like I would."
On the other hand, any praise of the competing Delkus likely would have found its way to the cutting room floor. But at least Borta mentioned his former station by name during her narrative on how Dungan now is enjoying the good life by traveling abroad with his wife and doting on his granddaughter.
"The weather's in my rear view mirror . . . I had enough of it. I don't miss it," he said.
Dungan also let it be known that he took good care of the big paychecks that WFAA8 used to hand him. He didn't buy a palatial palace of a house, like some did, Dungan said. So he's hardly scrapped for funds in retirement. "I'm blessed," he said. "This is just a good time in my life."
During their CBS11 anchor desk reunion, Rowlett made a point of saying that Dungan remains "one of my dear buddies." Dungan in turn proclaimed his "love" for Rowlett.
"So great to see Troy and Tracy again," co-anchor Doug Dunbar chimed in while standing next to Mowry at the weather station. Mowry, who said he met Dungan for the first time Thursday, thanked him for the compliment during Borta's report. Let's just say that management at WFAA8 has just been given bulletin board material for the next year or so. But for now, the ABC station is licking its ratings wounds at 10 p.m. while CBS11 is riding high and rubbing it in.
On Thursday's 10 p.m. edition, which ran a distant second in the D-FW Nielsens, WFAA8 countered with 30-year-old footage of sports anchor Dale Hansen very gamely wrestling a bear while employed by Dallas-based KDFW-TV (Ch. 4). He earlier had performed the same feat for an Omaha, Neb. TV station.
Delkus as always set the table after Hansen asked him, "What goofy thing have you come up with now?"
The footage in fact was a riot, with co-anchor Gloria Campos as always leading the off-camera merriment.
"If the photographer hadn't thrown in the towel, I think I could have taken him," Hansen said of the bear, whom he likely has outlived at this point.
"I think his head's over in Pete's den," he said, a reference to Delkus' love of hunting. That's a good line. But on Thursday night at least, Hansen's bout with a bruin turned out to be no match for CBS11's lovey-dove reunion of two former WFAA8 colleagues. Maybe Hansen needs to wrestle burly new Dallas Cowboys defensive coach Rob Ryan. And fast.
AND IN OTHER NEWS . . .
NBC5 is based in Fort Worth and doesn't mind pledging allegiance to Cowtown. WFAA8 is a creature of downtown Dallas, with its newscasts originating from those still relatively new Victory Park studios. It helps to explain the two stations' notably divergent approaches to eye-opening new census data for Texas.
The Peacock led its newscast with this story. Longtime Night Ranger Scott Gordon told a tale of two cities after co-anchor Meredith Land first noted that Dallas "barely showed any growth at all."
Fort Worth in contrast is "one of the fastest-growing cities in the country," said Gordon. Its 38 percent population increase from 2000 to 2010 matches the growth in Grand Prairie, although both cities trail what Gordon termed the "astounding" 141 percent population splurge in McKinney.
Gordon interviewed a very content new resident of Fort Worth while duly telling viewers that Dallas grew by just a measly .8 percent in the past 10 years. Among Texas' top cities, "Dallas saw the least amount of growth," he added in case viewers weren't yet grasping the idea that Fort Worth is going gangbusters while that other burg is starting to sink fast.
"Oh I love this city," the happy new Fort Worth-ian said in closing out Gordon's story. "I love Fort Worth a lot."
Both NBC5 and WFAA8, the only stations to report on the new census results, noted that the state of Texas is growing at twice the national average, with Hispanics accounting for the lion's share of the increases. But WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely underscored that Fort Worth's "growth spurt" of more than 206,000 people brings attendant transportation and budget problems with it. And Dallas' comparatively measly 9,000-person increase over the same 10-year period is "mainly because it is landlocked and has a lot less room for new development," Whitely contended.
That seems nonsensical, but let's look at this another way. Once upon a time, NBC5 used to worry about being overly perceived as "the Fort Worth station." It once had a promotional campaign that embraced both Fort Worth and Dallas, with the message being that NBC5 wasn't just a Cowtown outfit.
Times have changed. As 10 p.m. newscast ratings shrink, NBC5 knows it's far better to fully exploit its Fort Worth locale. Rival stations don't and won't ever have this built-in hometown advantage, even though CBS11's main offices are located just a few miles from NBC5's off of I-30.
It's all the better for NBC5 if Fort Worth is booming and Dallas isn't. The pool of available viewers only increases, even if population splurges obviously can bring attendant problems as well.
Here's something else NBC5 did Thursday night to highlight its ties to Fort Worth. For the end-of-newscast kicker, co-anchor Brian Curtis beamed about a Cafe Brazil opening in downtown Fort Worth. Ah yes, urban vitality, with Curtis then riffing, "How many hangovers have been cured at Cafe Brazil?"
His desk mates gave him the old pause one-two before Land tepidly said, "A lot."
"Not that I would know, right?" Curtis rejoined. It should be noted that Uncle Barky has hangovers older than Curtis' or Land's lives on this planet. So there. It's out there.
***Earlier in the newscast, Curtis crossed state lines and ventured to Kansas City's airport for an interesting look at its deployment of private security companies for passenger-screening rather than the federal government's TSA (Transportation Security Administration). The feds currently allow 16 airports to use private screeners, but recently curbed any further expansion of the program.
D-FW Airport has been open to using a private security firm, but for now is "very satisfied" with the TSA, spokesman David Magana told Curtis. But other airports say that private firms are more efficient than the TSA, which some suspect is the reason why the government suddenly is putting on the clamps.
Curtis did a good job on this story. And NBC5 also had an intriguing piece by Ashanti Blaize on how selling food baked in home kitchens is illegal in Texas. Her principal interviewee, a cake baker who was shown but not identified by name, said she'll continue to make treats illegally while remedial legislation is pushed.
NBC5 also had a hiccup Thursday night, with Curtis telling viewers that a "standoff" was still in progress between police and a man who crashed his car and took off running into a family's home. Curtis said the family was safe, so he got that right. But much earlier on Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, reporter Brandon Todd had a live interview with a police officer who said the entire matter already had been resolved peacefully, with the motorist under arrest and no one hurt.
***Fox4 topped its newscast with news that an alleged home health care scammer had been indicted after investigator Becky Oliver exposed her during a November "sweeps" hidden camera piece. "We're not ashamed to take help from anybody," including the media, U.S. attorney James Jacks said in announcing the indictment.
News operations love patting themselves on the back for stories that result in remedial "action" or arrests. Fox4 overdid it a bit, but Oliver deserves credit for providing ample visual evidence in her expose.
***In the much ado about little department, Fox4 reporter Matt Grubs followed up on comments made by anchor Steve Eagar during a new station segment titled "The Take."
On Wednesday's 9 p.m. edition, Eagar and anchor Heather Hays commented on a blog by a Philadelphia high school teacher who said that her students were "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners." Eager said that maybe she should find another line of work if that's how she feels.
At least one Fox4 viewer took offense. Or as Grubs put it, she "blasted 'Eags' comments last night, saying . . . 'I would like to see him in the classroom.' "
Eags? Whatever you call him, Steverino said he in fact once worked a couple of years as a substitute teacher. But Fox4 perhaps needs a little more schooling in what constitutes a real story and what seems to be a transparently flimsy promotional effort on behalf of "The Take."
Grubs is a really good reporter most of the time -- and should be given better things to do than pitch a pup tent of a "story" tied to something one of his Fox4 colleagues said on the air. Particularly when what Eagar said was hardly as dicey as the station made it out to be.