This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Mon., Feb. 19)
02/20/07 01:39 PM
By ED BARK
Lose weight, look younger, save money.
NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts aren't alone in aiming this stuff at their nightly audiences. But no station makes harder sells than the Peacock. Too bad that so many of these stories are so utterly intelligence-insulting.
Reporters Kristi Nelson and Brian Curtis were just following orders, though, on Monday's 10 p.m. program. They each get roughly 90 seconds to turn lemons into something approximating those juicy promos from anchors Mike Snyder and Jane McGarry.
In contrast, veteran Belo8 investigators Byron Harris and Brett Shipp get two, three and sometimes almost four times the air time to make their cases. But they sometimes overreach, too, as was the case Monday night. Let's look much closer.
NBC5's Nelson stood in a store aisle, as she regularly does, after McGarry teased, "Could chewing gum be a medical marvel?"
The reporter began with the bold assertion that "chewing gum is easy, and most of us do it every day."
Frankly, most of us don't. But Nelson earlier had caught a young woman in the act. And what she said may have shocked you. Here's how it went: "I'm chewing gum right now. People chew gum all the time. Um, it's convenient. People like convenience."
Nelson then warmed to the task of positioning gum as a diet aid after earlier saying it might well be a "super food."
"Trying to lose weight?" she asked. "With just five to 10 calories a serving, scientists say chewing a piece of gum instead of eating a high calorie snack can help reduce calorie intake. The Wrigley Institute says it also serves as a diversion between meals, helping prevent the so-called mindless munching that can lead to weight gain."
Yes, the Wrigley Institute indeed is funded by the famed gum maker. So it's kind of like the makers of Blow Pops making the same claim. Suck on one of those babies and you'll have a hard time filling the ol' pie hole with a high-calorie snack. In fact, NBC5 might want to consider this for one of its future "Health Alerts."
Earlier in the newscast, reporter Curtis found an aggrieved elderly man, Theo Smith, whose truck had been damaged. And he supposedly was still dickering with his insurance company a month later.
Curtis used this as a gateway to the "latest consumer survey" (from J.D. Power) on auto insurance providers. A company ranked at the bottom, which won't be identified here, sent NBC5 a statement to the contrary. Then Curtis left viewers with a big finish that managed to say absolutely nothing at all despite the reporter's dramatic inflections. Here's exactly how it went:
"No matter which company is yours, experts offer this advice," Curtis told viewers.
"Know what your policy covers," said a receptionist at a Haltom City collision repair shop.
"And if you're choosing a provider," Curtis added, "Theo has one more thought."
"They need to check and see which one is really the best one," said Theo.
"That is, before you need to make a claim," said the reporter. "Brian Curtis, NBC5, Haltom City."
In that vein, here's another valuable consumer news tip from unclebarky.com: Put one foot in front of the other and repeat with the one you didn't use. You'll find yourself walking. And walking can lead to weight loss, especially if you're chewing gum at the same time.
Belo8 generally takes a more rarefied approach to its news reporting, particularly when the multi-award-winning Shipp and Harris are weighing in. They're not above criticism, though.
Shipp has done some valuable reporting on the separation of families and overall conditions at the T. Don Hutto facility in Taylor, TX, a converted prison where illegal immigrants are being detained. Many of them have requested asylum from oppressive governments.
The reporter went to Washington for this latest followup. He first found two U.S. representatives who were in full agreement with his findings -- Democrats Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Zoe Lofgren of California, who chairs the House immigration subcommittee.
"It sounds like the holocaust," said Johnson.
"Innocent families being treated like maximum security criminals? That's not the American way," said Lofgren.
Shipp then hammered home his thesis, ending with a sarcasm-flavored flourish. It went like this: "Given all the criticism, opposition and outrage, there is at least one place in Washington, outside of the Department of Homeland Security, where support for the Hutto residential center is unwavering. The White House."
This basically told viewers that Shipp couldn't find a single member of the House or Senate to counter the criticisms of Johnson or Lofgren. But he did get into a White House press conference, where he addressed the issue with press secretary Tony Snow. Here are the particulars:
"We asked Snow," said Shipp, "if another type of facility might be more appropriate. His response:"
"Such as?" Snow volleyed. "Sports stadium?"
"I don't know," Shipp could be heard saying.
"The point is it's difficult to find facilities," Snow said. "And you have to do the best with what you've got."
Shipp closed by restating what seemed to be a pre-drawn conclusion.
"But according to Johnson," he said, "Hutto is not the best this country can do. And both she and congressman Lofgren will call for an investigation."
Sorry, but it all seemed more than a little too pat. A reporter's presentation counts for a lot in stories such as these. Shipp could have scored more points by tempering his agenda just a bit.
Belo8's Harris followed later with an investigation of anesthesiologists drawn from an interview with a single, camouflaged hospital worker employed at an unnamed "North Texas day surgery center."
The woman, who wore a black shroud and whose voice was altered, said that in the past eight months two children had almost died from overdoses of morphine administered by an anesthesiologist.
"It was horrible. The child was like a noodle," she said.
Harris, who needlessly donned doctor's scrubs at one point, also found an expert who said that parents of young children have every right to question an anesthesiologist's qualifications before surgery begins. Frankly, that seems like a no-brainer.
The reporter closed his story in a parking garage, telling viewers, "Doctors say you have a greater risk of being hurt in an auto accident than you have of being harmed by an anesthesiologist. If that's the case, then asking the right questions about your children's doctor may be the medical equivalent of a child's safety seat."
The report seemed pretty flimsy. Both Harris and Shipp have done far better work in earning their spurs at Belo8. And unlike their competitors at NBC5, they're afforded the time and space to do so.
Here's Monday's unusually sparse violent crime story count, with the 13-night running totals in parentheses:
NBC5 -- 1 (53)
Fox4 -- 0 (29)
CBS11 -- 0 (27)
Belo8 -- 0 (17)