This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 4)
05/05/10 01:11 PM
By ED BARK
New CBS11 news director Adrienne Roark says her No. 1 priority is ramping up the station's investigative reporting.
All well and good. But Tuesday's investigation-happy 10 p.m. edition should be debated within the newsroom. Were two of the featured stories, one piggybacked off the tabloid newsmagazine, Inside Edition of any real value to viewers? Or were they trumped-up ratings "sweeps" misfires? Unclebarky.com re-investigates.
The generally solid Carol Cavazos led the newscast with a "Controversial Detention" story in which police descended on a largely Spanish-speaking outdoor market on West Davis St.
"They just went from dealer to dealer harassing people," contended Darrel Adams, identified as a nearby "property owner." A Latino auto dealer who said he's a U.S. citizen told Cavazos that police asked for his ID, which offended him.
Police said they were looking for an auto theft ring, Cavazos said. "The surprise operation captured a criminal but put scores of innocent people on the spot and swept up illegals who had nothing to do with it," she added.
Viewers also were told that it all came down during the Mega March in downtown Dallas, where an estimated 25,000 participants protested Arizona's controversial new immigration law.
"That's exactly what's going to happen in Arizona," said Accion America activist Carlos Quintanilla, a frequent presence on D-FW television screens.
Cavazos said that one of the six illegals taken into custody "had only come to the dealership to bring his wife lunch." His wife told Cavazos she's scared about what might happen to him. Cavazos added that some market customers now are "too frightened to come back."
Retired Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent A.J. Irwin also weighed in, telling Cavazos, "Just to come along on something like this where they're sweeping through an area that is frequented by Mexican nationals, that is not an acceptable operation."
The report basically brushed over the basic fact that a "criminal" was caught and that six people in the country illegally were detained. It's hard not to come off as an ugly American -- or politically incorrect -- by questioning whether the ends in this case may have justified the means. But Cavazos never addressed that aspect. She instead seemed overly intent on portraying everyone as a victim of a humiliating police sweep.
Co-anchor Karen Borta tried to inject the law enforcement side of the story by asking, "So Carol, what did the DMV and ICE have to say about their roles in the operation?"
"Well, Karen, the DMV said they were conducting typical inspections," she replied. "And ICE said they had a very small role. They just had one agent here. But dealers think it had the largest impact."
Later in the newscast, reporter Melissa Newton mostly narrated what her station described as "another story you'll see only on CBS11." In fact it was an all-too-typical ratings "sweeps" expose by the reliably tawdry Inside Edition, which airs on CBS11. In short, you obtain a list of registered sex offenders, find where they work, accost them and then act like an avenging angel after they lose their jobs. Fox4 investigator Becky Oliver went this route during an earlier sweeps period.
Four convicted sex offenders working in the North Texas hotel industry were spotlighted by Inside Edition and basically upbraided for daring to work within proximity of human beings. One of them, a 60-year-old desk man at an area Holiday Inn, had been working there for four-and-a-half years, he said. Fifteen years ago he was convicted of indecency with a child. Another elderly hotel worker's offense dated to 1990.
In her only contribution to the investigation, Newton knocked on the door of the 60-year-old man's home with the lame proviso that "We would just like to give him a chance to tell his side of the story." The woman who answered the door said that he already had been outed and grilled on national television.
Inside Edition also went to "child safety advocate" Erin Runnion for a reaction. "Oh my gosh," she said with all due theatricality. "That's just frightening." Runnion then launched into a near-hysterical denunciation.
Newton said at story's end that two of the four men "highlighted" in the Inside Edition piece no longer worked for their respective hotels. She named both of them, but we won't. Instead some basic questions should be asked. Is society really better off when sex offenders are hunted down and thrown out of their jobs despite having spotless records as employees? What jobs should they be allowed to have? Or must they remain forever unemployed no matter how long ago their offenses occurred?
Inside Edition could care less. But they'll build a moat around themselves and roll up the drawbridge if any of their reporters or anchors is ever charged with wrongdoing. As will virtually any other media operation. The multi-part sex offender investigation in progress on Inside Edition is business as usual for TV "news" programs of its caliber. But CBS11's news department doesn't have to be a party to it. And in this case, it shouldn't have been.
Elsewhere on Tuesday's late night newscasts, both Fox4 and NBC5 led with sinister animal stories.
On Fox4, Sophia Reza reported on an alligator sighting in Arlington's Fish Creek. A resident has still pictures of the beast, but animal control officers so far have not been able to make an arrest.
NBC5 began with the tale of an Arlington man who experienced an "unnerving attack," in co-anchor Brian Curtis' words, from two neighborhood pit bulls who burst out of their owner's backyard. He's sustained cuts on his foot and hand. Scott Gordon did the story, during which NBC5 ballooned the picture of the arrested female owner to near full-screen size. She declined to be interviewed.
In contrast, WFAA8 topped its newscast with a comparatively sedate but far worthier story on a DISD "land spree" in which proposed sites for new public schools require the demolitions of local businesses and an historic Oak Cliff church. Jonathan Betz ably reported on some residents' displeasure with the plans while one man seemed more than happy to have the city purchase his ramshackle house.
The station also continued its depiction of DFW Airport as a haven for thieves and would-be terrorists. Jason Whitely picked up where investigator Brett Shipp left off, although their voices sound almost identical. The latest "troublesome trend" at the airport is an escalation in baggage thefts, Whitely reported after examining reports over the past five years.
Becalmed airport spokesman David Magana again appeared on camera, this time to say, "We have to get better." All in all it was an interesting story.
Tuesday's basically harmless show 'n' tell visuals were courtesy of NBC5's baritone-voiced Ellen Goldberg and hyper-energetic sports reporter Matt Barrie.
Goldberg first brandished a taco plate order from Dallas' Fuel City convenience store before noting that lottery tickets with mega-jackpots are selling almost as fast as the food.
Barrie, who will grow on you if you let him, posed happily with Grand Prairie AirHogs' mascot Ace Bacon. His accompanying story detailed some of the baseball team's efforts to entice fans with unusual promotions. Included are the "Twilight Saga Blood-Drive" and the "Lady Gaga Pre-Monster Ball."
Barrie also solicited suggestions from players, one of whom would like to see a "bathing suit day at the yard" night.
"Only Barrie," co-anchor Meredith Land lightly jabbed after his closing pose. That'll be our closer, too.