This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 20)
05/21/08 02:41 PM
By ED BARK
First of all, please don't try this at home. That said, one of the easiest ways to make live "Breaking News" on TV is to drive a vehicle through someone's home.
It doesn't matter if no one's hurt. TV stations like putting on those pictures and invariably will rush to the scene by both air and land. You get two visceral visuals for the price of one -- twisted metal and a jagged, gaping hole in an innocent brick-and-mortar bystander. It's simply irresistible.
Arlington gave Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 a twofer Tuesday night. First a car swerved into a house while the driver was scrapping with another guy over a girl. Less than an hour later, an off-duty Duncanville police officer suffered a seizure, causing his pickup truck to crash through a bedroom.
Thankfully, no one was hurt in either mishap. Still, WFAA8 and CBS11 both led their 10 p.m. editions with "Breaking News" of the mishaps.
Fox4 and NBC5 first reported "Breaking News" of a pharmacy shooting in Dallas. Then it was quickly on to Arlington for Tuesday's night's big double dip.
Crime, tragedy and a wide variety of consumer scares almost always play leading roles in any given late night newscast. WFAA8 generally devotes less time to spot crime than its rivals. But Tuesday brought plenty of trouble on all four stations.
NBC5 as usual led the league, reeling off nine crime-related stories and three tragedies.
"Heading home from the grocery store, a Dallas woman is pulled from the street and raped," said anchor Jane McGarry before reporter Ellen Goldberg told of a 23-year-old victim's manhandling by four sub-humans.
"A horrific walk home," Goldberg added. "Perhaps there is no other way to describe it."
That story led directly to reporter Grant Stinchfield's tale of a 62-year-old Seagoville woman who was kidnapped and taken into the woods by a young scumbag who's a registered sex offender.
"He said, 'You got three choices. I can either shoot you, strangle you or put you in this well,' " the victim told Stinchfield as the camera focuses on her gnarled hands.
She chose the latter, and spent 20 hours "in the muck" before being discovered, Stinchfield said.
"Poor woman. Thank you, Grant," said McGarry. You ever wonder why anchors always feel it necessary to thank reporters for bringing news of horrific crimes or tragedies?
CBS11 offered seven crime-related stories, including Jay Gormley's piece on a woman who was shot by a burglar six months ago while working at a check-cashing place. She showed off the bullet wound in her belly to prove it.
Now the woman faces losing her job for failing to type in a "panic code" that would have notified police of a robbery in progress. But she feared that the robber would shoot her if she followed that particular company procedure. Four former Denver employees of the same company have similar stories and have hired an attorney, Gormley said.
Fox4 had six crime-related stories and WFAA8, five. But the latter station's David Schechter may have put more viewers on edge with a non-crime story titled "Poisonous Picnics."
Schechter found that many picnic tables in state- and city-owned parks have arsenic-treated wood that can be especially hazardous for smaller children inclined to put their fingers in their mouths among other things.
A standard wood sealant also would seal in the arsenic. But Schechter's report instead led to the quick dismantling of picnic tables in Cedar Hills State Park and Tennyson Park in Dallas. Some were outfitted with new wood and others simply carried off. It's always something, isn't it?
The overall point here is that North Texas really isn't as scary as your late night newscasts regularly portray it to be. But crime scenes are easy to cover, as are car wrecks, burning buildings and the like. All are picturesque in their own way, with yellow police tape serving as the official color of local newscasts here, there and everywhere.
WFAA8 generally is less likely to bite than others, but timing can be crucial. Smash into a house or shoot someone an hour or so before air time and you're sure to attract lots of attention. It's the easiest "immediacy" there is -- and on Tuesday night you could see ample evidence of that on all four major late night news providers.
AND IN OTHER NEWS
***Fox4 also had two good human interest stories that had nothing to do with crime, tragedy or fears that your next deep breath of surrounding air could be your last.
Jeff Crilley reported on a resourceful 10-year-old boy who now is the last legal owner of chickens in University Park. The kid, Julius Stener, did his own computer research to find that there's nothing in the city code to prevent this. So he petitioned the University Park City Council, which grudgingly grandfathered him in before immediately voting to close an existing loophole and prohibit any further raising of chickens within city limits.
Reporter Jason Overstreet, in Lake Worth, said that some Fourth of July holiday celebrations may be dampened or curtailed all together by a major shortage of fireworks in China, where they're all made these days. That's because 20 China warehouses housing many of them were recently destroyed by an explosion.
Overstreet put it succinctly after interviewing an area vendor of airborne oohs and ahs: "With hardly any fireworks made in the U.S.," he said, "this tradition for celebrating America's independence is almost totally dependent on China."
***Over on NBC5, dogged Scott Gordon steered clear of crime to tell a nice little story of identical triplets being born at Harris Methodist Hospital. Their neonatologist is the same doctor who saved the triplets' dad during a problematic birth 23 years ago.
***WFAA8's Macie Jepson made an infrequent foray into late night news reporting with a less than memorable contribution. Her amply promoted story on the "15-Minute Nose Job" focused on a notably busty 25-year-old blonde who underwent a new procedure that can "sculpt" your beak without a scalpel.
"Celebrities have long been the object of consumers' desire," Jepson said in setting up the story. Gimme rewrite on that one. By the way, said anchor Gloria Campos, this latest treatment can smooth bumps, dips and irregularities, but can't make your nose smaller. Honk if you care.
***Brandishing a fast food drink and sack, CBS11's Nerissa Knight offered Part 2 of her report on how some foods have lots more calories and fat grams than others.
As previously noted here, CBS11 is copying a February sweeps offering by NBC5's Brian Curtis, who relied on the same book, Eat This, Not That!, for his restaurant meal comparisons.
Both reporters also utilized tight shots of anonymous big asses to show what can happen to those who consistently make fattier menu choices.
CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar then carped, "That's two nights in a row I feel just like (being) caught like a thief right in the middle of the night."
He's got the thievery part right.
One night to go.