This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., Feb. 16)
02/17/12 02:33 PM
By ED BARK
Jesus take the wheel -- from Clarice Tinsley.
The longtime Fox4 anchor (since 1978) has a new "Your Turn" segment that began as a somewhat mild irritant before becoming a gaping wound to the station's credibility during Thursday's 9 p.m. edition.
Even worse, she's lately getting two such Facebook-driven gimmicks per newscast. Both bait their hooks via Tinsley's tease that "I may read your post on the air."
Thursday's first one was tolerable -- with respondents asked how they felt about New Jersey's lowering of flags to half-mast during Saturday's funeral for Whitney Houston. Tinsley first posed that question on her Facebook Fan Page. But she then veered into nonsensical Onion News territory by urging viewers to "tell me whether you see Jesus in the radiator. 'Cause it's going to be 'Your Turn' to talk about that when I come back in about 20 minutes."
Tinsley also strongly encouraged anchors Heather Hays and Steve Eagar to weigh in. And unfortunately she eventually did come back, amending her previous misstatement to say that a Fort Worth mechanic named Gabriel believes he saw the image of Jesus in a space heater -- not a radiator. This little item was born on the official Fox4 Facebook page, not Tinsley's attendant Fan page.
A Facebook poster named Debbie said the images look like "Rob Zombie and Bob Marley," Tinsley noted. Amanda saw "Jimi Hendrix and Tina Turner." Tinsley herself opted for the late Jim Morrison of The Doors. No lightning bolts intruded on the segment, perhaps because Jesus was watching The Mentalist over on CBS.
But seriously, how can Tinsley be taken seriously anymore? She won a Peabody Award way, way back in the mid-1980s. It's still mentioned in the second paragraph of her official myfoxdfw.com bio, right before readers learn that she's "uncompromising in her commitment to inform the North Texas community thoroughly and credibly."
In other words, a Fort Worth mechanic's space heater-inspired Jesus moment qualifies as credible Tinsley-approved news. And look, up in the sky, that cloud floating above unclebarky.com world headquarters in Garland looks just like Otis Redding and James Brown smilin' down on ol' Whitney. Or maybe you think otherwise.
Fox4 also offered another puzzlement Thursday night. Let's first wade into it before underscoring the polar-opposite messages that ended up on-screen.
Anchor Hays, during a split-screen live interview with attorney Clint David, wondered about TCU's very public treatment of the alleged batch of student drug dealers outed during a Wednesday morning news conference called by university officials.
"They've all been identified, I would actually say hung out by the university," Hays began. "Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?"
It should be noted that WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen also asked that very valid question during his brief "Unplugged" commentary on the station's Wednesday late nighter.
David said that "this thing is moving at WARP speed," and there's no doubt university big-wigs have "distanced themselves from these students."
Hays persisted: "Well, and it seems like it's a really aggressive move to say, 'OK, here's this group. Let's put them on an island and we're over here.' Think it's a good move?"
The university doesn't want anyone to think "they're slow-walking this thing," David answered in part.
Hays also noted that the street value of the dealt drugs amounted to relative pocket change in the grand scheme of things. It all made for a good discussion. EXCEPT that while David was talking, Fox4 sequentially displayed enlarged photos of 10 of the accused dealers, with their names clearly visible as well. So the station did exactly the same thing that Hays said TCU had done. Except even more visibly.
Be assured of this. If one of the accused had been the son or daughter of any D-FW station's general manager or news director, that particular photo would never have been shown in the way that Fox4 separately displayed those 10 closeups Thursday night. Hays was making some worthwhile points, but her own station invalidated them by likewise putting a majority of the accused students "on an island."
AND IN OTHER NEWS
WFAA8's Hansen and CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg had dueling pre-taped Jason Garrett interviews Thursday night. Both served as appetizers for extended segments on their Sunday late night sports programs.
Hansen told viewers that he personally liked the less than colorful Dallas Cowboys coach. He then mostly baited him, telling Garrett at one point, "You're on remote control and you're like a robot too many times. And that's not really who Jason Garrett really is."
Garrett smiled agreeably several times, but gave Hansen nothing to shout from a rooftop -- or even an awning. Hansen then told news anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos that Garrett reminds him of how boring former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman used to be.
"Aikman never said anything when he played," Hansen said. "Now you can't get him to shut up" (as a Fox sports analyst).
Even Hansen might agree -- well, probably not -- that Laufenberg got more out of Garrett in large part because he had a better story angle Thursday night. Laufenberg asked the Cowboys coach about his less than football-loving mother and his longtime football coach dad, who's now retired but has continued to run every day for the past 32 years. The station even had footage of old Jim plodding along.
"He's gotten slower and slower and slower," Garrett said affectionately. "His knees aren't in great shape right now, but he's out there. He's a little bit of a lunatic that way, but that's part of his greatness."
Garrett even audibly laughed at one point, a fairly rare sight for public consumption.
"I must say it was the best interview that Jason Garrett has given me -- ever," Laufenberg told co-anchors Karen Borta and Doug Dunbar. "Not saying the best ever 'cause he's probably done better ones with other people." Not with Hansen, though. At least during this particular joust.
***NBC5 had a newscast, too, but on this particular night it wasn't much of a bargain. Even its lone enterprise story -- on new and potentially distracting electronic dashboard innovations -- had a precursor in Fox4's same-night, same-themed piece by reporter James Rose
The Peacock's Omar Villafranca told his story more from the auto dealer's perspective. Any federal efforts to rein in such devices will only hurt car sales, a dealer told him.
Rose primarily talked to D-FW's longtime auto tester, Ed Wallace, who's also a regular contributor on the station's Good Day. Wallace told him that some of these new devices were just too hard to decipher and operate while trying to drive at the same time. He wants them toned down.
*** CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen had an interesting, in-depth look at lax regulations in the screening of sperm bank deposits purchased by prospective parents. A North Texas couple is suing one such company after their son was born with incurable Cystic Fibrosis. They say the company assured them that the sperm they bought had been tested for Cystic Fibrosis and other potential diseases that could be transmitted by a donor.
No one other than the parents and their attorney would talk to Allen on camera. This is becoming increasingly commonplace in TV news investigations. But most media companies, whether local or national, aren't any more forthcoming when it comes to questions about their own operations. So who can blame their targets?
(Note: in the particular case of CBS11, such questions generally get an on-the-record timely response from either the station's own in-house spokesperson or another member of management. That happened as recently as Thursday, when CBS11 fully acknowledged that it was the only station not to break in with live coverage of Wednesday morning's drug bust news conference by TCU officials.)