powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


WFAA8's Izaguirre gets her first star turn in a new and shiny spot

izaguirreb1 10337929_120X90 10337118_120X90

Cynthia Izaguirre at WFAA8 and from an earlier series on KOAT-TV.

WFAA8's homespun new 30-second image campaign for Cynthia Izaguirre seems to be timed just right.

The station's ascendant Daybreak program, which she co-anchors, narrowly won the recently ended May "sweeps" among 25-to-54-year-olds, the key advertiser audience for news programming.

And Izaguirre's lame duck Daybreak desk partner, Justin Farmer -- better known as whatsisname at the station -- will be leaving in July to join WSB-TV in Atlanta, where his father, Don Farmer, once ruled the roost.

It's pretty much been Izaguirre's show since her Jan. 4th Daybreak debut coincided with Farmer's same-day decision to head for Atlanta when his contract expires. Station management understandably has cold-shouldered him in the months since while Izaguirre does each and every promotional tease. Now she's the star of her own half-minute show-and-tell, which ends with the Dallas-raised Izaguirre saying, "I love what I do and I love where I do it. I'm from here and I'm for here."

The ad hit home-screens just after the sweeps ended on May 21st. And it was strategically placed during Thursday night's season finale of Lost, which dominates the D-FW ratings among younger viewers.

It should be noted that Izaguirre has both an incandescent personality and a knack and appetite for selling herself. Her previous station, KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., aired a multi-part series titled "Raising Cynthia." And her tearful goodbye to the station and its viewers, for which she composed a poem, had to be one of the lengthiest in local TV history.

That said, Izaguirre clearly has the goods. Her WFAA8 spot finds her standing proudly onstage at Longfellow Academy in Dallas, where she attended middle school.

"We'd get talks from people who'd tell us we could do anything we wanted to do," she tells viewers. "And now I get to be one of those people."

The spot adapts an Ugly Betty motif with grade school pictures of Izaguirre in over-sized eyeglasses. The adult anchor also walks the Longfellow halls with her former drama teacher, Mrs. Kim Stidham.

"I grew up in Dallas, and I want to help people here," Izaguirre says. That can be accomplished by both bringing viewers their first news of the day and showing how dreams can come true, she adds.

The commercial ends with a closeup of a beaming anchor and her "News 8 Daybreak" logo. It's a slick, effective sales pitch that harkens to days when campaigns built around individual personalities were standard operating procedure.

Lately, only WFAA8 has gotten into this game. The station introduced weatherman Pete Delkus to the market via a series of comedy spots. And sports anchor Dale Hansen earlier was featured alongside dancing girls in "Hansen Style" commercials.

Rival stations might be wise to start firing back with their own personality-driven plans of attack. They can make lasting impressions when done right. And the high-appeal Izaguirre ad stars a willing subject who's got it -- and doesn't mind flaunting it.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., May 29)

ABC's two-hour finale of Lost expectedly paced the advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-old ratings Thursday. But its overall Nielsens fell short of two competing crime drama reruns on CBS.

Lost drew a total of 168,056 D-FW homes opposite reprises of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (172,928 homes) and Without A Trace (211,897 homes). That's not exactly going out with a bang, at least not in this TV market.

ABC's island-spun web of intrigue picked up some slack by luring 138,750 viewers in the 18-to-49 demo. That handily beat both CSI (75,682) and Trace (116,676).

NBC's 90-minute chunk of Last Comic Standing thudded to fourth place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. with 77,940 total homes and 50,454 viewers of the 18-to-49 persuasion.

In the local news derby, WFAA8 nipped CBS11 at 10 p.m. in total homes and won comfortably with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 took the 6 a.m. gold in total homes, but WFAA8 again had the edge in the 25-to-54 demo.

WFAA8 ran the table in both ratings measurements at 5 and 6 p.m.

University of diversity: who gets the Masters degree?

6249785_240X180 campos photo_servlet images_sizedimage_122130730

Newy Scruggs, Gloria Campos, Clarice Tinsley and Chris Salcedo

The May "sweeps" ratings battles are over, but readers of this Web site consistently have expressed an interest in another numbers game.

Namely, which of D-FW's major TV news providers are doing the best and worst jobs of both hiring minorities and giving them prominent on-camera roles?

First off, not everything has to boil down to race. Overall merit and the options open to station managers also are key considerations. It's foolhardy to hire a person of color who has no business being in what's supposed to be the big leagues. This is now the nation's fifth largest television market, so your career bicycle should be without training wheels by the time you get here.

But D-FW also is a highly diverse television market, and no one should be blind to that either. Any TV news staff is poorer for not reflecting its community. The newsroom balance can't always be perfect, but it should be on a relatively even keel. Still, that shouldn't obligate management to automatically replace a black male anchor with another of the same race and gender, etc.

Before diving into this, let's note that I'm a 60-year-old white male from Racine, WI. Neither of my late parents finished high school, and I went to college entirely at my own expense after serving in the U.S. Marines. I obviously don't know what it's like to be black, Hispanic or Asian. But I do know a little something about working my way up -- and down -- without any "connections" to fall back on.

So those are my own prejudices, if you can call them that. I understand that some people have it much harder than others. But there are many factors -- not just race -- that can figure into that. In the end, genuinely talented people will find ways to make themselves shine. I honestly believe that, but some surely will disagree.

Now let's take a look at the racial realities at Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11. (Note: minority anchors and reporters are in boldface.)

images_sizedimage_317121808 15773780_240X180 photo_servlet-1 reaves

Nerissa Knight, Omar Villafranca, Lynn Kawano and Gary Reaves

The station's two major moneymakers -- its weekday early morning and 9 p.m. newscasts -- have no people of color in the featured news, weather or sports anchor positions. Sports reporter/anchor Max Morgan occasionally fills in for longstanding sports anchor Mike Doocy. Substitute early morning weather anchor Maria Sotolongo recently left the station to spend more time with her new baby.

Fox4 does, however, have D-FW's reigning dean of African-American anchors in Clarice Tinsley. Nearing her 30-year anniversary at the station, she co-anchors the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts with Baron James. Those newscasts aren't the big dogs they used to be, though. In the May sweeps, the 10 p.m. edition averaged fewer total homes than both the 9 p.m. news and the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Good Day.

Fox4 still has a sizable core of minority reporters, although it lost a major contributor in Rebecca Aguilar, who was terminated earlier this year after a lengthy and controversial suspension. Shaun Rabb and Fil Alvarado have many years at the station, even if the latter is no longer named or pictured among the Fox4 newsroom "Personalities" on myfoxdfw.com.

Reporter Saul Garza is a major asset both in the early mornings and with his weekly "What's Buggin' You" segment on the 9 p.m. newscast.

Emily Lopez, Natalie Solis and Lynn Kawano, are regular contributors to various newscasts. Dionne Anglin is seen less frequently and Nita Wiggins hasn't been a major presence of late. Fox4's newest minority hire, Adrian Arambulo, has been nicely showcased on the early morning shift.

Overall Grade: B-minus

The station's most prominent minority is featured sports anchor Newy Scruggs, who also gets by far the least time for his nightly, split-in-two sports reports. The other member of the Peacock's two-member sports team, Derek Castillo, is leaving in June after tiring of working weekends and missing out on family life.

NBC5 also has Deborah Ferguson as a high-profile early morning co-anchor. Its most prominent minority reporter, Randy McIlwain, is a very capable and prominent presence on the featured 10 p.m. newscasts. Ashanti Blaize infrequently reports on the late night show, as does Kristi Nelson, who used to be a major player. But both women regularly anchor in the late afternoons and early evenings.

Newcomer Omar Villafranca regularly works the early morning shift as a reporter while Susy Solis drops into view on occasion. NBC5 also has hired Jennifer Lopez -- not the actress -- to replace the deposed Rebecca Miller in the early mornings. She's scheduled to start next month.

Overall Grade: C-plus

The market's No. 1-rated news operation also has appreciably more minorities in key positions.

John McCaa and Gloria Campos, D-FW's first featured Hispanic woman anchor, have been a team at 6 and 10 p.m. for more than a dozen years. The station's early morning program likewise has a major minority presence in longtime weatherman Greg Fields and recently hired news anchor Cynthia Izaguirre.

Also regularly manning an anchor desk is sports guy Joe Trahan, the usual substitute for 25-year veteran Dale Hansen.

WFAA8 is losing Bob Greene, who's heading to law school next month. Its reporting staff still includes the oft-used Gary Reaves and Rebecca Lopez, both of whom are regulars on the featured 10 p.m. newscasts and earlier editions. Darla Miles and newcomer Monika Diaz are less seen. Veteran Debbie Denmon still reports on occasion and anchors the station's weekend morning newscasts.

Overall Grade: A-minus

Featured 5, 6 and 10 p.m. anchor Karen Borta, who joined the station in 1995, has a full-blooded Mexican mother and is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Relatively few viewers probably know this, let alone some of her co-workers. But it counts for something, right?

CBS11's most prominent minorities otherwise are out in the field. Steve Pickett has been a stalwart for many years, and deserves more visibility. Stephanie Lucero, another veteran, is regularly deployed on the 10 p.m. newscasts, as is relative newcomer Carol Cavazos, formerly of WFAA8.

Robbie Owens, wife of WFAA8's early rising Fields, likewise has a pre-dawn beat at CBS11.

Nerissa Knight, one of the market's most promising newcomers, splits her time between reporting and anchoring weekends for CBS11. Chris Salcedo divides time anchoring and reporting for CBS11 and sister station TXA21. Kenneth Taylor mainly co-anchors TXA21's 7 to 9 p.m. weeknight newscasts. And former Dallas Maverick Derek Harper logs ample air time in the basketball season on TXA21's pre- and post-game Mavs telecasts.

Overall Grade: C

Reporter Paul Adrian heading for Harvard, leaving Fox4


Paul Adrian hopes to reinvent himself and his beat. Photo: Ed Bark

One of Fox4's best and brightest, reporter Paul Adrian, will be leaving the station in late June to study for the next year at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He then plans to return to his native Texas with an eye toward reinvigorating the lost art of covering state government.

Adrian, 40, hopes to set up his own independent unit of print and broadcast investigative journalists. That's an ambitious undertaking, but Adrian figures the field is wide open, particularly in TV news.

"It scares me that so many people are leaving TV journalism," Adrian says in an interview with unclebarky.com. "My goal is not to get out. My goal is to get into this field more deeply. I'm taking a big risk. It'll be either a really smart thing I'm doing or a really dumb thing. But I'm willing to leave what's been a wonderful job to go and try to become a better reporter."

Adrian, who joined Fox4 seven years ago, stressed that he's not unhappy with the station. But he's disheartened by his profession's growing disinterest in covering the Texas state legislature, whose decisions have far wider-ranging implications than live overhead chopper shots of the latest car wreck or police chase.

"Typically now, it's a quick hit," he says of state government coverage. "We're down in Austin, the session opens and we're back. It's not Fox4's problem. It's an industry problem. We've collectively decided not to invest in this coverage, and it bugs me."

In his letter of resignation, Adrian praised Fox4 news director Maria Barrs as "a great boss."

"In my estimation," he said, "the KDFW-TV news department has more going for it than any news team in the city and most in the country. I attribute a lot of our success to your leadership and your support of hard-hitting, in-depth journalism."

His most recent investigative report for Fox4 was on the effectiveness of state tort reform enacted in 2003 to curb "frivolous" malpractice suits and keep doctors from leaving Texas. It's not a subject that quickens the pulses of most news managers or viewers. But Adrian made it work in times when stories on miracle diets and new breakthroughs in cosmetic surgery are both encouraged and heavily promoted.

"Government is at the heart of the stories that I'm proudest of over the last seven years," Adrian says. "But for better or worse, what we grew up with in television news is changing. So I've got to figure out, 'How can I keep my craft alive?' If I'm not at peace with myself, I'm going to be frustrated."

Adrian and his wife, Jade Kurian, a reporter for the HD News network, have a 17-month-old daughter named Lark. They'll mostly remain in North Texas while Adrian commutes back and forth for the next year.

"Any absence from journalism is going to create a longing to go out and do what I love to do -- shine a light, expose problems and try to nudge our political leaders to do the right thing," Adrian says.

Upon his planned return, he'll try to do just that as an entrepreneur who hopes to service a wide range of broadcast clients.

"I hope I'm aligned with somebody in every TV market in the state," Adrian says. "I just don't think you can be informed enough on what's good government and what isn't.

Barrs, who has a policy of not commenting on personnel matters, will be challenged with rebuilding Fox4's newsroom during the summer months. As previously posted, two other 9 p.m. news mainstays, reporters Jeff Crilley and Jason Overstreet, also will be leaving the station in June to start new ventures.

Heather Hays, the 9 p.m. co-anchor, is scheduled to go on maternity leave next month. And Fox4 could lose Good Day co-anchor Megan Henderson to Fox News Channel. She'll be talking with FNC chairman Roger Ailes about possible opportunities during her second guest-anchor stint early next month on Fox & Friends Weekend.

This just in: The May sweeps are over and the ratings are ready to serve

the-end fireworks

The four-week May sweeps ratings competition ended on a triumphant note for WFAA8, which ran first in all four major battlegrounds while upping its year-to-year Nielsen numbers in the key 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. battlegrounds.

The 6 a.m. total homes race basically ended in a first place tie with Fox4, although further numbers crunching gives WFAA8 the nod by three-hundredths of a rating point (730 homes).

WFAA8 and Fox4 ran a similar down-to-the-wire race in the February sweeps, with the latter station holding an even measlier 244-homes edge at 6 a.m. Advertisers interpret both of these outcomes as ties.

CBS11 finished no better than second place in any of the four major combat zones. But the station dramatically improved its performance at 10 p.m., where its press release is touting "the fastest-growing major market late news in the country."

Although still well behind at 6 a.m. and 5, 6 and 10 p.m., CBS11 can tout overall year-to-year audience increases in all four time periods.

NBC5 can take some heart in an improved performance at 6 a.m. in the key 25-to-54 audience demographic. But it continued to lose substantial ground at 10 p.m., where it once dominated.

Fox4 can brag about whipping the three network morning shows with the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day. The station's 9 p.m. local newscast also continued to perform well, beating NBC entertainment programming in both ratings measurements.

The May book otherwise belongs to WFAA8, which thoroughly dominated the 10 p.m. Nielsens and also dethroned Fox4 as last May's 6 a.m. champ. The only dents in its May numbers are at 5 and 6 p.m., where WFAA8 again finished first despite significant year-to-year audience losses.

Here are the May sweeps newscast results, with the numbers in parentheses showing audience gains or losses from May 2007. (Note that each rating point equals 24,356 D-FW homes and 29,445 viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic.)

10 P.M.

Total Homes
WFAA8 -- 226,511 (+12,178)
CBS11 -- 182,670 (+58,454)
NBC5 -- 155,878 (-17,050)
Fox4 -- 97,424 (-4,871)

WFAA8 -- 147,225 (+8,833)
NBC5 -- 103,058 (-29,445)
CBS11 -- 97,169 (+41,223)
Fox4 -- 70,668 (+8,833)

6 A.M.

Total Homes
WFAA8 -- 90,604 (+7,100)
Fox4 -- 89,874 (-5,602)
NBC5 -- 77,939 (-2,436)
CBS11 -- 41,405 (+9,742)

WFAA8 -- 76,557 (+8,833)
NBC5 -- 67,724 (+20,612)
Fox4 -- 67,724 (-2,944)
CBS11 -- 23,556 (+2,944)

6 P.M.
WFAA8 -- 148,572 (-31,662)
NBC5 -- 99,860 (-14,613)
CBS11 -- 94,988 (+9,742)
Fox4 -- 80,375 (-9,742)

WFAA8 -- 79,502 (-14,722)
NBC5 -- 53,001 (-5,889)
Fox4 -- 47,112 (-5,889)
CBS11 -- 29,445 (even)

5 P.M.

Total homes
WFAA8 -- 124,216 (-36,534)
NBC5 -- 94,988 (-2,436)
Fox4 -- 82,810 (+9,742)
CBS11 -- 75,504 (+19,485)

WFAA8 -- 64,779 (-17,667)
NBC5 -- 44,168 (-2,944)
Fox4 -- 41,223 (+5,889)
CBS11 -- 29,445 (+8,833)

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., May 21)

Fox's two-hour Season 7 American Idol finale predictably crushed all in its path Wednesday as the May sweeps ended a four-week run just shy of Memorial Day weekend.

Idol averaged 365,340 D-FW homes, ballooning to 467,635 in the closing 15 minutes. From 8:45 to 9 p.m., Idol also amassed 343,721 advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, a huge bounty. Prime-time's next closest performer in this key demo, the last 15 minutes of CBS' Criminal Minds, drew 110,369 viewers in the 18-to-49 age group.

Fox4's following 9 p.m. local newscast also reaped big dividends, although the audience dropped sharply after the first 15 minutes. But the news still averaged 267,916 homes overall, easily enough to thump CBS' runnerup CSI: NY (209,462 homes). Fox4's news also won by wide margins among 18-to-49-year-olds and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

In the four-way local news derby, WFAA8 finished with a flourish in the hotly contested 6 a.m. race, edging Fox4 in total homes and winning more comfortably among 25-to-54-year-olds.

The ABC station also won across the board at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., rolling to its first double grand slam of the May sweeps. WFAA8's four major newscasts last circled the bases twice on April 8th.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 20)

16346051_240X180 photo_servlet

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.


***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.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 19)

images_sizedimage_317121808 1594868549 6249689_240X180

Assigned reading for CBS11's Nerissa Knight, NBC5's Brian Curtis.

Oh cruel, cruel fate. Not to say petty theft.

Happily trouncing third-place NBC5 in the 10 p.m. total homes ratings, runnerup CBS11 also is ripping pages from the February sweeps playbook of the Peacock's Brian Curtis. Way to rub it in.

It's not as if they're filching from Edward R. Murrow. NBC5's resident pretty boy isn't exactly known for blowing the lid off of anything -- unless it's a crock pot. Still, his light touch perfectly suits the second halves of NBC5's newscasts, where fluff has always had a home. So CBS11 lately is copying from the master.

Last Thursday's Ginger Allen piece on "The Grocery Game" method of cutting supermarket costs had a familiar ring to it. That's because Curtis opened this year's February sweeps ratings period with a story on the same system. As did Allen, he accompanied a giddy woman to the checkout counter, where she rang up big savings through the miracle of The Grocery Game, which costs about $20 a month to obtain.

On Monday's 10 p.m. CBS11 newscast, reporter Nerissa Knight's "Menu Mistakes" story spotlighted a paperback book titled Eat This, Not That!

Hmm, Curtis did exactly the same thing during his Feb. 8th "Weight Loss Wonder" story on how seemingly healthier foods can have higher calorie and fat gram counts than stuff that looks worse for you. It's all detailed in the Eat This, Not That! book, which both stations of course linked to on their Web sites.

CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar pitched in Monday by first standing in front of pictures of Outback Steak House's prime rib and strip steak dinners.

"It might surprise you to learn," he said, that the prime rib has only half as many calories as the strip steak. Knight then added, "One menu mistake could actually make or break your diet."

A few D-FW diners threw out sound bites during her survey of five restaurant chains.

"You sound like my wife or something," one poor sap said while apparently hoping to eat That! instead of This.

Still, it's the book that does almost all of the work for reporters, and it certainly did so for Dunbar's opening pitch.

It's quite possible that neither Knight nor Allen knew of Curtis' February sweeps stories. Both also hold down anchoring spots at CBS11, and have minimal time to do the stories thrown at them.

But surely there are assignments editors, producers or even news directors at CBS11 who are fully aware of what's going on. Perhaps their defense is that recycling is good for the environment, particularly if you also can gig NBC5 in the bargain.

images_sizedimage_275102758 photo_servlet lopez-1

Reporters Katherine Blake, Becky Oliver and Rebecca Lopez


***CBS11 reeled off seven consecutive crime stories at the top of Monday's newscast. It then cleansed the palate with reporter Katherine Blake's poignant followup story on a six-year-old girl from Aledo who's set to undergo major brain surgery in hopes of combatting a rare, often fatal disease.

All four stations covered a community rally for Jessie Hall earlier this month. CBS11 then went the extra miles to Baltimore -- or at least somebody's cameras were there -- for her family's meeting with renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon Benjamin Carson.

***Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all had reporter-driven followups to Friday night's shooting at prestigious NorthPark shopping center. The victim, 43-year-old Mary Boyd, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the cheek sustained when she tried to drive away from an armed carjacker who's still at large. She had been waiting to pick up her 16-year-old daughter from a movie.

It's probably fair to ask at this point whether a shooting at a less prosperous mall in a lower-income neighborhood would get the same extensive TV coverage. Frankly, probably not. That's not to diminish what happened to Mary Boyd. But it is a question worth considering.

***Hard-charging Becky Oliver, Fox4's longtime investigative reporter, had a solid expose earlier in the May sweeps on a crooked in-home care operation supported in large part by Medicare funds. Not so with Monday's overwrought look at whether Child Care Associates is infested with volunteers who have past criminal records.

The lengthy piece quickly resorted to laughably generic slasher movie music while popping up mug shots of three alleged volunteers with previous convictions for family violence, aggravated assault and drug dealing.

A former unidentified employee shot in silhouette was Oliver's primary, but not terribly convincing source. That same person provided a list of 2007's volunteers at the centers, which mostly serve lower-income families and are encouraged to use family members as volunteers.

"We had asked Child Care Associates for that same list," she told viewers. "But the agency said no, then hired a law firm with your tax dollars to fight our request."

The "your tax dollars" gambit is an old, oft-reliable standby. But Child Care Associates CEO John Whitcamp in fact did talk on-camera to Oliver, who strove to make him look bad but basically failed.

She also hunted down some of the supposed volunteers with criminal records. Confronting them made for showy video, but really didn't prove anything one way or the other. Oliver's piece never alleged any instances of child abuse or mistreatment. But it did put a number of minorities on camera -- all of them portrayed as pretty unsavory.

Oliver's work generally has been praised more often than not in these spaces. But Monday's investigation mostly brought out the worst in her. She just didn't have the goods. And when that happens, her trademark brawling approach can be all the more grating.

***WFAA8's Janet St. James had a piece on early-morning "Boot Camp Fitness" programs that stress basic, demanding exercise over the miracle regimens often touted on NBC5.

Patrons come "to have their Spandex-clad booties kicked into shape," said St. James, perhaps becoming the first WFAA8 reporter to work "booties" into a story that has nothing to do with infant apparel.

***NBC5's Randy McIlwain, a very capable street reporter, surely would admit to having a big booty. He had a good story, too, on a man who's been charged with check forgery in the face of evidence that very much seems to say otherwise. McIlwain made a convincing case for him.

***Reporter Rebecca Lopez had an interesting account on efforts by Dallas police and firefighters to transform James Madison High School into a "public safety academy" that would train future members of those two professions.

***Finally, NBC's aforementioned Brian Curtis put the ballyhooed new "Wii Fit" device to the test at the Cooper Fitness Center. An expert gave it a passing grade. CBS11 countered with anchor Karen Borta's reader on the plusses and minuses of the "Botox Breast Lift."

Two nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 16)

thumb_1210981791787_0p29289438751308371 16317565_240X180

Live shots of home explosions in McKinney, shooting at NorthPark.

Going live to scenes of crime or tragedy of course is nothing new on D-FW's late night newscasts.

Sometimes it's even justified, with Friday providing not one, but two such instances.

The multiple home explosions in McKinney, apparently triggered when workmen ruptured a gas line, found the four major TV news providers rushing to the scene early Friday evening. Later that night, an attempted car-jacking and shooting at NorthPark Mall likewise prompted live overhead shots and reporting from those stations quick enough to get there.

WFAA8's Gary Reaves had the most detailed reports from the second front. You might well ask, "Is it really that big a deal?" But when the city's oldest and most prestigious shopping center is in virtual police lockdown, it in fact merits the initial live report and two updates provided by WFAA8. The victim, shot in the face by a still at-large assailant, ended up watching her son's high school graduation Sunday from a hospital bed.

CBS11 had two NorthPark updates with live chopper pictures, but no visible reporter on the scene. Instead, anchor Doug Dunbar told viewers, "There is a suspect on the loose and an all-out search as we speak."

NBC5, far off in Fort Worth, had only a map and a cursory brief from anchor Mike Snyder. Fox4's 9 p.m newscast, the one monitored for these daily ratings sweeps briefings, had nothing on the NorthPark situation during that hour. But Fox4's Web site indicates it had a report on its 10 p.m. news.

Three of the four stations had live on-camera standups on the developing situation in McKinney.

"As you can see, still plenty of action," WFAA8 anchor Jeff Brady told viewers in setting up reporter Jonathan Betz's live report.

That wasn't an ideal way to describe the scene. But those overhead copter pictures still spoke volumes of what can happen when gas leaks strike without warning.

CBS11 had live reports from both Stephanie Lucero and J.D. Miles. NBC5 deployed Randy McIlwain and Scott Gordon. Fox4 led with Brandon Todd's detailed report. But unlike all of his competitors, Todd delivered his live dispatch on the telephone because of an apparent technical problem. So Fox4 suffered in comparison -- visually at least.


***NBC5 looked clueless in reporting that the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, pastor of Dallas' Friendship-West Baptist Church, remained one of three finalists in the running for the NAACP's national presidency. In fact he wasn't. Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 all reported accurately that Haynes in fact would not be getting the position.

***All four stations jumped on the story of a Prestonwood Baptist Church minister who drove 200 miles to Bryan with the intent of having sex with a 13-year-old girl he thought he'd met on the Internet. Instead it was a police sting operation.

"It's really, really sad that a man of God has this secret, sick, twisted life," a young woman told NBC reporter Grant Stinchfield. The problem is, she said this with an odd, camera-conscious half-smile on her face, as though she were trying to get that line just right during a retake.

Over on CBS11, a seemingly blissed-out parishioner had a novel way of looking at the situation after reporter Brooke Richie told viewers, "The word everyone is using is 'shock.' "

This woman wasn't, though. "It's a sad thing, but it's also a blessing for the church," she said. That's because she had prayed two weeks ago "for protection for the church and to expose anybody there who needs to be exposed."

***WFAA8's Brett Shipp followed up on Thursday's investigation of alleged grade-fixing at South Oak Cliff High School that could force it to forfeit a second state basketball title. The star player in question also was a key member of this year's Kansas Jayhawks national championship team, with that title also possibly in jeopardy, Shipp said.

South Oak Cliff basketball coach James Mays II participated in "an orchestrated campaign to cover it all up," alleges a former math teacher who on Thursday had shown Shipp a doctored grade book.

Mays had declined to be interviewed for Shipp's second investigation after the reporter confronted him at school during a February sweeps series that led to forfeiture of the 2006 state title. But Mays did talk to ESPN 103.3 personality Michael Irvin. In an excerpt played during Shipp's Friday's report, Mays said, "The media can make the public believe anything they wish, especially if it's presented in a certain type way."

Shipp's first reports made DISD officials believe that South Oak Cliff indeed had cheated. This investigation hasn't played out yet, but it again doesn't look pretty.

***NBC5 and CBS11 again went hard after women viewers -- who watch newscasts in much larger numbers than men -- with second-half-of-the-newscast reports of skin-deep depth.

For second time in this sweeps period, the Peacock drafted early morning anchor Deborah Ferguson, on this occasion for a report titled "Bargain Browlift."

"Tough times can mean tough choices," said anchor Jane McGarry, who recently blogged on her station's Web site about the pros and cons of bikini waxing. "But North Texas women don't have to skimp on beauty."

Ferguson then introduced viewers to the miracle of relatively low-cost eyebrow-arching, with one very satisfied customer proclaiming, "Believe it or not, I'm 56 years old. My daughter is 36. And I can pass for 42."

Um, no you can't, lady.

"It's kinda gross to see all that hair come out," Ferguson warned as NBC5's camera closed in. But, she added, the finished product is worth it.

***CBS11 anchor Karen Borta teased an "HD Makeup" story with the heartening news that "every woman can steal the same beauty secrets used to achieve a high-definition look."

The station's in-house high-definition makeup maestro found at least one over-the-counter product wanting, though. The so-called Smashbox High-Definition X Box Foundation worked OK. But the Dior Air Flash Spray Foundation pretty much missed its mark and got all over a model's hair.

"It's very overwhelming," she said. You're trapped in a big makeup cloud."

***The nightly Fox4 "Viewers' Voice" segment can be pretty depressing if you dare stop to realize that some callers and emailers appear to have the IQs of rutabagas. And they're your audience!

On Friday night, a male viewer drawled his opposition to Good Day anchor Tim Ryan doing oblique crunches on an exercise mat while a fitness trainer coached him.

"The last thing I want to see is Tim Ryan exercising his big fat butt right up into the camera," the caller carped.

Somehow this guy's just gotta have a beer gut and a cancer stick dangling from his yapper.

Three nights to go.

Doocy and "The Hammer" -- one really needs a job

page5_blog_entry53_2 Screenshot12

Fox4's Mike Doocy and former "Ticket" mainstay Greg Williams

All dressed up but still with no place to go, former big-time radio personality Greg "The Hammer" Williams looked a bit older and maybe even wiser Sunday night during his first public appearance in more than seven months.

The former co-host of "The Ticket's" Hardline afternoon drive show talked sports and eventually other things with Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy on his 10 p.m. Sports Sunday program. Those other things, of course, were of more interest.

"Why'd ya leave?" Doocy asked of Williams' abrupt October disappearance from The Ticket, followed by a January announcement of his resignation.

"Well, it was my own fault," Williams said. "It was my own fault that I left, and ya know, if I hadn't a done some of the things I did, some bad things, I'd probably still be with The Ticket. But I did them, and I'm not there anymore."

Doocy, whose program has been a regular venue for Ticket personalities, then asked him to specify "the bad things."

"Illegal drug use -- exactly what it was," Williams said. "And I'm embarrassed to admit that. But that's the truth and something I've got to live with . . . something I'm trying to overcome and something I battle every single day. But that's what it was."

Williams said he's been diagnosed with depression, but "I don't think that had anything do with that (his drug addiction)." Daily medication has put him back in play, he said. "Everything is great. I haven't felt this well in probably five or six years."

Asked whether he yearns to return to radio, Williams said, "Well, yeah, I really do. And all I can say is stay tuned . . . I might just pop up."

ESPN 103.3 has acknowledged talking to him, but that was last year. On The Ticket he cast himself as a know-it-all, reliably coarse "common man" who particularly enjoyed discoursing on women's "boobs."

"How do you know I have to go to an all-sports station?" Williams asked Doocy. "How do you know?"

"I don't think Kidd Kraddick's in any trouble," Doocy rejoined, referring to the longtime king of Dallas morning drive.

"Don't think I don't have my eye on his job," Williams said.

He curiously closed his segment by wishing a happy birthday to "one of my best friends," Jud (Tall?), who turns 112 years old on Thursday, Williams said.

Good night and good luck.

WFAA8 weekend Daybreak meteorologist heading south for higher-profile Austin job


WFAA8 weekend Daybreak meteorologist Meghan Danahey, who joined the station in 2007, is heading for Austin to become the weekday morning temperature taker for KVUE-TV, the market's ABC affiliate.

Both stations are owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp., so Danahey is moving down in market size take but moving up to a higher profile position within the company. She's replacing Ilona Torok, who resigned in March from KVUE to spend more time with her family. She had been with KVUE since 2000.

Danahey had a summer internship with former featured WFAA8 weatherman Troy Dungan before working her way back to Dallas via stints in the Wichita Falls/Lawton, TX and Fort Myers/Naples FL markets. She's a graduate of Texas A&M University and Trinity High School in Euless.

Danahey announced her departure on Saturday's weekend Daybreak program.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., May 15)

shipp ar119704985509617

WFAA investigator Brett Shipp and Jerry Jones' palace in waiting.

Whatever Brett Shipp is, he's not chicken-hearted.

WFAA8's star gumshoe no doubt cast a wider net over his hate mail potential Thursday with another investigation of possible grade-fixing at South Oak Cliff High School. This time Shipp also raised the possibility that the Kansas Jayhawks might have to forfeit their recent NCAA basketball championship because one of their star players, Darrell Arthur, apparently received unwarranted passing grades in math while at South Oak Cliff. That could make his athletic scholarship invalid.

A series of February "sweeps" stories by Shipp led to the high school's forfeiture of its 2006 state basketball title after officials determined that another star athlete had his grades laundered so that he could stay on the team.

In Thursday's lead story, Shipp cast Arthur as a likeable, good-hearted kid whom educators had let down.

"Once again," he said, "we've obtained school records which appear to show that some adults in his life may have broken the rules in an effort to win."

The story included an interview with Arthur's former math teacher, Winford Ashmore, who told Shipp, "These people (namely South Oak Cliff's former principal and its current basketball coach) knew what was going on with a lot of this type stuff, but yet they covered up for it."

Ashmore, no longer with the school, produced a 2002 grade book for freshman math that showed Arthur performing way below passing levels before other school officials upgraded him. Later failing grades also apparently were doctored.

WFAA8's new allegations are "being fully investigated" by the DISD, Shipp said. Any subsequent NCAA probe obviously could make this an even bigger scandal.

Shipp also has been making enemies of Dallas Cowboys officials with reports on the high costs of luxury suites being built for the team's new palace in Arlington. But he was otherwise occupied Thursday when the team announced pricing structures for the rest of the stadium's seats.

WFAA8's Craig Civale picked up Shipp's baton and painted a grim picture of longtime season ticket-holders being disenfranchised.

"The new stadium will certainly blow you away, but so will its prices," he said before longtime season ticketer Randy Daniels lamented, "How can it be America's Team when America can't afford to walk in the gate?"

Civale's report emphasized that nearly seven out of eight seats will require additional payments of seat licenses. What he didn't say is that it's a one-time fee that can be paid out over 30 years time.

In Daniels' case, said Civale, four season tickets for $5,800 at Texas Stadium in Irving will balloon to more than $600,000, including license fees, at the new Arlington showplace.

That can't be entirely accurate, at least not under the pricing structure announced Thursday. But WFAA8 seemed intent on sticking it to the Cowboys while rival stations -- and The Dallas Morning News -- emphasized that the cheapest seats, at $59 each with no license fee, would be just $9 more expensive than the current nosebleeds at Texas Stadium.

Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy said for starters, "The cost of one of those 50,000 or so seats in the upper or lower bowls might be a pleasant surprise to some Cowboys fans, believe it or not. The average reserved ticket price jumps only about $6 dollars from 84 bucks at Texas Stadium to just over $90 for the new facility."

That doesn't include a license fee in most cases, though, so Doocy in contrast may have tilted too far in the Cowboys' favor.

NBC5, which treats sports as though it's a leper colony, dismissed the whole thing in a skimpy reader by anchor Mike Snyder. CBS11 was only a bit more expansive, although anchor Karen Borta underscored the one-time only aspect of license fees and the 30 years that seat holders will get to pay them if they choose.

15773680_240X180 photo_servlet images_sizedimage_133182012

NBC5's Ashanti Blaize, Fox4's Paul Adrian, CBS11's Steve Dennis


***Fox4 investigator Paul Adrian had a thoroughly researched, extended piece on the overall effectiveness of a 2003 Texas law that made it much tougher to sue doctors for malpractice.

The idea was to keep quality doctors in the state rather than watch them flee in the face too many "frivolous lawsuits." Adrian found, however, that doctors really hadn't been fleeing in the first place.

"So did Texas benefit?" he asked after marshaling an armload of statistics and interviewing several experts. "Doctors some, insurance companies a lot. Most Texans probably couldn't say."

Adrian did note, however, that the cost of family health insurance has continued to escalate, from $8,200 a year in 2001 to $11,500 by 2005. Also, the number of uninsured Texans under the age of 65 has increased to 5.5 million, he told viewers. That's 27 percent of the state populace and also the highest percentage of insured in the country, he said.

It was a lot to digest. But tough-to-illustrate stories like these are still worth telling if a station will make room for them. Adrian's attention to detail, in a medium that prizes much flashier fare, clearly is out of style and becoming all but extinct.

***CBS11 sports reporter Steve Dennis does better work than many give him credit for. But on Thursday night, he got off-puttingly palsy walsy with Dallas Cowboys players and his station's bossman during a piece on the team's annual golf outing.

Dennis first figuratively genuflected at the sight of CBS11 president and manager Steve Mauldin, who was playing in the makeshift tournament. Then he asked QB Tony Romo of Mauldin, "Did he call me Stu? Does he know my name?"

Sports anchor Babe Laufenberg played along, drawing off-camera mega-laughs from anchors Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta by telling Dennis, "All right, thank you, Scott."

Dunbar then told Babe, "Appreciate you, Bob." Arrrgh, please stop.

***Yet another in a series of CBS11's "Money Savers" stories found reporter Ginger Allen recycling "The Grocery Game," which charges shoppers $10 every other month for its list of bargain-priced goods. NBC5's Brian Curtis did the "Grocery Game" gambit during a previous ratings sweeps period.

***CBS11 investigator Bennett Cunningham had an interesting piece on faulty elevators and lax inspections. It turns out that some of the most dangerous up-and-downers are in hospitals, where an inspector said they're "notorious for being abused and damaged" by hospital carts and other medical equipment rolling in and out.

***Fox4 and NBC5 both led their newscasts with the story of a 14-year-old girl who evaded a would-be kidnapper on the way home from school and then gave helpful information that aided police in capturing him.

Interestingly, Fox4 made an obviously conscious effort not to show her face on-camera during a story by Lari Barager. But NBC5 reporter Scott Gordon's story both showed the teen's face and identified her by her full name. WFAA8 and CBS11 had nothing on this during their late nighters.

***NBC5's Ashanti Blaize had a story on a distraught but resilient mother whose wheelchair-equipped van was stolen after she saved for years to get it for her 18-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy. He's supposed to graduate from high school in two weeks, but now it won't be nearly as easy to get him to the ceremony.

It's hoped that someone will reach out to her. And that the particularly despicable thief will be caught and punished to the max.

Four nights to go.

"The Hammer" nails a guest appearance with Fox4's Mike Doocy (updated)

photo_servlet 1648366.0

Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy and Greg "The Hammer" Williams

Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy dropped an intriguing nugget at the close of his Thursday, 9 p.m. segment.

"Greg Williams, who vanished from 'The Ticket' airwaves several months ago, will resurface with us Sunday night at 10," he said.

Williams, also known as "The Hammer," officially resigned from The Ticket's Hardline afternoon drive program on Jan. 10th after being absent from the station since mid-October of last year. He has battled publicized drug problems in the past, and this turned out to be the third strike for him at The Ticket.

"I talked on the phone with Greg the other night and invited him on," Doocy said in an email reply to unclebarky.com. "We hadn't heard from him in awhile, so I thought it might be interesting to have him on the show. Even though he's not on the radio right now, I'm pretty sure he has an opinion or two on the local sports scene."

Williams, previously a recurring guest on Doocy's Sports Sunday show, is still looking for work and has had talks with ESPN 103.3 in Dallas. But nothing has come of that to date, so his guest stint with Doocy will be his first public appearance since leaving The Ticket.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., May 14)

shelly_l 13809915

Strong work from WFAA8's Shelly Slater, NBC5's Scott Friedman.

Believe it or not, it's more satisfying to point out the pluses in local TV news reporting than to twit the more than abundant minuses at some stations.

Wednesday's late nighters had ample positives, so let's go to the videotape for some whip-around highlights.

***WFAA8's Shelly Slater had a telling progress -- or more accurately, regress -- report on projected completion of the controversial Trinity Toll Road. Timetables promised during last year's Dallas mayoral race since have fallen well off track, she said. An admitted "schedule slip" has put the project at least 14-to-15 months behind its scheduled 2013 reality.

"Every month (of delay) is worth about $10 million (in taxpayer money)," mayor Tom Leppert said.

An initial projected cost of $1.3 billion has been inflated to between $1.1 billion and $2.1 billion, Slater said. Reports like these take time, and a station's commitment to provide it.

***On fast-paced NBC5, reporter Scott Friedman is the only staffer who seems to occasionally be getting more than the station's standard 90 seconds to tell a story. He's also been anchoring weekends, making him only a part-time player on NBC5's late nighter.

Friedman had what seemed to be a solid and non-sensational story Wednesday on how embattled American Airlines might well be "saving fuel at the expense of safety."

At issue are the recently deployed high-speed tugs that can tow a jumbo jet without its expending any fuel. At night, the planes have their lights off because running them would require burning extra energy, Friedman said.

Last month, during daylight hours, an incoming American Airlines plane barely missed hitting a plane that inadvertently was towed onto a runway path. The pilot in essence managed to hop over the plane after sighting it.

"These big planes can be hard to see at night," D-FW airport spokesman and former local TV reporter Ken Capps acknowledged. "And that could pose a problem." American Airlines, in a statement, said it's studying it.

Friedman appeared to have done his homework, and was given extra time to present a balanced account.


***WFAA8's Steve Stoler, this time with help from colleague Craig Civale, followed up on an exclusive Tuesday night story about a Catholic priest who abruptly resigned from his McKinney parish after being linked to a now defunct Web site for gay priests.

The site allegedly was a place where men of the cloth could find sexual partners. But supporters from the priest's previous parish in Lancaster supported him on-camera and said he had removed his name from the site back in January 2000 after finding it objectionable.

"And we would certainly take him back if the bishop saw fit," a supporter from the Lancaster parish told Stoler.

The Dallas diocese is investigating the matter, which WFAA8 has handled very responsibly.

***CBS11's Stephanie Lucero easily has done the best reporting on the tragic death of a mother who was beaten to death with a baseball bat by her estranged husband, who's now in jail after threatening to jump off a bridge.

On Wednesday night, she interviewed the deceased's mother and boyfriend, both of whom understandably fear for their safety if Brent Stephens is ever released.

***Fox4 consumer Steve Noviello had another fun and informative time testing the "Deal or Dud" potential of those frequently advertised Debbie Meyer Green Bags.

They purportedly extend the lives of fruits and vegetables. And Noviello, with an assist from a veteran supermarket produce overseer, discovered that they in fact do just that.

As noted before, Noviello should find a way to syndicate this weekly feature. At the very least, Fox4 could throw out a monthly special at 6:30 p.m., where the syndicated rag mag Access Hollywood otherwise fouls the weeknight air.

***WFAA8's Gary Reaves had a nice feel-good story on a troubled-youth mentoring program called UMOJA, which is swahili for "unity." And CBS11's Jack Fink alerted the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to a money-wasting roadside sprinkler system that sprays an access road/parkway off Central Expwy. on a daily early morning basis, rain or shine. It supposedly will be fixed.

***Finally, CBS sports anchor Babe Laufenberg deftly zinged Cowboys' receiver Terrell Owens and his guest cameo on Wednesday night's Under One Roof sitcom on MY27.

"He played a con man trying to get money from a wealthy man," Laufenberg said of the episode, which attracted a very smallish 26,792 D-FW homes. "Doesn't sound far off from his deals with Jerry Jones."

Babe wasn't quite done. "From Flavor Flav (the show's star), let's go back to Doug E. Fresh and Karen," he said of anchors Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta.

Hey, not bad.

Five nights to go.

Jane McGarry waxes eloquent, seemingly remains a bush supporter

2862669_200X150 6249780_240X180

Veteran NBC5 anchor Jane McGarry apparently is intent on exploring new vistas in viewer interaction.

Her latest blog post on the station's Web site originates from "The Make-Up Room," where "usually it's all girls."

"And usually the talk isn't about news," she adds. "It's men, dating, children, food . . . the stuff we're all really interested in." (Yeah, those gnarly current events can be such a downer, particularly when you're in the TV news business.)

Anyway, McGarry has decided to "share" some of the girl talk. And in this latest dispatch, "the subject of the bikini wax came up" amongst the anchor and her colleagues.

"Do you get one or not?" McGarry asks. "I offered that I have before, but I can't see the point because you have to let the hair get along enough to wax again, which means, you'll need to shave! So why wax to begin with?"

But before you know it, "the bikini wax conversation" gave way to an in-depth debate on the merits of shaving vs. waxing vs. laser hair removal.

This is where coltish anchor/reporter Meredith Land came in. According to McGarry, she says that "these days, to younger women like her little sister, good grooming means a complete wax, if you get what I mean."

Well, it can all be quite a puzzlement, McGarry admits. "What if you get complete laser removal and the current trend turns out to be a fad?" she asks. "Are you stuck forever with something akin to a tattoo?"

McGarry ends by imploring readers of her blog to "let me know what you think!"

By the way, your friendly content provider at unclebarky.com is circumcised. Might as well get the ball rolling on that one, too.

Fox4's Henderson will be open to offers during second stint with Fox News Channel


Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson were happy together on a recent Good Day. They've been a team since August 2003. Photo: Ed Bark

Open to change while still happy at Fox4, Good Day co-anchor Megan Henderson says she'll "absolutely" entertain any Fox News Channel offers during a second weekend stint set for early next month.

"I love where I'm at," she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "But I also know I could grow, and I don't know what that's going to involve one way or the other. I'm keeping an open mind across the board, because I can right now. And that's really the story."

Henderson, who's co-anchored Good Day with Tim Ryan since August 2003, confirmed a Tuesday report by the Web site TV Newser that she'd be returning to New York on June 7-8 to guest-anchor FNC's Fox & Friends Weekend. The item also quoted FNC senior vice president Bill Shine as saying that Henderson "will have a meeting with (FNC chairman) Roger (Ailes) when she's here."

"That's what I'm told," Henderson said of the planned sit-down with Ailes, whom she first met several years ago during a trip to New York with Ryan and Fox4 news director Maria Barrs. FNC has "very high hopes for her (Henderson)," Shine said.

Ailes, who also founded FNC in 1996, is "pretty hands-on in general and very easy to talk to," Henderson said. "But at this point it's just all so preliminary. I'm flattered that they're even looking at me and even talking to me. How could I not be? Of course I'm interested in anything they have to say. Quite frankly, it's an honor. That sounds cheesy to say, but it is."

Henderson, still fighting a cold, missed Tuesday's Good Day but was back on the show Wednesday with a notably impaired speaking voice. With six weekdays left in the May "sweeps," Good Day remains in a tight three-way battle for 6 a.m. ratings supremacy with WFAA8 and NBC5.

FNC previously flew Henderson to New York in early April for guest-anchor appearances on Fox & Friends Weekend.

"I'm looking forward to doing it again," she said. "I had a great time the last time around. It's obviously flattering that they're curious about me. So I'm curious about them."

Still, it's not over 'til it's over at Fox4.

"I love who I work for, so I don't want there to be any question there," Henderson said. "They've been very supportive of me across the board, which I certainly appreciate."

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscast (Tues., May 13)

images_sizedimage_314160227 photo_servlet 15774029_240X180

CBS11's Jack Fink, Fox4's Brandon Todd and NBC5's Scott Gordon

All four late night news providers first hit their "Storm Watch" buttons. That'll always work in a pinch.

Then came a wide variety of nuts-and-bolts stories that filled the allotted times without generating all that much electricity.

There were no big, showy investigations or scoops that might have made rival news directors envious. Still, Tuesday night brought a lot of solidly capable work, with a number of reporters fashioning their own individual stories instead of chasing after the same ones. Here's a smorgasbord:

***CBS11's Joel Thomas looked into the tragic death of a four-month-old girl who apparently had a seizure. She was brought to Cook Children's Medical Center, given a shot and released. The infant then died in her crib after being taken home. Her mother lamented, "I just wish they would have kept her overnight."

Cook's is promising a thorough investigation.

***Fox4's Jason Overstreet had a far happier ending to his story of a boxer dog named Gracie that had been missing for seven months after a yardman inadvertently left a gate open. The distraught owner hired a "pet detective" from Oklahoma, whose efforts were unsuccessful. But news of the missing dog got around as a result of the publicity generated by the search. And finally, after all seemed lost, The Sachse Animal Control center called with news that a boxer had been found. It indeed was Gracie, who had been on the streets all that time. It's speculated that she hung around various construction sites to get fed scraps by workers. Lassie Come Home has nothing on this one.

***NBC5's Scott Gordon told viewers about a family that had been flooded out of their Arlington home a year ago and has been living in two small hotel rooms ever since. One of their daughters is all but incapacitated by serious brain damage suffered at birth due to deprivation of oxygen. Her parents since have been entangled in litigation to get their home repaired. Gordon in turn made this story hit home.

***WFAA8 sports reporter George Riba is ever-resourceful. On Tuesday he told viewers about the first Dallas boxer ever to make the U.S. Olympic team. He's 19-year-old Luis Yanez, whom Riba spotlighted in a feel-good story about a dedicated kid.

***Fox4's Brandon Todd had an interesting story on new high-tech scanner cameras getting a workout by Lewisville police. The cameras, attached to squad car roofs, can read hundreds or even thousands of license plates a day to determine if a vehicle has been reported stolen.

In a similar vein, the station's Shaun Rabb reported on tracking devices attached to students who are getting a last chance to either attend school or reporter to a court-mandated "boot camp." One of the students, attending Bryan Adams, will become his first family member in three generations to graduate from high school. He had been a devoted school-skipper until his daily whereabouts was monitored.

***Jack Fink of CBS11 had a compelling story on a former University Park paramedic-firefighter of the year who had been traumatized by some of what he countered during emergency calls. He told Fink of walking in on a man "decapitating his wife with a pair of scissors."

Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he was cleared to answer fire calls but not medical emergencies.

"I talked to them about it, and they fired me for it," he contended. It's now in the hands of attorneys.

All of the above stories were seen only on their respective stations. While not award-winners, each made their minutes count.


***CBS11's Nerissa Knight looked at comparative drug store pricing in part two of the station's "Money Savers" series. She bought the same 14 items at Walgreens and CVS, only to find an inconsequential 35 cents difference in the total costs. Walgreens ended up being cheaper, but "many say driving out of your way for a deal could cost you more," Knight concluded.

During the course of her travels, she bought an eight-pack of Double A batteries for $7.49 at Walgreens and $7.99 at CVS. Two words: Dollar Tree. You can buy a four-pack of Double A batteries for a buck apiece there.

***No one is more deserving of a career achievement award at WFAA8 than longtime production operations manager Jerry Cadigan. He finally got one Tuesday, namely the William H. Seay award from Belo Corp., which owns the station.

Anchor Gloria Campos commendably congratulated Cadigan during the 10 p.m. newscast as an indispensable behind-the-scenes miracle-worker.

***Long missing in action, "Doocy's Doozy" made its first May sweeps appearance on Fox4's Tuesday 9 p.m. news. Sports anchor Mike Doocy cued viewers to some choice quotes from Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, who's making a cameo appearance on MY27's Under One Roof sitcom Wednesday night.

The subject, however, was Owens' comments on Good Day about QB Tony Romo's recent butchering of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at a Chicago Cubs home game.

"Oh my goodness. I've heard him on plane rides. He just doesn't get it. He really thinks he can sing," Owens said. "And I even told him, 'Like, dude, you are tone deaf.' Terrible. Leave the singing to Jessica (Simpson). He would not even make it in the door on American Idol."

Actually, he would -- as a classically bad auditioner.

Doocy then sling-shotted one back at Owens. "It was bad," he said of Romo's singing. "But T.O. had better hope Romo doesn't criticize his acting, from what I've seen of clips of that show."

Six nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 12)

store camera for butt DA1-5thEdcvr blue_obstacle

Killer kid "Bounce Houses." A high school German textbook with a wee glimpse of potentially mind-warping female nudity.

But here's the good news. An oversized kiester could help prevent diabetes.

It's amazing -- and often depressing -- to contemplate what passes for news in a ratings sweeps month. This time it was mostly WFAA8's turn to go off a couple of deep ends with stories titled "Lesson In Nudity" and "Bounce House Danger."

Early in Monday's 10 p.m. WFAA8 newscast, reporter Jonathan Betz uncovered an advanced German textbook -- Deutsch Aktuell -- that had a picture of a German adult bookstore in the upper right hand corner of one of its pages. A male high school student saw it, and says that he and some of his fellow students started snickering a bit during class.

Then an aggrieved North Texas mom was brought in to declare, "It's shocking."

Betz told viewers that the textbook had been in use since 2005, with more than 3,000 copies being studied in the entire state of Texas. But now the Allen ISD plans to remove the book from its curriculum and Plano's considering doing the same.

Wow, way to crack down. And what a scandal -- in Mayberry maybe. The high school kid shown on camera in Betz's story said he found the whole thing humorous. And he didn't appear to be growing any hair under his fingernails either. But WFAA8 found it simply irresistible to run with something it could title "Lesson In Nudity."

"Bounce House Danger" had a nice sweeps ring to it, too. Anchor John McCaa first baited the hook by telling viewers, "Kids love them. But some parents say they have become death traps for their children."

One parent, actually. And that was a Washington mother who says her three-year-old son was killed while on an inflatable slide.

Veteran WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James did the story, noting that there are no safety regulations for inflatables in Texas.

"It's up to the parents' own common sense," said Jerry Hagins of the Texas Department of Insurance.

The last available "Bounce House" statistics, from a 2004 study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said that 4,900 injuries and four deaths had been caused by them in that year.

But it's suspected that "scores more injuries go unreported," St. James said.

Look, just about any toy can be branded dangerous these days. That's not to diminish the loss of the aforementioned Washington mother. But "Bounce House Danger" could be put right alongside "Swing Set Savagery" or "Tonka Toy Trauma." Hope that hasn't given 'em any more ideas.

Over on CBS11, anchor Karen Borta maintained a straight face while teasing, "You think your backside is too big? We'll tell you why fat inside your derriere may actually be good for you."

CBS11 titled this tease "Big Bottom Benefit" and deployed the standard-issue tight shots of anonymous, oversized female buttocks movin' on down the road. But the promo almost lasted longer than anchor Doug Dunbar's brief recitation of a Harvard University study that said a big momma's bounce could be a potential diabetes fighter. Or it could prematurely cut your life short -- which didn't figure into this particular story.

images_sizedimage_314154644 photo_servlet 6249690_320X240

CBS11's J.D.Miles, Fox4's Saul Garza, NBC5's Tammy Dombeck


GOOD WORK -- All four major late night news providers made mention of Hewlett Packard's proposed multi-billion dollar buyout of Plano-based EDS. But only CBS11's J.D. Miles had a full-blown, reporter-driven story. This potentially is a pretty big deal that could have far-reaching consequences for both EDS workers and the North Texas economy. It deserved more than comparatively passing mention on the other stations' most-watched newscasts of the day.

Fox4's weekly "What's Buggin' You?" segment, with Saul Garza presiding, is consistently interesting and informative. On Monday night's 9 p.m. newscast, he looked at what appears to be selective enforcement of alleged code violations by mostly small businesses using people in goody get-ups to attract customers.

A local tax service company received five citations for having a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty. And a man who looks as though he's having hard times got a pricey ticket for carrying a big red arrow on behalf of a mobile phone company. The man said he worked 40 hours a week at the job, for a wage of $6.00 an hour.

This type of law enforcement seems to be excessive and unneeded. (For that matter, so are all of those garage sale sign sweep-ups that bedevil people trying to make a little extra money.)

At the end of his report, Garza said that some of the codes cited in his story are being revisited and could be revised.

THIS JUST IN: SOME GROCERY STORES ACTUALLY ARE CHEAPER THAN OTHERS -- CBS11's Borta narrated a story on comparison shopping at Tom Thumb, Kroger, Wal Mart and Target to see which was selling 20 selected items at a lower total price.

There's no particular harm in this, even if it's a trusty old sweeps gambit that's been done many times before in this market and countless others. But did CBS11 think it had a scoop in showing SMU marketing professor Dan Howard saying, "When you compare stores, you can save money."

Revelations like these literally are priceless -- and pricelessly funny. In the end, CBS11 found Target to be the cheapest, followed by Wal Mart, Kroger and Tom Thumb. Howard professed himself "somewhat surprised" because, after all, Wal Mart says its prices are "always lowest."

CBS11 is promoting companion comparison shopping stories on Tuesday's and Wednesday's late nighters.

TAMMY'S TRIMMER -- NBC5 used early morning traffic reporter Tammy Dombeck as a prop for a heavily promoted story on her "slimming secrets."

"Gridlock buster Tammy Dombeck's been flooded with emails lately," anchor Jane McGarry contended. "People want to know what she's been doing."

Redoubtable Meredith Land then stepped into the breech, just as she did on Friday night for NBC5's lead story on a poisonous snake "invasion" of North Texas that turned out to be restricted to a family's backyard.

Land revealed that Dombeck's "sleeker, slimmer" look is the result of a "Fit Formula" in which a tailor designs bigger jackets to fit her "hourglass" top half while stitching the lower half tighter to conform to her "tiny" waist. In olden times girdles were used.

Anyway, Dombeck is a sweet, nice person who's only trying to keep her early morning job after colleague Rebecca Miller got gassed earlier this spring.

On the other hand, what's good for the goose also is good for NBC's male ganders. So since the Peacock has put this issue in play, what about news anchor Mike Snyder and sports anchor Newy Scruggs? With WFAA8 sports guy Dale Hansen keeping his weight off, Snyder and Scruggs easily rank as D-FW's tubbiest duo.

So what about a "Fit Formula" followup built around their expansive waistlines? What can be done about it? Is there possibly a way to make Mike look svelter when he stands and delivers those stories on snake invasions? But don't hold your breath or suck in your gut. Weight loss stories are always women's work on the local TV news front, while the guys can get away with looking like pork sausages.

Seven nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 9)

6249786_320X240 coral 6249778_320X240

Desperately seeking a second place finish ahead of CBS11 in the 10 p.m. total homes Nielsens, NBC5 went deep into its already dog-eared, "ooh scary" playbook Friday night.

A ready-made Saturday Night Live sketch emerged, although anchor Mike Snyder and reporter Meredith Land of course played it deadly serious with the station's lead story on marauding Texas coral snakes.

"They are poisonous, slimy and invading North Texas," Snyder proclaimed after viewers had choked down another edition of Dateline NBC. "See where snakes are slithering."

Snyder, sporting his traditional sweeps pinstripes, had only begun to tease. Erect and grave-faced as the newscast commenced, he manfully bellied up to this malarky: "Slithering in the grass and making their way into homes, a Dallas neighborhood is on edge tonight as deadly snakes invade their area. Good evening, I'm Mike Snyder."

Co-anchor Jane McGarry, serving herself sunny side up in a bright yellow jacket, otherwise agreed with Big Mike that "deadly snakes are popping up in a Dallas neighborhood."

Viewers then sighted Land, standing live in the dark in a backyard to spoon-feed what Snyder termed "one family's frightening snake story."

The "usually reclusive" reptiles have "been spotted in the grass near homes," Land said. "Herpetologists say pick one up and you are dancing with death."

Yes, she actually said that.

In reality, the potentially venomous Texas corals haven't yet mounted a full-blown snakes-on-the-plains offensive yet. But the innocent Wilkins family told Land of spotting four of them in the last six months. Not only that, a snake handler was called in to haul one of 'em off.

That's more than good enough for NBC5. Land and her cameraman cannily zeroed in on the family dog and the Wilkins' children, all of whom play in the family's backyard.

"If you have four active kids, it is no doubt" -- pause for effect -- "scary," the intrepid reporter said near the end of NBC5's latest sweeps sting operation.

Rival stations somehow completely missed this one. But NBC5 trumpeted it as the most important story of the day in the nation's fifth-largest television market.

Alas, the maligned coral snakes of Texas, depicted as a sinister gang of thugs, don't have the wherewithal to file a defamation of character suit against the Peacock. Then again, how many viewers bit on this one, either for laughs or out of concern for their safety? As wacky cowboy Burton Gilliam says in those long-running car dealer ads, "We don't care how you git here, folks. Just git here!"

izaguirreb1 photo_servlet civaleb

WFAA8's Cynthia Izaguirre, Fox4's Emily Lopez, WFAA8's Craig Civale

NOT MAKING THE GRADE -- WFAA8 early morning anchor Cynthia Izaguirre, making her first late night sweeps appearance, had a lengthy and very good report on yet another shortcoming in the Dallas Independent School District.

Her story said that 75 percent of DISD high school graduates enrolled in Dallas community colleges are unable to read beyond the eighth grade level. A developmental reading course is therefore required.

"How did I even receive a high school diploma?" one student wondered.

Izaguirre said that the state TAKS test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), which all students must pass, is faulted by many for not being demanding enough.

"Most teachers will tell you TAKS worksheets are shoved down their throats," she said. "We tried to get some teachers to talk on camera, but they declined for fear of getting in trouble."

Teachers sometimes are paid bonuses for getting their students through the TAKS test, one critic said. So that's the overriding priority, with "rigorous instruction" in essential disciplines suffering as a result.

DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who's spent ample time in front of WFAA8 cameras in recent months, told Izaguirre that "it's not just a Dallas issue. It's a national issue. It's a state issue. Of course I'm upset. But we don't need to blame people. We need to fix it."

He's been saying that a lot lately.

ANNIE OAKLEY WANNA BE -- On Fox4's 9 p.m. news, reporter Emily Lopez capped off her report on an increased demand for concealed handgun permits by squeezing off a round herself at a target practice facility. Her story otherwise had its sights set on a grandma who wants to pack heat for the first time.

"Anybody you talk to, they're just frightened," she told Lopez. "Too much crime." Maybe she's been watching NBC5 too much. The station returned to business as usual Friday night with a big helping of "Crime Alert" stories -- plus those snakes, of course.

TART DART REPORT -- WFAA8's Craig Civale reported on a return of bus service to the Turner Courts apartments neighborhood, where some drivers had been assaulted in recent months. DART had responded by steering clear of the apartments, with its buses instead stopping several blocks away. But the community strongly and successfully lobbied to have their service returned, complete with beefed-up security.

"Now the folks who use these buses rather than the punks who abuse 'em have the last word," Civale told viewers. That's telling it like it is -- and justifiably so in this case.

THE REAL WORLD -- NBC5's Brian Curtis and a chef from the trendy Scene and Fuse restaurants marveled their way through a North Texas 99 cents store, where actual edibles are available. After buying 17 items for $15.40, upper-crust cook Blaine Staniford whipped up a gourmet "Meal For a Steal."

Curtis sampled the "colorful tuscan-style pasta" and pronounced it "really fantastic."

"It doesn't taste like it came from the dollar store, that's for sure," he added.

Note to Curtis: many real people actually live this way when not fleeing from invading snakes.

WEDDING BELL NEWS -- Three of the four stations had reporters in nearby Crawford on the eve of presidential daughter Jenna Bush's private outdoor wedding. WFAA8 sat it out Friday night and didn't even bother mentioning the impending nuptials.

That's a puzzling "Who cares?" shrug at a story that seemed tailor-made for whimsical "Why Guy" Mike Castellucci.

Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 respectively sent Natalie Solis, Brett Johnson and Katherine Blake to Crawford. No one turned up anything earthshaking, but WFAA8 should have joined them in at least planting its flag.

MOUSE PROMOTED TO KERNEL -- WFAA8 patiently waited until the second half of Friday's newscast to report on a moviegoer who discovered a small, live rodent in the bottom of her hot buttered popcorn bag. David Schechter interviewed the woman, who asked that her face and identity be concealed. She feels the offending AMC Grand theater in Dallas should make a charitable donation -- to what, she didn't say -- instead of compensating her with just two free movie tickets.

WFAA8 had the exclusive on this one, but imagine what NBC5 might have done with it -- and maybe still might. It's easy to envision anchor Snyder proclaiming at the top of a newscast, "North Texas moviegoers are braced for the worst tonight as a gang of razor-toothed, disease-spreading rats prepares to invade their popcorn bags."

BLOOPER REEL -- It just wasn't a great night for NBC5. Snyder made a curtain call later in the newscast by telling viewers that D-FW motorists now are paying an average of $3.56 for a gallon of gas. But NBC5's accompanying graphic said the average price is $3.55.

Snyder then said, "That's still a dime cheaper than the national average of three dollars, 67 cents." No, it's either 11 cents or 12 cents cheaper.

JANE NEEDS A DRINK -- NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs lately is bantering a bit more, usually with McGarry.

After noting that McGarry's beloved Texas Rangers amazingly had won again, Scruggs told her, "You've been on the wagon. They're playing well."

"I need to be on the wagon," she replied.

"That's another story for another day," Snyder added.

"Never mind. It's Friday night," McGarry said before chuckling all the way to a commercial break.

Eight nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., May 8)

chrisb 6249788 images_sizedimage_314160045

WFAA8's Chris Hawes, NBC5's Grant Stinchfield, CBS11's Jay Gormley

A supposedly irate Dallas pizzeria owner has been griping lately about the local media's drum-beating of bad economic news.

NBC5 took her bait Thursday night, resulting in an oddly edible semi-apologia by reporter Grant Stinchfield.

"All the negativity has the owner of Sali's pizzeria outraged," he said, referring to a counter-offensive launched by plucky Sarah Saxon. "She's going on the record telling NBC5 and every other media outlet to quit it with all the economic doom and glom."

Stinchfield put her on-camera and then buttressed her bitching with supportive words from Southern Methodist University professor Michael Davis.

"Sadly for us, even one of SMU's top economists is backing Sarah Saxon up," Stinchfield said. Sadly for us?

Cameras then panned over a largely empty Sali's, giving the strong impression that business isn't so hot. But at the same time Stinchfield told viewers, "Sarah wanted us to know her restaurant's doing great. But she'd appreciate it if we'd stop scaring customers from spending money."

He again had it both ways with his live closer.

"Look," Stinchfield said plaintively, "the reality is we really do try to report the news you're interested in. And no matter what you may think, we're not talking about making up these numbers relating to the economy or anything else. With that said, Sarah's point is well-taken."

NBC5 seemed to scrimp a bit on lousy economic news Thursday, although anchor Jane McGarry did note that gas prices had jumped again.

Instead the station hit viewers with a rapid-fire burst of scary crime and tragedy news about a man who'd been beaten and carjacked, a ring of purse snatchers, a child hit by an SUV and two big drug busts. Pick your poison.

Meanwhile, CBS11 tore a page from deposed former news director Regent Ducas' run 'n' gun playbook, opening its 10 p.m. newscast with what anchor Karen Borta pitched as "a fiery rescue you will only see tonight on CBS11 news."

Reporter Jay Gormley again served as dutiful point man, priming viewers for a police video shot last month in Sansom Park. Cops were chasing four teenagers when the car they were in crashed into a building and began burning under the hood.

After first drawing their guns, police could be seen smashing side windows with batons and ordering the boys to get out of the car and get on the ground.

"The boy in the red shirt has a broken leg," Gormley narrated. "Minutes later, when the teens are a safe distance from the burning car, you can hear the boy with the broken leg screaming in pain."

Ooh boy. Can't wait for that. For the record, it was plain to see that the boy with the broken leg in fact wore red pants and a black shirt. But you could in fact see and hear him scream in pain.

Some marijuana and "several stolen purses" were found in the car, Gormley noted before thoughtfully informing viewers, "To watch the entire chase, fire and rescue, go to our Web site."

It's a shame to see a reporter with a decent reputation squander it so wantonly in recent weeks. At least that's the view from here.

In stark contrast, WFAA8 began with "The Suspect Within," an intriguing, behind-the-scenes tale of a rural fireman who's long been suspected of starting a series of fires.

Chris Hawes reported in-depth on the fireman's continued career path, lately as a member of College Mound's volunteer fire department. Seven fires have broke out since he arrived. And the fireman, Eric Campbell, finally has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of arson. He's set to enter a plea next month, Hawes said, emphasizing that "he has not yet had his day in court. And until that happens, he is, like all defendants, presumed innocent."

Reporting stories like these isn't nearly as simple as popping in a police video. But they're worth a viewer's time and a station's investment.


MORE GOOD WORK -- CBS11's Stephanie Lucero had an interesting story on how homeowner insurance rates often can be tied to their nearest fire department's response time ratings and overall excellence, as judged by ISO (Insurance Service Organization) exams. The better the rating, the lower insurance premiums are likely to be.

WFAA8's Brett Shipp offered another installment in his periodic investigation of the Texas Railroad Commission's diligence in ordering repairs of faulty gas pipe connections that can and have led to home explosions and deaths. Especially telling: the high percentage of campaign contributions that each of the three commission members have received from the oil and gas industry. All of them said it has absolutely no bearing on their decision-making, but you be the judge.

SOMETIMES THEY JUST PUNT -- Fox4 has had both standout and non-descript 9 p.m. newscasts during the May sweeps ratings period. Thursday brought one of the latter. I watched, listened and really didn't find anything that jumped out for better or worse. Except maybe for a sighting of veteran medical reporter John Hammarley who made his first sweeps appearance and seems to be rarely included on the 9 p.m. editions anymore.

Hammarley had an involving report on a young woman, now 20, who's been suffering much of her life from a rare, usually fatal genetic disorder called Batten disease. No one doubts Hammarley's compassion on stories such as these. But he probably shouldn't have closed his story by hugging its subject on-camera. That should have been a private moment between the two of them.

BLOOPER REEL -- Seasoned WFAA8 sports reporter George Riba, reporting live from Detroit on the Dallas Stars' loss to the Red Wings, committed an uncharacteristic, unforced error.

"Well, we heard things in the (Stars') locker room like Detroit is a very good football team," he said. "Well, we already knew that. But we also heard that this team is a little fatigued from that four-overtime win on Sunday night."

Extensive coverage of the Stars, so uncommon on D-FW newscasts until recently, is probably enough to leave football on the brain of any sports anchor or reporter. But no, George, the Detroit Lions long have been one of the NFL's biggest stinkers. The Red Wings, though, indeed are very good with the puck.

PETE 'N' DALE'S PLAYHOUSE: EXTENDED EDITION -- Boy there was no stoppin' 'em Thursday night, beginning with weatherman Pete Delkus' segue out of a brief story on that ever-expanding sinkhole in Daisetta, TX.

Anchor John McCaa noted that it's now gotten deep enough to accommodate "five Big Tex statues stacked on top of each other."

"Five big Tex statues. Two Dale Hansens," big Pete riposted.

After his weathercast, Delkus went deep into the email bag to read an elongated one from a viewer who's concerned about "the constant banter between Mr. Hansen and Mr. Delkus. It's borderline juvenile and I must say it continues to paint Mr. Hansen in a jealous, envious, petty demeanor toward Mr. Delkus."

Furthermore, "Mr. Hansen seems not to be able to stop his childish and boorish behavior until he has had the last slam. One example: Mr. Hansen makes fun of Mr. Delkus's hair. It's clear that Mr. Delkus has great hair. It's obvious to everyone that Mr. Hansen's jealous of his hair, his good looks and overall charm."

One out of three," Hansen rejoined. "You do have great hair."

It looks like these guys are intent on exhausting their repertoires before their big joint appearance on May 17th at the fifth in a series of Uncle Barky Shows (see banner ad above). It's free, it's for charity -- Stratos restaurant again will make a very generous donation -- and it looks like your congenial host can simply act like Marcel Marceau after perhaps getting a single question in.

Nine nights to go.

The Ticket's first "Great Game" is no walk in the park (Well, actually it was for awhile)


Picture book swing or rusty gate on a broken hinge? Photos: Ed Bark

FRISCO -- At first -- and especially in the second inning -- The Ticket radio's "Great Game" proved to be anything but.

A 10-to-5 score built in large part on a total of 12 walks, four wild pitches and two hit batters seemed to promise a long, redundant Thursday night for Team Musers, Team Hardline and the 4,000 or so fans at Dr. Pepper Ballpark.

Hardline pitcher Corby Davidson led the parade with a second inning stint that featured six walks, three wild pitches and two plunks before he trudged off without recording a single out.

But then came the unexpected. Pitchers started finding the plate, particularly game MVP Dan McDowell of the Musers. Fielders started catching the ball, particularly centerfielder Donovan "Donny Do" Lewis of the Hardliners. The seven-inning game accelerated, and the pre-game prophecy of the Musers' George "Jub-Jub" Dunham came to pass.

"We're bad," he said. "But they're really bad."

All in all, though, not bad. Team Musers won, 13 to 10, in a game that ended up with more total hits (16) than errors (11). And six walks in the final five innings is miserly when compared to a dozen in the first two.

The first such "Great Game" benefited the Frisco Roughriders charitable foundation and featured all of the station's prominent on-air personalities except Norm Hitzges.

But Big Norm did the over-the-air announcing, assisted by Dallas Mavericks play-by-play man and Ticket alum Mark Followill.

Followill had the line of the night. "This ain't like a Maverick broadcast," he said. "I can rip people now."

MVP McDowell ended up pitching two scoreless innings and walking just one batter. Lewis, one of his two broadcast buddies on The Ticket's afternoon BaD radio show, paced the losing Team Hardline by making five putouts in centerfield, recording the game's first two runs batted in and reaching base three of four times.

Bob Sturm, the B in BaD radio, had the historic first of many stolen bases in the inaugural game. He also scored its first run, giving Team Hardline a lead it held until that disastrous 10-run second inning. So put BaD radio's trio in this game's Hall of Fame, even though the teams were named for the more prominent morning and afternoon drive shows.

McDowell was characteristically humble during a post-game interview.

"It's a team game," he said. "I wish I could give it to the team. But I can't. It's mine."

Your friendly correspondent left the park with Hitzges' crumpled official score sheets in hand.

Let the record show that Norm finally wearied of the task after Lewis walked in the top of the seventh during Hardline's last at bat. He didn't bother to record catcher Michael Gruber's climactic groundball to shortstop, which was turned into a forceout at second base. Gruber then was tossed out at second himself after an errant throw got past the first baseman.

The crowd roared, perhaps partly in relief, while Team Musers members triumphantly threw their gloves in the air. Stoic Mike Rhyner, self-appointed captain of the Hardliners, looked embittered in defeat. Then again, his grim game face is pretty much his only face. So let's not jump to conclusions.

Here's a picture book look at a storied night in Ticket history. Or something like that.


Future stars of the game Dan McDowell and Donovan Lewis.


"Skin" and Gordon Keith get ready for game action.


Bob Sturm gets a grip in hopes of becoming a Topps card.


A pensive George Dunham knows what lies ahead.


It might be, it could be, it is -- congenial slugger Rich Phillips.


Hardliner Mike Rhyner has a gut feeling this ain't gonna be easy.


Opening night pitcher Craig "Junior" Miller signs a new contract.


Rangers fave Rusty Greer prepares to manage Hardliners to defeat.


Play ball! Junior Miller aims toward home in first inning.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., May 7)

images_sizedimage_275102758 JASON_WHITELY

CBS11's Katherine Blake and WFAA8's Jason Whitely

No one took note at the time, including the reporter on the scene and your dogged chronicler of D-FW's late night newscasts.

But yes, that was a gunshot going off behind her as CBS11's Katherine Blake did a live standup outside a Fort Worth apartment complex Tuesday night.

Blake revisited the scene on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast after her station teased, "Gunfire rings out on live TV." She had been reporting on the theft of a broken-hearted elderly widow's wedding rings when a single popping sound could be heard behind her as a tow truck drove by.

It turned out that its operator was being fired on by a handgun-wielding apartment-dweller whose illegally parked car was being towed. On Wednesday, Blake interviewed the tow truck driver, who showed her some pings in his four-wheeler's chassis.

Blake then told viewers, "The bullets were flying right in our direction while we were doing a live report on another story."

Although obviously a very rare occurrence, the incident underscores the possible perils of reporting live for live's sake on stories that otherwise often were completed hours ago.

News directors and station consultants prefer the "immediacy" and/or "urgency" of reporters standing in the late night dark rather than simply introducing their stories from the safety of the newsroom. But do viewers really care? Or does a joke from last fall's premiere episode of Fox's Back to You make a lot more sense under these circumstances.

Sent back to a courthouse where nothing had happened since his earlier dispatch, the sitcom's featured street reporter, Gary Crezyzewski, deadpanned, "It adds action and urgency for me to stand out in the cold in front of a dark, empty building."

A lot worse could have happened to Blake during her superfluous standup Tuesday night. And that's no laughing matter.

Over on WFAA8, recent addition Jason Whitely offered a lengthy report titled "Criminal Nurses." He set the stage by telling viewers, "Few times in history has nursing become such a lucrative career. That's because there's a shortage."

My wife, who's a longtime nurse, has yet to describe her profession as lucrative. Few of her peers would either. But Whitely was priming another of those worst-case-scenario pumps. Because a "News 8 Investigation" found "thousands of nurses with arrest records, one in 20 of them."

Until recently, the Texas Board of Nursing didn't have enough funds to perform its own background checks, Whitely said. Even with the money now in hand, the job won't be completed until 2012, he said.

That's all too typical of your tax dollars at work. But Whitely seemed to be painting a darker picture than really exists. He noted that some nurses previously have been charged with indecency with a minor. And a male Garland nurse, convicted in 1992, has been allowed to keep his license with the stipulation that he can't work with anyone under the age of 18.

Frankly, that seems fair. A criminal background shouldn't be grounds for permanent unemployment, whether the field is nursing or professional sports. Some occupations obviously are more sensitive and important than others, though. So Whitely's report is by no means a throwaway effort. Nor, however, was it an earth-shaker.

6249785_320X240 images_sizedimage_314155841 hansen

Featured sports guys Newy Scruggs, Babe Laufenberg, Dale Hansen


***WFAA8 reporter Steve Stoler had a good piece on how Plano residents are being soaked by an agreement that locks the city into sometimes paying for water it doesn't use. It's part of a 13-city pact, signed in the 1950s, Stoler said, that bases water rates on the highest yearly use. In 2007, consumption fell eight billion gallons short of the high-water 2001 mark. So consumers are making up the difference in their bills, Stoler reported.

***CBS11's now lone gun investigator, Bennett Cunningham, went after a company that apparently is misleading homeowners facing foreclosures. They sign papers in the belief they're saving their homes. But instead they're unwittingly signing them over to something called I Buy, Inc.

"We don't trick people, basically," said I Buy's Ramona Beasley after Cunningham tracked her down. But she didn't pass the smell test in what seemed to be a solid report.

***Aimed at the motherlode audience of 25-to-54-year-old women, NBC5's "Diet Danger" story by Brian Curtis at least had nothing to do with melting away unwanted flab.

He interviewed a young woman with surprisingly high blood pressure who found that a high-sodium intake had caused this. Curtis then went grocery-shopping with a dietician who pointed out some high-sodium foods that should be eaten in moderation. Not a bad little story.

***Three of D-FW's sports anchors got a little lippy Wednesday night. That's in the nightly game plan for WFAA8's Dale Hansen. But NBC5's Newy Scruggs and CBS11's Babe Laufenberg also let it be known that they frown on the Dallas Cowboys' decision to be part of HBO's Hard Knocks reality series for the first time since 2001.

Laufenberg, the radio color analyst for the Cowboys, broke this news earlier in the week.

"Now this can't be a good thing, can it?" he asked Wednesday. "The last time the Cowboys were featured, they proceeded to go 5 and 11. But (owner) Jerry Jones sees nothing but the positives."

That's because Jones somehow believes -- as he said in a sound bite -- that players will practice at a "higher level" in training camp when seen by a national audience during the five scheduled episodes of Hard Knocks. That doesn't say much for coach Wade Phillips' motivational skills.

Scruggs held a hand over his eyes in horror when he first mentioned Hard Knocks, which he termed "train wreck TV."

"I'm sure Jessica Simpson's father will get her a few cameos," he said. "Maybe T.O. will cry for his quarterback again."

Anchor Jane McGarry could be heard tittering off-camera at that one. Sorry, Jane, but I know Gloria Campos (to a degree). I've interviewed Gloria Campos (a while back). And you're no Gloria Campos, who regularly starches Hansen's comments with sonic laughs that have yet to break any window panes at Victory Park.

Hansen ignored Hard Knocks and instead went "Unplugged" on the tragic, on-track death of Eight Belles after the finish of Sunday's Kentucky Derby.

His wife, "the lovely Mrs. Hansen," is largely responsible for the Hansens owning 23 animals "at last count," he said.

Still, "you can't call for the ban of horse racing while eating a steak," he said. "If you want to talk about animal cruelty, I'm thinking a New York Strip is about as cruel as it gets. And I'm eating one tomorrow."

Horse racing isn't as bad as hunting, Hansen said, quoting a joke by comedian Paul Rodriguez on how it's not a legitimate sport if one-half of the participants "don't even know they're in the game."

But the sport could stand some changes, he added, including safer racing surfaces, curbing of allowed pre-race drugs and stripping jockeys of their whips, because "it just looks bad even if it isn't."

Furthermore, horses are "not built right. Horses that weight 1,200 pounds have little, skinny ankles the size of a silver dollar. They need Hillary ankles, but they don't."

That last one might get him in more trouble with NOW than PETA. But you won't find anyone in local television news who could care less. That's a virtue and definitely can be a vice. But that's Hansen, who later boasted, "I've got great legs for a fat guy."

Meanwhile on Fox4, sports anchor Mike Doocy briefly summoned his Regis Philbin impression after segueing from a news blip on Kelly Ripa being named the country's most popular mom.

That just didn't cut it on this night.

Ten nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 6)

watson 800px-Frying_pan_with_black_handle madden

Brad Watson into the frying pan and Ted Madden into the fire.

Tuesday's late-night newscasts mostly were a dull group indeed. But WFAA8 had its moments, good and bad.

Veteran reporter Brad Watson presided over a story with the foreboding title of "Lurking In the Sewers." It wasn't about giant rats or TMZ, though. Instead grease was the word.

Watson and a city inspector visited the Happy Year restaurant in northeast Dallas until its unhappy owner told the reporter he didn't want WFAA's cameras inside his building.

No matter, said Watson, because the eatery's still-deficient grease trap was outside. Faulty grease traps can allow all kinds of gunk to eventually clog city sewer lines. "And just like an artery, something bad happens," said Watson. Namely an unsightly, polluting overflow.

Watson then took his case to WFAA8's anchor desk. He occasionally enjoys using props, and Tuesday night's gambit worked much better than the dolls Watson once deployed to represent candidates in the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race.

This time he had a frying pan, a coffee can and one of "these cool little grease bags" provided by Dallas Water Utilities.

"Homes put more grease in sewers than restaurants," Watson said. So an environmentally friendlier alternative is to pour the stuff into a coffee can or bag, which he demonstrated without wearing an apron or seeming to be too much like Rachael Ray. Grease-filled cans or bags eventually end up in landfills, which are better are better alternatives than sewer lines, Watson said.

"Yeah, that's what my mother always did," anchor Gloria Campos chimed.

Show-and-tell can be risky business, but Watson pulled this one off to the overall benefit of a story that otherwise wasn't exactly teeming with drama despite its B-movie title.

Later came WFAA8 sports reporter Ted Madden, who usually does a pretty nice job. But his attempt to cast Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow as a comic book superhero played lamer than Josh Howard's playoff jump shot.

Stars play-by-play announcer Ralph Strangis tried to play along while Madden went to a comic book store before dumping this on poor Morrow: "You played super in Game 6. You were the hero of Game 6. Does that make you a super hero?"

Rather than getting a two-minute penalty for slashing Madden, Morrow stammered a bit before saying that goalie Marty Turco is the real hero.

This is what happens when local stations all but ignore hockey during the regular season and then look for tortured angles when it's suddenly the only game in town. Leave the real puckster talk to Bob Sturm and Dan McDowell on "The Ticket's" BAD radio. They've been covering the Stars from the start.


***Fox4 reporter Lynn Kawano had an interesting story on Chrysler's efforts to ramp up sluggish SUV and truck sales with a "Price Lock Card." It allows buyers of new vehicles to lock in at a $2.99 per gallon fee for the next three years. Rival auto companies so far are holding back with any similar come-ons.

***Fox4's Steve Noviello had an extended "On Your Side" look at a grandstander whose company promises to protect against identity theft. As proof, the owner foghorns his business by putting his Social Security number in full view on advertising trucks. The story had promise, but never hummed. Instead it got bogged down with too many facts and figures to digest and comprehend.

***NBC5, which still has a shot at winning the early morning news race, put another of that show's anchors, Brendan Higgins, in charge of a 10 p.m. story.

On Monday night it was Deborah Ferguson on yogurt. Higgins' "Allergy Answer" piece alerted viewers to yet another new cure that might be cheaper in the long run than pills and nasal sprays. Higgins shot up his own beak on-camera with a spray that he said costs him $11 per nostril per month. Guess he has a nose for nose, although this is really more about increasing the profiles of NBC5's early morning team.

***CBS11's "Private Workout" story, by reporter Katherine Blake, took viewers inside a smaller-scale exercise joint whose patrons get to work out mostly behind closed doors in private instead of amid all those other sweaty bodies. Frankly, the whole thing was nonsense from start to finish.

***CBS11 reporter J.D. Miles had a far more telling story on two young kids left for days by themselves in a filthy, broken-down home without any edible food or drinkable water. The father of at least one of them has been arrested while Child Protective Services tries to pick up the pieces. Some human beings are nothing of the sort.

***WFAA8 weatherman Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen came up sub-empty in their nightly banter.

Hansen wondered whether Delkus had taken a nap on the sports portion of the anchor desk.

It's like a grease pit over here," he protested.

"Is that all you could come up with?" Delkus asked.

Pause, one-two: "Can you imagine the drains in his neighborhood?" Hansen asked in turn, triggering another prototypical hootie toot from Campos.

Where's that damned frying pan?

Eleven nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 5)

6708835_320X240 images_sizedimage_317121808

Women's work Monday for Deborah Ferguson and Nerissa Knight.

Ah, cellulite. It's the mother's milk on way too many nights for newscasts looking to court and keep the interest of 25-to-54-year-old women viewers.

CBS11 struck again Monday, and this time Nerissa Knight drew the short straw after a prominent station tease that showcased a shapely pair of apparently cellulite-free glama-gams.

"Zapping away cellulite. The pioneering North Texas procedure that can give you smoother legs that last," trilled news anchor Doug Dunbar.

That's as far as it usually goes for the males of the species on late night D-FW newscasts. Such stories otherwise are considered women's work, even if the telegenic females who present them are in little if any need of the myriad diets, skin-smoothers, blemish-removers, fat-suckers and other cosmetic remedies coming at you like chocolates on a Lucy-Ethel assembly line.

Over on NBC5 Monday night, early morning co-anchor Deborah Ferguson made a rare cameo appearance to report on what anchor Jane McGarry termed "yogurt's powerful promises" for women looking to stay slim and healthy.

WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James generally has pithier stories to tell. But she's also a veteran purveyor of the poop on various goops that supposedly can keep women from prematurely resembling Granny Clampett.

St. James' Monday contribution helpfully showed ways to get free health care via clinical research studies. Her case study, not surprisingly, was a young, attractive woman who's been getting gratis treatment for her "crippling rheumatoid arthritis." Male patients and their maladies just aren't as saleable, thank you very much.

That leaves Fox4's late night newscasts as the only ones that rarely resort to heavily teased stories aimed directly at those "desirable" 25-to-54-year-old women viewers. Maybe that's in large part because the Fox network long has had a larger percentage of prime-time series with high male appeal, ranging from 24 to its Sunday night cartoon lineup.

There's method to rival stations' madness. As often noted in these spaces, 25-to-54-year-olds are the main advertiser target audience for news programming. And there's definitely a gender gap when it comes to that audience's appetite for D-FW newscasts. On the Big Three 10 p.m. shows -- NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 -- here's how it broke down Monday night among 25-to-54-year-olds:

First 15 minutes (93,299) women; second 15 minutes (53,939 women)
First 15 minutes (46,088 men); second 15 minutes (28,247 men)

First 15 minutes (91,841 women); second 15 minutes (78,721 women)
First 15 minutes (59,468 men); second 15 minutes (62,441 men)

First 15 minutes (61,228 women); second 15 minutes (68,517 women)
First 15 minutes (14,867 men); second 15 minutes (22,301 men)

So yes, it's a fact of newscast life. Substantially more women in a key demographic are watching the news, even if their numbers in large part taper off during those traditional second-half onslaughts of cellulite stories and their many kindred offspring.

Women, of course, could be much better served by stories that don't continually assault their body images while holding hope for quick cures.

But maybe men aren't watching in nearly the same numbers because we're grossly underserved when it comes to stories about basic, banal, skin-deep needs. Just once, wouldn't you like to see some of these following stories with male reporters required to slog through every last one of 'em?

***Jock itch -- a clear and present danger. Only NBC5's Grant Stinchfield has the balls to show you how to fight this potentially fatal disease.

***Battling unwanted back hair -- a dramatic new treatment can have your lady purring like a Cheshire cat at a tuna factory. CBS11's Jay Gormley shows how you, too, can be a smooth operator.

***Nose-picking seems harmless enough, right? But WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp shows how some frequent North Texas practitioners could be sealing their death warrants.

***You've seen the ads -- Cialis vs. Viagra. Now get the performance breakdown you've been looking for. Veteran reporter Ken Kalthoff personally test-drives both products in a special extended report you'll see only on NBC5. We're calling it "Tent pole or Swizzle Stick?"

***Breaking wind can be a gas, gas, gas when you're with your beer-drinking buddies. But CBS11's Chris Salcedo tells how some flatulent North Texans may be getting more than they bargained for -- including possible death by asphyxiation.

***Sports bars usually are a great place for guys to gather and watch their favorite teams on big-screen TVs in high-definition. WFAA8's Gary Reaves finds something else, though -- contaminated beer nut residue that if swallowed could leave you letting loose with a whole lot more than "Go Stars!!!"

***Rating North Texas' best beer guts. CBS11 reporter J.D. Miles shows how you can get in the game with just the right brews.

***"Hey there, baby. I seem to have misplaced my Congressional Medal of Honor somewhere." Is that old standby getting a little stale? NBC5's Randy McIlwain tries out what experts say are the latest sure-fire come-ons during his tour of North Texas' hottest singles bars.

***It's prime grilling season again, but don't let your bratwurst down. WFAA8's Jim Douglas tells you how to kick up that barbecue IQ a notch while also making yourself a charcoal Casanova when the pretty ladies line up to sample your meat.

There, that should be enough to get things started.


***All four sports anchors led their Monday night segments with full-blown stories on the Dallas Stars' home win against the San Jose Sharks in Sunday's marathon Stanley Cup playoff game. It's been a long, long time since hockey's been such a marquee player.

***Fox4 investigator Paul Adrian weighed in for the first time during the May "sweeps" with an undercover expose on doctors who seem to be letting non-M.Ds. write out prescriptions on pads bearing their names. Offending storefront medical clinics in McKinney and Grand Prairie quickly shuttered their doors when Adrian began asking questions. First, the station's hidden cameras caught two unlicensed practitioners in the act.

One doctor, later confronted at a gas station, tried to drive off while a gas pump remained in his tank. Adrian, whose work again seemed solid, warned him about this oversight. He then pumped the doc with more unanswered questions before he finally was able to motor away.

***Intrepid reporter Jason Overstreet, who's leaving Fox4 at the end of the May sweeps for a non-TV news job, interviewed a McKinney woman and her nine-year-old son after their home had been burglarized by a gang of 12-to-14-year-olds who since have been caught by police.

The mother said she felt violated. Meanwhile, her video game-loving son talked to Overstreet while playing his "favorite" -- Grand Theft Auto. Sorry, but it's hard to feel tons of sympathy for a parent who lets her nine-year-old boy play an ultra-violent video game that's supposed to be for "teen to mature" users. The kid said he'll now lock up his Grand Theft Auto game to keep it safe. Its players delight in pretending they're hardened criminals.

***CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham resumed pounding away at the North Texas Tollway Authority and its board's alleged unconscionable spending of taxpayer money on lunches, dinners and other creature comforts. His first "sweeps" report on this subject aired last Wednesday.

The NTTA's still relatively new executive director, Jorge Figueredo, again promised to make major changes, some of which already are in effect, Cunningham said.

"It makes me angry to hear these things and to talk about them," Figueredo said.

Cunningham might want to back off now and give Figueredo a shot at making good on his promises. He's made his points, as has Figueredo. Yet another sweeps-induced installment might well dilute the effectiveness of what so far has been an eye-opening investigation.

Twelve nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 2)

photo_servlet-3 photo_servlet photo_servlet-2 page5_blog_entry55_3

Fox4's James Rose, Jeff Crilley, Steve Noviello, Shaun Rabb

Fox4 occasionally has been faulted in these spaces for seeming to mail in its end-of-the-workweek Friday newscasts.

They've sometimes been overstocked with video from outside sources and stories from other Fox-owned stations. Not so with the latest Friday edition, which was well-fortified with a mix of innovative, touching and provocative staff-driven pieces.

The station led its 9 p.m. newscast with the jaw-dropping jailhouse comments of a very unrepentant Mesquite man who on Wednesday shot his wife to death and wounded two of their children before turning himself in.

Michael Ray Turner remains "cold and callous," said reporter James Rose. He fronted the story after taking a late night handoff from Fox4 colleague Scott Sayres, who did the interview during his earlier shift. (Note: this is a common practice at other D-FW stations as well, but there should be some way to acknowledge the original reporter's work.)

Turner, who didn't talk to any other station, gave viewers a startling glimpse into the mind of a cold-blooded, deluded despot. One can argue the merits of giving him any kind of forum. But in this case, Turner made an air-tight case for his permanent incarceration -- or worse.

At the other end of the spectrum, reporter Jeff Crilley told of a five-year-old Garland boy who recently had a benign brain tumor removed from his skull. His parents bought him a Mastif to help with his post-operative recovery. But the dog then developed a tumor in her stomach that has left her skeletal and incapable of eating after losing 100 pounds. This was a real tearjerker. Crilley told the story both sensitively and compellingly before promising to keep viewers updated on an emergency operation that was in progress late Friday night, he said.

Also on Fox4, reporter Shaun Rabb had late night's only full, reporter-driven story on the tornado that ransacked parts of Canton, including the site of its famed "First Monday" trade days. He had a terrific selection of interviews, with telling photography to match. This was on-the-spot eyewitness reporting at its best, with "First Monday" set to proceed as scheduled after a considerable cleanup. Rival stations offered low-impact, anchor-recited briefs with accompanying video.

Fox4's Steve Noviello, in his weekly "On Your Side" segment, had an eye-opener on the inner workings of North Texas' 10 Goodwill stores. He went to a massive staging warehouse where some 25 million pounds of donations are sorted and/or discarded annually.

Noviello's tour guide said that 32 percent of donations have to be trucked away a second time at Goodwill's expense because they're too damaged to sell.

"Some $80,000 annually is spent hauling your trashed trinkets," he said. So some donors would be wise to clean up their acts. Enterprise stories such as these are well worth a viewer's time.

Fox4's Lari Barager later had an interesting and balanced report on a same sex wedding in Fort Worth held outside a national United Methodist Church convention to protest the exclusion of gay people from both membership and clergy positions. And the station capped things off with its usual extended Friday edition of the nightly "Viewers' Voice" segment.

It's often amazing -- and sometimes depressing -- to hear what some people think of the TV news coverage they've consumed. But on Friday night, their investments paid dividends.


***WFAA8 led its 10 p.m. news with Gary Reaves' report on efforts to curb violence in Dallas schools via a so-called "Peace Plan" aiming to enlist "mentors," student leaders and the media's help. He had some jarring statistics on an unnamed middle school that in just the past school year has recorded 2,176 "incidents," including 161 fights and nine assaults on adult personnel.

***Its heavy crime story count has been downsized in recent months. But NBC5 still likes to ramp up the fear factor.

"A deadly bug is sweeping the nation at an alarming rate," anchor Mike Snyder proclaimed before foreboding music further set the stage for Meredith Land's report on C-dif (Clostridium Dificile) bacteria that can cause diarrhea and sometimes death.

Fellow news anchor Jane McGarry later picked up the baton, telling viewers that "a killer weed is attacking North Texas wildflowers and could soon move to your wallet."

***CBS11 had solid and affecting efforts by Steve Pickett and Joel Thomas, both of whom reported on family tragedies.

Pickett attended a candlelight vigil and interviewed the mother and sister of Arlington barbershop owner John Jackson II, who died outside his place of business while trying to stop a punk from stealing his car. His barber chair was covered Friday by a black shroud and a bouquet of white roses.

Thomas followed up on the station's earlier story about "Baby Lydia," who needs a heart transplant and has been hospitalized since her birth three months ago. Her parents, who have three other children, abruptly were evicted from their home after falling behind on rent payments due to the heavy medical bills they're also trying to absorb. Their only place to stay at present is their daughter's hospital room.

***CBS also continued pandering to women viewers with Brooke Richie's story on yet another new diet book. Or as anchor Karen Borta teased, "Only on CBS11 news. The flat belly secret." Wisely -- for now at least -- rival stations let CBS11 have this one to itself.

***NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs aimed a rare opinion at Snyder and McGarry after finishing up Friday. He noted that the No. 1-seeded Boston Celtics were facing a seventh playoff game Sunday (which they easily won) against the upstart No. 8 Atlanta Hawks.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had better be wary because "you get fired when you don't win games like that," Scruggs said. "As Avery Johnson can attest."

"Kinda like TV," rejoined McGarry before chortling for what seemed like an eternity, but was only a few seconds. Hmm, stay tuned.

Thirteen nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., May 2-4)

Bleary-eyed but still basking in the afterglow, your friendly content provider stayed up all the way to the bewitching hour for Sunday/Monday's marathon Dallas Stars-San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup playoff match.

So, too, did many of you, with hockey dominating D-FW's very late night landscape in ways it seldom has. Pocket calculator technology and a Nielsen ratings printout say that the Stars' quadruple overtime win, finally accomplished at 1:24 a.m. Monday, averaged 104,731 homes for its entire running time on Fox Sports Southwest.

Overall household ratings fell off a bit as the game kept going and going and going. But the share of television sets in use kept increasing as viewing options downshifted to an otherwise vast wasteland of mostly informercials, lousy movies and moth-eaten series repeats.

From 1:15 to 1:30 a.m. -- Nielsen measures audiences in 15-minute increments -- Stars-Sharks still had 90,227 homes in tow. But the audience share was 18 percent, the game's highest of the night. It had started with a 5 percent share at 8 p.m.

More impressively, the joyous 1:15 to 1:30 a.m. climax, which found the Stars advancing to play the dreaded Detroit Red Wings, had a 23 percent share of advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. To repeat, audience share is the measurement of television sets actually in use. So this means that nearly a quarter of D-FW's TV-watching 18-to-49-year-olds were seeing Stars.

Advertisers got a big bonus, too, because their commercials kept repeating. Younger viewers could either laugh at the barrage of Cialis ads or go with the flow of those constant Bud Natural Light comedy spots. Is that a rocket in your pocket or a nice head on your beer? Sorry.

Here's another comparison. ABC's Desperate Housewives was Sunday's most-watched program with far more D-FW total homes (250,867) than the Stars. But DH averaged a lower audience share -- 17 percent -- than the Stars' late night haul because there were many more enticing viewing alternatives from 8 to 9 p.m. than from 1:15 to 1:30 a.m.

Even so, this is a major ratings victory for the Stars, whose Nielsens barely registered for much of the regular season.

On to Friday's local news derby, where overall kingpin WFAA8 had an unusually tough time.

At 10 p.m. the ABC station ran second to CBS11 in total homes and well behind NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

The 6 a.m. race, still red hot, saw Fox4 edge WFAA8 in total homes, with the Peacock right behind. But in the 25-to-54 demo, it was NBC5 solidly on top ahead of WFAA8 and a lagging Fox4.

WFAA ran first in total homes at 5 and 6 p.m. while clipping runnerup NBC5 by just one-tenth of a rating point (2,436 viewers) in the 6 p.m. competition for 25-to-54-year-olds. The Peacock won comfortably in that key demographic at 5 p.m.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., May 1)

images_sizedimage_314154644 photo_servlet david_m 15774029

Leading off: J.D. Miles, Emily Lopez, David Schechter, Scott Gordon.

D-FW's four major late night TV news providers had a like number of different lead stories Thursday.

Let's evaluate them on their respective merits on what turned out to be a pretty sluggish news day.

WFAA8's David Schechter had the strongest of the bunch. He continues to traffic heavily in traffic reporting, with this story pinpointing the area's major tollway speed traps based on a study of tickets written in the past year.

Garland turned out to be the biggest threat to speeding motorists. Its two-mile stretch of the George Bush Turnpike netted 2,419 speeding tickets, compared to just 100 written for a 22.5 mile stretch farther up the road.

Schechter and litigator Everett Newton, whose desk top nameplate identifies him as "the rock and roll attorney," questioned whether the tickets are hard-and-fast moneymakers on pay roads with "artificially low" 60 mph speed limits that likely will be upped to 70 in the coming year.

Motorists are "ducks sittin' on a pond for some local officer to . . . raise revenue for the city," Newton charged.

Schechter's balanced report also included interviews with police and tollway spokespeople who said that safety is the primary concern.

"The police department says we don't make the rules, we just enforce them," Schechter concluded. All in all it was a very solid report.

Fox4's Emily Lopez, with the help of an attorney, reported exclusively on a school gym class accident that has left a kindergarten boy badly injured and in the hospital.

His parents and their lawyer wonder why it took R.L. Thornton elementary school officials so long to phone 911. A school nurse was "not at liberty" to talk, said Lopez. And DISD officials "refused to answer any questions."

It was an interesting story, but with one caveat from this perspective. The no-commenting school officials bear a striking resemblance to Fox4 news executives, who decline to comment on any personnel matters. So let's not point fingers too hard after the station's reporters similarly are rebuffed in their pursuits of what really happened.

CBS11 led with reporter J.D. Miles' piece on an "exploding" epidemic of cheese heroin use by high school students and younger. He interviewed a 16-year-old girl who was gifted with the drug on her birthday and ended up over-dosing.

This obviously is becoming a very serious problem, but all four stations already have addressed it repeatedly. Miles' story had value, but cheese heroin horror stories unfortunately have become a dime a dozen.

NBC5's Scott Gordon followed up on the station's previous story about a supposed ROTC cadet and university student who was robbed outside the downtown Dallas Greyhound bus depot while he was having a seizure. The young man, Andrew Bow, later told his story on NBC's Today show.

Grainy video of the robbery, which NBC5 had shown before, remains very unsettling to watch. But now Bow's story about his background is falling apart, said Gordon, who was backed up by the findings of Dallas Morning News metro columnist James Ragland.

Bow "hasn't returned our messages," said Gordon. Whatever his background, this didn't seem like a good enough story with which to lead a newscast. Then again, that's the case on many nights on one or more D-FW stations.


***Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb had a very interesting look at the recent history of wrongly convicted prisoners who were freed on the basis of DNA evidence. It was tied to James Woodard of Dallas, released this week after wrongfully serving 27 years in prison for murdering his girlfriend. DNA evidence exonerated him, and he'll tell more of his story this Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes.

***CBS11's Jay Gormley went to Wilmer to report on what one citizen described as a "cutthroat, dirty, evil and vindictive" mayoral race in that burg.

All well and good. But does anyone remember how little attention all four stations paid to the last Dallas mayoral campaign while happily taking the candidates' money for their paid ads? It's only a slight exaggeration to say that Gormley's juicy little Wilmer story ate up as much time as his station spent on the entire campaign to succeed Dallas mayor Laura Miller. And no, we're not counting election returns night. They all paid attention to that.

***On NBC5, reporter Grant Stinchfield told viewers about a poor dog named Charlie, who was dragged through a Palo Pinto County neighborhood after being tied to a car bumper by its owner. Charlie is recovering, but still has two casts on his legs.

Stinchfield tracked the dog-dragger down and found a man who appears to have the IQ of a celery stalk. "I never wanted the dog to start with," he said. Reporters should be objective, but no one would have objected to Stinchfield decking this sub-human while the camera rolled.

***Reporting live from a petting zoo at Fort Worth's annual Mayfest, Lynn Kawano encouraged visitors to drop in at Fox4's booth, where apparel is available. She then held up Good Day t-shirts with caricatures of anchors Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson. It was puzzling to her -- and no doubt to many -- that the Ryan t-shirt is pink while Henderson's is blue.

***Segueing from his nightly weather report, WFAA8's Pete Delkus turned to sports anchor foil Dale Hansen and said, "What's the deal with the costume tonight? You look like Al Capone."

Hansen wore a very busy outfit -- a dark suit with wide white pinstripes, a shirt with purple pinstrips and a square-patterned purple tie. In his view, he was dressing like Denny Crane, the flamboyant William Shatner character on ABC's Boston Legal.

From this vantage point, Hansen looked more like Paulie Walnuts after a shopping spree at a Goodfellas garage sale.

Fourteen nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., April 30)

p1_avery cuban270x336

Owner Mark Cuban's firing of Dallas Mavericks' coach Avery Johnson easily qualified as Wednesday's biggest North Texas tongue-wagger.

Three of D-FW's four major TV news providers played it prominently on their late night newscasts. You probably already can guess which one didn't. Let's go to the videotape.

Fox4's 9 p.m. edition gave the story second billing after ill-advisedly leading off with reporter Lari Barager's dispatch on the latest SUV to smash through a home. No one was injured. It made for another of those show 'n' tell TV picture stories, but not to the point of putting it first in line..

Sports anchor Mike Doocy then took center stage after news anchor Steve Eagar sniped, "The team is now known more for being a punch line than a basketball powerhouse."

Doocy, as did WFAA8 and CBS11, played audio of Johnson's no-hard-feelings remarks earlier in the day on ESPN radio. He eventually added a brief commentary of his own after terming the late-season trade for point guard Jason Kidd "a disaster."

"Avery Johnson's the type of guy you'd love to have leading your franchise for years," Doocy said. "But he seemed to have lost this team, and it appeared to me Avery was more than ready to move on. He knows he can immediately move into a situation better than the one he left."

WFAA8 topped its late-nighter with "Au Revoir Avery," which also served as a staging area for sports anchor Dale Hansen's later "Unplugged" commentary.

Hansen at first said it wasn't a "scorched earth" successor to last week's demolition of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his signing of controversial cornerback "Pacman" Jones. "Well, yeah it is, too," he then added.

Actually it was considerably tamer, with Hansen this time using an air rifle instead of a howitzer. Not that he thinks much more of Cuban than Jones.

"One Jerry Jones in this town is enough," he began. "Now we've got two."

Cuban, who quickly blew town to attend a Chicago Cubs game, risks being too impatient with a coach who won big in the regular season but lately bombed in the playoffs, Hansen said. Legendary coaches ranging from John Wooden to Tom Osborne to Tom Landry endured the agony of defeats for several years before getting to the promised land, he noted.

During most of Cuban's nine years as owner, the Mavericks at least seemed potentially close to winning an NBA title, Hansen said. But with this season's revolting developments, "the hope this team had, that's gone, too."

CBS11 played Johnson's firing second, following a lengthy top-of-the-newscast investigation of more seemingly wasteful spending by the North Texas Tollway Authority. More on that later.

Sports anchor Babe Laufenberg had the night's only video/audio of Cuban telling an ESPN reporter at the Cubs game that "the pieces just weren't fitting together." Asked about possible replacements, Cuban said, "There's a long list" before cackling unbecomingly.

The Babe's regular sports segment included more on the story, but no commentary from him. That's a shame. Let the guy air it out once in a while. Or maybe it's just Laufenberg's choice to keep his opinions to himself.

That leaves NBC5 sports anchor Newy Scruggs, who wasn't allowed to intrude beyond his regularly scheduled, truncated sports segment at the butt-end of the newscast.

Scruggs said he spoke earlier Wednesday with Johnson, whom he characterized as being "glad" to be leaving the Mavericks. After a brief report from Derek Castillo, Scruggs urged viewers to get "my take" on his blog.

"The blog blew up today," Scruggs said. "A lot of you are mad at Mark Cuban."

That's overstating it a bit. As of early afternoon Thursday, Scruggs' "take" had just seven comments, four of them taking aim at Cuban. But he had some interesting information in his commentary, some of which should have made it onto the air.

Scruggs said he reached Johnson on his way home to the Woodlands to see his son, who was "taken off on a stretcher" after getting hurt playing football at school.

"He (Johnson) wanted to check in on his kid," Scruggs wrote. "That is more important than having a press conference with the DFW media."

These two blog passages also should have been on NBC5's Wednesday sports segment:

"Avery didn't say it, but I know him and his pride says this, 'See how good the Mavs are without me. Let's see if the next coach will win 60, 67 and 51 wins (sic) and make the NBA Finals."

"Avery Johnson did not want to trade Devin Harris for Jason Kidd. He didn't say it, but he said, 'Devin was like a son to me. He's my second son.' Read the tea leaves. This was a move Dirk (Nowitzki) wanted. It was a move Mark Cuban wanted and Avery played the good soldier."

That's some pretty good stuff. And on a big story like this, it's just not nearly enough to send viewers to NBC5's Web site. Many of them obviously never got there.

images_sizedimage_314155307 6249781_320X240 page9_blog_entry18_5

Reporters Bennett Cunningham, Randy McIlwain and Fil Alvarado


LET THEM EAT CAKE (AND DONUTS) -- CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham had another fine time with expense accounts filed by the North Texas Tollway Authority.

He again found its board members blowing lots of taxpayer dollars on restaurants and caterers. Or as Cunningham put it up top: "Toll officials don't like meeting without eating." Or snacking. In the past two years, one official spent $2,000 in public funds on donuts, Cunningham found.

The Authority's executive director, Jorge Figueredo, promised to put the clamps on wining and dining when he was appointed to the post last summer.

"But does he really mean it this time?" Cunningham asked somewhat rhetorically after showing video of Figueredo making that pledge in a CBS11 interview last November.

To his credit, Cunningham confronted him again about the Christmas parties, big dinner tabs and other outings billed to taxpayers since last fall.

"It's embarrassing to me, personally and professionally, yeah," said Figueredo. Cunningham said that the Authority's policy on employee credit card use is being "thoroughly reviewed" in light of CBS11's latest findings. Meanwhile, the reporter had better be sure to pay all of his tolls on time. Because somebody's going to be watching -- perhaps while eating a taxpayer-funded Moon Pie.

CHECKMATE -- All four major news providers reported Wednesday night on the aborted attempt by Charles Ray Fuller to cash a $360 billion dollar check at a Fort Worth bank. But NBC5's Randy McIlwain easily had the most fun with it.

McIlwain occasionally gets a little nutty with a story, as he did a while back during a report on grackle poop. This time he was the only reporter to interview the man's girlfriend and her mother, on whose account the check was drawn.

Crusty old momma was pretty colorful, saying she'd be drinking margaritas somewhere if she had that kind of money. But McIlwain outdid her.

"Charles Ray had a Ray Charles moment," he told viewers. "Because you have to be blind not to realize the check police say he'd stolen from (girlfriend Andrea) Greer's mother and tried to cash was made out for $360 billion dollars."

Fuller purportedly intended to use the money to start his own record company. But now he's doing the jailhouse rock. Back to McIlwain: "If convicted, Fuller will have his record. It just won't be a hit. And certainly not playing well with a key demographic -- women who know him best."

That pretty much beat the stuffing out of CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar's rejoinder to desk partner Karen Borta. "A for effort. Gotta hand it to him," Dunbar cracked. Let's send him to Randy McIlwain Finishing School.

GAS CAP -- Longtime Fox4 reporter Fil Alvarado journeyed to Wise County for a good gas price story on ancient "mechanical style" pumps that won't work when the per gallon charge hits $4. Diesel fuel already has climbed above that mark, with some station owners trying to sell it for $3.99 for as long as possible, Alvarado said. Others have simply stopped selling it.

The dust-crusted old pumps looked as though they were from the Paleolithic Age. But Alvarado found 'em, and his story was a nice little eye-opener.

MISSING PART -- WFAA8 reporter Bob Greene had his station's second-billed story on the delayed response time to a 911 call by a man who discovered a man lying motionless in the street.

Police chief Roy Minter told Greene that a "full investigation" is forthcoming because "it does not appear that we handled this matter appropriately."

But what was wrong with the man? Greene never said a word about that before anchor Gloria Campos told viewers they could read more on the story in Thursday's Denton Record-Chronicle, which like WFAA8 is owned by Belo Corp.

The newspaper said that the man eventually was treated by a police officer and paramedics, who found him to be heavily intoxicated. He later was jailed on a charge of public drunkenness.

Viewers shouldn't have to take this extra step to learn about a basic fact that Greene should have included in his story.

TAKING A HARDLINE -- All four stations also covered a shooting in Mesquite during which a man killed his wife and wounded his two stepchildren before turning himself in. But Fox4's Jeff Crilley had details the others missed, plus a provocative quote from Mesquite police lieutenant Steve Callarmann.

People are always looking for reasons why these things happen, Callarmann said. But in his view, "This is a despicable, evil act perpetrated by an evil man. And whatever his motive is, quite frankly, I don't care."

WAXING POETIC -- Yes, that indeed was your friendly unclebarky.com proprietor appearing briefly on Fox4 Wednesday during reporter Brandon Todd's followup story on American Idol judge Paula Abdul's Tuesday night meltdown.

Assessment: I shouldn't be seen in public, let alone on a television screen.

Fifteen nights to go.

Hello, we must be going? It used to be "What's your hurry?"

Once upon a time WFAA8 traditionally signed off its closing weekend newscasts with a very early form of music video in which the names of otherwise unsung behind-the-scenes contributors rolled leisurely at the end.

This one, still oddly affecting and soothing, is from Sept. 14, 1978. Anchor Michael Brown cues viewers to an area donut-eating competition set to Tony Bennett's "The Good Life." Clearly there's no time for this kind of stuff anymore. Or is there?
Ed Bark