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Measuring him for a coughin'

NBC5 temp taker David Finfrock at work and at ease with wife, Shari

It's the start of another ratings "sweeps" month, which means a new onslaught of wild, wacky stuff from some D-FW stations.

NBC5 already has committed the first flagrant foul with a promotional campaign that trades on weather dean David Finfrock's recent on-air miseries.

"The answer to the question, what's wrong with David Finfrock," an announcer teases before the veteran forecaster is shown coughing heavily during one of his weather segments. "You've worried, you've called and emailed. Now you'll finally know. Thursday on NBC5 news at 10."

Finfrock is shown hacking two other times and also is seen with his doctor, who's pointing at an X-ray. In response to an email query Wednesday, he politely begged off answering any questions.

"I asked my news director (Susan Tully), and she suggested that I not do the interview," Finfrock said. "She doesn't want to give away the point of the story before it airs. I can promise you, though, that it's nothing serious or life-threatening!"

A colleague of Finfrock's, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the weatherman "has been to a doctor a bunch of times and has something wrong."

There's also clearly something very wrong with NBC5's news ethics. Finfrock has been the soul of discretion since joining the station in 1975 as an acolyte of the late, legendary Harold Taft. He's not an attention-seeker, so it's unfortunate to see him signing off on something like this. But his station likely will be locked in a tight fight for 10 p.m. ratings supremacy after beating Belo8 by just two-tenths of a rating point (4,760 homes) in the November "sweeps."

NBC5 has won the 10 p.m. wars for 15 consecutive sweeps months (Feb., May, Nov.), dating to Feb. 2002. It clearly doesn't want to relinquish the title belt, but using Finfrock in a pseudo dead-man-walking campaign marks a new low in sweeps gamesmanship. Obviously, though, the hook's already imbedded. And unclebarky.com reader Lynne Swihart nailed the essentials in an email sent after she saw the promo early Wednesday morning.

"If David is legitimately ill, this is in such poor taste that I can't even comment in an appropriate manner," Swihart wrote. Even so, she said, "I'll watch (Thursday) night. I like Mr. Finfrock. He's just about the last one at that station that I can stand. And I hope it's a dumb stunt and that he is not ill."

What NBC5 has done in Finfrock's name, though, is enough to make us all sick.