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"The Ticket" gets big-time recognition

Congratulations to Dallas' own "The Ticket" (1310 AM) for winning a prestigious national Marconi Award as Sports Radio Station of the Year. It's long overdue, and man, I wish I had their Web site's graphics. Special nod to the BaD radio show's Bob Sturm, Dan McDowell and Donovan Lewis, and to the peripatetic Gordon Keith for regularly acknowledging unclebarky.com's existence. Keep it up!
Ed Bark

Tiani Jones leaves CBS11, heads to Nashville


Reporter Tiani Jones has left CBS11 after a relatively brief stay and will join Nashville's WKRN-TV news team on Monday.

"It's just that a great opportunity became available," Jones said Friday. "I'm going to work for an amazing news director. Right now it's important that I work for someone that really values news."

Jones, who had joined CBS11 in 2005, was one of several reporters to heatedly clash with former news director Regent Ducas, whose "run 'n' gun" approach led to his ouster on Aug. 31st after five contentious months. But Jones said she already had made her mind up by then.

"There's no way I would have turned this down," she said of the WKRN job, where she'll be a reporter and substitute anchor for the ABC station. "But I'm going to miss Dallas. I really am."

A native of Waco, Jones was a top 10 finalist, representing Colorado, in the 2000 Miss USA pageant. But CBS11 retains a pageant connection in new weekend anchor/reporter Nerissa Knight. As Mrs. Southeast Texas, she made the final 16 in this year's Mrs. Texas America pageant.

Belo8's Shipp sunk(?) by a not so jolly Rogers

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Tim Rogers and staff, and Belo8 investigator Brett Shipp

Two-time Peabody and duPont-Columbia Award winner Brett Shipp of Belo8 is coming under fierce and unrelenting automatic weapons fire from Tim "His Timness" Rogers on D Magazine's FrontBurner blog. The posting is subtly headlined, "Brett Shipp and WFAA: Lazy, Irresponsible Reporting on DISD."

Rogers is tearing into Shipp's 10 p.m. report Wednesday on a trip by 166 DISD employees to an International Reading Conference in Toronto. The basic thrust of his report: they bilked taxpayers by spending too lavishly.

I'm not sure how much of a point Rogers has here, but he'd best brace himself for the wrath of the at times thin-skinned Shipp. I dared to moderately criticize him once on unclebarky.com for a February "sweeps" story on the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility near Austin. It mainly had to do with Belo8 claiming exclusivity regarding Shipp's tour of the place.

Shipp began his non-confidential email reply with, "Your hatred for us is becoming transparent." And he ended with, "Now, if you could look beyond your venom for News Eight and give us a little credit from time to time for being the station that most consistently covers the big story and tackles issues of major importance."

He did, however, sign off with "Your friend, Brett." So there's that.

Belo8 in fact has been given tons of credit on this site. So has Shipp, both before and after his missive. But that was the only time he ever responded. And with a few notable exceptions -- can't blow their cover here -- that's all too typical of a station that only takes criticism well when it's directed at its competitors.

So beware, Tim Rogers. You very likely can count on your Shipp coming in.

Survivor: Cuban's fox trot nearly fed to wolves

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Dance fever one night, cold sweats the next.

Mark Cuban's Dancing with the Stars season nearly ended as soon as it began. The Dallas Mavericks owner scraped bottom Wednesday night, emerging as one of opening week's two lowest judge/viewer scorers before model Josie Maran took the fall.

Cuban and picturesque partner Kym Johnson had stood stern-faced after host Tom Bergeron let the agony of de-feet linger through a commercial break. He'll now get at least one return visit, with a mambo on tap this Monday.

"It's motivation," Cuban said in a late night email. "We are now the underdog and we need to rally Dallas and the state of Texas behind us for next week. We are going to work harder and have even more fun."

He later blogged more expansively, telling readers of his web site that the near-eviction alternately made him happy, mad and upset.

"Had I not worked hard enough? Did people really not care enough about me to vote for me?" Cuban wrote. "It's a weird, humbling experience. But it's one I signed up for. I have to take the bad with the good."

Cuban's fox trot to "King of the Road" received a middle-of-the-pack score of 21 from the judges during Tuesday's dance-off among the show's six male contestants. That was good enough to outpoint Vegas oldster Wayne Newton (19 points) and boxer Floyd Mayweather (18). But their "fan bases" proved stronger than Cuban's in the viewer voting, which counts for half the final score.

It left Cuban dangling as the overall lowest male achiever, with the little-known Maran's score of 16 from the judges finally punching her dance card instead of his. She joins Trista Rehn, Kenny Mayne, Tucker Carlson and Paulina Porzikova in the show's first to go club.

Cuban's early bragging on Monday's opening show -- "I am a lean, mean dancing machine, and you better know it" -- may have put some viewers off their feed. Nor was it a great idea to brandish his hip replacement scar and a slice of his backside during a taped segment Tuesday.

He's also in against two sculpted young bucks in soap star Cameron Mathison and model Albert Reed. They each got a 21 score, too, but Cuban, 49, can't hope to match their sex appeal and willingness to flaunt it. In taped studio audience comments Wednesday night, no one was moved to say anything about Cuban. But one woman said of Mathison, "I wanted to skinny dip in his eyes."

Cuban at least avoided his Mavericks' fate. Earlier this year, they became the first team to be eliminated by a No. 8 seed in the first round of the NBA's expanded seven-game playoff format. He's now the odds-on favorite to take the gas next week. Somewhere Don Nelson is broadly smiling. Maybe that's motivation, too.

"Blackjack, baby." Cuban's 21-score should keep his hand in


Who's goin' home? Probably model Josie Maran (top, 2nd from left).

Tonight's ensemble is salmon-colored satin jammies, a velour cranberry robe and pointy-toed taupe slippers with sprinkes on top. That puts Uncle Barky in the perfect mood and attire to tickle the keyboards with another Mark Cuban-themed Dancing with the Stars summation.

The brash Dallas Mavs owner and stunningly cute pro partner Kym Johnson fox trotted to "King of the Road" Tuesday night during the male half of the competition. A serviceable 21 score put them comfortably in the middle of the pack, with Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves in the pole position with a score of 25. Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan, who danced the night before, leads the whole bunch of 'em with 26 points.

Unaccustomedly duded up in a brown suit with scattered tan patches, a patterned light brown tie and white dress shirt, Cuban mouthed the lyrics to Roger Miller's old chestnut while occasionally flashing a little tongue. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba didn't care to see that.

She praised his overall showmanship, but "your tongue was dancing a bit more than anything else. Keep it in the mouth."

Cuban lapped that one up, laughing hard rather than scowling as though he'd just seen Dirk Nowitzki hammered to the floor without a whistle. Bet any or all of your prized possessions that you'll see a replay of this magic moment on Wednesday night's super-padded one-hour results show.

Nutzy judge Bruno Tonioli dubbed Cuban a "bouncing bionic billionaire," referring to his June 29th hip replacement surgery. In a preceding taped segment, Cuban showed off his scar and said he had a rod running up part of his leg.

"I don't like it when you hold your rod like that," partner Kym worried after he seemed to be in pain during a Dallas practice session.

"I'll be OK," Cuban assured her. "I hold my rod all the time." Now that's being quick on your feet. Bravo.

He proved to be more Fred Astaire than Fred Flintstone, even executing a heel click at the fox trot's tail end.

"It wasn't exactly a dance floor disaster. It wasn't exactly ballroom bliss. It was somewhere in between," opined old school Len Goodman, most finicky of the three judges.

Cuban danced second to last among the six male contestants, with creaky Wayne Newton closing the 90-minute live show. Mr. Las Vegas moved like chunky soup through a sippin' straw during his approximation of the cha cha cha. The judges generously gave him a 19 before partner Cheryl Burke proclaimed, "I think Wayne might be the best partner I've had."

She told this to former partner and second edition winner Drew Lachey, who's co-hosting with Tom Bergeron while Samantha Harris is on maternity leave. Burke also teamed with Emmitt Smith in his Dancing with the Stars championship run. Maybe they didn't deserve her? Extra, Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight are gonna be all over this.

Cuban, lumped among five dancers with scores of 21, likely will survive to do the mambo next week to an old Whitney Houston song. The odds-on favorite to get bounced Wednesday night is little known model Josie Maran, whose 16 score puts her in the basement.

"You looked like a beautiful sailing ship stranded on a sandbank," Tonioli told her.

Maybe he'll eventually have something to say about Cuban's rod.

CBS11 news in HD: smooth segue

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CBS11's Maria Arita and Doug Dunbar birthed HD at 4 p.m. Monday.

Look sharp. Be sharp. CBS11 made that happen Monday with its inaugural high-definition local newscast.

The 4 p.m. debut, anchored by Doug Dunbar and Maria Arita, had only a split-second transmission problem during the newscast's second story by reporter Mark Johnson. The station otherwise made it from start to finish in sparkling, seamless fashion. That's in stark contrast to NBC's problem-plagued, stealth HD launch on Sept. 7th. Meanwhile, Belo8 is an old hand at this game after inaugurating HD news in D-FW on Feb. 2nd.

CBS11 anchors now have a rich blue backdrop adorned with a large HD monitor and at least five smaller ones. A faint city skyline and the CBS eye logo also can be glimpsed at times. All in all it's a very classy look, particularly compared to NBC5's nondescript, basic blue approach.

"We've been feelin' pretty good around here," Arita said before Dunbar lauded the "5,500 hours of labor, sweat as well." Then he got a bit carried away in describing "our brand new, beautiful, spankin' high-tech, state-of-the-art, high-def studio." Easy boy.

A majority of CBS11's out-of-studio news coverage is still in the old format, as are the reports on NBC5 and Belo8.

TXA21, sister station of CBS11, also went to high-def newscasts Monday, leaving Fox4 as the only remaining chuck wagon among D-FW's major TV news providers. The station is yet to announce any plans.

Give us that old time promotion: Finale

The 2007-08 fall TV season kicks into full gear this week with loads of exciting new series, all guaranteed to be monster hits. Here's a last dose of the way networks used to sell their souls, er, seasons. This is the 2000 "Oh What a Night" campaign from The WB, with Jamie Foxx, Katie Holmes, Shannen Doherty and the network's other young stars gathering at a party to get smashed and act crazed. How did anyone ever resist?
Ed Bark

Give us that old time promotion: Act 4

The 2007-08 fall TV season kicks into full gear next week with loads of exciting new series, all guaranteed to be monster hits. While warming up in the bullpen, we're giving you a daily dose of the way networks used to sell their souls, er, seasons. Fourth up is another one from NBC, 1989's "Come Home to the Best" campaign. It includes appearances by late greats Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. How did anyone ever resist?
Ed Bark

Give us that old time promotion: Act 3

The 2007-08 fall TV season kicks into full gear next week with loads of exciting new series, all guaranteed to be monster hits. While warming up in the bullpen, we're going to give you a daily dose of the way networks used to sell their souls, er, seasons. Third up is NBC's "Lookin' For a Place to Land" spot for its 2001 fall season. It aired just once, on Sept. 10 of that year. Cataclysmic events then took their course.
Ed Bark

Give us that old time promotion: Act 2

The 2007-08 fall TV season kicks into full gear next week with loads of exciting new series, all guaranteed to be monster hits. While warming up in the bullpen, we're going to give you a daily dose of the way networks used to sell their souls, er, seasons. Second up is the rockin' 1985 ABC campaign, titled "You'll Love It!" How did anyone ever resist?
Ed Bark

Oswald acted alone. Period. End of story

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Bill Paxton, President John. F. Kennedy and Vincent Bugliosi

HBO intends to put a huge reverse spin on Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories with a 10-part miniseries adapted from Vincent Bugliosi's very weighty debunker.

Big Love star and Fort Worth native Bill Paxton launched the project by bringing Bugliosi's 1,612-page book to the attention of Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, who co-produce HBO's life and times of a Utah polygamist. They'll now collaborate on Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, HBO announced Tuesday.

Paxton was eight-and-a-half years old when he went with his father and 11-year-old brother to see Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce breakfast on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.

"This is the greatest story that's never been told," Paxton says in an HBO publicity release. "It's a story that has haunted me and my generation our whole lives . . . Now, with the 50th anniversaries of President Kennedy's inaugural address and assassination looming in the next few years, we felt it was the right time to pursue this project."

Bugliosi, who also authored the bestselling Helter Skelter after prosecuting the Manson family murders, is a true believer that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman in Dallas.

"Seventy-five percent of the American public believes in the falsehood that there was a conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy, and only 19 percent accept the findings of the Warren Commission that Oswald acted alone," he says. "I'm confident that we can reverse those numbers and finally bring the truth to the American public."

Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, partially filmed in Dallas, was a powerful persuader otherwise for many Americans born after the assassination. HBO Films president Colin Callender takes no pro or con position in his statement, saying only that Bugliosi's "riveting book will make a very powerful transition to the screen."

There's no cast or projected air date yet.

Give us that old time promotion: Act 1

The 2007-08 fall TV season kicks into full gear next week with loads of exciting new series, all guaranteed to be monster hits. While warming up in the bullpen, we're going to give you a daily dose of the way networks used to sell their souls, er, seasons. First up is the 1979 CBS campaign, titled "We're Coming On!" How did anyone ever resist?
Ed Bark

One to grow on: unclebarky.com marks 1st anniversary


It's unclebarky.com's first anniversary, and everybody seems to be deliriously happy and excited about it! (Actually, these are vintage little Barkys Liz and Sam in the throes of a mid-1980s Six Flags rollercoaster ride. Uh-oh, they're definitely gonna get me for this.)

These is either cause for celebration or a long, long nap. Your friendly neighborhood unclebarky.com turns one-year-old Monday. Where's the key to the city?

It's been invigorating, enlightening, draining but most of all a privilege to continue writing about local and national TV in the country's fifth-largest market. I hope that many of you feel it's all been worthwhile. This is still a very low overhead operation, but the passion and commitment remain strong.

I'd like to thank all of unclebarky.com's readers, sources, supporters and critics for breathing life into this still fledgling enterprise. Those of us who left Dallas' only daily a year ago were told it was OK if we didn't feel up to the "dynamic changes" awaiting those who chose to remain.

For me, unclebarky.com has been dynamic change at WARP speed. But it's also a determined effort to re-embrace the old-school independent journalism to which I first pledged allegiance. That dates to Madison, Wis. and my first two proving grounds -- The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin and the city's still surviving afternoon daily, The Capital Times.

Being a reporter was a blast in those days. Rekindling that feeling took a long time, but unclebarky.com now seems worth the wait.

I hope to continue well into the foreseeable future, but only with your help. Spread the word if you would. Advertise if you can. Or support unclebarky.com by clicking through this Web site first before you buy anything on amazon.com, etc.

We get roughly a 4 percent commission on each sale, and right now it costs $49.95 a month to keep this site up and running. So just $100 in purchases a day from our thousands of readers would more than pay that bill. Think of it as a charitable contribution that doesn't really cost you a thing. You were going to buy something anyway, right? End of commercial message.

None of this would have been possible without your continued readership and well-wishes. But two people have been particularly invaluable.

My stepson, Carl Morgan, built this Web site from scratch using available tools and his own incredible ingenuity. He still knows how to treat virtually any Web site illness. The continued well-being of unclebarky.com is really his doing. I get to write only because he's given me the venue.

My lovely and supportive wife, Madeline, has been with me through all of this. She still goes to work everyday, contributing far more value to humankind as a nurse without peer. I get to stay at home and feed this beast, which always seems to be famished. Her love and understanding are the foundation of unclebarky.com. Baby, you're the greatest.

Thanks again to all as another fall TV season kicks into gear in Year 2 of unclebarky.com. We're ready for it.

Step by step: Cuban sweats out the oldies for Dancing with the Stars


Mark Cuban and partner Kym Johnson swirl and twirl in Dallas.
Photo: Ed Bark

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his Dancing with the Stars partner, Kym Johnson, are polishing their act in Dallas via elongated weekday workouts. Get an up-close look at how they're doing and what they're working on in preparation for the hit ABC show's Sept. 24 premiere. Note: ladies go first, so Cuban and Dancing's other five celebrity males won't be flooring it until Sept. 25. Also, the first new series of the fall season, Fox's Nashville, comes into view on Friday. It co-stars Terry Bradshaw's daughter, Rachel, and the review is right here.
Ed Bark

NBC5: the pre-HD years

NBC5's stealth conversion to high-definition newscasts last Friday hasn't exactly been seamless. Audio and visual screwups remain abundant. But lest we forget, it didn't all start with HD. Here's a classic gaffe from weatherman James Aydelott, who can be heard derisively saying "old goat" during a piece on a feisty senior. Next his mike went all but dead. The embarrassed weekend anchor in the picture is Todd D. Wallace, who recently left NBC5 for a higher-visibility job at the ABC station in Indianapolis.
Ed Bark

John Miller on the mend


Ace TV newsman John Miller, now teaching at TCU's Schieffer School of Journalism, is recovering from a stroke suffered last week.

He was never afraid to speak forthrightly during his 10 years as news director at Belo8 (1989-99). And you can always trust his word.

Miller also was news director at CBS11 for a year after joining the station in 2002. He got his start in TV news in 1967 at then WBAP-TV (Channel 5), where he spent 13 years as chief photographer and newscast producer.

Miller, a graduate of TCU, also has annually taken vacation time to help build housing for the needy. He always did it quietly, never calling attention to himself.

We wish the very best for him and hope he'll resume teaching soon. He's one of D-FW's great and often under-appreciated TV news pathfinders. And he's always taken the high road to ratings gold.

Ed Bark

More fast footwork for Cuban

Mark Cuban's HDNet is getting deeper into the fight game.

Cuban, also entering the ring on ABC's Dancing with the Stars this fall, will join former mixed martial arts champ Guy Mezger Wednesday morning to announce the high-def network's HDNet Fights.

The bouts will originate from American Airlines Center in Dallas, with details and future combatants being disclosed at the AAC's South Plaza during a 10 a.m. press conference.

Mezger, 39, retired from competition in January 2005. He runs the Lion's Den Dallas, which trains martial arts athletes.

Lemme tell ya, folks, this is gonna be a battle of the titans. Yowsa

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Here are your first official ABC looks at Mark Cuban (with pro partner Kym Johnson) and Wayne Newton (with Cheryl Burke).

First off, relax a bit, Mark. As you've already noted on your blog, your decision to compete on Dancing with the Stars is "about doing something that makes me smile every minute I'm doing it or even thinking about it."

But frankly, you look stiffer than an ironing board in your first publicity shot. You've got a bonafide babe in arms so don't be afraid to squeeze her a little. You can't look like American Gothic. Instead look at Mr. Las Vegas lean in and give it the old one-two even though it's gotta be tough smilin' through all those faces.

You might wanna unbutton that shirt a few notches, too. Right now you don't look ready to rhumba. In fact, right now Wayne's got your numba.

It's very early, though, and you can still get loose as a goose before the big Sept. 24th premiere. Just get that body language more in line with Devin Harris. Think juke. Can't be no Erick Dampier in this league.
Ed Bark

Low profile: NBC5 quietly goes to high-def

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And now there are two. Absent a promotional campaign or even a notification date, NBC5 slipped its first high-definition newscast onto the air at 10 a.m. Friday (Sept. 7). But why so secretive?

Unlike Belo8, in HD since Feb. 2, and CBS11, which will switch over at 4 p.m. on Sept. 24, NBC5 spared its viewers any fanfare. Station management declined to answer previous inquiries as to when in September the station would go to HD. NBC5 now has an on-air promo touting "the new NBC5 news in HD. Where you matter."

Kinks were still evident on Sunday's 5 p.m. local newscast, which served as a warmup for NBC5's locally produced buildup to the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game at Texas Stadium. In several instances, audio simply cut off as the picture briefly went to black. Other than sharper images, the station's new look so far boils down to a shimmering, but otherwise barren sky blue backdrop for news anchors. But the new Weather Center looks more visually ambitious.

"It's complex. Everything you used to have needs to be upgraded," NBC5 president and general manager Tom O'Brien said in an Aug. 9 interview with unclebarky.com.

O'Neil did not want to talk about the station's significantly heavier use of computers and robotically-controlled cameras, which reportedly will result in double-digit layoffs.

"I don't think that's germane to the story," O'Brien said. "We're implementing the latest technology in our control room . . . We're trying to put more money into content and news gathering."

Fox4 now is the only major TV news provider in D-FW without any plans to make the HD shift in time for the new season.

"It's in the works, but no date yet," says a station spokesman.

Fox4 instead reverted to the not-so-recent past during halftimes of its two NFL game telecasts Sunday. The station inadvertently cued up a pitch for 2006 Cowboys season ticket sales, with Drew Bledsoe shown in action.

Later Sunday on NBC5, the night clearly belonged to Cowboys QB Tony Romo, who lit up the Giants with four touchdown passes while running for another. Analyst John Madden gushed over him as though he were Brett Favre. Not that there wasn't ample reason.

During the network pre-game show, host Bob Costas introduced ace play-by-play man Al Michaels as "Alfalfa" Michaels. He reciprocated by calling Costas "Rapid Roberto."

That's a little odd. But Costas, 55, and Michaels, 62, both run the risk of looking like Wink Martindale if they don't start easing up on the hair dye. In contrast, pre-game co-host Keith Olbermann, seven years Costas' junior, has let himself go notably gray while his colleagues try to do a Dorian Gray.

In HD or otherwise, it seems time to age a little more manfully.

Big honor for local TV newsie


Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar has been named Broadcast Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Aguilar, a 13-year veteran at the station, is praised by NAHJ executive director Ivan Roman as "the kind of journalist who contributes every day to fulfilling our mission of fair coverage of our community and journalism excellence."

The NAHJ's selection committee said that Aguilar "gives voices to people who usually don't have voices on the air. While touching many issues from different sides . . . you showed you were capable of separating yourself from the stories while maintaining integrity and credibility."

Aguilar will receive the award on Oct. 4 at NAHJ's 22nd annual Noche de Triunfos Journalism Awards Gala at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.