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

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.

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.