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University of diversity: who gets the Masters degree?

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.)

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