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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Fri., Feb. 2)

Jack Fink (CBS11), Joe Trahan (Belo8) and Jane McGarry (NBC5)

It's D-FW's second biggest unsolved TV mystery, bowing only to the confounding, continuing staying power of NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder.

Why aren't more people watching CBS11's first-rate 10 p.m. newscasts, which continue to run third despite a nice lead-in lift on most nights from the 9 p.m. network entertainment programming?

Friday was typical. Top-to-bottom, CBS had a solid, informative, genuinely newsy newscast. And it barely beat Fox4 to finish third despite following the night's most-watched prime-time program, Numb3rs.

The station is still hunting for a new news director whom staffers expect to make sweeping changes. But really, there's nothing inherently wrong with CBS11's late night newscast. All it needs are larger numbers of more discriminating viewers. Instead, though, the ratings game again is being won by NBC5's flea circus. Step right up to hear anchor Jane McGarry proclaim, "The health alert you need to hear before you use the germ-killing gel again."

She was talking about the dangers of hand-sanitizers. A medical study reported five cases of "people swallowing the stuff," which contains a substantial amount of alcohol. If that qualifies as a health alert, then don't go near anything, not even the water. Because studies show that prolonged dunking of heads in sinks can lead to premature drowning or, even worse, prune skin.

CBS11's Friday night newscast was hokum-free, which apparently leads to viewer disinterest. The station had a good mix of enterprise stories, led by reporter Jack Fink's piece on increased coal-hauling near a Fort Worth school.

The extended transport trains, illustrated in a real-time YouTube video that ran in the upper right-hand corner of home screens, cause infuriatingly lengthy delays and also could further foul the air with pollutants, Fink said. He responsibly got both sides of the story, which certainly seemed to be of more import than hand sanitizing gel run amuck or a companion NBC5 sniglet on the heartbreak caused by "excessive" female sweating.

CBS11 also looked at plans to give Deep Ellum a facelift, with Dallas Observer mainstay Robert Wilonsky fearing the worst in a tasty, colorful soundbite.

"My sense of what Deep Ellum will become is something between the West Village and a Sesame Street soundstage," he said. "Something very quaint, very perky, very cute."

A developer countered that Deep Ellum "will never be that," but might end up showcasing a more "mature" brand of music. Or to put it another way, hello Mitch Goodly and the Swingin' Capricorns, goodbye Snotty Yellow Stuff Wiped on My Pants.

CBS11 reporters Mary Stewart and Doug Dunbar respectively had interesting stories on an increase in women hunters and how Botox injections are being newly used to relieve back pain. The station also thoroughly covered the catch-all significant news of the day, joining its three competitors in giving prominent play to Gov. Rick Perry's controversial executive order that all school-age girls receive mandatory vaccinations against a sexually transmitted disease known to cause cervical cancer.

Belo8 had some strong reporting, too, particularly by Dan Ronan on an escalating program whose goal is to have at least one armed and trained pilot on every commercial flight. Said one proponent: "If you're coming in there (the cockpit) with ill intent, you won't be doing it again."

Reporter Brad Watson also had an interesting story on the demand for Catholic school education in population-sprouting communities such as Plano. But the piece ended abruptly, victimized by chop-block editing that deprived Watson of a summing-it-all-up signoff. Instead viewers were left hanging after a St. Jude priest said, "People are asking us why we don't have a school."

Belo8 sports reporter Joe Trahan, in Miami for the Super Bowl, had a close brush with two scantily clad female roller skaters who blew past him during a live segment. He had been telling viewers that expected guest and Cowboys head coach candidate Norv Turner wouldn't be showing up after all.

"Of course there's a lot going on in South Beach, and apparently he found a better offer than us," Trahan said while briefly taking in the sight of the two skaters.

Back home at Belo8's new Victory Park studios, sports anchor Dale Hansen offered another of his quick counter-jabs.

"Apparently there's a lot coming off in South Beach," he ad libbed just before ABC's Nightline took over.

Fox4 had another few frills outing Friday, with the station clearly putting considerable more emphasis in recent months on its growing 9 p.m. newscast. Reporter Jeff Crilley did his best to stand out from the crowd by kneeling next to a waterlogged pothole for a story on how bad weather can ravage Dallas streets.

The 10 p.m. news race otherwise is looking like another two-way battle between NBC5 and Belo8, with the Peacock again banking on a format that calls for high story counts and ample violent crime. Excluding the weather and sports segments, NBC5 threw 31 stories at viewers Friday night while also extending its lead on the police blotter front.

Here's the nightly violent crime story count, with two-night totals in parentheses:

NBC5 -- 8 (15)
Fox4 -- 3 (7)
CBS11 -- 3 (4)
Belo8 -- 1 (3)