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Back in D-FW for a catchup round highlighted by the big news of Maria Barrs heading West after leaving as Fox4's news director

Dallas rain? Unfortunately not. Dallas Raines? Unfortunately yes. Photo: Ed Bark

The two-week Television Critics Association "press tour" is over, with your friendly content provider now safely back in blazing D-FW after snapping the above evocative advertisement at the little Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

Whatever you think of WFAA8's Pete Delkus, he's at least no Dallas Raines, who presents "Live Megadoppler" weather with the body language of a game show host. His venue is Los Angeles' ABC station. And he's also the last image most passengers see before boarding their flights from Burbank. Dallas Raines. It's impossible to make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, the big news during my time out West was Maria Barrs' surprise decision to resign as KDFW-TV/Fox4's news director after 13 years in that position and 17 years total at the D-FW station. She's going to be the new president and general manager at KXTV-TV, the Gannett-owned ABC station in Sacramento.

In a telephone interview Wednesday with unclebarky.com, Barrs, 55, said her first day on the job will be August 22nd. She and husband Jon Kemp plan to leave Dallas on Friday and "do a slow drive" to the West Coast, Barrs said.

Barrs was born in San Francisco and earlier worked as a news desk assistant at Sacramento's KCRA-TV.

"My kids (Patrick and Christina) both live on the West Coast, and my husband and I would like to see more of them," Barrs said. "Being in the same time zone definitely will help."

Announcing Barrs' hiring at KXTV, Gannett executive vice president Lynn Beall said in a statement, "She is an innovative manager, having built ratings growth during an era of challenging times. We are thrilled to have someone of her caliber at KXTV."

Barrs, the oldest daughter in a family of 13 children, said she has "never been a general manager before, so there's a certain amount of risk. But I'm really confident I can do the job . . . It's going to be very interesting not being in a newsroom all the time. I mean, that's in my blood. But I'm excited about it."

She became Fox4's news director in 1998, three years after the former CBS affiliate officially became one of a raft of new Fox owned-and-operated stations across the country as part of a power play by News Corporation mogul Rupert Murdoch. Barrs noted that her tenure had spanned both the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Dallas Mavericks' first NBA championship earlier this year.

"You really do develop bonds with people," she said. "I am leaving what I consider the best news director job in the country. I don't do that lightly. KDFW has some of the nicest, friendliest and professional people I could ever hope to work with."

The job also had its pitfalls, with rampant "downsizing" in the TV industry prompting both layoffs and decisions by some of the station's most seasoned reporters to leave Fox4 and start careers in other professions. There also was December's courtroom clash with former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar, who sued the station on the grounds she had been wrongly terminated because of her lobbying for more minority hires at the station.

Aguilar lost the suit after an oft-acrimonious six-day trial in which both sides swung freely at one another. Both Barrs and Aguilar testified at length. After the jury verdict in Fox4's favor, Aguilar said she had no regrets and Barrs told unclebarky.com outside the courtroom, "I'm really sad that this came to this. But I'm glad it's over. And the station and the newsroom are going to move on."

Barrs said Wednesday that she hadn't actively been looking for a new position, but was open to change. "A lot of things came together all at the same time," she said. "And in fairly short order, this (the KXTV opportunity) came up. And it seemed too good too pass up."

It came up because Barrs' predecessor at KXTV, Anita Helt, spent just eight months as the station's president and general manager before opting to return to the TV market she had left. She's now the vice president and general manager of KNXV-TV in Phoenix.

Fox4 hasn't yet named a successor to Barrs, who noted that the news director position is in high demand with no shortage of candidates both internally and externally.

"It's not that I'm leaving a bad station," Barrs said. "It's that I'm going to a really good situation."

For an extended profile of Barrs, written in the inaugural year of unclebarky.com, go here.

Maria Barrs as Fox4 news director in a 2006 photo