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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., April 30)

Fox4 reporter Saul Garza takes it to the streets on 9 p.m. newscasts.

OK, the logo's well beyond corny and yes, it's a gimmick.

Even so, bravo for Fox4 reporter Saul Garza, whose "What's Buggin' You?" segments on 9 p.m. newscasts tackle real problems and invariably fix them.

Monday found Garza being a figurative caped crusader on two fronts. A parking lot in downtown Dallas had a confusing configuration of pay boxes and parking slots. Some parkers paid the wrong heavy metal teller and then got fined. Garza looked into it and then had the pictures to prove that the mess had been solved.

Next he went to a Fort Worth school that didn't have a school zone speed limit on the street right in front of it. Now signs are up. Another triumph for D-FW's unassuming voice for the people, who didn't even show himself on camera. Imagine that.

Garza's efforts on behalf of Fox4 viewers are a genuine public service. So he gets an official unclebarky.com pat on the back, which with $5.50 will get him a double mocha, super-caffeinated, triple-thick toffee coffee at Starbuck's.

Contrast this kind of consumer reporting with what goes on -- night after night -- on NBC5. The Meryl Streep of cheesy teasers, anchor Jane McGarry, invariably sets the table. On Monday, she cued viewers to a "Flip Flop Flap" Health Alert from reporter Kristi Nelson.

Anchor Mike Snyder earlier chipped in, too, during a promo that fittingly ran near the tail-end of NBC's dreadful The Real Wedding Crashers.

"Flip flops keep your feet cool," he said, "but tonight we discovered a nasty health problem."

Snyder injects words like "nasty" with his patented rusty syringe inflection, leaving home screens in need of a Windex wiping. Atta boy, Mike. McGarry then sweet -talks viewers, keeping a cheery but straight face no matter how cockamamie it gets.

Nelson's "story" had a doctor opining that dirty, non-supportive flip flops can cause "serious injury or infection." Wow, so can a sock if you put a rock in it.

Still, "flip-floppers say these are risks they're willing to take," Nelson then actually said. It's all ready-made for Comedy Central.

Fellow consumer reporter Brian Curtis had a hot one, too, after McGarry told viewers they'd soon learn how to "zap zits without creams, jells or pills."

Curtis then trilled about a new acne treatment called "photo-pneumatic therapy," which allegedly vacuums oil from aggrieved faces. It's pretty pricey, though --- $300 a pop. And you have to keep having it done. Oh well, another infomercial in the bank.

NBC5's Scott Gordon earlier had a consumer-oriented story of actual value. He reported from D-FW Airport on escalations in airline prices, the highest in seven years. Just about everything else having to do with riding a plane now costs extra, too, he said. We kind of knew that already, but Gordon laid it out well.

Over on Belo8, reporter Debbie Denmon had a way-overlong story on needle-free acupuncture, which the station initially teased in print as "Power Without a Prick."

Sports anchor Dale Hansen resisting interpreting that as the Dallas Cowboys without Bill Parcells. He instead found another opening to hammer Parcells after a brief story on how former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was excused from jury duty because he took Parcells fishing.

"You every try that?" anchor John McCaa asked Hansen.

"No," he said, "but I'm in favor of sinking Bill Parcells. I'll take him out to sea."

Hansen can have a big heart, too. Much of his sports segment went to re-showing a tribute to the late Byron Nelson that he had no role in preparing. It originally was little-watched on Sunday night opposite a heavily-watched Dallas Mavericks-Golden State playoff game. Hansen graciously credited the piece's producers by name and said he just wanted more people to see their work.

CBS11 heavily promoted a "stunning, shocking" report by Mary Stewart.

"We're gonna have that for you in just a few minutes," anchor Doug Dunbar said at the start of Monday's 10 p.m. newscast. More than 15 minutes then passed before Stewart introduced her story about a Palo Pinto County constable who dropped in with a friend to buy beer at a convenience store.

The clerk told them it was legally too late to purchase alcoholic beverages. An in-store audio-video cam then caught the constable's pal offering the clerk a "blow job" and other sexual enticements in return for making a sale. The constable supposedly never said a word, but the clerk's lawsuit to have him removed from office eventually was dismissed by a judge.

Stewart confronted the constable, but he kept declining to comment on the advice of his attorney. She closed the report by telling Dunbar and co-anchor Karen Borta that the lawman still must contend with a petition signed by more than 270 people who want him sacked.

The "exclusive" story had some pop to it, but didn't blow the lid off of anything. It does reflect the new CBS11, though, where viewers earlier were treated to a brief tight shot of pit bull dog turds as evidence they were being kept in filthy conditions.

CBS11 also found room for a story about an aggrieved mom in faraway Borger, TX. Earlier this year her six-year-old son found a "bloody band-aid" in his Happy Meal box.

"It's very heartbreaking to think that you can't go just anywhere and let your kids eat," said mom.

The heartbreak of various disenfranchised CBS11 reporters is a bigger story these days. A number of them now have called or emailed to say they can't say anything on the record for fear of losing their jobs.

That's certainly understood at this end.

Addendum advice to Fox4: Don't use that network-fed reporter from Washington, Tom Fitzgerald, anymore. He was bad on every level in his report on the "D.C. Madam" who's now releasing the names of her many clients. Fitzgerald shouted out his story and hand-talked as though he were a cop directing traffic at an eight-way intersection. Keep him off our air, willya?