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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Thurs., Feb. 15)

Had to have a peanut butter sandwich -- honest -- before seeing which of D-FW's Thursday 10 p.m. newscasts would spread the most fear about the allegedly salmonella-tainted Peter Pan/Great Value brands.

NBC5 approached the story in its usual subtle manner.

"The peanut butter recall, and tonight our viewers are outraged," anchor Jane McGarry teased.

Were they really?

Belo8 went a little nuts, too.

"Peanut butter panic hits North Texas," said anchor John McCaa.

Gloria Campos was right there with him on that one.

"2111," she said, referring to the lid code that signified possible danger afoot. "Have four numbers ever caused such an uproar?"

Fox4 took a much quieter approach, giving the peanut butter story only fourth billing, and handling it in pretty quick fashion.

CBS11 easily made the least of it, relegating peanut butter to a "reader" by anchor Tracy Rowlett. He didn't get around to it until six minutes had elapsed.

By that time, Belo8 and NBC5 already were done with their Bubonic Plague treatment of something that so far has caused 300 non-fatal illnesses in 39 states since last August. Both stations' coverage gave me a headache. Am I alone? Should I ask for a newscast recall?

NBC5's Scott Gordon reported finding two North Texans who said they'd become sick from eating peanut butter. One was a middle-aged man from Little Elm, another a teenage girl from Justin. The guy had a big ol' tin can of peanut butter that he flamboyantly threw into a trash can while the camera rolled. Good job.

NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder then brought more bad news.

"If you want your money back, you're gonna have to wait," he intoned before throwing it to reporter Kristi Nelson.

She in turn instructed viewers who had bought a 2111 jar to mail the lid in for a refund that could take a while. It hardly seems worth the trouble. After all, peanut butter doesn't exactly cost a King's ransom. But NBC5 made it seem as though aggrieved consumers were ready to secede from the union if they were denied justice.

Over on Belo8, new reporter Craig Civale again struggled with his live opening standup. This time he was stationed outside Tom Landry elementary school in Irving.

"John, it sure sounded innocently enough," he said of a first grade Valentine's Day project in which kids made peanut butter sandwiches with what turned out to be the code 2111 Peter Pan brand.

School officials are "now scrambling to notify parents," he said, although there still are no reports of any kids getting ill. Imagine enjoying a nice sandwich, Civale added, "only to learn that the tasty treat came from the same batch of polluted peanut butter."

Tom Landry elementary will soldier on, however. "The school doesn't plan to change its policies when it comes to the teachers bringing food to class, despite the sticky situation," Civale said in closing.

Belo8 medical reporter Janet St. James then urged viewers to flush toilets with their feet if possible. Otherwise use a paper towel or toilet paper when touching commode handles. And by all means, if you have code 2111 peanut butter, "immediately throw the jar away," she instructed. St. James then demonstrated with a flourish, causing a trash can flap to rotate like a Plinko wheel.

NBC5 otherwise had its usual ridiculous collection of health alerts, but this time outdid itself.

Anchor Snyder let it be known that "those very breath fresheners could be making our stinky breath worse." How so? Reporter Meredith Land said that some toothpastes and mouthwashes have a chemical that can dry out the mouth, promoting bad breath. Oh get outta here.

Correspondent Brian Curtis followed with a blockbuster. The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found that diet soda drinkers became more obese than sugared drink users.

The center didn't know why this might be. But Curtis found someone to say that diet drinkers might think they can indulge themselves with more sweets and junk food. NBC5 of course promoted the story as though it had found a cure for cancer.

CBS11 succumbed to anchor Karen Borta's trifecta on what she said were three big concerns for women -- "shoes, weight and cramps."

She read reports from each of these basic food groups, prompting co-anchor Rowlett to grouse, "Man, we never have stories about men's shoes and our weight gain and stuff . . . What's up with that, anyway?"

He knows full well. The Nielsen ratings consistently show that lots more women watch newscasts than men. This is particularly true within the key advertiser target audience for newscasts -- 25-to-54-year-olds. In the November sweeps, Nielsen data showed that an average of 273,446 women in that age group watched the 10 p.m. D-FW newscasts on Fox4, NBC5, Belo8 and CBS11. For men, the figure was 177,907.

Those numbers are the reasons for Borta's three-part bonus round and yet another of St. James' diet stories on Belo8 Thursday night. It followed a Campos brief about "massaging away your cellulite."

Anchor McCaa, usually reticent, might have had another kind of massage in mind when he made an uncommonly bold prediction after weatherman Pete Delkus warned viewers of another frigid February night.

"All this cold weather," he said. "I'll guarantee ya, July, August, September, you'll see a lot of babies."

That's the Spirit of Texas, baby.

Here's Thursday night's violent crime story count, with the 11-night running totals in parentheses:

NBC5 -- 3 (50)
CBS11 -- 2 (24)
Fox4 -- 1 (25)
Belo8 -- 1 (17)