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Internet confidential: WFAA8's John McCaa

For better and worse, D-FW's anchors and reporters still make their main impressions on your television screens.

Their stations' Web sites are hatching some increasingly important subplots, though. Viewers regularly are cued to myfoxdfw.com, nbc5i.com, wfaa.com and cbs11tv.com for extra added attractions. These include blogs by an escalating number of station personalities.

Some of them really work at it, others don't. But you're only going to see more of them, so it's time for unclebarky.com to start reviewing some of the more prominent and/or prolific practitioners.

We're first focusing on WFAA8 anchor John McCaa, who's something of a triple threat. He has a series of "Uncut" Web-only interviews on wfaa.com, plus a video "vlog" and a printed blog.

None are terribly dynamic so far. This is largely because McCaa's on-line work so far reflects his on-air persona. He's mostly sober and substantive to a fault, which can be a very good thing when you're in the midst of what sometimes can be a three-headed, on-air midway show starring sports anchor Dale Hansen, weathercaster Pete Delkus and co-anchor Gloria Campos.

On the Internet, though, McCaa should feel freer to put a little pop in his presentations. The "Uncut" interviews, some running more than 10 minutes, tend to be way too deferential. You don't have to be an attack dog in these one-on-ones. Still, McCaa's latest effort, opposite DISD superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, fell well short of provoking his subject into saying much of anything.

"Speaking of someone special," McCaa began, immediately making it clear that Hinojosa had little to fear in this particular arena.

The DISD administration has been under constant fire from both WFAA8 investigative reporter Brett Shipp and The Dallas Morning News, which like McCaa's employer is owned by Belo Corp. But the anchor never came close to pressing Hinojosa on issues ranging from grade-fixing to poor test score performances. Instead McCaa told him generically, "In a district this size, you've got no shortage of critics . . . Is that tough for you?"

Yes, it can be, Hinojosa agreed, but "we cannot lose focus. We're here for the young people."

The interview ran for 10 minutes, a marathon in TV terms. It had no bite, though. It was both "Uncut" and lamentably unremarkable.

McCaa had a somewhat more interesting interview with historian Douglas Brinkley, who had been in Dallas as part of SMU's Tate Lecture series. And he commendably devoted 10 minutes, 23 seconds to Bob and Paulette Cooper, a middle-aged Dallas couple trying to alleviate suffering in Darfur with their "Thirst No More" initiative.

Another "Uncut" piece helped former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson to plug his book on the importance of character. McCaa also had a briefer chat with World News anchor Charles Gibson during his early March stop in Dallas to cover the Texas presidential primary. They ended up talking about Gibson's two-year-old grandson. It was pleasant, but no more than that.

McCaa's numerous printed blogs, which WFAA8 seems to be phasing out in favor of his "vlogs," have yet to attract a single reader comment. The video component, in which he talks in extreme closeup for a minute or two, finds him attempting to be a bit more conversational on subjects ranging from blues/rock legend Bo Diddley's death to "Zimbabwe's election drama."

Few if any bloggers try to be more earnestly substantive than McCaa. He doesn't talk about his personal off-camera adventures, as many others do. Nor is he likely to ever blog about anything considered newsworthy by the stupefying Entertainment Tonight, which immediately follows McCaa's efforts on WFAA8's 6 p.m. newscasts.

In the end, his determination to focus solely on issues of import make him an endangered species in the blogosphere and just about anywhere else for that matter. But if McCaa is going to go that route, then he really should toughen up those "Uncut" interviews with various newsmakers.

For now they're mostly infomercials. And that's not good enough coming from a veteran journalist who easily could up his game and maybe even make a little news.

Grade: C

New arrival at Fox4

Fox4 has hired Sophia Reza from ABC station KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City to bolster its recently thinned reporting staff.

Reza, born in El Paso and raised in Houston, is scheduled to join her new station on July 28th according to a memo distributed Thursday.

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 with a degree in broadcast journalism, says her KOCO bio. Before joining KOCO, Reza worked for nearly six years at KTSM Newschannel Nine in El Paso.

KOCO also notes that Reza was co-chair of the March of Dimes Walk America for three years and has two chihuahuas, Treasure and Mulan.

Fox4 has lost three full-time reporters -- Jeff Crilley, Jason Overstreet and Scott Sayres -- in the past month. And another of the station's veterans, Paul Adrian, has his last day on Friday (June 27th).

Earlier this year, longtime Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar was dropped by the station after a lengthy and controversial suspension that received widespread national attention.

As previously reported, Crilley, Overstreet and Sayres all have chosen to get into other lines of work. Adrian will be studying for a year at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He then plans to return to Texas and set up his own independent news operation, with an emphasis on state government issues.

Jennifer Lopez dawns -- "That's for sure" -- on NBC5

Jennifer Lopez in previous job; NBC5 hasn't posted a new pic yet.

Perky for now but forecasting a droop-off by week's end, Jennifer Lopez put her first 12 weather segments behind her Monday as NBC5's new waker-upper meteorologist.

"The early time slot is going to be an eye-opener," she told co-anchor Scott Friedman at the halfway point of her 5 to 7 a.m. shift. "And I'm sure I've got some bags by Friday under my eyes."

Arriving from the Atlanta-based Weather Channel, Lopez is replacing Rebecca Miller, who had been at NBC5 since 1991 before the station dropped her in early March. The abrupt dismissal triggered an onslaught of protesting comments from viewers, leaving Lopez with a very tough act to follow in the eyes of many.

Her first words -- at 5:05 a.m. -- went like this: "I am so excited to be here in North Texas. And it looks like we're off to -- a warm start."

Friedman, subbing for Brendan Higgins, and Deborah Ferguson gave Lopez an even warmer welcome. There was no kidding about the name she shares with a certain famous actress/singer. But an amped-up Lopez got ample opportunity to both communicate her enthusiasm and test-drive what seems to be her tagline. "That's for sure," she said five times.

"You've got a lot of energy in the morning," Friedman told her early on. "I can tell already. That's gonna serve you well."

"I'll calm down," said Lopez before Ferguson asked whether she'd been fortified with a big cup of joe.

"I had a good caffeine on my way in, that's for sure," Lopez replied.

She wore white pants and a matching blouse, a baby blue jacket and an oversized necklace for her NBC5 debut. And the weather prospects didn't overly challenge her. It's going to be in the high 90s for the next week, with a slight possibility of showers on Wednesday, Lopez said in each and every segment.

Her voice had a bit of an upward squeak on occasion. And there understandably were a few awkward phrasings during what's going to be a major transition.

"Just not staying very rainy for you. Can't really blame the commute on the rain this morning, that's for sure," she told viewers shortly before 5:30 a.m.

Down the homestretch, she seemed a little punchy. "And good morning to you, North Texas," Lopez said as the clock finally neared 7 a.m. "Jennifer coming from -- my first day here. But I'm glad you're allowing me to be in your homes and I hope I get to come in every morning."

Obviously she deserves a chance to establish herself. Monday's first outing seemed fine for starters. But Lopez has only begun to experience the grind of early morning television. Bad weather inevitably will be on the way, too. How will she hold up?

Both NBC5 management and Miller fans will be watching closely. That's for sure.

NBC5's Snyder vows to take it off

NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder wants to be 66 pounds lighter 66 days from now. Fat chance?

The veteran TV newsman, on vacation for the next two weeks, says he's ready to be roughly three-quarters of the man he is now. In a dispatch posted Friday (June 20th) on his "Mike's Open Mic" blog, Snyder divulges details of his burgeoning weight and his plans to take it off.

"Okay, I get it," he says. "I can see in the mirror, I feel the tightness of my clothes and I hear the comments from many of you, friends and foe alike, that the girth has got to go. I get it! Full disclosure here, I weighed in at 256 lbs. this morning, the heaviest I have ever been in my life. Enough."

Snyder, who joined KXAS (Channel 5) in April 1980 as an investigative reporter, has ballooned during the recent years of his 16-year tenure with co-anchor Jane McGarry. Now he has the gut -- and the guts -- to do something about it. And while vacationing no less. He wants to get down to 190 pounds in just a little over two months by shedding a pound a day.

"I will be first taking a very simple approach, cutting each meal in half, purposely leaving half of what I used to eat on the plate," Snyder writes. "I am going to avoid the fried stuff, breads and pastas I love. I am going to be drinking buckets of water. And the big part of my lower calorie intake equation is to burn more than I take in by walking. Five miles a day is my initial goal."

Snyder says he'll update his weight loss efforts on his blog. He has a soul mate, of sorts, in WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, who began a Slim-Fast/banana regimen on New Year's Day and lost roughly 50 pounds by the end of the February "sweeps" ratings period.

Here's video of how Snyder looked when he made his debut with McGarry in April 1992.

Wouldn't it be nice?

The late Perry Como, NBC5's Deborah Ferguson, NBC's Brian Williams

There's been a debate among unclebarky.com commenters about the niceness of former NBC5 early morning meteorologist Rebecca Miller, whose activities were updated earlier this week.

A few seem to think she's an off-camera shrew, which goes against the grain of what most people have been saying about her. I've always found Miller to be very nice, but have only met her once in person. So what do I really know?

First impressions count for a lot, though. They stay with you. As a kid I sat through many of the late Perry Como's prime-time variety hours, mainly because my parents and live-in grandma loved both them and him.

It was torture at first, but his Christmas specials particularly stuck with me. I kept watching them as a younger adult, and finally got a chance to interview Como in person while he taped his last holiday special in San Antonio in 1986.

It's damned disillusioning when people you revere turn out to be jackals. But Como was anything but. He couldn't have been nicer. Not just to his interviewer, but to everybody.

Paul Molitor and Ernie Banks, two of my all-time favorite baseball players, also turned out to be really nice guys off the field as well. I interviewed Molitor as an adult and got Banks' autograph several times as a kid. Came away with good feelings each time.

There also are many authentically nice people working in D-FW television news. NBC5's Deborah Ferguson stands out, though. Again, I've only met her once in person. That was while doing a story on what it's like to get up at ungodly hours to anchor the increasingly important early morning newscasts.

I arrived at NBC5 at about 4:30 a.m. Ferguson was busily putting on her own makeup, and didn't mind a bit that a photographer started snapping pictures when she was plucking her eyebrows or something. She was instantly friendly and forthcoming, as was co-anchor Brendan Higgins.

They had every reason to be guarded, being that I was from a newspaper whose parent company also owned arch rival WFAA8. But there was none of that at all. And Ferguson in particular seemed almost too genuine to be true.

At the network level, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams is funny, knowledgeable, approachable and completely without pretense. At least that's the way he's always seemed to me, whether talking to him one-on-one or amid a group of TV critics.

A few years ago, on one of the semi-annual Television Critics Association "press tours" in Los Angeles, Williams made it a point to ask several beat veterans about his late brother, Dave Williams, who recently passed away. Dave had been a TV critic for several years, and is a past president of the TCA. But none of us knew he was Brian's older brother. Or that the future standardbearer of NBC News tagged along with him once on a 1980s press tour.

Brian now was looking for little remembrances that others had of his brother. It was a very thoughtful gesture on his part. You don't forget things like that.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of TV's nice people. There are many jerks as well, but I'm not going to name any of them here. They already get enough ink and attention while the quality human beings often are overlooked.

That's where you and your comments come in. Based on firsthand experiences, who are the really decent local or national TV people? Those who work in the business have a wealth of firsthand knowledge about this. Those who don't can rely on their first -- and often lasting -- impressions.

Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Let's hear from you.

Rebecca Miller bakes and bides her time

Former NBC5 meteorologist Rebecca Miller is baking gourmet dog treats while otherwise still sitting out a six-month "non-compete" clause. These are some pictures she took of recent cookie batches.

Rebecca Miller is baking away -- and probably simmering a bit, too -- while her early morning replacement at NBC5, former Weather Channel meteorologist Jennifer Lopez, prepares to make her on-air debut.

Lopez officially began at the station on Monday (June 16th), but is "learning the systems" before joining NBC5's pre-dawn yawn patrol, vice president of programming Brian Hocker said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Miller continues to sit out a six-month "non-compete" clause, even though NBC5 chose not to renew her contract and dropped her in early March.

"Here's the dilemma," Miller told unclebarky.com in an email sent Tuesday. "Channel 5 probably couldn't enforce my 'non-compete.' What I have found out is that other stations (in the D-FW market) can't talk to me during my non-compete because they have their own non-competes with their own employees. By talking to me and violating my non-compete, they would send the wrong signals to their own employees, and that's something they don't want to do."

Non-competes are standard in the TV business, with stations wanting to protect themselves from talent jumping to a rival station after they've built their names up. CBS11 anchor Tracy Rowlett was "on the beach" for a while after he decided to leave WFAA8. And former WFAA8 anchor John Criswell likewise had to stay off the air for several months after signing a deal with KDFW-TV (Channel 4) long before it became a Fox-owned station.

In both cases, the warring stations worked out compromises that decreased the anchors' off-air down time. In the interim, Ch. 4 put up billboards showing Criswell with his mouth taped shut.

Miller's case is notably different, because she didn't choose to leave NBC5. But stations can still enforce non-compete clauses in their former employees' contracts. (NBC5 generally does not comment on "personnel matters," particularly sticky ones. That's standard operating procedure with their competitors as well.)

Miller says she'll officially be "available" -- as a TV meteorologist -- in early September. And she'd still like to get back in that game despite recurring bad dreams.

"I thought by now I'd be completely rested," she said. "But I still wake up with nightmares where I'm being yelled at for wearing the wrong jacket or pants, having the wrong hairstyle or color, saying the wrong thing, showing the wrong map."

Her on-line courses in Homeland Security at Texas A&M University will resume in the fall, she says.

"So I continue taking the summer off, but I've been busy . . . I've always loved baking for people and baking for dogs, so I've started a line of gourmet treats."

Some of her canine platters are pictured above, and look tempting to a human named Ed Bark. But no, best not place an order. And our cats probably would pass, too.

NBC5 comes up snake eyes again

Hey, NBC5, Snakes On a Plane pretty much bombed.

No matter. D-FW's most consistent pseudo news provider struck again on Monday's 10 p.m. newscast after anchor Mike Snyder primed the prime-time pump by teasing a snake "explosion" and "invasion."

Reporter Brett Johnson did the honors this time, reporting from Ellis County on a woman who had a non-poisonous snake die and decompose inside her dryer exhaust vent after it slithered aboard from a nearby pond.

Snyder and co-anchor Jane McGarry first stood before a giant "Snake Alert" graphic. She grinned and even he looked perhaps slightly chagrinned. Johnson said that North Texans are "seeing more of the slithering reptiles" this year. Or at least on NBC5 they are.

Return with us now to that thrilling Meredith Land May ratings "sweeps" story, teased by full-blown carnival barking from the ever-dependable Snyder.

"They are poisonous, slimy and invading North Texas," he informed viewers. "See where snakes are slithering."

He then went for the kill: "A Dallas neighborhood is on edge tonight as deadly snakes invade their area. Good evening, I'm Mike Snyder."

Land then led the May 9th late night newscast with the tale of a Texas coral snake spotted in a backyard. No slouch in the overkill department, Land intoned, "Herpetologists say pick one up and you are dancing with death."

Both stories were garnished with appearances by congenial Daryl Sprout of snakeencounters.com. He's the go-to guy whenever NBC5 needs a snake story, which is all too often.

Johnson took a more benign approach than Land Monday night, noting that the snake that died in the dryer exhaust vent was adept at killing rats and mice. Nonetheless, the aggrieved woman said her husband is shooting them on sight with his shotgun.

Johnson then closed his middle-of-the-newscast piece by placing a mouse trap with cheese on what looked to be some utilitarian NBC5 metal shelving.

Kill those rodent-eating snakes and you'll only have yourselves to blame for an increase in the rat and mice population, he warned.

NBC5 no doubt will be right on that one, too. Suggested Snyder promo: "North Texans aren't Mickey Mouse-ing around tonight as a deadly battalion of diseased, killer rats marches toward unsuspecting homeowners after outlasting a batch of slithering reptiles gunned down by a vigilante homeowner. Our team coverage begins with . . ."

***Meanwhile, McGarry's at times bizarro nbc5i.com blog is touting Laura Bush as the optimum Republican candidate for president in 2012.

"I would say there's no way that would ever happen . . . But can you think of a better candidate?" McGarry theorizes. "Mrs. Bush is poised, intelligent, well-thought of by Republicans and Democrats alike. And she IS a Texan. She's a woman who might win the White House, if she wanted to."

Clearly, too much exposure to Mike Snyder can be very hazardous to a co-anchor's mental prowess. Or vice versa.

Good Grieve: "Mr. Ranger" gets a half-hour showcase

Suited up twice and in a sportcoat with broadcast mate Josh Lewin

Tom Grieve, as he readily admits, has been the Texas Rangers' ultimate utility man.

As a member of the charter 1972 club, he went on to spend six years as a part-time player for mostly losing teams.

He later was the team's general manager for 10 seasons, never reaching the playoffs.

And since 1995 he's been a member of the Rangers' broadcast team, relying on his various partners to do most of the heavy lifting.

FSN Southwest's 30-minute In My Own Words: Tom Grieve, airing Sunday, June 8th at 10 p.m. (central), affords the subject a chance to be his usual self-effacting self. Some have dubbed him "Mr. Ranger," and it "makes me feel good that someone would say that," he tells interviewer John Rhadigan.

On the other hand, he quickly adds, "I know it's based pretty much on longevity."

The special, being repeated throughout June, premieres at a crossroads for Grieve. After the June 8th Rangers game, he'll have surgery for prostate cancer and miss at least two weeks of telecasts. FSN says that the final version of In My Words will incorporate a brief segment in which Grieve, 60, talks about suddenly having to cope with cancer.

This otherwise is a breezy outing, beginning with Grieve's recollection of taking batting practice at Randol Mill Park in 50 miles per hour winds.

Major League players were on strike at the time, and Grieve initially didn't think much of Arlington in comparison to his previous tenure in the picturesque nation's capitol with the woeful Washington Senators.

"All of us are thinking we're not a very good team so we probably don't have the right to complain too much," he tells Rhadigan. "But this doesn't feel like the big leagues."

Rhadigan is a bit prone to making statements -- "You have grown up with a baseball family" -- rather than posing questions. And some points of interest are never broached -- such as his favorite Rangers anecdote or what it was like to play for the volatile Billy Martin.

Time goes by fast, though, and there's a lot of ground to cover. Grieve also generously diverts attention to his first Rangers broadcast partner, the late Mark Holtz, who groomed him to be successful in the booth.

"He could make something out of nothing," Grieve says. "And if he ever did have a great game coming down to the end, there was absolutely nobody better that you could be listening to than Mark Holtz."

The program includes Holtz's climactic calls of Kenny Rogers' perfect game and Nolan Ryan's last no-hitter, his seventh. A nice selection of early Grieve photos also make the cut.

Grieve isn't namby pamby in the broadcast booth, and over time has become more willing to deliver verbal brushbacks. Mostly, though, he's a very nice guy who brims with enthusiasm for the game and is always willing to talk about others' exploits.

That comes through again and again in this generally engaging half-hour, minus the usual seven-minute load of commercials. And after all the verbiage, it goes without saying that we wish this man for all Ranger seasons a full and speedy recovery.

TCM vs. HDNet Movies: there's no comparison

Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove; John Wayne in The Searchers.

Maybe Mark Cuban should consider throwing some of his Mavs mad money at his most underpublicized asset -- HDNet Movies.

He should do so quickly, while Turner Classic Movies remains in the old analog mode.

TCM inevitably will make the transition to high-definition. But it hasn't done so yet, giving HDNet a candy-coated opportunity to position itself as television's best venue for quality, commercial-free movies presented in all their crystal-clear, wide-screen glory.

As a relatively new owner of an HD set, I'm amazed at the attractions available on HDNet Movies. Cuban's got some clinkers to be sure. But on this weekend alone (June 6-8), you could watch these very worthy films:

***Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
***The Searchers
***Thelma & Louise
***The Sting
***The Bridge on the River Kwai
***Dirty Harry
***Groundhog Day
***The Outlaw Josey Wales

The upcoming June menu also includes Easy Rider; Days of Wine and Roses; Badlands; Cool Hand Luke; Spartacus; Places In the Heart; Apollo 13; A Passage to India; Serpico; Splendor In the Grass; Prince of the City; The Music Man and Steve McQueen's last movie, Tom Horn.

That's a roster that rivals anything TCM has to offer. But the big difference maker is HD, which makes these movies come alive anew no matter what their vintage. On TCM these same movies look as though they're shot through a Vaseline jar. It's all in the eye of the beholder, and if you have HD your eyes can quickly get spoiled.

Cuban should take advantage of this competitive edge by sinking some hard cash into a showy commercial campaign spread across at least a dozen or so cable networks. It's an optimum time to spike demand and drive traffic to HDNet movies. This is a great, but still largely undiscovered venue for both old and new generations of film buffs.

For now, though, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., June 3)

CBS and Fox carried the most weight in prime-time Tuesday, but more than a few D-FW homes bought into a history-making night on the cable news networks.

Hillary Clinton's intransigence and Barack Obama's emergence as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee were center stage on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Republican standardbearer John McCain also tried to make his presence felt with an at times awkwardly delivered speech from New Orleans.

FNC controlled the first hour of prime-time (7 to 8 p.m.) in the total homes Nielsens, drawing 46,276 of 'em opposite MSNBC (31,663) and CNN (21,920).

CNN then took over from 8 to 9 p.m. with 53,583 homes, followed by FNC and MSNBC with 46,276 homes apiece. The 9 to 10 p.m. hour also went to CNN (58,454 homes), with MSNBC (43,841) moving into second place ahead of FNC (36,534).

In the broadcast arena, only ABC interrupted entertainment programming -- Boston Legal -- to bring viewers a portion of Obama's live speech and an excerpt from Clinton's earlier non-concession remarks. Legal then finished out the hour, with ABC running fourth from 9 to 10 p.m. in the total homes Nielsens.

Otherwise it was a tale of two ratings measurements. CBS swept the total homes ratings with a prime-time lineup of two crime drama repeats (NCIS and Without A Trace) sandwiched around 48 Hours Mystery. But Fox won its two hours of prime-time among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. Its victors were new episodes of The Moment of Truth and Hell's Kitchen.

Over on WFAA8, the 7 p.m. prime-time debut of The Gordon Keith Show ran fifth overall in total homes with 48,712 despite appearances by Mark Cuban and Adam Sandler.

Gordo's locally produced comedy/talk venture moved up a bit to a fourth-place tie with TXA21's news among 18-to-49-year-olds. But it slid to the sixth spot with 18-to-34-year-olds, ceding fifth place to the opening innings of the Rangers-Indians game on MY27.

In the local news derby, CBS11 vaulted to twin wins at 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 won at 6 a.m. in total homes, but slid to third behind WFAA8 and NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demo.

WFAA8 had across-the-board golds with its 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

The thin man: a look back at Mike Snyder's opening moments as Ch. 5's lead male anchor

Arrgh, has it really been that long? A crystal clear, newly posted youtube video revisits Mike Snyder's debut as KXAS-TV's 6 and 10 p.m. anchor in April 1992.

His desk mate, then and now, is Jane McGarry, who welcomes him to her casbah.

Snyder, who replaced Brad Wright, then tells McGarry he's already been at Channel 5 for 12 years and "I hope to be here at least another 12."

So far it's been just over 16 years and counting in the captain's chair. But a new president/general manager is coming soon to the now NBC-owned Channel 5, with old boss Tom O'Brien moving up and out to take over the network's flagship station in New York City. So we'll see what we shall see in the coming months.
Ed Bark

Bar time: ex-WFAA8 reporter Valeri Williams now a new law school grad

Valeri Williams (left) and with her daughter. Pictures provided by Williams

Readers of this site regularly ask about the whereabouts of local TV reporter Valeri Williams.

Google searches came up empty and her old station, WFAA8, had no answer other than, "She worked with us in our 'News 8 Investigates' unit through January 2003. We wish her well."

But former WFAA8 colleague and friend Robert Riggs, recently dropped by CBS11 as part of budget cutting, had both an answer and a phone number for Williams. She's a brand new graduate of Southern Methodist University's law school and plans to start practicing her new profession in September for a North Texas firm specializing in litigation.

She and her husband of 26 years also are the newly adoptive parents of a 15-year-old girl.

"I've kept a real low profile," says Williams, 47, who initially joined WFAA8 in 1992 and worked for ABC News as an Atlanta-based correspondent before returning to the station in 1999 for a second and shorter stay.

Before opting to be a TV news reporter, Williams had been accepted to Baylor University's law school.

"I decided to take a step back," she says. And when SMU started an evening law school program, "it just seemed like a perfect fit."

Williams says she had become dissatisfied with the direction of TV news. "I think you enter a point in your career when it's no longer what you believe in. I did it for 20 years and for the most part I loved what I did."

She also ran her own media consulting business after leaving WFAA8, representing clients "who have been targeted by the media."

"There's this illusion that people, by not commenting, are going to stop a story and make it go away," Williams says. "I think my clients would tell you I've mitigated a lot of damage."

Her tenure at WFAA8 was marked by tough-minded investigations and numerous awards. But Williams readily acknowledges that more people remember her for a numbed, live report from Hedley, TX near Amarillo on the sub-freezing night of Nov. 24, 1992. Back in Dallas, co-anchors Tracy Rowlett and the late Chip Moody were considerably amused at Williams' efforts to get her words out.

"I can honestly say that up to a year or two ago, not a month went by that someone didn't stop me and ask about that," she says. "I've always taken it in good stride. You never know when something in your career is going to be a way to be recognized . . . In essence it made me a lot more approachable to people. It softened how they saw me. Because I did a lot of tough stories, it was nice to have one event in my career that showed I was human."