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News 8 promo, circa 1998: "If ever there was a time, it is now"

An urgent drumbeat sets the all-business tone. A male narrator with a drill sergeant's voice trades matter-of-fact pronouncements with a breathier female counterpart.

It's 1998, and Dallas-based WFAA-TV has never been more serious about the higher calling of "News 8 Now."

He says: "Closer to the community. Closer to the issues affecting you."

She says: "The coverage that enhances your intelligence and never insults it."

Both agree: "If ever there was a time, it is now."

A dozen WFAA8 anchors and reporters can be glimpsed in this evocative, shoulder-to-the-wheel selling tool. Four are still with the station -- anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos and investigative reporters Byron Harris and Brett Shipp, who looks almost impossibly boyish.

The rest are no longer in the picture, although weatherman Troy Dungan still drops in at Christmastime while otherwise doing foundation repair commercials that regularly pop up on his old station.

Otherwise anchor Chip Moody is deceased and Tracy Rowlett, Nann Goplerud, Anna Martinez, Robert Riggs, Mary Stewart and Sonya Van Sickle are all long gone from WFAA8.

By the way, there's no room for sports in this one-minute spot. Fun 'n' games are out of step in a cold-sober environment where news marches to a martial beat. It remains an effective clarion call, positioning WFAA8 as your one-stop shop for everything that really matters in life. No miracle wrinkle cures or faddish diet stories, let alone the Dallas Cowboys, dared intrude on the solemn task taken on by "News 8 Now."

But that was then. Take a look:

One size fits all? Not when it came to this quickly yanked, corporate-produced promo for nbcdfw.com (updated)

As recently reported, Fort Worth-based KXAS-TV's (NBC5) marketing and promotions departments are being gutted next month in favor of largely out-sourcing those duties to Peacock corporate headquarters in New York.

NBC calls it "a new kind of marketing approach that better reflects the demands of today's local media marketplace."

One of the first manifestations didn't go over so well, at least not in D-FW. Sources tell unclebarky.com that a "Meet Ted" promo for nbcdfw.com was pulled from KXAS after a day or so because of numerous viewer complaints. They apparently were insulted by the sight of an underwear-clad "average high-end real estate broker on house arrest" who stays in the know by dialing up the Peacock on his laptop.

The interchangeable spots below are for KXAS and for NBC's owned-and-operated station in Miami. The visuals are identical, with a narrator dropping in the name of the respective websites and a localized "kicker" at the end.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com/video.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Aug. 24) -- back-to-school battle in early morn

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This is what the local waker-uppers have been waiting for all summer -- a nice back-to-school boost in their ratings.

Overall they got their wish, although the best likely is yet to come as temperatures cool and weather becomes much more of a factor in little Peggy Pupil's jacket-or-not equation.

The aggregate 6 to 7 a.m. audience for Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 -- 298,935 D-FW viewers -- added up to more than the previous Monday's haul of 239,148 viewers.

The numbers also inched up among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main target audience for news programming and the age range of many parents, too. Monday's haul of 185,153 viewers in this group was a bump from 151,765 a week ago.

Also, in what's becoming the norm, Fox4 and NBC battled for the top spot while WFAA8 and CBS11 tussled for third place.

The Peacock narrowly won in both ratings measurements Monday. NBC5 had 93,002 total viewers, with 69,812 in the 25-to-54 demographic. Fox4 respectively rang up 86,359 and 60,706 viewers.

WFAA8 and CBS11 tied on both counts. Each drew 59,787 total viewers, with 27,318 of 'em in the 25-to-54 range.

Fox4's 7 to 9 a.m. continuation of Good Day tied ABC's Good Morning America for second in total viewers (behind NBC's Today) but beat all three network morning shows in the 25-to-54-year-old measurement.

Meanwhile, WFAA8 may be getting a little queasy over the performance of its homegrown Good Morning Texas, which airs at 9 a.m. The show drew just 6,643 total viewers Monday and had "hashmarks" (no measurable audience) among both 25-to-54-year-olds and 18-to-49-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for entertainment programming.

No show is a juggernaut in the 9 a.m. hour. But Fox4's syndicated Live with Regis & Kelly led the field Monday with 39,858 total viewers and 25,930 in the 18-to-49 age range.

In other four-way local news derby results, CBS11 took the gold at 10 p.m. with 186,004 total viewers while WFAA8 prevailed with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox4 largely dominated the early evening competitions, sweeping the 5 p.m. ratings and also winning at 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 topped the 6 p.m. field in total viewers.

Also of note: Fox4's 5:30 p.m. local newscast outdrew the three network news offerings in both ratings measurements, with an especially comfortable edge in the 25-to-54 demo.

Who wore what when? New website offers castoff anchor/reporter clothing at bargain prices


TV talent coach Jolene DeVito, formerly of WFAA8 and TXCN, now wants their mostly high-priced hand-me-downs, too. Anchors and reporters can one-stop shop on her new website. Photo: Ed Bark

TV newsies and their wardrobes for $300, Alex.

Answer: TVnewscloset.com

Question: Where can anchors and reporters unload their used on-air garments, buy someone else's and earn/save money.

Jolene DeVito, formerly an anchor at Dallas-based WFAA8 and TXCN, says she may have "created a monster" with a brand new website that specializes in sales of old on-air clothes. Since its launch last weekend, the site already has roughly 150 items in stock and 12 orders in its first two days, she says in a telephone interview.

DeVito's full-time job is still at Irving-based Talent Dynamics, which offers coaching and media training for anchors and reporters on the way up, down or currently on the air. The new spin-off site, in partnership with Talent Dynamics, addresses the need to dress the part without breaking the bank.

"Years ago, they may have had certain trade agreements with stores and things," DeVito says. "But that's long gone. A clothing allowance certainly wasn't unheard of years ago, but now it certainly is . . . If you can afford the real high-end stuff, you can spend thousands and thousands of dollars a year on clothes. I perfected the art of not spending that much, but it was still a bigger chunk of my salary than I would have liked."

So here's how this works. Anchors/reporters whose clothes have worn out their welcomes can put them up for sale on tvnewscloset.com. All of their discards are priced at 60 percent off the original retail price, with the site taking 50 percent of the cut on high-end items and 60 percent on cheaper duds.

All clothing is pictured on the site, with prices and sizes included. There's also a description of where it's been, although specific stations and the sellers' identities aren't revealed.

DeVito does acknowledge, though, that the "Crayola Plum" Size 8 Donna Gray 3 Piece Suit is one of her old on-air outfits. It's now priced at $35.

All of the site's orders have been placed by women so far, DeVito says, with shipments already on the way to anchors in Tyler, Austin and Portland, Maine.

Male anchors can stick with their outfits longer than women can, she says. "We can only get away with wearing things a certain number of times before viewers start to recognize it and get tired of it."

DeVito and Talent Dynamics initially stocked the online store by "reaching out to our friends in the industry." There have been a few unexpected windfalls, she says. "We've made 30 cents off the change we found in pockets."

It's tougher to find suitable on-air clothing in smaller markets, DeVito says. "A lot of times you'll buy something in a store and it simply doesn't work on the air. Or maybe the camera doesn't read it as the color you thought it would."

And whatever the market size, "Sometimes your news director will say, 'Uh uh, don't wear that one again,' " DeVito says. Easy for them to say, harder for an anchor to take it back.

TVnewscloset.com so far has stuff for sale from all but one of D-FW's television news providers. "But I expect that within a couple of weeks we will have clothes from all of the local stations," DeVito says. Duds also have arrived from anchors based in Colorado, Arizona, Rhode Island, etc.

Commoners can buy the clothing, too. And if someone wants to know who wore a suit or outfit previously, DeVito is willing to make a discreet inquiry. Maybe you, too, can replicate the discarded look of say, CBS11's Karen Borta or Fox4's Steve Eagar. The latter might well have a gangsta-striped suit looking for a home after management told him to stop wearing it.

A further browsing of tvnewscloset.com turns up these other intriguing items:

***A "Crayola Cerulean" Limited Blue Stripe Button Down ($10) worn by a "morning anchor in the north east."

***A double-breasted "Crayola Gray" (what's with the crayons?) Burberry Suit ($120) that used to be on-air attire for a "Primary Anchor" in a Top 10 market.

***A "Crayola Almond" Rebeka Camisole ($10) from a "major market morning anchor."

***A "Crayola Yellow-Green" Sag Harbor skirt ($15) previously donned by a "weekend morning anchor at a top 5 station in the south."

*** An Oscar De La Renta Pinstriped Jacket ($40), also "Crayola Gray," of which the site teases, "Viewers of a top affiliate in the southwest saw this one on their favorite sports reporter."

Hmm, it has a 40-inch waist, which possibly puts both NBC5's Newy Scruggs and WFAA8's Dale Hansen in the running. But they'll probably never tell. And in reality, that's the fun of it, whether you're a buyer -- or voyeur.

New newser at D-FW's NBC5

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Former NBC5 (KXAS) intern Kim Fischer will be rejoining the Fort Worth-based mothership as a full-time reporter after a stint at WOAI-TV in San Antonio.

Her move back to North Texas was first reported by TV critic Jeanne Jakle of the San Antonio Express-News.

Fischer, set to start at NBC5 on Sept. 1st, also was the Scrappy the Eagle mascot during her time as a student at the University of North Texas before getting her first full-time TV news job at KRBC-TV in Abilene, according to her WOAI bio. She left TV news in 2005 to become host/producer of Saturday editions of the Hot on Homes infomercials before joining WOAI, San Antonio's NBC affiliate.

"The money's better and the market's bigger," Fischer tells Jakle of her move to NBC5. Her boyfriend also lives in Dallas, she noted.

Fischer says that NBC5 management also has told her she'll have opportunities to substitute anchor and do some sports reporting.

NBC5 vice president of content development Susan Tully hasn't yet returned an email regarding Fischer.

Add a new freelancer at D-FW's CBS11/TXA21

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CBS11/TXA21 management confirms that John Knicely has been hired as a freelancer for both North Texas stations. He starts immediately.

Knicely most recently worked at Fox's Charlotte, N.C. station, WCCB-TV. Before that he toiled for WPSD-TV in Paducah, Kentucky.
Ed Bark

He's a soul patch man -- and probably a trailblazer, too


Fox4 reporter Matt Grubs and his sprouting soul patch. Photo: Ed Bark

Television news isn't much of a growth industry these days. The economy is still too tough for that.

Facially speaking, that's pretty much always been the case. We've had a dozen or so mustaches and a few bearded laddies among D-FW's anchor and reporter corps. But has there ever been a TV newsman with an otherwise unadorned soul patch? Unless someone has conclusive proof otherwise, I'm crediting Fox4's Matt Grubs with being the first.

It's still relatively easy to miss, even though we may be reaching the point where a lawn service should be called in. No need to use a weed whacker, but a little edging wouldn't hurt. The above picture, from Monday's 6 p.m. newscast, is evidence of that.

Grubs has a nicely calibrated sense of humor, though. That's clear from his official Fox4 bio, where he says in part, "My life began like most do; dropped in a basket and floated off down the Nile until I came ashore in some reeds."

He's also been praised in these spaces as one of the better newcomers to this market. Grubs' understated delivery and deft way with words are plusses in a profession where the tendency is to over-accentuate the obvious and heavily salt it with cliches.

Asked about the origins of the patch in an email inquiry, Grubs replied, "Truth is, I'm a dedicated anti-shaver when I'm not working. The aforementioned patch grew out of a trip to Arkansas over the 4th of July. I had the holiday off and cheated the day before, giving me nearly a five-day head start on Monday.

"That and it's blonde, so no one noticed until it was about two weeks old. Several haven't noticed at all. I think about abandoning the effort every morning and would do so if told it had to go. Reason number one it's still around? My wife likes it."

Grubs says his co-workers enjoy taking shots at his patch, but "my favorite comment comes from my little sister: 'Quit playing with that thing. It gives me the creeps.' "

So there you have it. But what should Grubs do?

A. Keep the patch in play, but start shaping it like topiary before it starts looking like tinsel.
B. Let it run wild until Billy Gibbons tries to recruit you for ZZ Top.
C. Take a razor to it and then sell it on ebay by teasing, "As seen on TV."
D. Quit playing with that thing.

Dallas Morning News "Special Contributors" lack certain identifying characteristics

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Dallas Morning News "special contributors" Christopher Kelly, Anthony Andro, Jeff Wilson, all of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Most of the "content-sharing" coverage in these spaces has been devoted to the common news pool recently formed among three D-FW television news providers -- Fox4, NBC5 and "The 33."

But the past weekend's editions of The Dallas Morning News cry out for attention. Because whatever the aforementioned stations are doing together is minimal so far compared to the continued ruse being played on the paper's readers.

Take Friday's GuideDaily, largely devoted to coverage of the latest movie releases. The 12-page section has seven reviews -- none of them from a DMN critic. OK, maybe other assignments, vacations, etc. factored into this. Still, it never should happen at a paper that used to take pride in having all of its movie reviews written by staffers.

Here's what's worse, though, and it's an ongoing practice. First a little backdrop.

Since last fall, the DMN has partnered with its former arch-rival, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in a content-sharing arrangement. Editor Bob Mong, in announcing this development to staffers, said in part, "I can assure you we have no intention of diluting our powerful brand. But I do know there are ways to move forward with the Star-Telegram, save money and continue to provide the outstanding unique content we are known for. I also believe that collaboration is made possible because of the mutual respect the two newsrooms have for one another."

The "mutual respect" stops, however, when it comes to identifying which stories or reviews in the DMN are also appearing in the Star-Telegram.

In Friday's GuideDaily, the lead movie review, of District 9, is written by "Special Contributor" Cary Darling. Two film reviews inside, of Spread and Adam, are by "Special Contributor" Christopher Kelly.

Both writers, identified no further, are full-time Star-Telegram staffers. Not that many readers would know this. Instead they're led to believe that Darling and Kelly are freelancers contributing unique content to the DMN.

Also, in case you're wondering, the only outside contributors camouflaged in this way are those from the Star-Telegram. All others are specifically identified, either next to their bylines or at the bottom of their articles.

For instance, the frequently used Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel is labeled as such in his two movie reviews Friday. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press, who also has a pair of film reviews in that day's DMN, also is linked to her principal employer.

(In truth, the Star-Telegram really isn't any more above board. Its stories by DMN writers are labeled "Special to the Star-Telegram" -- and nothing else.)

Let's move to Friday's SportsDay section of the DMN, where the top of the page lead Texas Rangers story is by "Special Contributor" Anthony Andro. Sunday's main story on the Rangers is by "Special Contributor" Jeff Wilson, with "Special Contributor" Andro contributing some companion Rangers briefs. They are, of course, full-time Star-Telegram sports writers. The absence of any further identification is a dead tip-off.

As fans know, this is a particularly bad season to turn the Rangers beat reporting over to the Star-Telegram. Having its best season in years, the team currently is atop the American League "wild card" chase for a post-season playoff spot. But most DMN readers probably are none the wiser. They think Wilson and Andro are writing exclusively for the DMN. And the paper isn't about to let them think otherwise.

All other outside Sports Day contributions are identified, including Sunday's full page of PGA Championship coverage by the Associated Press and Washington Post. Guess that's why there's no mention at all of eventual champion Y.E. Yang's residence in nearby Southlake. The AP and the Post of course wouldn't care about that local angle. And the DMN didn't bother to insert this rather pertinent fact.

While on this subject, here's another example of the DMN's continued partnership with WFAA8, even though they're now supposedly owned by "separate" Belo companies. If anything, though, the synergy between the two is even more evident than it was before the supposed split. So much so that Sunday's TV Week had a full-page house ad on the back cover touting WFAA8's Daybreak team of Cynthia Izaguirre and Chris Flanagan.

Not coincidentally, Daybreak remains in an early morning ratings ditch, fighting to stop CBS11's long downtrodden waker-upper from overtaking it for third place behind NBC5 and Fox4, which soon will debut new co-anchor Lauren Przybyl.

During such trying times, it's nice to have the DMN play its house organ Wurlitzer in support of Daybreak. Meanwhile, the paper also will keep feeding readers a steady diet of Star-Telegram "Special Contributors." Without telling them, of course. Because that apparently would be a little embarrassing for all concerned.

Also of note: Sunday's PGA coverage on CBS included prominent roles for two long-ago WFAA8 sports anchors. Verne Lundquist as usual did some of the play-by-play and Bill Macatee presided over the closing trophy presentation to Yang, whom he also interviewed through an interpreter.

The real Julia does Dallas

Meryl Streep seems a cinch to pick up another Oscar nomination for her bravura turn as the late Julia Child in Julie & Julia, currently in theaters.

Still, she's obviously no match for the real deal, who died in 2004. Thanks to KERA-TV (Channel 13) vice president of programming Bill Young for sharing these evocative photos from Child's visit to Dallas a decade or so ago.

The first finds her happily hoisting a longneck at Sonny Bryan's barbecue, with Young pictured on the far left. The second photo, which needs no further introduction, is paired with a picture of Streep as Child. As always, bon appetit!


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Not that long ago, NBC5 actually had teams of TV gumshoes

Yeah, some of these investigations could be pretty trumped up. Remember some of the many-splendored adventures of Marty Griffin?

But at least Fort Worth-based NBC5 (KXAS) used to have the will and the time to dig a little deeper before disbanding its detective unit after the turn of the century. It remains the only major North Texas TV news provider without at least one full-time investigative reporter.

Return with us now to a 2000 KXAS promo for "The Investigators," starring Jay Gray and Sabrina Smith.

Before that, the station's "Public Defenders" team (in a 1994 spot) included Smith and Mike Androvett, who definitely was the best of the bunch.

Gray is now a reporter for the NBC network news division.

Androvett founded Dallas-based Androvett Legal Media & Marketing in 1995. The company is still in business and also has offices in Houston.

Smith, who left NBC5 in 2006, apparently is out of the TV news and media business. But if any readers know her whereabouts or occupation, please provide further details in the comments section.

Battle of the Good Day music(?) makers

Perhaps you caught Fox4's Good Daze band on a recent edition of the D-FW waker-upper.

But you probably haven't yet been exposed to rappin' weathercaster Nick ("It's so hot down here, my name is Vanilla Water") Kosir of Beaumont's Good Day, also on Fox4 in that city.

Now, together for the first time, here they are battlin' it out for the title of Texas' worst ear-sore, Good Day division. Or best of the best if you actually hear it that way.

Good Daze features traffic reporter Chip Waggoner on lead guitar and vocals, head weatherman Evan Andrews on drums and weatherwoman/street beater Fiona Gorostiza in not-so-perfect harmony with CW. Their selection is "Twist and Shout."

Kosir, who joined KBTV-TV last October, offers an original composition that includes the lyrics, "Today'll be hot, I'm talkin' mid-90s. Basically you'll be sweatin' off your hineys."

These performances may not inspire total confidence when seriously severe weather again hits the fan. But we live in times when CNN's Anderson Cooper doubles as a recurring guest co-host of Live with Regis & Kelly while NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams has agreed to do periodic comedy bits on NBC's The Jay Leno Show after previously hosting the network's Saturday Night Live.

In that context, we pit the pitchy Good Daze band against Beaumont's "Weather Authority." Rimshot please.

Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys

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Sports guys Mike Doocy, Matt Barrie, Dale Hansen, Babe Laufenberg

Recurring budget-slashing and downsizing at D-FW's four major TV news providers of course hasn't curtailed the gang coverage of the Dallas Cowboys training camp in San Antonio. They'd pay the freight to Timbuktu if need be.

All of the primary sports anchors are on-site in San Antone, even though NBC5's Newy Scruggs wasn't a part of his station's Thursday, 10 p.m. chronicle. Instead Matt Barrie carried the ball from the Fort Worth studio.

Watching all four of 'em left this overall impression. CBS11's Babe Laufenberg helmed the meatiest presentation, WFAA8's Dale Hansen again covered himself almost as much as the Cowboys and Fox4's Mike Doocy made it clear that both he and some viewers miss what used to be the nightly "Doocy's Doozy."

Let's look 'em over:

More than his rivals, Doocy highlighted the "hazing ritual" that requires rookies to sustain godawful haircuts administered by Cowboys veterans. Guard Greg Isdaner clearly came out the worst, looking like a cross between Larry of The Three Stooges and Terry Bradshaw.

"Guys being good sports about it, but then again they don't have any choice," Doocy opined before being convulsed by something or other while he slap happily introduced his taped interview with Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton.

Crayton, who has aspirations to be a broadcaster, interviewed Doocy and told him, "I miss 'Doocy's Doozies.' Maybe we'll have 'Crayton's Crazies' or something like that."

Doocy then wound up his segment by telling the news anchors back home, " 'Doocy's Doozies.' They ask me about it wherever I go."

He's clearly not happy about not being able to do them anymore. But is anyone in management listening?

Scruggs had a live segment from San Antonio on the 6 p.m. newscast, but didn't stick around for the 10. So the always hyperkinetic Barrie did the deed during his station's typically truncated, two-part sports smidgen, the one with the big bloc of commercials in the middle.

Barrie noted that Cowboys QB Tony Romo pleasantly answered a few questions about his reported breakup with Jessica Simpson. Without really saying much, of course.

Romo understands the interest, but "I just prefer to keep certain things private and try to continue to live a semblance of a normal life off the field," he told a gaggle of reporters.

"Well, geez, I'm glad we got all that settled. Aren't you?" Barrie asked from afar before segueing to footage of those bad rookie haircuts.

"I didn't enjoy myself too much," said first-year hopeful Andre Douglas.

"They're gonna get cut anyway," Barrie then told news anchor Brian Curtis. The dude's got 'tude.

Hansen apparently had a bad experience with the local cuisine, prompting weathercaster Pete Delkus to jab, "How's the barbecue been, buddy? Is it treatin' you right?"

Live from San Antonio, Hansen emitted a horse laugh before vowing, "I'm never eating the barbecue in San Antonio again."

Wearing one of his more subdued Hawaiian shirts, Hansen then teased, "Today (Cowboys coach) Wade Phillips tells a funny story and makes me laugh. I believe this is what we call a Channel 8 exclusive. Wade Phillips makes ya laugh, next in sports."

First, though, came Hansen's taped interview with former Cowboys head coach Dave Campo, who led the team to three losing seasons and now is the secondary coach. He's "always been one of my favorite guys," Hansen first informed viewers. Well, good for him.

The nightly "One-Minute Drill" found sports reporter/anchor Joe Trahan not getting all that much of interest out of defensive back Ken Hamlin. But we did learn that former Denver Bronco Steve Atwater was his favorite player as a kid, and that his childhood nickname was "Mudbone."

Finally came the Phillips funny business after Hansen noted that the slow-talking coach "has actually made me laugh twice. He's not a funny man. I think most people will tell you that. That doesn't make him a bad guy, but he's not a funny guy."

All right, all ready. Tell the damned story.

Phillips, on tape, then told Hansen that a guy had approached him in a store and said, "Hey, I know who you are." This prompted Phillips to reply, "OK, who am I?" To which the guy supposedly said, "Dale Hansen."

Well, they're both corpulent and snowy haired. But Hansen noted that he's at least three inches taller than Phillips.

Delkus then put a bow on it, telling news anchor John McCaa, "Three inches taller -- not necessarily in height."

And there you have it, WFAA8's Cowboys/Hansen coverage. Not necessarily in that order.

Laufenberg, admittedly horrible as a Cowboys backup quarterback, is far better as his station's chronicler of all things Cowboys.

He began Thursday with a Romo segment that made no mention of Simpson. The Cowboys' late season collapses instead were Topic A, with Romo contending that "this team has recognized before the pitfalls of thinking of December and January and things of that nature."

"And things of that nature?" Was Romo also perfecting his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression?

Laufenberg then touched on the rookie haircuts before sports reporter/anchor Gina Miller had a thorough report on Bob Hayes, the late Cowboys receiver who at last will be inducted into the national pro football Hall of Fame this weekend.

It was a good mix of archival footage from Hayes' playing days and fresh interviews with Roger Staubach (who will induct him), former Dallas Morning News sports reporter Frank Luksa and current DMN pro football expert Rick Gosselin. Good stuff, and easily the most interesting and informative Cowboys reporting of the night.

So on our scorecard, it's:

Laufenberg/Miller -- A-minus
Doocy -- C
Hansen/Trahan -- C-minus
Barrie -- Incomplete. (But then NBC5's 10 p.m. sportscasts always are.)

NBC-owned KXAS-TV guts promotions/marketing departments, cedes control to New York corporate masters (updated Friday p.m.)


NBC Universal-owned KXAS is gradually losing its local identity.

KXAS-TV's "Locals Only" mantra had a hollower ring Thursday after the Fort Worth-based station's promotions and marketing were out-sourced entirely to NBC's corporate headquarters in New York.

Several sources close to the situation said that 10 local employees are being laid off, with Sept. 18th the last day that KXAS will have its own marketing department.

In an email response Thursday evening, NBC5 vice president of content development Susan Tully said that any comment or statement would have to come from Liz Fischer, NBC Universal's vice president of corporate communications. She could not immediately be reached, but not much is expected in terms of specificity or substance.

(Reached Friday, Fischer issued this statement: "We are making some strategic changes to our Creative Services function, creating a new kind of marketing approach that better reflects the demands of today's local media marketplace. In the new organization, creative services executives at each station will determine their local market branding campaigns and promotion strategies, working closely with a newly formed media and planning and strategy group, a division-wide sales marketing team, and an award-winning outside creative agency.")

Fox-owned KDFW-TV of Dallas also now has a firm policy of directing inquiries about station personnel to the corporate level. That happened late last month when unclebarky.com broke the story of the station's hiring of Dallas native Lauren Przybyl as the new co-anchor of KDFW's Good Day program. A phone call to KDFW news director Maria Barrs was returned by a corporate level employee from afar who asked to be identified as a "station spokesperson." In that role, her only comment was, "We have nothing to announce right now."

The not-so-light corporate touch also can be seen on the suddenly and drastically re-formatted nbcdfw.com web site, which has lost much of its local flavor. It was launched on July 29th, with an eye toward "inviting users to become a bigger part of the conversation by contributing content and sentiment that impacts and influences the websites," says NBC.

KXAS anchor and reporter blogs were removed earlier in this process. Now the KXAS "News Team" bios also have vanished, although perhaps an archaeological dig will turn them up. What's emerged for the most part is a homogenized, one-size-fits-all NBC website with nowhere near the local content of the previous version.

It's probably only the beginning. Only one of D-FW's major TV news providers, WFAA8, is still owned locally. It should be shouting this from the rooftops in its promotional campaigns, but apparently doesn't have the sense to do so. To varying degrees, the ABC affiliate's competitors increasingly are run from afar -- and perhaps into the ground someday -- by their respective network corporate masters.

The events Thursday at KXAS only underscore the obvious. Dallas-Fort Worth is the country's fifth-largest television market. Even so, its big-time TV stations for the most part are puppets on strings.

It's triplets at 5 for WFAA8 newscasts



New duties: Shelly Slater joined John McCaa Tuesday at the 5 p.m. anchor desk before enduring the makeup-melting 97 degree heat outside the studio for a segment on child swim safety. Photos: Ed Bark

Less than three years after arriving at WFAA8, Shelly Slater has joined the Dallas-based station's 5 p.m. newscasts as part of a rotating tri-anchor arrangement.

She began her new assignment this week, teaming with incumbents John McCaa and Gloria Campos, who's still on vacation. The day-to-day mix of anchors isn't firm yet, but Slater will be vacating WFAA8's Saturday newscasts while remaining in place on Sundays for a while, according to her August 1st tweet on the station's website. WFAA8 will use fill-in anchors on Saturdays while searching for a permanent replacement.

Sharply declining ratings for the preceding Oprah Winfrey Show have knocked WFAA8 from what used to be a dominant perch at 5 p.m. The station now is in a tight three-way fight with Fox4 and NBC5 for both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

"We have made a series of adjustments to our early evening news broadcast, making it even more relevant for our viewers," WFAA8 vice president/news Michael Valentine said in a station news release. "Adding Shelly to this mix will continue to enhance what we have already done."

Slater also will continue to report on other newscasts, Valentine said in the release, praising her as "an outstanding street reporter" whose expanded role "is an excellent growth opportunity." He declined to comment further.

As previously reported on unclebarky.com, WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscasts lately have been notably more lifestyles oriented, with anchors stepping away from their desks to conduct live interviews elsewhere in the station's Victory Park studios. On Tuesday's show, McCaa interviewed a coupon-clipper indoors while Slater ventured into the sweltering heat for a live interview on child swim safety.

The addition of Slater also might make the newscasts a bit more lippy.

"You are so full of it. It's entertaining, though," she told weathercaster Pete Delkus after he said he'd be kissing babies and running for political office during an appearance at Friday night's Roughriders baseball game in Frisco.

"That's part of the job requirement, Shelly," Delkus assured her.

WFAA8 hasn't used a rotating tri-anchor system since August 2002, when Scott Sams went to the early morning shift after helming 10 p.m. newscasts with McCaa and Campos.

"We were saddled with Scott Sams for a while, and to be brutally honest with you, I really kind of resented that," Campos said in a profile of McCaa I wrote for the March 2009 issue of D CEO magazine. "I felt like they didn't have confidence in John and me to navigate this boat."

Sams now is working the early morning shift at rival CBS11 while McCaa and Campos continue to co-anchor WFAA8's 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Slater joined WFAA8 in fall 2006 from WDAF-TV in Kansas City.