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NBC5 mgt. responds to criticism of homes-for-sale series

NBC5's Lindsay Wilcox was hot on homes in 5-part news series.

Susan Tully, vice president of content management for Fort Worth-based NBC5, says the station's recent tour of homes-for-sale was a valid news feature.

An earlier critique in these spaces derided reporter Lindsay Wilcox's 5-part series, shown during last week's 10 p.m. newscasts, as a thinly disguised advertisement modeled after the half-hour Sunday infomercial Hot On Homes. Wilcox began the series with a tour of three homes in the $150,000 price range and ended it with a look at a trio of $1 million mini-manses. Area realtors and Wilcox took turns praising the properties during the series, which ran in the middle of newscasts. Wilcox was assisted in selecting the homes by the DFW Metrotex Association of Realtors.

One commenter questioned whether NBC5 should be investigated by the FCC. Here is Tully's defense of the series, sent via email Tuesday:

"Home ownership among our viewers is 80% and in most cases is the single largest investment they make in their lives. The topic of home values does have news value. The real estate segment was sparked by how much we all enjoy clicking through the slide shows found on sites like cnbc.com and wsj.com about how much a certain price point gets you across the nation.

"As we know, $250,000 in Texas is very different than that price in California. With so many 'For Sale' signs up right now, we were curious if there was a huge difference in a price point throughout North Texas.

"What does $150,000 buy in Mansfield compared to Uptown? It was honestly that simple. We wanted to do a local version, TV style. One story turned into five because everyone working on it really enjoyed the story and we thought a Friday night would be a fun way to voyeuristically see inside a $1 million home.

"It's the slow summer news cycle, so we said, 'Why not?' It was just meant to be informative and entertaining for the 80% who own homes.

"What concerned me about the blog was how quickly some people are to accuse us of making a pay-for-play move. Trust me, sales wasn't even aware we were doing the series. If a few folks don't like our stories, we know we're not for everyone. But for them to accuse us of FCC violations is highly offensive and uncalled for."

Tully added that the "couponing we do" on NBC5's 4 p.m. newscasts "talks to the 4 p.m. audience, mostly homeowners trying to stretch a dollar during a difficult time. No sales influence, no motivation. We did it once and the response was so good we continued it to fill a viewer need."