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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