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Happy Holidays -- um, you're fired


Reporter Andrea Burnett, who joined NBC5 only last January, is the latest casualty of corporate-mandated downsizing. She's being let go at the end of the year.
Burnett came to NBC5 from KDFX-TV in Wichita Falls. She joins NBC5's Richard "Cash" Sirois, Ramona Logan and Loriana Hernandez in the station's recent or soon-to-be unemployed ranks.
Ed Bark

Emmitt's the beau of the ball at big Dallas charity event


Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were in good spirits at Tuesday's Dancing with the Stars-themed fundraiser to benefit underprivileged children. More than $100 grand was raised. All photos by Ed Bark

His dance partner, Cheryl Burke, canceled at the last minute due to illness. But Emmitt Smith showed up and played the perfect host Tuesday night on behalf of his charitable foundation.

"The pleasure's all mine. All mine," he could be heard saying on more than one occasion to well-heeled potential bidders. The night's grand prize, a private dance lesson from reigning Dancing with the Stars champs Smith and Burke, eventually went to three couples who parted with a total of $80 grand. Another $20,000-plus was raised separately, Smith said.

An invited crowd mingled in close quarters at the Plaza at Turtle Creek with Smith, his wife, Pat, pro football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott, and possible future honorees Michael Irvin and Tim Brown.

Smith's triumphant green dancing costume and shoes were framed for the occasion, and party-goers also could pet the Dancing with the Stars mirror ball trophy. Late in the game, Allen held it aloft and proclaimed, "I want you guys to realize this is gonna be me next year. No way. Just kiddin'."

From left: Marcus Allen, Pat Smith, Emmitt Smith, one of the winning couples, Ronnie Lott (with Dancing trophy in hand) and Tim Brown.

Maybe Allen should reconsider. Smith, in an interview, said his transformation from bruising running back to Dancing's teddy bear "has opened up a new world of possibilities."

Endorsement-wise, "It's totally shifted the dynamics," he said. "I've wanted to be in this position, and I thought football would do it for me. But in the world of entertainment, you've got a lot more women actively engaged in watching. I guess you could say the phone's been ringing off the hook with opportunities. Now I just have to sit back, make the right decisions and capitalize on it."

All proceeds from Tuesday's event, co-sponsored by Park Place Maserati, went to Emmitt Smith Charities, which currently is helping fund college educations for 19 disadvantaged students. Those who kicked in the big bucks also won a private dinner at The Mansion, an accompanying bottle of Dom Perignon and a night's stay. Allen urged a hard sell when Smith initially went a little easy on potential bidders.

"It's like church, dude," he said. "You've gotta put all the people on the spot. Wash away all your sins."

Amen to that.


Remember her? Mesquite's Shannon Hughes was runnerup in 2005's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search on NBC. A recurring guest on "The Ticket" (1310 AM), she's now happily married to her high school sweetheart. But wait, there's a bit more to this story.

Postscript: Shannon Hughes of Mesquite also was at Tuesday night's charity event, where she modeled Stanley Korshak jewelry. In early winter 2005, she placed second in NBC's "reality" show search for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Should've won. But here's the punchline.

Shannon caught the eye of then Dallas Cowboys' third string quarterback Tony Romo, who asked a sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News to inquire about her availability. The sportswriter than lateraled the ball to me, because I'd interviewed her about the show. Did I think she'd go out with Romo? No, I said, she's engaged and they're already planning the wedding.

I hadn't seen Shannon since, so she'd never heard the story.

"Nope, I was taken," she said, laughing, upon learning what might have been.

Romo since has become one of America's hottest bachelors and Shannon indeed married her high school sweetheart, who's now on his medical residency in Galveston.

NBC5 ends Logan's run


NBC5 veteran Ramona Logan, who both anchored and reported for the station, is another casualty of the Peacock's corporate-mandated downsizing. Logan, who joined NBC5 in 1985 from KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, was let go late last month.
As previously reported, weekend anchor Loriana Hernandez and sports reporter/anchor Richard "Cash" Sirois also are looking for new jobs. And Belo8's longtime Washington correspondent, Jim Fry, likewise is without work in the heart of the holidays. He was laid off last week.
Ed Bark

Two terminated from Belo Washington Bureau

Former Belo8 reporter Jim Fry

Veteran Belo8 reporter Jim Fry has been laid off from the station's Washington bureau, sources confirm.
A colleague, Tom Ackerman of Belo-owned KVUE-TV in Austin, also has been let go.
Fry joined Belo8 in 1982 and had been reporting from Washington for more than a decade. His picture is still on wfaa.com, but his station email has been disabled. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ed Bark

CBS11, TXA21 go to Cleveland for news leadership


CBS11 and TXA21 will begin the New Year with a new vice president of news.

Greg Easterly, from Fox-owned WJW-TV in Cleveland, was named Friday to replace Tom Doerr, who recently left the station to return to Miami.

Easterly, who has spent the last 10 years at WJW, is described as a "tremendous talent" and "terrific people person" in a memo distributed Friday by CBS11 and TXA21 president and general manager Steve Mauldin. He will "bring a very aggressive approach to our news gathering," Mauldin said.

Easterly is scheduled to join the station in mid-January, two weeks before the February ratings "sweeps" begin. Staffers are anticipating major shakeups in an effort to give CBS11 the push it needs to seriously contend for the No. 1 spot at 10 p.m. Despite a considerable lead-in advantage from CBS entertainment programming, the station placed a lackluster third at 10 p.m. in the November sweeps.

Interim news director Scott Diener will remain in that position until Easterly arrives, Mauldin said.

Drum roll: Introducing the first unclebarky.com local news all-stars

It proved to be a long, eye-straining, brain-draining November. Watching a full "sweeps" worth of D-FW 10 p.m. newscasts is not recommended for the faint of commitment.

But what's done is done, and it's been worth the effort. I now have a renewed grasp of what's making news in the country's sixth largest TV market. Too much of it is consultant-induced drivel that isn't worth your time. But that's all been duly documented in the daily dispatches on these pages. Now it's time to acknowledge only the best anchors and reporters working the all-important late night shifts at Fox4, NBC5, Belo8 and CBS11.

This first unclebarky.com All-Star team is made up of those who regularly appeared on 10 p.m. newscasts during the 20 weeknights of the November "sweeps." With anchors, that's easy. It's pretty much the same faces night after night, and many of them have been coming into your homes for a decade or more.

Selecting the team's reporters is a tougher challenge. I've narrowed it down to eight, with the caveat that they had to make at least two appearances to qualify. That makes room for investigative work that takes time to prepare properly. Some of these were very close calls, but the idea was to put together a team of varying skills and ages. Experience counts for a lot but it's also important to replenish the stock with promising and energetic younger reporters.

So here we go. And please feel free to put together your own teams in the comments section.

CBS11 has a consistently solid mix of breaking and enterprise stories. It resists responding to virtually every crime committed in the D-FW viewing area. Resorting to flash and trash apparently is the easiest road to ratings prosperity, as a certain station with a Peacock mascot demonstrates night after night. CBS11 sometimes plays that game, too, but it's far more often on the side of the angels. More viewers need to support TV journalism of a higher calling -- before it's too late.
Runnerup: Fox4

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Tracy Rowlett (CBS11) -- Still the steadiest hand in the business. Authoritative but not authoritarian, he takes the news seriously without being stuffy about it. You won't find a better local anchor anywhere. Consider him D-FW's Walter Cronkite. Solid as a rock, trusty as a Collie.
Clarice Tinsley (Fox4) -- She's nearly Rowlett's equal in terms of tenure, but Tinsley has weathered all of her storms at just one station. She brings a stateswoman's presence to latenight news. Once upon a time she over-sold the news. She's long since matured into a model presenter with a still-strong presence.
David Finfrock (NBC5) -- They say "Arctic Blast," he says "cold front." Immune to gimmickry and overblown pronouncements, Finfrock simply gives you a forecast you can take to the bank. Schooled by local weather legend Harold Taft, he knows his subject and it shows. Don't ever make him change.
Dale Hansen (Belo8) -- Yes, he's a loose cannon, full of bombast and too often fueled by a longheld grudge against the Dallas Cowboys. But he's our Dale, and no one in the market has a more entertaining or distinctive sportscast. Hansen will keep doing it his way until they show him the door. Damned if that's not admirable.

John McCaa (Belo8), Karen Borta (CBS11), Pete Delkus (Belo8), Mike Doocy (Fox4)

REPORTERS (in alphabetical order)
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Rebecca Aguilar (Fox4) -- You can always count on a straight story from her. A tenacious, hard-digger with a long history at the station.
Bennett Cunningham (CBS11) --- His on-air flair can be a bit overdone at times, but Cunningham's consumer reports invariably have a sound foundation.
J.D. Miles (CBS11) --- Send him out on anything and he'll deliver the goods. A strong, reliable street reporter.
Shaun Rabb (Fox4) -- He's been at it a long time, and knows the black community inside out. Eminently fair and no longer off-puttingly showy.

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George Riba (Belo8) -- He's been reliably covering sports in D-FW for longer than the Mavericks have existed. Still hasn't lost his enthusiasm for going beyond the playing field.
Robert Riggs (CBS11) -- Another combat veteran, literally. He's covered the war in Iraq and brings a serious sense of purpose to whatever else he's digging up.
Shelly Slater (Belo8) -- She's the team's rookie phenom, a newcomer whose talent and imaginative approaches to stories already are readily apparent.
Brandon Todd (Fox4) -- This guy really goes after it, and it shows when his competitors are covering the same story. Expect him to give you a little something the others don't have.

Ginger Allen (CBS11), Derek Castillo (NBC5), Jeff Crilley (Fox4), Jim Douglas (Belo8), Jay Gormley (CBS11), Byron Harris (Belo8)

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Nov. 30)

Give D-FW newscasts an "Arctic Blast" any time of the year. Hell, they'll even take a lemon chill. That's because the ratings make it seem like Christmas.

Thursday's prime recipients were the early morning news shows, viewed avidly in search of information on school closings, icy roads and whether the world -- shiver -- indeed might be ending. First let's look at the average number of homes tuned to the 6 to 7 a.m. shows for the 20-day November "sweeps," which ended on Wednesday:

NBC5 -- 114,240
Fox4 -- 102,340
Belo8 -- 83,300
CBS11 -- 42,840

Now here's the windfall for Thursday's waker-uppers:

NBC5 -- 218,960
Fox4 -- 204,680
Belo8 -- 173,740
CBS11 -- 61,880

In other words, three of the four stations more than doubled their audiences. And at 3 p.m., NBC5's weather coverage, in place of Ellen, drew more than four times the eyeballs. Take a look:

Ellen at 3 p.m. on NBC5
Sweeps avg. -- 30,940 homes
Thursday's weather special -- 138,040 homes

In prime-time, ABC's Grey's Anatomy easily had its highest D-FW rating of the season. The medical drama reeled in 459,340 homes. Alas, the network's following Men In Trees, making its first Thursday appearance in place of The Nine, went timbe-r-r-r with just 192,780 homes.

The local stations otherwise like b-r-r-r-r just fine.