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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Jan. 30)

Belo8 celebrated "sweeps" eve with another double grand slam in the local newscast league, its fourth this month. And the Fox network and Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast whooped it up with a prime-time trouncing of all rivals.

Fox's American Idol again drew the biggest crowd in total D-FW homes (358,033). But its lie detector-spiced big money game show, The Moment of Truth, had Wednesday's biggest haul of advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. Truth drew 321,647 of 'em, with Idol a reasonably close runnerup (296,420).

Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast also smoked the competition, with 224,075 total homes and 176,590 viewers of the 18-to-49-year-old persuasion. The night's non-Fox runnerup in that category, ABC's two-hour "enhanced" edition of last season's Lost finale, had 132,443 advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds.

Otherwise Belo8 grinned broadly, sweeping the 6 a.m. and 5, 6 and 10 p.m. local news competitions in total homes and among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Early morning's defending champ, Fox4, ran second at 6 a.m., just a hair ahead of third-place NBC5. And the Peacock copped second place among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Belo8 had an especially easy time at 10 p.m., rolling up dominant wins over second-place NBC5 in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds.

In the cable universe, CNN's four-way Republican presidential debate from the Reagan Library pulled in an average of 58,860 homes from 7 to 8:30 p.m. That easily bested regularly scheduled programming on rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

CBS11 not the same old story under news director Scott Diener -- or at least that's the plan


News director Scott Diener in CBS11's new newsroom. Photos: Ed Bark

It's easier replacing a perceived tyrant than an acknowledged legend.

CBS11 news director Scott Diener otherwise enters the first ratings sweeps month of the new year with much the same challenge his controversial predecessor faced. The station's four principal newscasts still have miles to go before hitting the top spot in the Nielsen ratings at 6 a.m. or 5, 6 and 10 p.m. But a pair of second place finishes in November -- in total homes at 6 and 10 p.m. -- are cause for at least guarded optimism on the eve of the four-week February sweeps, which begin Thursday.

"News that is relevant to people in the community -- that's the real key," Diener says from an office bordering the station's remodeled news room. "I use that 'relevance' word all the time. We shoot a lot of things, but I don't feel like we have to put everything on the air. I want us to be aggressive, but I think it's really important that we ask why we're putting something on the air.

"Sometimes our newscast and other newscasts over-emphasize crime and mayhem. We need to do a better job of being" -- and there's that word again -- "relevant."

Diener joined CBS11 in June 2006 as assistant news director. In early spring of the following year, the station hired Regent Ducas from a Kansas City station to flog reporters with a "run 'n' gun" approach that put a premium on quick-hit live shots of crime scenes, car wrecks, fires and other assorted tragedies.

Staff morale sunk below the water line, with some reporters jumping overboard. Ratings fell, too, and on the Friday before Labor Day, Ducas was dumped unceremoniously by the man who hired him, CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin. He put Diener in charge on the same day while simultaneously proclaiming another new day in the way the station would present the news.

In his first interview, Diener begins by saying, "I want as little publicity of me as possible."

But he says this with a smile. And by interview's end he's relaxed enough to laugh about an oversized 46th birthday card in his office that pictures him as a hunky, 1980s University of Missouri student being nuzzled by "an old college friend of mine." And who would that be? Sheryl Crow.

Diener came to CBS11 from Belo-owned KTVK-TV in Phoenix, where he spent two years as news director. Belo, which owns ratings-rich WFAA-TV (Ch. 8) in Dallas, also employed him at a TV station in Louisville. But Diener notes that he likewise ran the newsroom at Scripps-owned WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, which won prestigious duPont-Columbia and Peabody awards during his tenure.

"Look," he says, "Belo's a formidable competitor in this market. There's no doubt about that. WFAA, they do a lot of good things. But I feel that day in, day out, we're right there with them."

Diener's principal interest is investigative reporting, where CBS11 lately is doing a "bang-up job" in his view. He points to reporter Bennett Cunningham's November piece, titled "Overseas Adventure," on North Texas Tollway Authority executives blowing taxpayers' money on a junket to Vienna, Austria. Cunningham and his crew documented some of the excesses with hidden camera footage. He later confronted authorities back home.

"The coolest thing," says Diener, "is I get support from my boss here (Mauldin) and in New York from CBS, because that wasn't a cheap trip for us to invest in. They didn't blink. That to me was a real sign of where we are as a company and what kind of journalism we're doing."

Cunningham was at it again, coincidentally, in CBS11's Fort Worth lobby Tuesday afternoon. While a camera rolled he could be heard asking questions about what presumably was another questionable taxpayer-funded jaunt by heavy-spending government officials.


Less salutary were the station's recent heavy-handed efforts to reach 25-to-54-year-old women, who watch newscasts in appreciably larger numbers than men of that age, according to Nielsen Media Research.

In November, accompanied by salacious promotions, CBS11 had featured stories on "The Sex Diet," a cellulite-fighting cream called Butt-u-Iful and an aggressively self-promoting female doctor specializing in vaginal makeovers.

"We did some of those kinds of outlandish stories, and I think we might have gone too far on some things," Diener concedes. "Whatever little stunting we may have done, I'm not sure that always works."

Women in the 25-to-54 demographic "are interested in stories that are important to the community, too," he says. "They don't only care about where to get the best pedicure or something. I mean, c'mon! That demeans their intelligence."

"Thank you," interjects communications director Lori Conrad, who's monitoring the interview.

There's also the matter of anchor banter, currently in short supply on CBS11's early evening and 10 p.m. newscasts but a staple ingredient on Belo8. Principally jabbing at one another are weatherman Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen, with news anchor Gloria Campos regularly joining in while John McCaa does his best to roll with the punchlines. Belo8 executives say viewers seem to enjoy the byplay, which doesn't kick in until the second halves of newscasts and isn't doesn't done to excess in their view.

"I don't have any problem with bantering," Diener says. "But I don't expect Larry (new weatherman Larry Mowry) and Babe (sports anchor Babe Laufenberg) to be the Pete 'n' Dale show.

"It's gotta be natural," he adds. "I've worked with enough anchor teams and seen enough of them where the only time they ever talk to each other is that 30 minutes when the red (camera) light comes on. Then they leave that studio and they won't talk again unless they're yelling at each other. We don't have that here. This is one of the most civil news operations I've worked in."

Diener carefully addresses a question on why CBS11 hired Mowry from an Orlando, FL station and put him on the featured 10 p.m. newscasts in place of Kristine Kahanek, who's still forecasting in the early evenings.

"Well, Larry brings so much to the table for us," Diener says. "He's a weather nerd. We feel like weather is really going to be important to us, and how can we enhance that team? We have Kristine here, too, so it only adds to what we've got going on here. But the thinking was, 'What do we need to get ourselves to the next level?' "

The coming sweeps month will yield more report cards, with CBS11 hoping to sustain what Diener calls "a lot of good, forward progress in the last four or five months."

"We've got to be aggressive out there," he emphasizes. "Six or seven years ago, our station wasn't even up in the newsrooms around the city. People wouldn't even pay attention to us. They're paying attention now."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Jan. 28)

Once a rarity, double grand slams are getting commonplace for Belo8's local newscasts, which rang up another one Monday.

The ABC station won at 6 a.m., and 5, 6 and 10 p.m. in both total homes and among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. It's the third time this month that Belo8 has rounded all the bases, with the February "sweeps" ratings period just two days away.

Monday's prime-time schedule yielded in large part to President Bush's last State of the Union message, which with the Democratic response ran from 8 to 9:30 p.m. The audience for Bush on the four broadcast networks totaled 467,635 D-FW homes.

At the 7 p.m. hour, Ch. 27 perked up with a MyNetworkTV special on the Harlem Globetrotters. It drew 73,056 homes, an uncommonly large audience for the upstart network. And among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, the Globetrotters ran third in the time period, beating both ABC's new episode of Dance War and Fox's repeat of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Also on the basketball front, the Dallas Mavericks' road win over Memphis had 56,019 homes on Fox Sports Southwest.

Aguilar still awaiting her fate at Fox4


Readers regularly ask about Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar's status. It hasn't changed since her Oct. 16th suspension. But the award-winning veteran is still included on the station's website. She also has a new picture (above), as do the rest of Fox4's reporters and anchors in an updated photo gallery.

Otherwise Aguilar is still "being paid to stay home," she said Sunday. "Right now I can't say what's going on. But I will tell you I miss my job. I miss interviewing people. I miss helping people. I wish I could say more, but I can't."

Attorneys are involved on both sides. But the ongoing writers' strike, which began on Nov. 5th, seems to have a better chance of being settled before Fox4 and Aguilar reach an agreement. Representatives of the writers and studios at least resumed talks late last week. In Aguilar's case, though, the stalemate continues.

Early morning weather worries: What a blast

0125_weatherford200b Weather_FreezingRainAdvisory photo_servlet

Send in the cavalry because that pesky little drizzle just might morph into deadly ice shards.

That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture if you were up early Friday watching D-FW's waker-uppers.

Your faithful correspondent awoke from a fitful sleep well before 6 a.m. to see Belo8 reporter Jim Douglas gamely scraping a few ice shavings off a pylon in downtown Weatherford. He wore a Pete Seeger topper and black leather jacket to ward off the pre-sunrise chill sweeping through North Texas. Over in Collin County, colleague Steve Stoler outdid him in a funny Inspector Clouseau hat accented with eyeglasses that he doesn't usually wear.

In fairness, the possibility had existed of a cold winter's rain turning freeways into skating rinks. Ok, maybe just overhead bypasses would get slicked up in some areas. Or perhaps only a small patch of pavement in Decatur.

Anyway, this is potentially good stuff for TV screens, so three of the four major news providers deployed extra troops both in the field and inside warm studios.

Belo8 summoned well-meaning, big-footing Pete Delkus, who took command while incumbent Daybreak weathercaster Greg Fields became his head-nodding first lieutenant. Delkus was in shirtsleeves, so you knew this could get serious.

"The critical issue that we need to talk about this morning are the temperatures," Delkus told viewers. Yep, they were "hovering" around freezing, like a wolf waiting to pounce on a helpless hen house.

Over on CBS11, Fields' wife, Robbie Owens, braved the cold to tell viewers that all seemed clear in Fort Worth. Hellfire, it wasn't even raining.

Still, the station had brand new 10 p.m. weatherman Larry Mowry in the harness, aided by regular morning temperature-taker Julie Bologna.

"We're kind of dodging a bullet to many degrees this morning," the Florida import said dramatically.

Bologna eased off the throttle, telling viewers they could expect a "transition from a mixed bag to regular ol' rain."

CBS also deployed weatherman Jeff Jamison, who stood outside in the Decatur cold brandishing his snappy "laser thermometer." Forecaster Garry Seith of sister station TXA21 chipped in, too, finding some icy "glaze" on a Weatherford pole while wearing a CBS11 ballcap that matched Jamison's.

NBC5 added meteorologist James Aydelott to its in-studio team, with incumbent Rebecca Miller also staying the course as usual. New reporter Omar Villafranca got to stand out in the cold to tell viewers it hadn't gotten too bad yet.

That left Fox4 as early morning's wet blanket -- and overall voice of reason. Evan Andrews, the regular Good Day weatherman, somehow managed to soldier on alone without any help from Dan Henry, Ron Jackson, etc.

"No need to push the panic button," he said calmly. And later: "I'm not a ton concerned, just a little" about icy roads imperiling the populace.

Co-anchor Tim Ryan seemed bemused throughout the early morning. He praised Andrews for not telling viewers to buy generators or stock up on other essentials in preparation for any arctic calamity.

"It's really not all that bad out there," Ryan said.

No, it wasn't, and pretty much everyone at all the stations got around to saying that. Still, few things generate broader TV comedy in these parts than the threat or the reality of nasty winter weather. So even a laid-back Fox4 brought viewers the thrill of correspondent Adrian Arambulo sighting an ice-glazed windshield in Denton.

As long as he was out there, it's the least he could do.

Shipp takes heat, rival stations pretend otherwise

shipp hinojosa

Investigator credits DISD Supt. Michael Hinojosa with doing the right thing in making South Oak Cliff forfeit 2006 basketball title.

Newspapers and Web sites of any worth routinely credit rivals for breaking big news stories.

Not so in TV Land, where acknowledging a competitor is rarer than a newscast without a crime story. And so it went with Wednesday's coverage of the DISD's announcement that South Oak Cliff High School must forfeit its 2006 state basketball championship because of grade-fixing.

It made big news throughout the state, leaving Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 with little choice but to report it. But none of the stations came anywhere near noting the fact that Belo8 reporter Brett Shipp's dogged investigation was solely responsible for the DISD's decision. Nor could they muster the gumption to at least tell viewers that "a Dallas television station investigation" prompted Wednesday's sobering words from DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

Fox4's generally solid Shaun Rabb instead made it seem as if his station was breaking at least part of the story.

On Wednesday's 9 p.m. newscast he told viewers, "The grade change (was) made for one student at the campus level, sources tell us, by a principal and a teacher who are no longer at the school."

Sources tell us? Shipp had that information months ago.

In Chicago Thursday working on another story, Shipp said by telephone that he didn't expect anything more from his rivals.

"I have too many friends at 4, 5 and 11 to blister my ass over who credits me," he said. "It's not important. What's important is that the school district finally acknowledged that that school and that principal had issues."

Principally at issue was a bogus passing grade in an English course for star South Oak Cliff player Kendrake Johnigan, who's now playing hoops for Eastfield College in Mesquite. Shipp said that Belo8 had most of the specific damning information a year and a half ago, but "we thought we would give the DISD the opportunity to do the right thing."

Instead, his initial stories on alleged sexual misconduct and grade-changing at South Oak Cliff were ignored by the district, he says. "They refused to go in there and clean it up."

So the station decided to "pull out the heavy artillery" and revisit the South Oak Cliff situation with reports that began on Nov. 20th of last year.

"I'm just glad that DISD gives a damn," Shipp said Thursday. "Before I didn't have a reason to believe that they did."

Investigations such as this can put a reporter in the cross-hairs, too.

"Yeah, I got bombarded with hate mail," Shipp said. "The heat got pretty tight. But you know, I live with that every day. Every story I do, it never ceases to amaze me the people I piss off."

Representatives of the Boy Scouts of America "wanted to string me up" after an earlier investigation, he said. And his probes into the finances of North Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland, now being investigated by Congress, generated "hate mail everyday from the best Christians in the world. Nobody hates more than a good Christian, and it is relentless. But it doesn't faze me. That's what the 'delete' button is for on the computer. I just keep going."

Shipp credits Belo8 news management with having his back when the blowback gets hot.

"I'm so excited that I work at a place that allows me to do real journalism," he said.

Belo8 news director Mike Valentine said that the DISD's decision Wednesday "shows our investigation was right on the mark. These types of stories define who we are and continue to be a staple of our overall news philosophy."

CBS11 no longer House of Payne


CBS11 freelance reporter Stella Payne is no longer attached to the station.

She had been a regular contributor since 2005 and most recently reported on Monday's Martin Luther King holiday parade in D-FW. Payne previously worked at TV stations in Harrisburg, PA and Hattiesburg, Miss. She also had a two year stay, from 1994 to 1996, at KETK-TV in Tyler, TX.

Management confirmed dropping Payne while also noting that two new freelancers will be reporting for CBS11. Marianne Martinez, who starts on Friday, Jan. 25, comes from Fox affiliate KDVR-TV in Denver. Takisha Roberson, starting next week, most recently worked at WXYZ-TV in Detroit.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Jan. 22)

Fox's American Idol again dominated Tuesday's prime-time ratings, but Belo8's local newscasts made a bigger score.

The station's rare double grand slam (the first since Nov. 19th) in the four major news food groups included a surprising rout of Fox4's usually potent Good Day in the 6 a.m. D-FW Nielsens. The continued presence of lame duck Daybreak co-anchor Justin Farmer, scheduled to leave for WSB-TV in Atlanta when his contract expires in July, doesn't seem to be a turnoff to viewers. Or maybe it's just that new desk partner Cynthia Izaguirre is proving to be a turn-on.

Belo8 drew 119,344 total homes at 6 a.m. Tuesday, with Fox4 and NBC5 tying for a distant second (73,068 homes). The ABC station also had a comfortable margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. It drew 91,280 viewers in that key age group, with Fox4's Good Day well behind at 53,001.

The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Good Day, which usually beats all three of the network morning shows, slipped to third in both audience measurements.

Belo8 also ran the table at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., which is regularly the case.

Idol amassed 411,164 total homes for its one-hour audition outing from San Diego. It also ran away with the 18-to-49-year-olds ratings, the main advertiser target audience for entertainment programming.

Riding on Idol's coattails, Fox's repeat of House commanded the 8 to 9 p.m. hour in both ratings measurements. At 9 p.m., NBC's new episode of Law & Order: SVU edged ABC's first-run Boston Legal in total homes and won more comfortably with 18-to-49-year-olds.

Also of note: Longrunning Wheel of Fortune on CBS11 pounded the three competing entertainment rag mags despite the big news of actor Heath Ledger's death in a New York loft.

Guy and dolls

barbie340x300 david_b

Belo8 reporter David Schechter has resumed playing with his Barbie dolls.

What he does on his own time is his business. But Schechter's doll houses are his station's newscasts. On Tuesday's 6 p.m. edition, Schechter's story on the ongoing economic downturn began like this: "Talk of recession is almost everywhere. So it seems like a good time to check in with 'Coffee shop Barbie.' How would the recession affect her?"

Of course. Who else would you check in with? So there stood a blonde, blue-eyed Barbie in a blue, sparkling, off the shoulder cocktail dress, with a coffee machine as her backdrop.

This isn't the way Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings or even Geraldo Rivera got started. But this isn't your old G.I. Joe's newscast either. In today's TV news firmament you've gotta stand out, hook the viewer, get 'em talking and maybe even prompt TV critics to get all huffy and indignant. So the puckish Schechter is a rising star at Belo8, continuing in the fine tradition of veteran Brad Watson, who induced Barbie dolls into the 2006 Texas gubernatorial campaign as a way of simplifying the issues to voters.

Schechter, who's used Barbie as a prop before, said that she "might notice her customers ordering fewer $3.50 lattes and more $1.50 black coffees. As a result, her boss might be forced to cut back on Barbie's overtime and her chances at a promotion."

Mr. Rogers couldn't have said it better. And Schechter also roped in SMU economics professor Mike Davis, a presumably grown man who played along in the interests of making his university proud.

"Even if Barbie's still got a job, she's gonna be worried," Davis intoned. "And she might say, 'Well, instead of going out and having a big ol' night on the town, I'm just gonna go grab a six-pack and meet Ken back at my place.' "

The piece ended with Barbie forsaking her favored champagne for a bottle of Bud Light after Schechter had her racing to a hot spot in her miniature convertible.

Anchor Gloria Campos then noted that Barbie was "lookin' good" in the outfit Schechter had selected for her. Desk mate Jeff Brady chimed, "Well, yeah. You can tell a lot from Barbie, as we know now. She's got a track record for explaining things here."

Alas, that's all too true. But why stop with Barbie when there are so many other toys being neglected? Maybe an entire Belo8 newscast could be a veritable Pee-wee's Playhouse.

Civale - Lego

Separated at birth? Lego man and Belo8 reporter Craig Civale

Build a replica of City Hall out of Legos and let one of its signature characters stand in for reporter Craig Civale. Build Dale Hansen's rustic birthplace with Lincoln Logs. Illustrate rush hour traffic with dozens of Tonka toys. Construct Pete Delkus's weather maps out of Play-Doh. And let Schechter go ape with the Fisher Price collection. There's no telling what he might accomplish in a bigger sandbox.

Seriously, though, what's gotten into Belo8? It has a storied reputation and dozens of prestigious national awards in its trophy case. So how about stopping this nonsense before someone gets the bright idea to do an Etch-a-Sketch version of a big murder trial.

Meanwhile, in the grownup division . . . Belo8 investigator Brett Shipp's gutty stories on South Oak Cliff High School's grade-changing scheme will result in the forfeit of its 2006 state basketball championship.

Shipp topped Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast with that revelation, set to be officially announced on Wednesday. The dogged reporter undoubtedly has and will take major heat over this. But in the end he had the goods, and his reporting has stood up. Frontburner.com, for one, at least owes this a mention after initially encouraging its readers to believe that this was a "shabby example of gotcha journalism." Fair is fair.

Addendum: FrontBurner made restitution -- sort of -- an hour or so after this post.

Hello, Larry

5_DAY Mowry_Larry

CBS11 kicked off the Larry Mowry era Monday with the new weatherman's debut on the station's 10 p.m. newscast.

He threw down his first forecast with an almost surreal smoothness after anchors Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta welcomed the Orlando, FL import by giving viewers a look at his nine month old daughter, Regan.

"Thank you very much," he said congenially. "That's nice of you guys to show the pictures of her. That's very sweet of you."

Mowry then got to the night's "dense fog advisory" after dutifully praising D-FW as a "great place to live."

"We've got a lot going on weather-wise, too," he added. "So that makes my job very active."

He's a pretty active temperature taker, too, using his hands as weather vanes while getting a bit closer to the camera than predecessor Kristine Kahanek, who for now remains in charge of the early evening weather segments.

Mowry also projects well, and had no stumbles during his inaugural forecast. He didn't try any tough Texas pronunciations, but had no trouble rattling off Dallas, Fort Worth, Corsicana, Ennis, Athens, Palestine and Fairfield. What, no Palo Pinto county? But he's just a rookie here, and CBS11 still has the prettiest late nighter in the market opposite competing forecasters Pete Delkus of Belo8, Dan Henry (Fox4) and David Finfrock (NBC5).

"Don't act like you're excited, all right?" anchor Dunbar jabbed after Mowry warned viewers about cold temperatures and possibly "light freezing rain" in the cards. "You didn't bring any sunshine from Orlando, did ya?"

"Not 'til Wednesday," Mowry rejoined, smiling of course. He already looks like he belongs.

Incoming at Belo8

JASON_WHITELY jonathan_betz

Two new reporters will join Belo8's news team in March, making the station "fully staffed" again, says news director Mike Valentine.

Jason Whitely is from KHOU-TV in Houston and Jonathan Betz arrives from WWL-TV in New Orleans. All three stations are owned by Belo Corp.

Whitely has been at KHOU, a CBS affiliate, since the summer of 2000, and regularly covered NASA's Johnson Space Center. He's a graduate of Western Kentucky University who previously worked at stations in St. Louis and Nashville.

Betz joined WWL in the summer of 2004 and did extensive reporting on Hurricane Katrina. WWL won a national George Foster Peabody Award for its coverage. A graduate of Syracuse University, Betz previously had "brief stints" at both Belo8 and WKTV-TV in Utica, NY, his WWL bio says. He came to the CBS station from Northwest Arkansas' 40/29 news, which is based in Fayetteville.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Jan. 18-20)

The Packers finally beat the Cowboys -- in a few of this season's ratings battles at least.

Sunday's night bonafide arctic blast from Green Bay's Lambeau Field averaged 763,387 D-FW homes from actual start (5:44 p.m.) to overtime finish (9:12). The Fox telecast peaked at 920,657 homes in its final 15-minute slice of frozen tundra. Um, the Giants won. Still trying to blank that out.

The overall audience for the NFC championship game topped four regular season Cowboys games to finish 13th on that 16-game list behind the Dec. 22nd Cowboys-Panthers game on MY27 and cable's NFL Network (780,001 D-FW homes).

Dallas' Jan. 13th loss at the hands of the Giants topped all games with a massive average of 1,131,992 D-FW homes on Fox.

CBS essentially threw away the latest season finale of The Amazing Race by scheduling it opposite Packers-Giants. It averaged just 119,344 homes in D-FW.

Earlier Sunday, the still unbeaten Patriots' hard-fought win over the Chargers in the AFC championship game averaged 518,783 homes locally on CBS.

Comparatively, the most-watched program at any time of the day Saturday was Belo8's 10 p.m. newscast, with 172,928 homes. Football is King Kong here.

In Friday's local newscast skirmishes, Belo8 took the gold at 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 had 6 a.m. wins in both ratings measurements, beating runnerup Belo8 in homes and second place NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demo.

The Peacock also ran first at 5 and 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds. Belo8 took both battles in total homes.

NBC News execs turn their backs on Belo8's Byron Harris

duPont Award harris

Belo8 investigator Byron Harris' prize-winning investigation of Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" series didn't sit well with NBC News executives at Wednesday's duPont-Columbia awards ceremony in New York.

So they got up and walked out while the veteran gumshoe made his acceptance speech. Led by NBC News president Steve Capus, the Peacock contingent then returned after Harris had finished. NBC News spokeswoman Allison Gollust later told tvnewser.com that "our executives' actions speak for themselves."

"I really don't have any big reaction," said Belo8 president and general manager Mike Devlin, who attended the ceremony with Harris and news director Mike Valentine. "I don't know what point it made. They did it, and that's their choice."

Devlin, in a Friday telephone interview with unclebarky.com, said he talked to Harris about the incident and "he just smiled. And that was that."

Harris, who has won multiple national awards during his long career at Belo8, had a series of reports on Dateline and its partnership with the Perverted Justice Web site. His stories focused on a November, 2006 "sting" operation in Murphy, TX, which so far has resulted in no convictions of the 24 alleged sexual predators arrested by police.

Harris, who couldn't immediately be reached Friday, earlier responded on this site to questions about whether his ABC affiliated station would have been as aggressive if the program were Dateline ABC.

"It wouldn't keep me from trying," he said. "It's not my decision. If someone were to tell me not to do the story, it wouldn't be me . . . I think it's less probable certainly (that he could investigate an ABC program)."

Devlin declined to comment on that aspect.

Informed sources say NBC sent a letter of protest to the duPont-Columbia board after Harris' award was announced. Dateline also was among Wednesday's honorees, for a story titled "The Education of Mrs. Groves."

Harris accepted his award without criticizing Dateline, Devlin said.

"It wasn't attack mode, it wasn't judgmental," he said. "He said that we all make mistakes, and it was a very classy statement that he made. And NBC missed that."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Jan. 16)

American Idol's Dallas auditions and Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, which again caught a big tailwind, rocketed through Wednesday's D-FW Nielsens.

Idol commanded 479,981 total homes in more than doubling the crowd for any competing program. The 9 p.m. news on Fox4 then drew 294,471 homes to easily outdraw everything against it. Fox4's featured newscast also won handily among two key advertiser target audiences, 18-to-49-year-olds and 25-to-54-year-olds.

The concluding two hours of CBS' Comanche Moon miniseries held up well under the circumstances, averaging 241,124 homes overall and perking up after Idol ended at 9 p.m. The night's big loser, ABC's new Cashmere Mafia, managed just 97,424 homes at 9 p.m. to run fourth across the board.

Some wide swings in audience preferences for Idol and Comanche Moon are worth telescoping. Here's how it played out among young and old:

12-to-17-year-olds -- 64,960
18-to-34-year-olds -- 136,553
18-to-49-year-olds -- 381,561
25-to-54-year-olds -- 394,456
55 years and older -- 209,600

12-to-17-year-olds -- 406 (no, that's not a misprint)
18-to-34-year-olds -- 25,704
18-to-49-year-olds -- 110,369
25-to-54-year-olds -- 144,281
55 years and older -- 256,000

In the local news derby, Belo8's 10 p.m. presentation again made news by overcoming significant lead-in advantages across the board. It won in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Fox4's 10 p.m. news slid to fourth place in both measurements, while NBC5 finished second.

Perhaps you're wondering -- or maybe not -- whether any 12-to-17-year-olds watch the 10 p.m. news. And how do those numbers compare to their parents or grandparents in the 55 years and older demographic. Here's the breakdown:

Belo8 -- 6,380
CBS11 -- 1,740
Fox4 and NBC5 -- "hashmarks" (no measurable audience)

CBS11 -- 160,000
NBC5 -- 144,000
Belo8 -- 142,400
Fox4 -- 110,400

In the other three major local news faceoffs Fox4 and Belo8 tied at 6 a.m. in total homes, with Fox4 nipping Belo8 among 25-to-54-year-olds. The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Fox4's Good Day then beat the network morning shows in both measurements for the third consecutive weekday.

Belo8 had twin wins at 6 p.m. and also finished first in total homes at 5 p.m. The ABC station and NBC5 tied at the earlier hour among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Out with the old, in with Young Street

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Henry Guerrero and Angelique Tege have merged onto Belo8's Young Street. Canceled are the station's La Vida and Metro programs.

Belo8 quietly has folded La Vida, aimed at Hispanic viewers, and Metro, which targeted a black audience.

Its respective anchors, Henry Guerrero and Angelique Tege, now are co-anchoring the new Young Street, which premiered on Jan. 6th. The station describes it as "a look at the lifestyles of young adults in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including music, nightlife, food and fashion." Young Street also is the address of Belo8's downtown Dallas offices.

The new program airs at 5 p.m. Sundays, where it now no longer will have to compete against Dallas Cowboys games. Last Sunday's well-kept secret drew just 9,742 D-FW homes opposite the season-ending Cowboys-Giants playoff game.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues. Jan. 15)

The two-hour, seventh season premiere of American Idol predictably tore through the prime-time ratings Tuesday night, boosting Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast to rarefied heights as well.

Idol amassed 453,022 D-FW homes in virtually replicating the performance of Fox's Sunday night premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

But Terminator followed a mega-audience of more than one million homes for the Cowboys-Giants playoff game while Idol comparatively had to build from scratch off a lead-in from the syndicated Access Hollywood (121,780 homes).

Idol also grabbed 372,101 viewers in the advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-old demographic. That's more than triple the number of all prime-time programs except CBS' Comanche Moon miniseries, which managed to corral 138,750 viewers in that audience group.

Fox4's 9 p.m. news also won its time slot among 18-to-49-year-olds. And its 272,787 total homes fell just shy of the second hour of Comanche Moon (278,267 homes), which drew a largely older audience.

All in all, Comanche Moon performed very well, pulling a double-digit Nielsen rating in total homes even opposite Idol. (Each rating point equals 24,356 D-FW homes.)

Fox4's 10 p.m. newscast then fell to fourth place in total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. CBS11 took the gold in both late night news measurements, each time nipping runnerup Belo8.

The 6 a.m. Nielsens again put Fox4 on top in both measurements, with Belo8 a competitive second. The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Fox4's Good Day then beat the three network morning shows across the board for the second straight weekday.

Belo8 remained in control of the 5 and 6 p.m. newscast ratings, running the table at both hours.

Hansen again shows why the balls are in his court

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Dale Hansen, Wade Phillips and DMN columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor

Dale Hansen just doesn't give a damn, and this has nothing to do with his on-air performance.

What's refreshing is his disdain for office politics, particularly when it calls for cozying up to the Belo mothership. Hansen just doesn't give a damn about that.

His "Hansen Unplugged" segment on Monday's 10 p.m. Belo8 newscast showed why he's still unequivocally his own man in times when corporate tentacles choke off freedom of speech within certain fields of play. Hansen nonetheless fired away at Dallas Morning News sports columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor despite the fact that both his station and the newspaper are owned and operated by Belo Corp. He, unlike Taylor, doesn't think that Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is principally to blame for Sunday's stunning playoff loss to the New York Giants.

Allow a brief digression. The DMN in turn does not allow critiques of Belo8 -- or any another local TV station for that matter. It's been banned since February 2000, which just happened to be the month that former Belo8 mainstay Tracy Rowlett began anchoring for CBS11.

Hansen, who last year signed a long-term contract with Belo8, doesn't see any point in playing by those rules. His fellow anchors dutifully promote upcoming DMN stories during newscasts, but Hansen will lock horns with the newspaper's sports columnists if he feels they're writing nonsense. This is healthy, and Taylor, for one, is big enough to take it. The hell with ill-conceived, childish corporate policy.

Hansen had a good time clotheslining Taylor after noting at the top of his commentary that the columnist "said the Cowboys might need another coach and says the Giants' first touchdown was an indictment of Phillips."

Taylor in fact did say that, writing Monday, "Amani Toomer, who can't outrun me, broke two tackles and scored on a 52-yard touchdown on the game's first series. That's an indictment of Phillips."

"Let's take a look at that play and see just what Wade Phillips did," Hansen retorted. "There's Phillips missing the first tackle and there he is missing another one."

Hansen narrated further game footage that showed "Phillips" missing a wide open Terrell Owens near the end zone, "Phillips" dropping a key third down pass and "Phillips" slowing up in the end zone rather than catch a perfectly thrown pass from QB Tony Romo.

Then came the hammer.

"This blame game so many people insist on playing makes no sense if you watched the game and know just a little bit about the NFL."

Which is to strongly infer that Taylor doesn't.

Taylor, who demanded a trade of Dirk Nowitzki after the Mavericks' playoff collapse, also blitzed the first-year Cowboys coach with this assessment of his leadership skills: "Phillips, so defensive any time the Cowboys were criticized, coddled this team. He provided the players with ready-made excuses for their few deficiencies, while failing to recognize that they had become a collection of narcissists."

Hansen, after noting the playoff struggles of numerous prominent coaches and quarterbacks, said the Cowboys "lost because they made too many mistakes in a game that doesn't allow many and didn't make the plays they needed in a game that demands some. It happens in sports. It happens to 31 NFL teams every year."

His defense of Phillips is an about-face from Hansen's constant -- some would say incessant -- pounding of former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, whom he serenaded with "Ding dong the witch is dead" when he resigned.

But now, "the arrow is pointing up" with the Cowboys, Hansen concluded. "For the first time in a long time, you have a reason now to be excited about next year. And I am. I still am. Because I am the voice of reason."

Not all of the time he isn't. Hansen also is highly accomplished at making an ass of himself, and readily admits it. His ego still won't fit in a bus terminal. And his wardrobe -- well, this is one area where he should take some advice from dapper weatherman and sparring partner Pete Delkus.

No one tops Hansen, though, as both a man of his word, and as a sports anchor who's unafraid to tackle anybody, any time. He may be right about Phillips, but so may Taylor.

You can choose sides while also knowing for certain that Hansen is the guy you'd want on your side when the going gets tough, and the ass-kissers jump ship. He'll always want to be the Captain. But he won't be a Queeg.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Jan. 11-13)

Misery loves company, but how about abject misery?

Whatever, a record-setting D-FW crowd for this season watched the Cowboys' season crash, burn and distinegrate Sunday.

Dallas' 21-17 loss to the Giants averaged 1,131,992 total homes on Fox, edging the Nov. 29th Cowboys-Packers prime-time game (1,088,901 homes) on both MY27 and cable's NFL Network. (Note: these numbers are for the actual running time of Sunday's game, which began at 3:46 p.m. and ended at 6:49 p.m.)

At its peak, from 6:30 to 6:45 p.m., the game had a gargantuan 50.1 Nielsen rating (1,220,236 homes). This means that more than one-half of all in-home TV sets in the D-FW viewing area actually were turned on and tuned in to the Cowboys.

That's an astonishing achievement in a now mega-crowded TV universe. And of all sets actually in use, 72 percent were dialed in to Fox4 in those 15 minutes. The entire game averaged a 70.8 percent share of the viewing audience.

The game jet-fueled Fox's 7 p.m. premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which drew 455,457 total homes to decimate all competing programming. Then CBS' two-hour premiere of its three-night Comanche Moon miniseries took over, riding high with 345,855 homes from 8 to 10 p.m.

Comanche Moon for the most part "skewed old," however, averaging 179,744 viewers in the advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-old demographic. That was good enough to win overall from 8 to 10 p.m. But in comparison, Terminator amassed 391,022 viewers in the 18-to-49 demo.

Left for dead at 8 p.m., and rightly so, was NBC's one-hour Golden Globe Winners Special. It drew a sub-paltry 70,632 homes and just 37,841 viewers in the advertiser-preferred demographic.

Sunday's second biggest attraction, San Diego's almost equally stunning upset of Indianapolis, had an average of 557,752 D-FW homes on CBS.

On Saturday, the Green Bay Packers' snow-coated comeback win over Seattle attracted 499,298 homes on Fox, including of course, this one. The subsequent Patriots' prime-time victory over Jacksonville drew a slightly higher 501,734 homes on CBS.

Friday's locally produced Belo8 Cowboys special oddly failed to light many fires, drawing only 90,117 homes from 7 to 8 p.m. in finishing fourth during that hour. Still, it drew a bigger crowd than a new episode of the lamentably under-appreciated Friday Night LIghts (60,890 homes), which had the night's smallest prime-time audience among the Big Four broadcast networks.

Friday's local news wars went to Belo8 at 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 again won at 6 a.m., although narrowly in both cases over Belo8. The ABC station cleaned up at 5 and 6 p.m. with wins across the board.

Talking points in local TV news

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Daybreak's lame duck Justin Farmer and newcomer Cynthia Izaguirre

Trading spaces. "Hometown girl" Cynthia Izaguirre returns to the city that raised her on the same day Justin Farmer decides to go home home again, too.

Except that Belo8 wasn't planning on his surprise departure from the station's increasingly important early morning Daybreak. The announcement came just a few hours after Farmer and Izaguirre had teamed for the first time on Friday's program. They were supposed to be teammates for years to come.

"This isn't about leaving WFAA," Farmer said in an email sent early Monday morning. "This has been a great ride on many fronts. This is about going home to WSB in Atlanta. I learned to shoot and edit in that place. I was born and raised in Atlanta. My family and I thought long and hard about this decision and make it with conviction. With that said, I am glad to have a number of months left at WFAA. This place is all class and Cynthia and I have a lot of work to do."

Farmer joined Belo8 in 2005, and news director Mike Valentine earlier told unclebarky.com that "we expect he'll be here until July" when his contract runs out.

That can be a tricky proposition, though. Belo8 obviously won't be advertising the fact that Farmer is a lame duck on a program that ran a solid second to Fox4's Good Day in the November "sweeps" ratings. But the word is out via many other venues. Will viewers invest in Farmer and Izaguirre knowing that he's already filed for divorce? Or might they migrate to a more permanent team on one of Belo8's three principal early morning rivals?

Belo8 has an interesting decision to make. It can let Farmer and Izaguirre ride together for six more months and two more sweeps periods (February and May) before he heads to the city that made his father, Don Farmer, famous as both an anchor for WSB and CNN. Or management can replace him on Daybreak well before his contract expires.

Giving Farmer a quick hook is problematic, too. His former mate, Jackie Hyland, left the station after the November sweeps, ostensibly to return home to her family in New York. Hyland also quickly landed a job with WCBS-TV, where she started last week. Pairing the brand new Izaguirre with an even brand newer co-anchor from outside the station might be too much too soon.

There appears to be only one viable in-house candidate. Weekend anchor Brad Hawkins, who joined Belo8 in 2000, would seem to be a very good fit for Daybreak. But does he want the job? And would management see him as more than just an interim replacement?

From this perspective, Hawkins' time has come -- even if it's during those punishing early morning hours. Farmer already represents the past, and it would be unprecedented in this market to keep a lame duck quacking for a full half-year.

Farmer of course is entitled to return home, as was Izaguirre in a mirror-opposite situation. But Belo8 also is entitled to move him to weekends, let him out of his contract early or have him fetch coffee for sports anchor Dale Hansen. We'll see which option prevails.


Troy Dungan (with Pete Delkus) is still part of Belo8's Santa's Helpers toy drive. Otherwise he's free to do commercials.

***Troy Dungan officially signed off as Belo8's full-time weatherman on July 18, 2007. As the station notes on its web site, though, he'll still be on the air from "time to time" and also will assist in the station's annual Santa's Helpers toy drive.

Otherwise he's free to do pretty much as he pleases, and that includes commercials. Still, it's a bit odd, if not disconcerting, to see the weather legend using those credentials as a pitchman for a foundation repair company.

The ads regularly pop up on Belo8's Daybreak, with a still bow-tied Dungan telling viewers, "You know, when you're watching the weather on TV you want somebody you can trust. Ho-ho, that goes double when you're working on the foundation of your house."

Belo8 news director Mike Valentine says he can live with the spots.

"He (Dungan) does still have a limited agreement with us, but it does not preclude commercial work," Valentine says.

The venerable temperature taker finds himself in competition on some mornings with Troy Aikman's pitches on behalf of a competing foundation repair outfit. Both had commercials within Monday morning's Daybreak

***Another new baby is coming at Fox4, where anchor/reporter Krystle Gutierrez is due to have her first child in July. She posted the news on New Year's Eve on the station's web site.

One knuckle-dragging commenter implored her to "make sure to lose the baby fat b/4 coming back to the anchor desk again. As you know, we want hard core news along with eye candy."

As previously posted on unclebarky.com, 9 p.m. news anchor Heather Hays also is expecting a child -- her second -- this summer.

***Also at Fox4, news director Maria Barrs is cracking the whip in an email sent to staffers.

Barrs says in part, "Overall, the message here is that we can all do a much better job than we've been doing. We cannot be complacent. We all have to be much more aggressive, much smarter, much more enterprising and creative than the other guys.

"Frankly, I am tired of people mailing it in. You know who you are, and so do I. It's on all of us to be better. It's on me and the managers to make sure that happens. You can all expect to be challenged more. You can all expect to be held accountable."

It's going to be an interesting February sweeps.

Easy for her to say: Cynthia Izaguirre makes Daybreak debut

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Daybreak beginner's new Belo8 mug and previous KOAT-TV shot.

Accentuate the positive, enunciate Izaguirre.

The latter could be the biggest hurdle facing new fans of Cynthia Izaguirre, who made a smooth, virtually flub-free Daybreak debut Friday morning with highly hospitable co-anchor Justin Farmer. Sample exchange:

"We're so happy you're here, Cynthia. You are wonderful."

"Thank you, Justin. So are you. And thanks for taking me to breakfast yesterday morning."

"We had a good time."

"Yeah, we did. Boy, we were just chattin' it up."

Only her surname presents a stumbling block. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. So it's not easy being Izaguirre in an early morning world of easily rendered Ryans, Fergusons, Fields, Hendersons, Allens and Sams.

Izaguirre's brand new Belo8 bio says she's most often asked, "How do you pronounce your last name?"

"It's easy," we're informed. "Just break it down phenetically (sic). EE-SAH-GEE-REH. O.K. . . maybe not so easy!"

On the air Friday, she seemed to be saying "EEZ-A-GEAR-A" during half-hourly introductions of herself. Maybe flash cards would help?

Outfitted in fire engine red Friday, Izaguirre definitely knows how to read a TelePrompTer. She spoke clearly, precisely and without undue affectation during her first two hours as Belo8's latest very early riser. The only blip came when Izaguirre addressed Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts as "Robert" during the daily promotional chit-chat segment. She instantly rebooted, though.

Farmer, who's co-anchored Daybreak since fall 2005, underscored Izaguirre's North Texas ties throughout the two-hour program. Although born in Brooklyn, she was raised in Dallas and is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of North Texas. Before returning to Dallas, she spent eight years as a featured anchor at KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, N.M.

"Hometown girl is back," Farmer enthused.

"I'm back in Big D," Izaguirre agreed.

"How does it feel?"

"Ya know what, it feels very satisfying."

Izaguirre also disclosed that she's living with her mother in Dallas while waiting for her Albuquerque home to sell.

"All the crazy (Texas) pronunciations. You've got that down," Farmer nudged.

"Ma-hey-a, spelled M-E-X-I-A," Izaguirre rejoined. "We're good to go with all that."

The new team meshed without any promotional buildup from Belo8. That's a stark contrast to the station's 2005 re-launch of Daybreak, when Farmer and Jackie Hyland (now newly with WCBS-TV in New York) were pictured on miniature cereal boxes distributed to potential viewers.

Daybreak currently is running second in the early morning Nielsen ratings behind Fox4's Good Day. It's the only major news battle not being won by Belo8, which is first at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.

However you end up pronouncing her name, Izaguirre seemed at ease Friday in her new early morning surroundings. Just one question, though.

"How do you get the recommended eight hours of sleep on this shift?" she asked Farmer, who had no ready answer.

Izaguirre said she managed just two hours before hitting the Daybreak starting blocks for the first time.

Her already challenging surname doesn't need any extra z's. But Izaguirre definitely will have to get some.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Dec. 31-Jan. 1)

Three blowouts topped the New Year's Day Bowl ratings. From most- to least-watched, here's the D-FW scorecard:

Rose Bowl (ABC) -- Southern Cal crunches Illinois (284,965 homes)
Cotton Bowl (Fox) -- Missouri thumps Arkansas in Dallas (219,204 homes)
Sugar Bowl (Fox) -- Georgia filets Hawaii (204,590 homes)
Capital One Bowl (ABC) -- Michigan edges Florida (170,492 homes)
Gator Bowl (CBS) -- Texas Tech stages big comeback to beat Virginia (129,087 homes)
Outback Bowl (ESPN) -- Tennessee nips the heroic lads from Wisconsin (43,841 homes)

Elsewhere Tuesday, NBC's two-hour launch of The Biggest Loser: Couples managed 126,651 homes in finishing fourth from 7 to 8 p.m. and second in the 8 to 9 p.m. slot.

All four major local TV news providers "threw out" their New Year's Day newscasts, which means they aren't officially counted by Nielsen.

On New Year's Eve, CBS11 decided to count its 10 p.m. newscast, which ran second in total homes to Belo8 but fourth among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.