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"Terrified" of losing his job, DPD officer Powell tells CBS11 he's sorry, acted sorrier


DPD officer Robert Powell on CBS11 Monday night. Photo: Ed Bark

The bookends are now in place after Monday's first TV appearances -- outside of a police dash cam video -- of the principals in a traffic violation incident that became a virtually non-stop story both nationally and locally.

The day began with Ryan and Tamishia Moats telling their side on ABC's Good Morning America. It ended with Dallas police officer Robert Powell talking exclusively to CBS11 and reporter J.D. Miles on the station's 10 p.m. newscast.

Miles didn't mess around, immediately asking Powell what it felt like to be "a person who has to be the most hated person in Dallas, if not beyond?"

Powell, speaking precisely and remorsefully throughout, said without blinking, "It has been difficult. We're worried about our two young children."

The 25-year-old traffic cop, a three-year veteran of the DPD, is on administrative leave following his actions on the night of March 17th. That's when he stopped the Moatses outside the Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano after they ran a red light rushing to see Tamishia's mother before she died. Powell in effect told Miles that he blew it by haranguing Ryan Moats and detaining him to the point where his wife's mother died before he could get to her bedside. Sentiment since has run overwhelmingly against Powell in comments to various news organization Web sites.

"When you look at that tape -- and I've seen all 16 minutes of it -- a lot of people see to them a cocky, arrogant young officer who just doesn't get it. Is that a fair assessment?" Miles asked.

"I believe it's pretty fair in this case, because I acted improper," Powell replied.

But is his mea culpa merely out of fear he'll lose his job or does it come as the result of "personal reflection?" Miles asked that one bluntly, too. And Powell responded in kind.

"I would say that it is both," he said. "To say that I'm scared of being fired, I would say it's an understatement. I'm terrified. I have a family. I have two young children."

Powell also said he'd like to meet personally with the Moatses if given the opportunity. And the Moatses earlier said that they'd accept his apology because, as Tamishia put it in part, "He's a human being."

"I think back to my family, to my mother, that if I was in his (Ryan Moats') situation, that if I want to get to my mother, I'm going to do everything that I can to do it," Powell said.

He should have showed compassion, but for some reason didn't, Powell said. "If I could take it back, I would."

Both Powell and the Moatses obviously want to move on, as do some who say they've grown weary of this story in the time since WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez broke it on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Still, both of these interviews were instructive and maybe even cathartic. The Moatses have never sought publicity in this matter, and Powell couldn't have been much more contrite, even if he's now looking only to save his own hide. Whatever your views, at least both sides have been heard.

So the chase should be over for both local and national media. If Powell and the Moatses in fact do meet, let them do so in private. Whatever Powell's superiors decide should be the final, public chapter in a story that otherwise has run its course.

Lopez's major league scoop keeps competitors on her heels


WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez from ABC's NYC studios Photo: Ed Bark

Last Wednesday at first didn't look like much, at least from Rebecca Lopez's perspective as WFAA8's principal police reporter.

"It was a really slow news day, and I didn't have anything to pitch for the 10 p.m. newscast," she recalled Monday in a telephone interview from New York. "So I just thought of calling some people that I know on the beat."

One of her sources told her he'd "overheard something that you might be interested in." Hours later, Lopez had what turned out to be the biggest story in her 10-plus years at the Dallas-based station. The traffic stop incident involving Ryan and Tamishia Moats and Dallas traffic cop Robert Powell quickly became a mega-story, both locally and nationally, after Lopez first reported it on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

"I proceeded to follow the records and get the police tape," Lopez says. "And then obviously when you see the tape, there was just no doubt that it was going to be a big story."

Only one of her previous exclusives has come even close, she says. That was a September, 2006 report on Terrell Owens' drug overdose, which the former Cowboys receiver later denied was an attempted suicide.

"That got huge media attention, and I got a lot of emails from angry Dallas Cowboys fans," Lopez says. "But nothing like this. It's pretty amazing. And once there's an appetite for the story, people want to hear more. Trying to stay ahead on it and finding new angles -- that's difficult."

Thousands of emails have poured into WFAA.com and other Web sites, the great majority of them demanding that Powell be fired after detaining the Moatses outside Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, where Tamishia's mother was dying.

Lopez was in New York City Monday, where she did the only local TV interview with the Moatses after they first spoke exclusively to ABC's Good Morning America and co-anchor Robin Roberts.

"We've worked really closely together on this," Lopez says of GMA, which landed the Moatses after the CBS Early Show belatedly lost out on an announced Friday morning interview with the couple. Tamishia was still grieving her mother's loss and wasn't yet ready to talk about it on national television, CBS was told.

It doesn't hurt, of course, that GMA has far higher ratings than the perennial basement-dwelling Early Show. Or that WFAA8 is an ABC affiliate station.

"I talked to them when they canceled, and they just didn't feel ready to do an interview at that time," Lopez says. "Once they thought about it, they've always promised me an interview since day one. Then there also was an attorney that got involved. They realized they wanted to stick with ABC for both interviews. And Robin Roberts also called them personally after they initially backed out."

Portions of Lopez's interview with the Moatses are scheduled to air Monday on WFAA8's 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.

"I asked them more specific questions involving possible lawsuits and the community reaction," she says. "They've been just inundated with flowers and cards."

Beat reporting is dying out at many local stations, although D-FW police departments are still of interest.

"Almost everyone still dedicates some resources there," Lopez says. "The reason I was able to break these stories is because of my relationship with the Dallas police department. They have to be able to trust you, know that you're going to be fair, and that you won't exploit them in any way."

The Moats-Powell story is drawing to a close, but "I think it probably will branch off into different things in terms of training and how to handle situations like this better," Lopez says. "But at some point, the next big story comes along and it's time to move on."

She hopes to decompress a bit by spending Monday night in Manhattan before returning to the daily grind. It's been quite a high.

"I'd never met Diane Sawyer before or been at GMA," Lopez says. "It was just a really different experience being at that level."

Ryan/Tamishia Moats tell their story exclusively on GMA while WFAA8 bides its time (updated)


Ryan and Tamishia Moats on Monday's GMA. Photo: Ed Bark

Ryan Moats and his wife, Tamishia, making their first television appearance Monday, said they're willing to accept the apology of Dallas police officer Robert Powell, who detained them for a traffic violation while her mother was dying at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano.

"It would be comforting, you know, if we heard an apology directly from him," Tamishia told GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts during the 7:30 a.m. half hour of the ABC program. "But up until this point, we have not received a personal call from him directly . . . We definitely would accept his apology, because, you know, he's a human being."

Powell's attorney has issued a written apology for the officer's actions on the night of March 17th. Captured on a dash-cam police video, the incident since has become a major national story. Moats, a running back with the NFL's Houston Texans, is a graduate of Dallas' Bishop Lynch High School. His mother-in-law died before he was able to see her.

Moats said that Powell initially "was pointing a gun" at his wife before she decided to defy his orders and rush to the bedside of her mother.

"Honestly, he could have shot me . . . At that point in time, I was ready for anything he was going to do," Tamishia said.

Ryan said he "wasn't reckless at all" in driving to the hospital, and ran a red light only after other motorists gave him the go-ahead. His vehicle's emergency lights were flashing throughout.

"I didn't have a problem with paying the ticket," he said, but had hoped that Powell first would let him say goodbye to his mother-in-law.

WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez, who broke the story last Wednesday, also was in New York to interview the Moatses for what she said would be their only on-camera comments to a local TV station. On WFAA8's Sunday 10 p.m. newscast, anchor Shelly Slater gave the impression that Lopez's interview with the Moatses would air during the station's ratings-challenged Daybreak before the couple appeared on GMA.

"Hear what Ryan Moats and his wife have to say first tomorrow morning on News8's Daybreak . . . And then following Daybreak, Moats will talk with Good Morning America," Slater told viewers.

But only a small excerpt from the previously taped GMA interview aired on Daybreak. And that didn't happen until 6:54 a.m. after the program teased it throughout the early morning.

WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine said the station had hoped to get a portion of Lopez's interview live on Daybreak, but there were delays in GMA's production schedule. The program's opening hour usually is pre-taped for central time zone feeds.

"Rebecca was following GMA. We thought they'd be done in time," Valentine said Monday morning. "Otherwise there were no problems with anything. GMA was very accommodating." WFAA8 is an affiliate of ABC.

Portions of Lopez's interview with the Moatses will begin airing on WFAA8's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts Monday. Viewers initially were told that the station's Midday news program would carry excerpts, but they likely won't be ready in time for that broadcast, Lopez said by telephone from New York.

As previously reported on unclebarky.com, CBS' low-rated Early Show had said that it would have an exclusive interview with the Moatses on Friday's program. But the couple belatedly backed out, because Tamishia was still grieving the loss of her mother, according to a CBS11 spokesperson.

Lopez scoop proves value of beat reporting (updated)

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Ryan Moats, Rebecca Lopez and DPD officer Robert Powell

It's become one of the biggest talkers in recent memory, both nationally and locally.

Media of all forms continue to pounce on the story of pro football running back Ryan Moats being detained from seeing his dying mother-in-law by Dallas Police office Robert Powell, who ticketed him for running a red light enroute to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano.

While everyone strives to make the story their own, let's not forget to give credit to the veteran reporter who broke it. WFAA8's Rebecca Lopez joined the station in 1998. Her primary responsibility at WFAA8 is the police beat. And this is a prime example of where beat reporting, an endangered species in local TV news, paid off with an important story.

There's still no substitute for developing sources and knowing your terrain. But that's all being seriously jeopardized in this market and many others by continued downsizing of news staffs amid "content sharing" among stations that used to be arch rivals. Gradually you pay a price for that.

Lopez's story, which first ran on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast, now is driving web traffic on all four of D-FW's major TV news providers. But WFAA8 is getting the lion's share of viewer comments.

As of this Friday a.m. writing, 1,761 comments have been logged on WFAA.com.

NBCdfw.com has 377 comments so far, and cbs11tv.com has a poll asking, "What do you think about the DPD officer who kept the NFL player from seeing his dying relative?" So far 80 percent have responded, "Outrageous -- He Should Be Fired." But CBS11 has no information on how many people have voted.

Myfoxdfw.com doesn't have a comments option attached to its coverage.

Moats and his wife, Tamishia, supposedly were going to appear exclusively on Friday's CBS Early Show to talk about the incident. At least that's what CBS11 anchor Karen Borta told viewers during Thursday's late night newscast, which was delayed by NCAA basketball.

The interview never happened, though. CBS11 spokesperson Lori Conrad, responding to an inquiry, said that the Early Show interview "was a lock until this (Friday) morning, when the broadcast executive producer got an email saying that they couldn't do the interview because Ryan's wife was still grieving."

In D-FW and nationally, Early Show long has been the least-watched of the three competing network morning programs.

Ch. 8: "First with live news coverage capabilities"

Leeza Gibbons, former co-host of WFAA8's long defunct PM Magazine, turns 52 today.

She can be glimpsed, with short-shorted colleague Bill Ratliff, in this full-blown (scroll down) 1980 station presentation for advertisers. It runs for nearly seven-and-a-half minutes, but you won't find a better look at the way it was when local stations went to war each fall with grand pronouncements and big, pre-cable budgets. Among the sights and sounds:

***An announcer proclaiming of PM: "What a team! What a staff! What a program!" (Note: it aired at 6:30 p.m. weekdays and was celebrating its second anniversary.)

***A gaggle of writhing, twirling, high-kicking, black-clad Ch. 8 dancers weaving their way through the station's lobby and into the control room.

***Sports reporter George Riba and former news anchor Iola Johnson shaking and clapping to the tune of "We're one big family, in perfect harmony."

***Weatherman Troy Dungan, swaggering in an impossibly loud shirt through White Rock Lake park.

***Shots at the competition, with video of Ch. 4 anchors Chip Moody and Clarice Tinsley, and Ch. 5's Jane Jayroe and Dave Layman dismissed by a country twanger who sings, "Sometimes the newer something seems to be, the quicker it seems to grow old."

***Sports anchor Verne Lundquist hugging a beaming Tracy Rowlett in the newsroom; Iola Johnson having an equally great time proclaiming the station No. 1 through an open window.

***A paunchy John Criswell swatting a tennis ball.

***Legendary assignments editor Bert Shipp, father of investigative reporter Brett, playfully sticking his tongue out.

I've covered 'em all. So hokey as it might seem, this video made me kinda misty. Enjoy the show, and see who you recognize. And happy birthday, Leeza.

Anchor/reporter Gina Miller still a player in D-FW television's man-centric sports scene


Game's on in the CBS11 newsroom. So is Gina Miller. Photos: Ed Bark

At 5 foot 11 inches, Gina Miller is long accustomed to walking tall. Now she stands alone, too.

Through happenstance and circumstance, Miller has become the last woman sportscaster on the six North Texas TV stations with daily local newscasts.

The Dallas native, who went as far as Guam to learn her trade, anchors the weeknight sports segments on TXA21's prime-time newscasts and also teams with Derek Harper on the station's pre-game, halftime and post-game shows. In football season, she shifts to sister station CBS11 to co-host Dallas Cowboys pre-game shows.

"I tease her all the time that she should be on ESPN or TNT, says Harper, the former Mavericks guard whom Miller, 34, used to watch as a gangly student at Lakehill Preparatory School. "She's a natural and she's paid her dues . . . Gina's a rock star. When I go places, everybody's like 'How tall is Gina Miller? Is she really as pretty in person as she is on TV? Is she married?' "

For the record, she's divorced and has a boyfriend who wanted to take her out on Valentine's Day. But Miller says she balked because the NBA All-Star game was having its slam dunk and three-point shooting competitions that night.

"It's very tough to have a social life. Work definitely dominates my life right now," she says.

On this mid-Friday afternoon, Miller is a few hours away from joining Harper for in-studio commentary and analysis on what will be a dispiriting Mavericks road loss to the Houston Rockets.

"I hadn't realized I was the only woman doing this," she says. "I really don't think it's a concerted effort on the part of stations. It's just happened sort of naturally that I'm the only woman left."

That's been the case since early January, when Fox4 declined to renew the contract of sports anchor/reporter Nita Wiggins. Last year, WFAA8 sports reporter Erin Hawksworth left the station to take a general assignment reporter's job at WFXT-TV in Boston. Neither position has been filled by management, leaving WFAA8 with a four-man sports staff and Fox4 with just a two-man crew.

"The economy is to blame as much as anything," Miller says. "They're not replacing these women. They're not replacing the guys either."

Miller rode and showed Arabian horses as a kid, but otherwise had no particular interest in competitive sports. That changed when a "hugh growth spurt" shot her up from 5 foot 2 inches to 5 foot 9 inches as a 13-year-old.

"I was told, 'You are playing basketball whether you like it or not," she recalls. "I was the tallest girl in the state of Texas. But I was terrible. I mean, I was a horrible basketball player."

She got better in the summer between her 9th and 10th grade years, doggedly playing basketball with her grandfather "every single night." But she rebuffed subsequent scholarship offers from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Dallas.

"I didn't want to stay in Dallas and I really didn't want to play basketball in college," says Miller.

Instead, "I wanted to be Bob Ortegel -- bad," she says, referring to the former college basketball coach who's now in his 20th season as the Mavericks' television/radio analyst. "I was obsessed. I really was."

Enrolling at the University of Houston, Miller quickly scored an internship with the Houston Rockets. Her duties included handing out game notes and media passes, helping write press releases and FAXing newspaper stories to the team's owner.

"It was a tactical move," she says. "I knew that working in PR I would meet a bunch of media people. So any grunt work, I did it. I did it with style."

There were other perks. Miller still has an official ring from the Rockets' 1994-'95 NBA championship season.

"Everybody asks me, 'Is it your boyfriend's ring?' " she says, laughing. "And I get so upset, because it says 'Miller' right there on the side. We earned those rings."

Her media contacts paid off after graduation, when Miller landed a job as an assistant sports producer at Houston's CBS affiliate, KHOU-TV. But she never got on the air, which is where she dearly wanted to be. So Miller answered a trade magazine advertisement -- "Come Work in a Tropical Paradise" -- for KUAM-TV in Guam. She got the job and finally got on camera for the first time in July 1996.

"I was in a little over my head," Miller says. As KUAM's sports director, she was expected to shoot, produce, edit and anchor stories on Guam's reigning sports -- fishing, scuba diving, paddling and volleyball.

After six months she returned to Dallas and lived at home for a short time. Then came an "out of the blue" call from WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tenn., where she'd sent a video resume a year earlier.

"They decided they wanted to take the leap and have a woman in the market," says Miller, who became the station's weekend sports anchor, producer of its Sunday night sports show and "what ever else they needed" as WBIR's promotable new "Sports Girl." Her beat included the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols basketball team, coached then and now by the legendary Pat Summitt.

"She's awesome. I mean, she can be a booger bear, but she was great to me," Miller says.

She stayed with WBIR for two-and-a-half years, but was getting homesick. Shortly after her grandfather died, she moved back to Dallas and hasn't left since.


Miller and Derek Harper are now a veteran team at TXA21.

Miller first landed a job with the Dallas Cowboys SilverStar Network, where for three years she produced the weekly Special Edition with Jerry Jones show while also doing sideline reporting for the team's pre-season games. She then moved to WFAA8 in July 2002 as a sports reporter and occasional fill-in anchor. That lasted until October 2005.

"I'd been without a contract for a year, and I think I just kind of got lost in the shuffle at Channel 8," Miller says. "I didn't see any room for growth there."

Sports anchor Dale Hansen, who hired her, "was very candid with me," she adds. "He said I'd pretty much maxed out my limit."

Hansen says he'd very much like to have Miller on Channel 8's team again.

"To me she has the classic look for a female sportscaster," he says. "Very attractive but not in a fashion model sense. She was a great reporter and a very good friend, and I hated to see her go. But it was a move she had to make, and I told her so. And if we ever pay more than minimum wage for a reporter again, I'd like to get her back."

CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg says he "initially tried to hire Gina when she went to Channel 8. We didn't have a full-time position at the time, but we got her the second time around.

"Her strength is her versatility," he adds. "She wears many hats. We do more with our sports department than any station in the market. So you're not just Super-Glued to an anchor chair reading a TelePrompTer."

Miller joined CBS11 and TXA21 just in time for the Mavericks' ill-fated 2005-06 season, which ended with a stunning loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

"I think they blew an opportunity they may never get back," says Miller, who first teamed with Harper in that season. She can be blunt-spoken when the occasion demands, recently telling viewers from her TXA21 anchor chair that the Mavericks "smelled bad" in a road loss to the cellar-dwelling Oklahoma Thunder.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who publicly ripped the team after that loss, says Miller is "smart, professional and obviously knows her stuff."

She has a few non-sports interests, too. Miller wouldn't mind being a travel journalist some day. She's also a big fan of Peter Sellers movies and an avid reader of Agatha Christie mystery novels.

Christie and athletic pursuits can mix, though. Miller listens to audio readings of her novels while training to complete her first marathon. She warmed up by running the Feb. 28th Cowtown Half-Marathon, which she completed in a time of one hour, 47 minutes and 52 seconds.

Miller says she hopes to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April, but there could be a catch.

"It all depends on Mavericks playoffs scenarios," she says. "Story of of my life, huh?"

Dinner at eight, weather at 10


Live from Dallas, Tuxes, it's Pete Delkus taking temps. Photo: Ed Bark

His predecessor, Troy Dungan, wore hundreds if not thousands of his trademark bow ties during a long career as WFAA8's featured forecaster.

Pete Delkus upped that ante on Monday's 10 p.m. newscast by doing the weather in formal wear. So why'd he play dress-up?

A. Pete was jealous of sports anchor Dale Hansen's wide-striped tommy gun suit and decided to fire back.

B. Pete was celebrating Tuesday's DVD release of the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

C. Pete had just posed atop a giant wedding cake for the June issue of Modern Bride magazine.

D. Pete was the celebrity maitre d' at Denny's annual Grand Slam A Jamma.

E. Pete thought that Monday was "National Dress Up In A Tuxedo Day."

F. Pete hoped to get lucky upon returning home after another long day of highs and lows.

Actually, Delkus had just returned from Dallas Baptist University, where he was co-chair with Alicia Landry of the Tom Landry Leadership Awards dinner. Apparently there wasn't enough time to change in a nearby phone booth.

Henderson quietly makes KTLA debut

Megan Henderson in last Fox4 photo

Her new station hasn't posted her picture and bio on its Web site yet. But former Fox4 Good Day co-anchor Megan Henderson is on the air at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

She began work Tuesday, March 17th on the 5 to 7 a.m. shift, Henderson said by telephone Monday. "It's kind of an under-the-radar debut, which is fine with me."

The opposite was true on Good Day, which had a "Meet Megan Monday" when she joined Fox4 in August, 2003.

Henderson, who left Dallas-based Fox4 on Feb. 27th, is teaming with holdover anchor Asha Blake.

"It's kind of a chick show so far," Henderson says. "She's such a pro and has been around for a while. Everyone's been really, really kind to me -- beyond wonderful."

She's already found accommodations, staying in a "friend of a friend's high rise" for a year. It's near the station, and her 10th floor view includes the famed HOLLYWOOD sign.

"It's awesome," Henderson says. "I really lucked out with it."

Henderson was raised in nearby San Clemente, which makes her new job at KTLA a homecoming as well.

"I miss my friends in Dallas and I miss Good Day," she says. "But I've been so blessed because it's been a really smooth transition. I'm kind of waiting for the bottom to fall out from under me, but I'm happy to be home. I went to a funeral the other day for an old family friend that I never would have been able to go to otherwise."

Henderson said she'll also do some reporting "here and there" for KTLA, whose daily morning programming currently stretches from 5 to 10 a.m.

"There's a good chance we may go even earlier," she said, still sounding happy at the prospect.

Briefings continue to litter neighborhoods. But hey, try delivering them


Dead issues: Briefings are still decomposing in our neighborhood and many others as more layoffs loom at TDMN. Photos: Ed Bark

Another big round of layoffs is scheduled to hit The Dallas Morning News within the next month or so. Meanwhile, the newspaper's free mini-me, known as Briefing, continues to litter streets, gutters, sidewalks and parkways.

Something's not right with this picture -- as you can see from the snapshot above. But Robin E. Chapa, wife of a DMN carrier, says that complainers should know what it's like to be a cog in The Dallas Morning News delivery system.

"There are some facts that need to be stated," she said in an impassioned email sent to unclebarky.com.

First, though, a brief back story.

Briefing debuted in late August as a four-days-a-week product aimed at "upscale" households earning at least $75,000 annually.

"What we're giving advertisers are 200,000 more readers who have disposable income," DMN vice president of niche products Cyndy Carr was quoted as saying in the mothership's Aug. 26th edition.

As noted previously in these spaces and in a December article for D CEO magazine, many of the 12-to-16-page Briefings are landing everywhere except potential readers' doorsteps. And there they rot, blighting various neighborhoods rather than putting a hop in the step of "people on the go" who simply "are not able to fit the traditional newspaper into their busy lifestyle."

That brings us to Robin E. Chapa's side of the story. Her husband, a realtor, began working part-time as a carrier for The DMN to help make ends meet in a still shipwrecked economy. She has authorized the use of her name.

"He just received the extra job of delivering Briefing", Chapa said in a March 13th email. "I see a lot of complaints from neighborhoods, but I have not read anything from the carriers. The Dallas Morning News has 'dumped' this extra job on carriers and is paying them only $60 more a week.

"Carriers are expected to throw over 200-250 extra papers four days a week. That means rolling and bagging them also. That is another route. That is adding an extra two hours at least to their route. This is a part-time job and now they are working full-time hours for $15 extra for the days the Briefings are thrown.

"Carriers use their money for gas. Also, there are deadlines that all papers must be delivered by. Try throwing a Briefing during a high wind and watch where that Briefing goes. There is no weight to it, and Briefings blow everywhere.

"So before people complain about the circumstances, think of the carriers that have to roll each Briefing individually, throw them and still have all their paying subscribers receive their papers within the deadline."


Chapa notes that carriers work seven days a week with no vacation time, holidays or benefits. (This is very true. My son briefly worked as a DMN carrier during his college years before quickly tiring of the grind and the daily pre-dawn hours. I went out with him once. Don't know how he did it.)

"Even though this is a part-time job -- or used to be -- my husband puts 100 percent into it," Chapa says. "He does a great job."

Whatever her husband's dedication to duty, "people are not going to subscribe to The Dallas Morning News because of Briefing," Chapa contends. "They are either going to throw them away or glance at them and then throw them away."

Actually, that's assuming a lot. Judging from the evidence in our neighborhood and others, many Briefings are still never picked up at all. Instead they form an all-too-visible paper trail in times when more layoffs loom and boondoggles inevitably land straight at the feet of the peons.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., March 19) -- Obama a smash on Tonight


Downtrodden NBC got a big boost Thursday from President Obama's history-making appearance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show.

No sitting president had ever guested on a late night talk show before. And D-FW responded in a big way, with 305,578 total viewers staying up late to catch the Obama-Leno sitdown.

That tied WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast as Thursday's most-watched program. In contrast, Wednesday's Tonight Show had a comparatively paltry 106,288 viewers.

CBS' opening day of the NCAA basketball tournament had its biggest audience for the late night matchup between victorious Oklahoma and Morgan State (179,361 viewers), which gave way to other games after becoming a blowout. Texas' win over Minnesota earlier Thursday night averaged 126,217 viewers.

Basketball was beaten all night by rival entertainment programming.

At 7 p.m., Fox's Bones had the most total viewers (199,290), but NBC's combo of My Name Is Earl and The Office won among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

ABC's doctor dramas, Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, ruled the 8 to 10 p.m. hours in both ratings measurements.

In the daily local news derby, WFAA8 had the most total viewers at 10 p.m. in a downsized three-way competition. But NBC5 won among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

The Peacock swept the 6 a.m. competitions, handily beating runnerup Fox4. The pitched battle for third place went to CBS11, which knocked WFAA8 back into the fourth spot after the two stations ran in the reverse order on Wednesday.

WFAA8 ran the table at 6 p.m., and also had the most total viewers at 5 p.m. Fox4 was tops at the earlier hour among 25-to-54-year-olds. CBS11's 6 p.m. newscast was preempted by basketball.

Former CBS11 news director Regent Ducas becomes media coach for North Texas firm whose clients include his old station

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Regent Ducas in CBS11 days and in new Talent Dynamics photo

Controversial former CBS11 news director Regent Ducas has re-booted a second time in North Texas after being dropped by the station in August, 2007.

Ducas, whose self-stated "run and gun" newsgathering approach caused widespread unrest at the station, is now director of business development/sports for Irving-based Talent Dynamics. The company says he's "charged with growing our coaching and media training for professional athletes."

Talent Dynamics also notes that Ducas has produced "award-winning newscasts" in addition to player/coach shows for Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson. "He has personally conducted countless interviews in and out of locker rooms with athletes and personalities from every sport and has been the first mentor for athletes who have entered the television world."

Oddly enough, CBS11 is one of Talent Dynamics' client stations. So Ducas could be in the position of coaching athletes in the art of deflecting questions from the likes of CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg among others.

Post-CBS11, Ducas became interim news director at WLNE-TV in Providence, R.I. before leaving the station last April. He then returned to North Texas in August as an adjunct instructor at the University of Texas at Arlington, where Ducas taught a broadcast course titled "Current Issues." The university's Web site no longer lists him as a member of its faculty.

Ducas joined CBS11 in March 2007 from Kansas City's KCTV-5, where his fast-paced crime and tragedy strategy helped take the station to No. 1 in the newscast ratings during his five-year reign. But he lasted less than six months at CBS11 before being replaced by current news director Scott Diener, who had been Ducas' second in command.

"News 8 now: Closer to the community. Closer to the stories that matter the most to you."

This promo is now a decade old. But it still does a sterling job of positioning WFAA8 as D-FW television's one-stop news shop of record.

Some of the featured anchors and reporters are still on board, including Byron Harris, Brett Shipp, Gary Reaves, Janet St. James, John McCaa and Gloria Campos.

Others have either left the station -- Tracy Rowlett, Troy Dungan, Dave Evans, Doug Wilson, Anna Martinez -- or are no longer with us (the late Chip Moody).

The majestic music seems just right, and the visuals flow seamlessly. Mount Rushmore could use this kind of buildup. But see what you think.

This just in: a repeat of the same informercial that aired five weeks earlier on "The 33" news

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Roni Proter in "The 33" news team picture and on her own website

Little if anything is expected of "The 33's" 9 p.m. local newscasts. They're stitched together on a relatively dinky budget and seem to mainly exist as a nightly one-hour link to the Dallas-based station's remodeled website.

Attention should be paid on occasion, though, since this is, after all, the country's 5th-largest TV market. And we don't want to be completely embarrassed -- or do we? -- when strangers come to town.

Wednesday's one-hour newscast as usual included a segment by lifestyles/entertainment "reporter" Roni Proter, who joined the station in January as part of news director David Duitch's numerous additions and subtractions.

"Tonight we revisit Madison Avenue," Proter said, introducing her weekly "Up All Night" tie-in with Quick newspaper, a weekend freebie and satellite publication of The Dallas Morning News.

Apparently one infomercial wasn't enough for Madison Avenue. On Feb. 4th's 9 p.m. newscast, Proter cooed in exactly the same fashion over the McKinney St. bar. Everybody said it was a wonderful place, and Proter of course readily agreed. She ended her piece from the bar's "huge patio."

Because it was the "dead of winter," no one else joined her outside, Proter said. "But I bet when summertime comes around, this place is going to be packed!" she enthused.

The "dead of winter" reference was repeated Wednesday night, even though spring is just a week-and-a-half away. In fact, the entire piece was a word-for-word, video-for-video repeat of Feb. 4th's wet kiss. We all know about prime-time reruns, but this seems to be charting new territory. Gooey, uncritical infomercials within local newscasts are bad enough. But on The 33, they compound the original sin by repeating it in full.

Wednesday's 9 p.m. edition had a total of 33,215 D-FW viewers, a relative pittance in a market of more than six million people. So I'm probably just wasting my time being an occasional watchdog. The 33 "newscast" is going to do what it's going to do. And until the bottom inevitably drops out, no one's going to shame them into doing otherwise.

Grubs and grackle poop mix -- and yes, that's a compliment

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Pooper duper: A flock of grackles and Fox4 reporter Matt Grubs.

The newsroom at Dallas-based Fox4 has sustained many voluntary and involuntary departures in the past year-and-a-half. Some very good reporters have left the building, but at least one standout arrival is helping to fill those voids.

He's Matt Grubs from KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, NM, who arrived at Fox4 last fall and has shown himself to be both a solid street reporter and an easy-on-the-ears stylist. His storytelling tends to be breezy without being overblown. And his decibel level is bracingly low-key and conversational. Kind of NPR-ish, which is nice.

On Tuesday's 9 p.m. newscast, Grubs deftly tiptoed through the John Wiley Price/Kenneth Mayfield grackle poop spat in a story that also was covered by NBC5 and WFAA8.

In short, the two oft-at-odds Dallas County Commissioners have been arguing over the Tuesday morning power-washing of the sidewalks in front of their weekly meeting place. Mayfield wants it re-scheduled because he recently got sprayed as well. Price, ever the showman, took over for the regular maintenance city crew Tuesday morning, and vowed to keep doing so until further notice.

"This is the seat of county government. We ought to at least have it clean," Price reasoned.

NBC5's Ken Kalthoff and WFAA8's Cynthia Vega recounted this little drama matter-of-factly, and without any puns intended. But Grubs got away with saying that Price "had what you might call an excrement idea."

Then came came the clincher. Grubs first noted that The Sixth Floor Museum is located adjacent to the offices where the commissioners meet on Tuesday mornings. Then he told viewers, "Price argues that the effort to de-turd doesn't seem to have deterred anyone from showing up at the museum."

OK, maybe you have to hear him say it. And you can go here for that. But trust me, Grubs pulled it off. Besides, word plays of that caliber are seldom heard anywhere at any level of TV news reporting.

It should be noted that WFAA8's Gary Reaves had a story on the previous Tuesday about the initial Price/ Mayfield argument on when to power-spray the pathway to their meeting place. And Reaves had his moments, too, informing viewers that "we did some digging and we got the scoop. And it turns out that the scoop is full of bird poop."

Reaves also spoke of how grackles "darken the skies and lighten the sidewalks with their sticky, stinky droppings." Not bad. But he ended by inviting viewers to "make your own pun."

Grubs left little to viewers' imaginations, instead using his own. And his de-turd/deterred line laid waste to grackle poop-dom's previous grand champion, NBC5 reporter Randy McIlwain. In his November, 2007 story from Frisco, the resourceful McIlwain said from a grackle-pocked parking lot: "Experts say if you think those droppings are just a nuisance, you really don't know crap."

That was the yardstick until Grubs took charge. You have to pick your spots with this stuff, but so far so good. Grubs looks like a natural, whatever assignment he's given.

To learn more about his origins, read his official myfoxdfw bio, which begins, "My life began like most do: dropped in a basket and floated off down the Nile until I came ashore in some reeds. I frolicked in the jungle with the bear who adopted me, keeping a wary eye out for the tiger that ruled our tiny patch of earth . . . "

Let's put out the welcome -- Matt.

More layoffs coming at Belo-owned TV stations

"Cost-saving measures" announced Tuesday by Belo Corp. will include a total of 150 layoffs at the company's 20 television stations, including Dallas-based WFAA8.

The cuts will become effective in mid-April, Belo announced.

Belo Corp. also is cutting station managers' and executives' salaries by 5 percent and ending its matching contributions for 401K retirement funds.

"As a result of these actions, and other measures previously implemented, we expect 2009 cash operating expenses to be approximately 10 percent lower than 2008, excluding severance costs," Belo Corp. president and CEO Dunia A. Shive said in a statement.

WFAA8 currently is leading the local newscast ratings at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., but has fallen to third place in recent months at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

This will be the third job-trimming at the station in the past seven months. In August, WFAA8 laid off anchor Macie Jepson as part of eliminating 14 positions at the station, 10 of which had been vacant. And in January, WFAA8 canceled both The Gordon Keith Show and Young Street, laying off 12 people while leaving six vacant positions unfilled.

Mob rules -- suitwise -- at Fox4



Pinstripes palooza: Baron James, Steve Eagar (upper) and Mike Doocy (lower) suited each other on Monday's 9 p.m. newscast. Photos: Ed Bark

OK, we're mostly just havin' fun with 'em now. And that's only because we can.

Still, was it just coincidental that news anchors Steve Eagar and Baron James, and sports anchor Mike Doocy all wore their racketeer gear on Monday's 9 p.m. newscast?

Their show of solidarity -- or maybe frivolity -- came just a few nights after Eagar called attention to his wide-striped Navy blue suitcoat and said he was "kind of bucking the boss" by wearing it after being ordered to stop. The intrepid anchor instead asked viewers to decide, but then backed off on Wednesday's 9 p.m. edition after getting word from his "boss's boss" to, in Eagar's words, "Ditch the suit." So he said he would, citing its pinstripes as the prime offender.

That seemed to be the end of it until Eagar and James, filling in for anchor Heather Hays, joined forces in a dazzling display of Frank "The Enforcer" Nitty vs. George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Later came Doocy doing his level best to imitate George "Bugsy" Moran.

Maybe it's better to view them as a modern-day James gang. Because The Baron long has been Fox4's loudest proudest dresser. On Monday night he clearly outclassed Eagar and Doocy in a punched-up Pee-wee Herman-meets-Austin Powers suitcoat that damn near made my eyes water.

The Baron apparently is exempt from any male fashion edicts by Fox4 management. But one wonders sometimes whether his attire occasionally clashes just a bit with some of the more serious news of the day.

Oh well. Former WFAA8 weather-meister Troy Dungan brought D-FW severe weather warnings for years while sporting his trademark bow ties and coats that sometimes looked as though they'd been worn by Willy Wonka. And the station's current sports anchor, Dale Hansen, occasionally appears in attire that makes him look like a pizza supreme.

Ah, but we kid all of them. And now we're done with this particular thread of conversation. Save to dare Eagar to wear Uncle Barky's old orange corduroy, wide-lapeled sportcoat one night. That'd show The Baron.

WFAA8 adds a third Good Morning Texas host


Dallas-based WFAA8 is making it a threesome again on Good Morning Texas by naming Kristin Mitchell (above) to co-host with incumbents Gary Cogill and Amy Vanderoef.

Mitchell, a married mother of four, will make her GMT debut on Tuesday, the station announced. She previously worked at KMOV-TV in St. Louis as a morning news co-anchor and also co-hosted the weekly At the Zoo program while at that station. KMOV and WFAA8 both are owned by Belo Corp.

Dave Muscari, vice president of product development for WFAA8, described Mitchell as a "warm, friendly personality, and we believe she will connect well with Good Morning Texas viewers."

Mitchell, a University of Kansas graduate, also has anchored evening newscasts for WOLO-TV in Columbus, S.C. She fills a vacancy left by Brenda Teele, who quit WFAA8 and GMT last December to spend more time at her husband's Dallas-based law firm.

GMT, which is produced by WFAA8, airs at 9 a.m. weekdays.

Dad gummit: Houston's NBC station finds lots to like about WFAA8's promos

Dallas-based ABC affiliate WFAA8 is a little irked at Houston's KPRC-TV, which carries NBC programming.

The latter station's latest promotional spots look like mirror images of WFAA8's. So much so that WFAA8 vice president of product development Dave Muscari fired off a sharply worded comment to IDOPROMOZ,com, which collects and displays TV pitches.

"These are direct rip-offs of WFAA's 2008 image campaign," Muscari said of the KPRC spots, "right down to the style of chairs and the dad gum knick knacks on the shelving behind the anchors."

Muscari later elaborated a bit to unclebarky.com. "You get stations all over the country ripping us off all the time," he contended.

We'll let you be the judge, although Muscari obviously has a point. Here are four videos:

It's a girl for NBC5 reporter Lindsay Wilcox


NBC5 reporter Lindsay Wilcox and her husband, Raymond, are the first-time parents of a daughter named Bella Reese.

Wilcox plans to return to the Fort Worth-based station after maternity leave, but no date is set yet, says vice president of content development Susan Tully.

Wilcox, a Dallas native and graduate of the University of North Texas, joined NBC5 in August 2007.
Ed Bark

No cause for alarm: But a false one turned WFAA8's 6 p.m. newscast into improv theater


John McCaa grins and bears a blaring fire alarm. Photos: Ed Bark

It's never conducive to good TelePrompTer reading when a fire alarm goes off in the middle of your newscast.

That's what happened to WFAA8 anchor John McCaa during Thursday's 6 p.m. edition from Victory Park.

After briefly trying to talk over it, McCaa told viewers, "We're gonna take a short break. We'll be right back."

But McCaa and co-anchor Gloria Campos weren't to be seen again. WFAA8 instead went to anchor/reporter Brad Watson at a makeshift anchor desk in the station's Young Street mothership. Watson anchored the rest of the newscast while weathercaster Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen did their segments from an outdoor location adjacent to the alarm-infested Victory Park studio.

Hansen also was left to sign off the newscast before viewers got a brief look at him trudging back to where he originally was supposed to be.

It turned out to be a false alarm, Dave Muscari, WFAA8's vice president of product development, said Friday. He said this had happened just once before, several years ago while Good Morning Texas was in progress.

WFAA8's 10 p.m. Thursday newscast originated from the Young Street studios instead of the usual Victory Park locale. But Muscari said it wasn't due to fear of another fire alarm malfunction.

"There wasn't an event there (at nearby American Airlines Center), so there was no burning reason to be there," he said.

We'll leave you with the last, lingering image of lone gun Hansen striding off into the sunset after closing down Thursday's 6 p.m. newscast.


Stripes skunked at Fox4

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Fox4 anchor Steve Eagar says he'll be closeting his many-striped suitcoat even though viewers voted otherwise.

In one of the odder storylines of late in D-FW television newsrooms, Eagar said on Wednesday's 9 p.m. newscast that "one call carried a lot of weight" in his decision-making.

"Yeah, that one call was from my boss's boss," he told viewers. "Her vote: Ditch the suit. S-o-o-o here's your last look at it (via video of Tuesday's newscast). Take a good look. I'm not stupid."

Co-anchor Heather Hays then added, "It looks great in person. So wear it 'out.' Just not here."

This all started on Tuesday's 9 p.m. show, when Eagar wore the same kind of wide-striped, jailbird coat favored by Fox4 anchor Baron James and Dallas mayor Tom Leppert among others.

"I'm kind of bucking the boss," who told him "never to wear this suit again," Eagar said. He then asked viewers to vote it in or out, adding, "If you never see it again, you'll know what the vote was."

Opinions were "strong" on both sides, but "by far most said it was fine, I should keep wearing it," Eagar told viewers Wednesday. (Sentiment ran the opposite in 21 comments logged on unclebarky.com as of this early Thursday morning writing.)

The edict from Eagar's boss's boss also presumably reins in James, who's (in)famous for his many-splendored on-air wardrobes.

But whatever and whoever they're wearing in the future isn't necessarily the final chapter in this story. Eagar basically told viewers that he was willing to disregard the orders of his immediate boss, news director Maria Barrs, but not those of station manager Kathy Saunders, whose "ditch the suit" dictum obviously was taken much more seriously. That might not wear very well down the road, even if this whole issue basically is pretty silly.

Fox4 management has an ironclad policy of not commenting publicly on personnel matters. But anchors sometimes can go public in ways that speak volumes.

Fox4 anchor Steve Eagar shows his stripes, twits management, asks viewers to decide


Fox4 anchor in costume on Tuesday's 9 p.m. newscast. Photo: Ed Bark

It's always something at your friendly neighborhood TV news outlets. This time it's the wide-striped Dick Tracy cartoon suits occasionally worn by Fox4 news anchor Steve Eagar.

He called attention to Tuesday night's ensemble -- and also called out management -- at the close of the 9 p.m. newscast.

"I'm kind of bucking the boss with this latest thing," Eagar told viewers. "I was told never to wear this suit again. Seriously. I'm not kidding. I want to know what you think. Like it? Hate it? Should I put it out to pasture? I think it was conveyed to me it's the pinstripes that are problematic. I like it. But you decide."

Eagar then told viewers to expect quick results: "If you never see it again, you'll know what the vote was. After this, there's a chance you'll never see me again, but let's see how it plays out."

Co-anchor Heather Hays then noted that 10 p.m. anchor Baron James had just walked through the newsroom. James' oft-overstated ensembles regularly make Eagar seem like a plain paper sack.

"I'm just wondering . . . if Baron gets those comments from the boss," Hays said. "He might. He gets them from the viewers. Even though we love Baron, sometimes his suits . . ."

She reined herself in at that point. Meanwhile, Eagar says you can register your like or dislike of his Bugsy Moran coat by calling the station's "Viewers' Voice" line at 214-720-3103. Or you can send an email via the myfoxdfw Web site.

Or, of course, you can register your thoughts in the handy comments section on unclebarky.com, where lots of people will see them.

Suit yourself.

Daybreak's latest leading man hopes to stay for a spell

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Latest Daybreak team: Cynthia Izaguirre and Chris Flanagan

WFAA8's Daybreak and Cynthia Izaguirre welcomed the show's fourth leading man in eight months Tuesday, with newcomer Chris Flanagan pledging allegiance throughout his first shift.

"Will you make me a promise? That you're not going to leave?" Izaguirre asked/begged him halfway through the 5 to 6 a.m. portion.

"You can't run me off," said Flanagan, who arrives from ABC affiliate WOI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa.

They tried this again in the 6 to 7 a.m. hour, with Izaguirre telling viewers, "And yes, I have a new co-anchor."

"And you're not gonna run me off," Flanagan rejoined.

Both laughed heartily each time, although it's no laughing matter. Daybreak currently is running third in the key early morning rating race behind NBC5 and Fox4. And part of the reason may be the merry-go-round of males sitting next to Izaguirre, who herself is only two months into her second year with the program.

Her first partner, Justin Farmer, left in early August after six months as a lame duck enroute to WSB-TV in Atlanta. Interim Daybreak co-anchor Brad Hawkins, who was promoted from within, quit the TV news game in December to take a PR job with Dallas-based Southwest Airlines. Then Jeff Brady kept the seat warm for Flanagan while also announcing that he'd be leaving WFAA8 (at the end of this week) to start his own consulting firm.

Flanagan, who's here just in time for St. Paddy's Day, has short-cut reddish hair, a wife, two kids and apparently the essential amiable demeanor for the punishing early morning shift, which he's never worked before.

"I am thrilled to be here, Cynthia. I am so thrilled," he told Izaguirre in the opening minute of Daybreak's 5 a.m. start time. "I slept like a baby. I'm gonna beat the kids to bed."

Weatherman Greg Fields then immediately reminded viewers that Flanagan is only the latest jaunty male to wake up and smell the (Irish) coffee.

"Glad to have you," Fields told him. "Hopefully Cynthia will keep you around for a while."

They matched for starters -- Flanagan in a bright red tie and Izaguirre in a bright red top. He might want to unbutton his suit jacket when sitting down, though. It splayed out all day Tuesday, showing the bottom of his tie as well as its knot. Gentlemen's Quarterly no doubt would sniff at this semi-bumpkin-ish fashion faux pas. Or am I being way too picky?

Flanagan otherwise got through his first program in pretty good shape, using the "thrill" word on six occasions. That almost matched the grand total of seven foundation repair and hearing aid ads fronted by former WFAA8 weatherman Troy Dungan during the two-hour program. No one can accuse Dungan of not giving back. The station once paid him handsomely. Now he's fronting companies that put money in WFAA8's pocket during the ongoing economic death spiral.

WFAA8's morning team also gifted Flanagan -- with a wood-framed Texas flag made of tiles.

"You guys are incredible," said the new guy, who failed to bring a hostess gift. "I may not be lucky enough to be born here, but I'm smart enough to move here to North Texas."

They all say that, of course. Flanagan also renounced the Midwest's cold weather and proclaimed himself a Dallas Cowboys fan before it was time to say goodbye.

"Hey, you can take a deep breath now," Izaguirre told him. "You got your first show under your belt."

Flanagan instead exhaled before exchanging a fist-bump with her.

"We're so glad you're here. Let's this do this thousands of more times," Izaguirre said hopefully.

"Yes, awesome," he rejoined. "I had a lot of fun."

Dungan's fourth hearing aid ad then popped up before Daybreak gave way to ABC's Good Morning America. In the end, the old dog may have logged almost as much face time as the new pup. Some things never seem to change.

Staying alive: a Judy Jordan update


Judy Jordan at her "No-More-Chemo" party with Dr. Sasha Vulkjia

Former KDFW-TV (Channel 4) anchor Judy Jordan is doing far better than initially feared after being diagnosed with colon cancer last year.

"Rumors of my imminent demise are somewhat exaggerated, or a tad premature," Jordan said in an email sent Monday to unclebarky.com.

Jordan, who became D-FW's first woman news anchor in 1966 while at KDFW-TV (Channel 4), says she "emerged from my dance with cancer last October slightly used but in better-than-good condition. I may well be the luckiest of all the lucky people with survivor keychains.

"I wouldn't wish cancer on anybody, but the whole whammo experience was somehow enriching. According to my latest test, if some stealth tumor is poised for attack it is imperceptible to the most modern diagnostic devices around."

Jordan remained at Channel 4 until 1980; she also recently anchored at Tyler's KYXT-TV from 2005-'07.