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WFAA8's Brad Hawkins books flight to Southwest Airlines position (updated)


Brad Hawkins, co-anchor of WFAA8's Daybreak since July and a member of the station's news team since January 2000, will be leaving next month to take a public relations position with Dallas-based Southwest Airlines.

WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine confirmed Hawkins' departure Tuesday and also said that his last day at the station will be on Christmas Eve, when he'll sign off after anchoring WFAA8's Midday newscast.

"I wish nothing but the best for Brad. He's a fantastic guy," Valentine said. "He just found a situation that he thought would be better for him."

Daybreak has hit a ratings slump of late, and will run third in the November "sweeps" in both total viewers and among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Hawkins, in a subsequent interview, said he made the decision on his own and was not under any pressure to leave WFAA8.

"I feel I'm jumping from one of local TV's greatest news dynasties to one of the most emulated and respected companies in the world," he said. "I didn't see this opportunity coming again any time soon. And I'm at a crossroads in terms of opening myself to new challenges and new skills."

Hawkins began co-anchoring Daybreak with incumbent Cynthia Izaguirre after Justin Farmer left WFAA8 in July to become an anchor at WSB-TV in Atlanta. WFAA8 had committed to Hawkins for at least the rest of this year. Beyond that, "no final decision had been made," Valentine said Tuesday. "But we thought Brad did a fine job. So we certainly could have envisioned a decision where he was still part of the morning team."

With Hawkins' departure, "we're back at it again," Valentine said of Daybreak's future anchor team. "It's just another change to a show that continues to change. We will search for his replacement immediately."

Another interim co-anchor might be named after Hawkins leaves WFAA8, but "we're not there yet," Valentine said. He also noted that from May to September, 40 percent of Nielsen Media Research's in-home ratings meters have turned over in the D-FW market. "That's a monster number" in his view.

November has been a setback for Daybreak, Valentine acknowledged. But a shift of just six meters can make the difference between being first and third in the early mornings, he said.

"If you look at an individual number (for a sweeps month) and freak out or go crazy, you're not doing anyone any good," Valentine said.

Fox4's Good Day will win the 6 a.m. November sweeps competition by relatively comfortable margins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, with a rebounding NBC5 finishing second.

Fox4 also won the November 2007 sweeps in both ratings measurements. But WFAA8 ran a solid second a year ago while NBC5 lagged well behind in third.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 21-23)

The Cowboys' relatively easy win over San Francisco reigned over another Sunday dominated by pro football from noon to late night.

Fox's early afternoon festivities from Texas Stadium averaged a giant-sized 1,129,310 D-FW viewers from noon to 3:15 p.m. A big share of the audience then stayed with Fox's Giants-Cardinals followup act, which drew 837,018 viewers opposite CBS's throwaway game between the Raiders and Broncos (79,716 viewers).

In prime-time, NBC's Colts-Chargers matchup averaged 365,363 viewers in knocking off ABC's competing three-hour American Music Awards (292,292 viewers). From 7 to 9 p.m., Fox's two-hour 24: Redemption movie had 252,434 viewers.

College football controlled Saturday's prime-time Nielsens, although Oklahoma's massacre of previously unbeaten Texas Tech no doubt put a lid on the game's ratings potential. The 65-21 stomp averaged 305,578 total viewers, peaking between 7:45 and 8 p.m. with 352,079 before ratings deflation kicked in.

CBS routed competing networks on Friday night with a lineup of Ghost Whisperer (232,505 viewers), a rerun of its breakout new hit The Mentalist (305,578 viewers) and Numb3ers (279,006 viewers).

In Friday's local news derby, WFAA8 took the gold at 10 p.m. in total viewers, but fell to second behind CBS11 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 again ran the table at 6 a.m., although its margin of victory over NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demo was a statistically insignificant two-one hundredths of a rating point (607 viewers). WFAA8 again ran third. And with just three weekdays remaining in the November "sweeps," it has scant hope of improving that position in either ratings measurement.

WFAA8 swept the 6 p.m. newscast competition, where it remains rock-solid. At 5 p.m., WFAA8 and Fox4 tied for first in total viewers, with WFAA8 winning among 25-to-54-year-olds.

NBC5 meteorologist James Aydelott heading back home to Tulsa


NBC5 meteorologist James Aydelott, who works weekends and various weekday shifts, is leaving the station to become the featured forecaster at Tulsa's Fox affiliate, KOKI-TV.

Aydelott, who joined NBC5 in June 2005, will remain with the station through this year before returning to his hometown. He previously had spent 10 years as a weatherman for Tulsa's CBS station.

"It's a terrific opportunity to be a chief meteorologist in a severe weather market," Aydelott said in an email to unclebarky.com Thursday. "My mother lives there, and she's thrilled. She already has a four-page 'Sonny-do-list' for me."

Aydelott's wife, Robyn, currently a promotions producer at CBS11, is from Springfield, MO, "and this puts us much closer to her family as well," he said. "This was a very hard decision to make. Robyn and I both love living here and working here. I've grown so much at NBC5, both personally and professionally. I seems there's never a dull moment around here, and every competing station does such a great job with all the non-dull moments, too"

Aydelott praised longstanding NBC5 chief meteorologist David Finfrock as a role model and friend who helped to improve his weathercasting skills. Still, nobody's perfect in fair weather or foul.

"I will take my 'viewer complaint email hall of fame' with me," Aydelott said. "There's nothing like severe weather coverage to generate a full in-box."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 14-16)

Nipping Washington's Redskins beats a beating by New York's Giants, ratings-wise and otherwise.

The Cowboys' defense-dominated 14-10 win on NBC's Sunday Night Football drew 1.4 million D-FW viewers congregated in 854,070 North Texas homes. That's a nice spike from two Sundays ago, when 1.03 million viewers in 697,200 homes cringed through New York's 35-14 win on Fox's early Sunday game.

CBS' big Sunday night event, the first post-election interview with Barack and Michelle Obama, lured 391,937 viewers to 60 Minutes, delayed until 6:30 p.m. by the Steelers-Chargers football runover. The climactic 6 to 6:30 p.m. portion of the game had 624,442 viewers.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the Dallas Mavericks' overtime road win over New York snapped a five-game losing streak. But the game averaged just 26,572 D-FW viewers from its 5 p.m. start to 7:35 p.m. finish. Even Ch. 52's Sunday night Gunsmoke rerun did better than that, drawing 33,215 viewers despite airing from 8 to 9 p.m. opposite the Cowboys.

In Friday's local news derby, CBS11 came up big at 10 p.m. with wins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 again ran the table at 6 a.m. while WFAA8 did likewise in the 5 and 6 p.m. news competitions.

Fox4's half-hour salute to anchor Clarice Tinsley's 30 years at the station drew 66,430 viewers from 9:30 to 10 p.m., dipping from 99,645 viewers for the preceding half-hour of the station's 9 p.m. local newscast.

CBS' Numbers was Friday's most-watched prime-time attraction, with 259,077 viewers from 9 to 10 p.m. opposite Barbara Walters' exclusive interview of a pregnant man on ABC's 20/20 (112,931 viewers).

Happy 30th anniversary to Fox4's Clarice Tinsley, reigning dean of D-FW news anchors

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Having braved multiple station owners, news directors, co-anchors, hairstyles and columns by yours truly, Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley is now a 30-year veteran at KDFW-TV, otherwise known as Fox4.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 13, 1978, she joined KDFW from WITI-TV in Milwaukee to become D-FW's newest big-time news anchor. She was 24 at the time. And on her very first 10 p.m. newscast -- Dec. 4 of that year -- she shared the desk with co-anchor Barry Judge, sports guy Allen Stone and the late Gary Bazner with the weather.

So yes, it's been awhile. And Fox4 will salute her with tonight's half-hour CT Celebrates 30 during the second half of its nightly 9 p.m. newscast.

No one else can match Tinsley's singular achievement of anchoring the news for 30 years at a single D-FW station. Tracy Rowlett came closest, logging a quarter century as WFAA8's signature news anchor before moving to CBS11 in 2000.

Rowlett is now out of the local anchoring picture after abruptly leaving CBS11 earlier this year for a Shale.TV gig that never materialized. So Tinsley now reigns as D-FW's dean of news anchors in what's become the country's fifth largest television market, behind only New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. That's no small achievement.

Tinsley is still co-anchoring the 10 p.m. news, and also the 5 p.m. broadcast with latter day partner Baron James. Through all these years she's experienced and endured enough intrigue at KDFW -- which became a Fox-owned station in July 1995 -- to write a book that would leave even former colleague Dale Hansen speechless.

Tinsley and Hansen, along with the late Chip Moody and weatherman Wayne Shattuck, formed a powerhouse foursome at Ch. 4 in the early 1980s. Their 10 p.m. ratings wars with WFAA8 now seem epic by today's standards.

Hansen got fired in March 1983, as he's said many, many times, by news director Bill Wilson, who previously had axed him from an Omaha, Neb. station. You might say he landed on his feet at WFAA8, where he's been ever since.

"She's the only one who's survived from the great run we had at Channel 4," Hansen said in an article I wrote on the occasion of Tinsley's now somewhat distant 25th anniversary at Channel 4. "Good things happen to good people, and she is one. She must have started straight out of high school, because she doesn't look a whole lot different. The bottom line is, if I had Tinsley's hair, I'd be on a network right now."

Before Hansen, Tinsley had shared air time at Milwaukee's WITI-TV with Albert the Alley Cat, a wisecracking weather puppet voiced off-air by the station's general manager. That made Albert somewhat difficult to dislodge. I know. I watched Albert outlast numerous human talent as a formative youth in Wisconsin.

It got better for Tinsley at Channel 4. Much better. In 1985 she won the nationally prestigious George Foster Peabody and Alfred I. duPont Columbia awards for her part in "A Call For Help," an investigative series on the 911 emergency call system. Tinsley's long-running "Clarice's Hometown Heroes" segments began a decade later.

Tinsley still operates out of closet-sized office adjoining the Channel 4 newsroom. She's been married to Dallas business executive Stephen Giles since 1987 and has always credited her parents, Janet and Clarence Tinsley, with being her lifelong role models. Her dad died in January, 1996.

"From them I gained a sense of how I would fit in the world," Tinsley said during our 25th anniversary interview in 2003. "My mom is just the epitome of class, brilliance, grace, elegance and support."

Tinsley might well experience another milestone this month.

Fox4's 10 p.m. newscast, long without any potent lead-ins from high-powered network entertainment programming at rival D-FW stations, looks as though it's finally going to vault over NBC5 and into third place among advertiser-courted 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Second-place CBS11 also is within reach if everything breaks right.

Whatever happens, Tinsley obviously is a survivor and at this point, a homebody. KDFW was riding high with CBS' Dallas when she first arrived at KDFW. Now she's a Fox4 fixture for however long that lasts.

"I like being someone who has the balance of a really demanding career but also a home life, family and friends," she said five years ago as a 49-year-old kid. "I've never wanted to live out of a suitcase or be a person who's going from one place to another. Things can look really great. And then they can just go to heck in a handbasket in a heartbeat."

Congratulations, Clarice. Here's a segment from Fox4's CT 25: A Silver Celebration, where her hairstyles ranged far and wide:

And babies make four -- an update on CBS11 reporter Bennett Cunningham, partner Michael Spann and their return to D-FW with two new babies on board


Michael Spann, Bennett Cunningham with newborns Gregory, Liliana.

CBS11 investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham and his partner, Michael Spann, are newly back in D-FW with new arrivals Liliana Elizabeth and Gregory Adam, who were born in Hartford, Conn. on Oct. 10th via gestational surgery.

Liliana is still recovering from a life-threatening infection of her intestines -- Necrotizing Enterocolitis -- that causes inflammation, interior abdominal damage and tissue death.

"We spent four weeks in a very small hotel room in Hartford, and spent every waking hour in the neo-natal intensive care unit with Liliana, hoping that she would get better," Cunningham said in an email. "She couldn't have any food by mouth for 10 days. It was heartbreaking. But now she's home in Dallas and under a doctor's care, and seems to be doing very well."

Liliana and Gregory were birthed after a 34-week gestation period in a surrogate mother's womb.

"I read some of the comments" on a previous posting in these spaces, Cunningham said. "Just to clarify, this was not an adoption. Michael's sperm was used to fertilize one egg and mine the other. So we are the biological and legal fathers of both kids under Connecticut law."

Cunningham returned to CBS11 part-time this week to work on several stories that had been nearly completed before he went to Hartford. One of them, on fuel-inefficient vehicles being used by some elected officials and law enforcement agencies, aired during the station's Monday 10 p.m. newscast.

"It's not easy with two newborns, he said. "But although the station told me not to worry about work, I felt compelled to finish the stories. It was my choice. So CBS was incredibly nice enough to work out a modified schedule that allows me to get the stories done and also spend a lot of time with the children."

Cunningham praised CBS11 president/general manager Steve Mauldin and news director Scott Diener for being "extraordinarily progressive, sensitive and flexible when it comes to helping us start a family. It really is something that most news directors would not be happy with -- but not mine. Both he and the GM have bent over backwards. And we are so grateful."

Spot check: One night in the lives of your latenight local newscasts (Mon., Nov. 10)

Consider this the equivalent of random drug testing.

Because life is just too short -- and the brain can only take so much -- we're going to be much more selective in our looks at the weekday late night newscasts on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11.

Unclebarky.com's new "Spot Check" feature will be activated throughout the year, not just during the traditional ratings "sweeps" months of November, February (March next year because of the big digital conversion) and May.

Station management types are always saying that they throw everything into every newscast on a year-round basis. That's not entirely true, of course, but it does provide an opening to evaluate them when they might least expect it.

Ergo, These "Spot Checks" mostly will continue the old practice of watching all four of the aforementioned newscasts in their entirety. But they could include newscasts at earlier hours. And sometimes just one newscast will be spotlighted. Whatever feels right, with a tentative plan to do this at least twice a month -- or maybe more.

Big breaking news events will dictate some of this, but we'll also pick out comparatively "ordinary" days in which stations are challenged to either come up with more of their own enterprise reporting -- or simply punt to a pre-canned stories from their network or an affiliated station.

We'll begin with Monday, Nov. 10th, the first week in a long time without an ongoing presidential campaign. It was, of course, a very rainy night, so all four stations began on that note and then milked it as much as possible.

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Fox4 reporters Becky Oliver and Dionne Anglin

FOX4 (featured 9 p.m. newscast)

ANCHORS -- Steve Eagar, Heather Hays (news), Dan Henry (weather), Mike Doocy (sports)
NEWS REPORTERS WITH "BYLINES" DURING THIS NEWSCAST -- Becky Oliver, Dionne Anglin, James Rose, Sophia Reza

Splish splash -- Weatherman Dan Henry set the stage with the usual up-close looks at angry-looking maps before anchor Steve Eagar turned it over to "Street Squad" reporter James Rose with this disclaimer: "Our coverage gets a little complicated because we can't raise our masts on top of our 'live' trucks and it gets difficult to cover it."

The station then presented live video shot through a moving vehicle's rain-blurred windshield before Rose popped in via cell phone from a gas station off of I-30 in Fort Worth.

A few motorists had pulled over during heavy rain, but Rose otherwise had a tough time making this sound like much more than a much-needed downpour.

"It hasn't rained in a while . . . It just makes it all the more sinister when it gets dark outside. Some people are playing it safe safe, Steve," he concluded.

In other words, Noah's Ark remained docked.

Some friendly advice to Eagar about his anchor suits -- On Monday night he wore a brown, vested, wide-striped ensemble that made WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen look like Yves St. Laurent but still fell well short of 10 p.m. co-anchor Baron James' usual circus attire.

Really wide stripes are hot right now. But cool it because . . . hey, guys, these are going to look like Nehru or leisure suits in pretty short order. And five or so years from now, you're going to want to destroy any evidence that you wore 'em. That's why my bright orange, corduroy sport coat from the 1970s remains on call for Halloween wear only.

Good work -- Reporter Dionne Anglin had what proved to be the night's heart-warmer, about an eight-year-old autistic boy in Grand Prairie whose faithful "service dog," Spot, ran off two weeks earlier while chasing a work van down the street.

This story had a very happy, touching ending Tuesday when the dog was found and returned to his home. You can watch Anglin's followup report here.

Juicy steaks, clinking wine glasses, incriminating chateau-y accordion music, etc. -- Veteran investigator Becky Oliver weighed in as only she can with a lengthy, shout-it-out expose of government officials wasting your tax dollars on fine dining, drinking and plush accommodations.

CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham (more on him later) has performed this task numerous times, with Michael Sullivan of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility riding shotgun.

Oliver also relied on Sullivan's indignation, and of course he delivered.

"That's disgusting," he said of the expense accounts filed by some top executives of the Tarrant Regional Water District. "It's the height of immoral. These people have no shame."

Oliver ran into resistance, of course. "It appears," she told viewers, "that someone didn't want us poking around." In fact, she said, the Water District tried to soak Fox4 for $24,000 in return for complete spending records that would take a year to compile, Oliver said.

She and Sullivan instead zoomed in on 14 "top executives," including Water District head Jim Oliver, whom she confronted in a parking lot while he was planning to work out at an area gym.

"How ya doin'?" Becky asked him before boring in. The other Oliver of course looked peeved, but furnished a money shot by telling his inquisitor, "We have checks and balances on all our spending."

"You do?!" she shot back.

Accompanied by the usual damning sound effects and closeups of fine food and drink, Oliver reeled off several heavy-duty expense accounts, including a $1,059.99 tab at a Houston steakhouse that included an inflated tip.

These reports can be valuable, but they've also become almost a dime a dozen during ratings sweeps periods. Oliver's patented, over-the-top indignation is still an irritant. She's been to this particular end zone many times in her long career here. And much of her work has been praised. But for once, how about calmly dropping the ball instead of doing a Terrell Owens-ish TD celebration throughout. We know, we know. You're an avenging angel. No need to come off like a she-devil.

On Monday night, Oliver used Sullivan's words to set up her big in-studio finish. Government officials don't like "some crazy reporter" looking into their questionable expense accounts, he told her. To which Oliver then added, "Call me crazy but most of us have to account for what we spend for work."

Enough said.
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NBC5 reporters Randy McIlwain and Susy Solis

NBC5 10 P.M. Newscast

ANCHORS -- Mike Snyder, Jane McGarry (news), David Finfrock (weather), Newy Scruggs (sports)
REPORTERS WITH "BYLINES" DURING THIS NEWSCAST -- Scott Gordon, Omar Villafranca, Ellen Goldberg, Kevin Cokely, Randy McIlwain, Susy Solis, Matt Barrie

Splish splash -- Weatherman David Finfrock primed the pump before anchor Jane McGarry segued to reporter Scott Gordon riding along in Stormtracker H3. Yes, they actually call it that.

The veteran Night Ranger could only be heard not seen. Here's his take: "In Fort Worth, the skies opened up and the water just kept coming. In Hulen, just south of I-30, a few cars stalled in the high water. Nobody was hurt."

Reporter Omar Villafranca then showed up live outdoors in Carrollton, looking ready to take on water in a hooded rain suit. He briefly noted that it rained where he is, too. McGarry then cued a still picture from a viewer of "rain pouring down." You don't even have to add any dry humor.

Good work -- Street vet Randy McIlwain stood live in the elements on a Plano golf course, wearing a wet weather windbreaker and a cute, light gray homburg for his story on attempts by homeowners to protect their properties with at least 20-foot high net fences.

An aggrieved resident whose home and property have been bombarded with errant golf balls boiled it all down during a public hearing on the matter.

"When they hit your home, they sound like a gunshot," he said. "And if they hit your head, you're dead."

Plano officials of course rejected the homeowners' proposal. That's par for the course, but not McIlwain's fault. As almost always, he had a good little story and holed it out.

Smells like sweeps dung -- NBC5 was up to its tired old tricks with stories on a "sexy suggestion from a North Texas pastor" and a "Beer Crisis" gripping North Texas.

Reporter Susy Solis, who joined the station a year ago, interviewed jaunty Ed Young, pastor of Fellowship Church in Grapevine. To ease stress during tough economic times, he's challenged married parishioners to have sex daily for seven straight days. Or as Solis put it, "Young says couples need to turn whining into whoopee." Yes, she actually said that.

An older male member of the congregation and a younger guy condensed the issue in typical NBC5 fashion -- sound bites lasting perhaps two seconds.

"Well, there's more to marriage than sex," said one.

"Yeah, I'm takin' the challenge," said the other.

It was then reporter Meredith Land's turn to tell viewers about a "worldwide hops shortage" that has driven up the price of beer at the Flying Saucer brew pub in Fort Worth among others.

A couple of pot-bellied elbow-benders vowed to continue drinking anyway. "It's just gonna damage the pocket book a little bit more," one reasoned before swigging some suds from his hand-held vessel. Put it on NBC5's tab.

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WFAA8 anchor John McCaa and reporter Shelly Slater

WFAA8 10 p.m. news

ANCHORS -- John McCaa, Gloria Campos (news), Pete Delkus (weather), Dale Hansen (sports)
NEWS REPORTERS WITH "BYLINES" DURING THIS NEWSCAST -- Chris Hawes, Steve Stoler, Jason Whitely, Shelly Slater, Ted Madden

Splish splash -- Co-anchor Gloria Campos told viewers that HD Chopper 8 had captured a "wall cloud" in progress and weatherman Pete Delkus presided over his many-colored maps before reporter Chris Hawes materialized live in Fort Worth holding an umbrella in what had become a drizzle.

She told viewers of "water shooting out of a manhole" and of drivers scooping water out of their vehicles. Reporter Steve Stoler then took over in Frisco, where he was outfitted in a hooded rain suit. And there you have it.

Money for nothing and your chicks for free -- Campos continued with WFAA8's nightly "Stretching Your Dollar" segment, this time telling viewers about four ways to stretch a gallon of now relatively cheap gas. Namely, slow down, use cruise control, avoid idling and stop "aggressive driving." The 30-day savings were estimated at $393.90, bringing the grand total through Monday's newscast to $5,719.90 a month.

Don't know if I believe that.

Spending John McCaa's money -- on a woman's wardrobe -- Co-anchor John McCaa, a very snappy on-air dresser, doesn't wear women's clothing off-camera -- far as we know. But to hammer home the ease with which crooks can commit identity theft, WFAA8 gave his credit credit card to reporter Shelly Slater, who used it for a shopping spree.

"We're of different ages, different races, even different sexes," McCaa told viewers. "You'd think that she would get stopped using my credit card."

But no. Slater first bought some stuff at Wal-Mart. No questions. Then an "entirely new fall wardrobe" at Target. A color printer at Office Max, a $300 mixer from Macy's and "house decor" at Ross.

"Again", she said, "no one questioned the name John McCaa."

McCaa said ruefully at story's end, "Shelly assures me that she is returning all of the items that she bought on my credit card."

"Uh huh," Campos jabbed.

The kicker: Slater's purchases were all legal because she had McCaa's consent to use his credit card, he said.

Why couldn't she have used some of McCaa's money to frivolously buy a big supply of limited edition unclebarky.com T-shirts, which actually exist and at least would make a great gag gift for the annual WFAA8 Christmas party. Or any station's for that matter.

Good Work -- Sports reporter Ted Madden had a fun piece on Arlington-based dude Craig Marquis, who made it to the Final 9 of the World Series of Poker. ESPN televised the pre-taped final on Tuesday night after first paying each of the nine finalists winnings of $900,000 apiece.

For the record, Marquis ended up finishing last in that field. But he still won $900 grand.

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CBS11 reporters Bennett Cunningham and Ginger Allen

CBS11 10 p.m. newscast

ANCHORS -- Doug Dunbar, Karen Borta, Larry Mowry (weather), Babe Laufenberg (sports)
REPORTERS WITH "BYLINES" DURING THIS NEWSCAST -- Seema Mathur, Carol Cavazos, Stephanie Lucero, Bennett Cunningham, Bud Gillett, Ginger Allen

Splish splash -- Weatherman Larry Mowry set the stage up top before reporters Seema Mathur, Carol Cavazos and, later in the newscast, Stephanie Lucero, braved what elements there were.

A male motorist showed Cavazos how his vehicle became flooded before he ingeniously scooped the water out. She wore a nifty CBS baseball cap for the proceedings. Lucero opted for a dark blue station rainsuit, complete with hood. Nice.

Your tax dollars being pissed away (the sequel) -- Investigator Bennett Cunningham, back in D-FW after an extended leave, had an extended report that became a bit dated during his absence.

But hey, this is the "sweeps," so he dove back into "a dirty little secret in North Texas. Some cities and counties are spending your money on cars and SUVs that suck up your tax dollars and leave a carbon footprint that's choking the environment. And the problem starts at the top."

Way to undersell it.

Basically, the mayors of Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth are driving or being driven in city-authorized vehicles that get lousy gas mileage, Cunningham reported.

He began with Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, whose chariot is a city-issued, gas-guzzling 2006 Ford Expedition. CBS11 cameras caught the thing idling for "nearly 25 minutes" while, as Cunningham put it, Leppert "gets a new hair-do."

Haircut is much more like it. Leppert was shown having his locks trimmed in what very much looked like a small community barber shop, not some pricey North Dallas clip joint. And he should be commended for that, not ridiculed. Whoever's driving him could have shut the motor off, though.

Leppert briefly told Cunningham that he's told by the city what vehicle to use, and that hopefully it soon will be a cost-efficient hybrid.

Arlington mayor Bob Cluck drives his own Cadillac Escalade on city business, and said he won't go to a Ford hybrid because "this is General Motors country." Fort Worth mayor Mike Moncrief also is ferried in something of a gas guzzler and the Tarrant County Sheriff office's fleet of squad cars has "one of the highest carbon footprints in town," Cunningham said.

He didn't hammer his story home the way Oliver almost always does. But in the end, this didn't amount to a whole lot.

Yes, city officials and law enforcement agencies should make a better effort to comply with TXDot recommendations to use cleaner-burning vehicles that get better gas mileage. That would set a good example. In fact, at the end of his story, Cunningham was back in the studio telling viewers, "Last month the Fort Worth mayor got rid of that Cadillac Escalade for a newer model. This one is a hybrid, which gets 20 miles to the gallon."

In the sweeps, though, you never put the good news up top. You save it until after selling another semi-apocalypse. Because as any reporter knows all too well, that's what makes "good television."

Poor Ginger -- Early morning co-anchor Ginger Allen is still billed as a member of "The Investigators," whose only other CBS11 member is Cunningham. But in reality all she gets to do is introduce and narrate the latest cosmetic fix aimed at sought-after female viewers.

On Monday night, Allen talked about "laser lipo," also known as "lunchtime lipo" because it's quick, easy and probably costly, although the report didn't mention that last part.

CBS11 showed before-and-after pictures of a patient's stomach after she underwent the procedure. The doctor who performed it not surprisingly touted this "excellent procedure for skin tightening."

Somebody really should tighten the screws on this stuff. Allen has a been a capable gumshoe in the past. Either give her a break or let one of the male anchors do this stuff. But the odds on that are longer than the downtrodden Dallas Mavericks going unbeaten for the rest of the season. Or even for the next two weeks.

Happy happy, Joy joy


In studio: 1121 Band's Tracy Kornet, Tommy Hiett. Photo: Ed Bark

Deep in the heart of downtown Garland's Zion Gate recording studio, 1121 band members Tracy Kornet and Tommy Hiett, and chief engineer Brance Wages put the finishing touches Tuesday on a Christmas song benefitting the Happy Hill Farm music program.

Lead singer Kornet, who otherwise anchors newscasts for TXA21/CBS11, co-wrote "Around This Time Of Year" with Hiett, 1121's lead guitarist. A group of teenage singers from Happy Hill Farm earlier packed Zion Gate to provide backup vocals.

A $1,000 charitable contribution from Stratos Global Greek Taverna, during the band's appearance at the July 19th Uncle Barky Show, went entirely to Happy Hill Farm's music program. It also inspired the band to take this next step with a Christmas-themed single, Kornet said.

Plans are to release "Around This Time Of Year" before Thanksgiving Day, with downloads available on cbs11tv.com. All proceeds will go to Happy Hill Farm's music program. Zion Gate has donated all studio time to the project.

We'll update you when the single is available for purchase.

It's a wrap for another very fine Dallas Video Festival


Dallas Video Festival founder Bart Weiss excitedly showcases his new, limited edition, ultra-cool unclebarky.com T-shirt during Saturday afternoon screenings at the Angelika. Photo: Ed Bark

The 21st annual Dallas Video Festival is history after a wealth of weekend attractions at the Angelika.

Your friendly content provider attended a Saturday afternoon screening of Stefan Forbes' Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story, an 88-minute film on the life and times of the hell-on-wheels GOP image-maker best known for being George H.W. Bush's attack dog during the 1988 presidential campaign.

It's a terrific, full-bodied documentary that can be purchased for $22.98, plus shipping and handling, via the filmmaker's official web site.

Video Festival founder Bart Weiss later posed (above) with the ultimate prize -- an official, limited edition unclebarky.com T-shirt. They're also available -- but in very limited supply -- for $20 apiece, including shipping.

If perchance you want one -- either out of support for unclebarky.com or to use for target practice -- email me here and I'll get back to you with more details.
Ed Bark

Rebecca Aguilar returns to election-night street reporting via a new D-FW venue

Rebecca Aguilar returned to D-FW street reporting on election night. And as the "old media" gradually gives way to the new, her venue spoke volumes.

D-FW's big four television news providers -- Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11-- increasingly aren't the only shows in town. Not only that, they've all been significantly downsized in the past year or two. So the field is wide open for small but increasingly influential voices, including unclebarky.com, dare it be said.

Aguilar's election night employer was Latinalista.net. Suspended just over a year ago by Fox4 and officially dismissed on May 8th, she reported from outside the Dallas County Democratic Party's party site in the Bishop Arts district. Aguilar said she was contacted on election eve by Marisa Trevino, founder and publisher of Latina Lista.

"Marisa wanted to do a live webcast on Tuesday night, and I was her special correspondent," Aguilar said in an email to unclebarky.com. "It was great. I guess after more than a year, it's easy jumping back on the bike. Ha! The web is my friend. Ha!"

Four of her video interviews, each lasting between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half minutes, are posted on the Latina Lista website. The one below is with small businessman Jorge Alvarez. Take a look.

Latina Lista 02 from Doce Productions on Vimeo.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Nov. 4) -- Election Day edition


President-elect Barack Obama and family at Grant Park CBS photo

Wall-to-wall election returns coverage by an array of broadcast and cable networks climaxed at 11:15 p.m. with the final words from president-elect Barack Obama.

It went on, of course, all night long. But we'll concentrate on the hours that really counted in this deluxe recap of how many D-FW viewers watched the action on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

Note that the Fox network broadcast feed was anchored by Shepard Smith, while Fox News Channel had a separate presentation helmed by Brit Hume. Their election projections of states won by Obama or John McCain were made simultaneously, though.

NBC and MSNBC took the same approach. The mothership's broadcast network feed was anchored by Brian Williams while MSNBC was in the hands of point man David Gregory. Projections also were made simultaneously.

Here are a few other notes of interest before we begin counting. Fox4 pretty much carried the Fox broadcast network feed from 6 to 9 p.m. before going to mostly local coverage from 9 to 10 p.m. during its regular homegrown news hour.

NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 broke to network coverage en masse at 6:30 p.m. and pretty much stayed with it, save for local news cut-ins, until 10 p.m.

The 10 to 11:15 p.m. election coverage in D-FW accented the local races. But all four broadcast stations went to their respective networks to carry the Obama and McCain speeches in their entirety. McCain began at 10:18 p.m. and ended at 10:28 p.m. Obama began at 10:58 p.m. and ended at 11:15 p.m. Our detailed look at the overall coverage is on unclebarky.com's Network News & Reviews page.

Now to the nighttime D-FW ratings for total viewers. For those who still ask and for new readers of this site, WFAA8 and KERA13 are listed that way because they're not owned by their respective networks, ABC and PBS. The three other D-FW broadcast stations listed -- Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11-- are owned by their respective networks.

6 to 7 P.M


WFAA8 (ABC) -- 212,476
NBC5 -- 205,933
CNN -- 199,290
Fox News Channel -- 152,789
Fox4 -- 119,574
CBS11 -- 99,645
MSNBC -- 59,787
KERA13 (PBS) -- 6,643

7 to 10 P.M.

WFAA8 (ABC) -- 292,292
CNN -- 264,163
NBC5 and Fox News Channel -- 252,434 each
Fox4 -- 239,148
CBS11 -- 106,288
MSNBC -- 99,645
KERA13 (PBS) -- 13,286

10 to 10:30 P.M. (McCain's speech ran from 10:18 to 10:28 p.m.)

WFAA8 (ABC) -- 418,509
CNN -- 372,008
NBC5 -- 312,221
Fox News Channel -- 259,077
Fox4 -- 252,434
CBS11 -- 132,860
MSNBC -- 106,288
KERA13 (PBS) -- 16,075

10:30 to 11:15 P.M. -- (Obama's speech ran from 10:58 to 11:15 P.M.)

CNN -- 338,793
WFAA8 (ABC) -- 298,935
NBC5 -- 225,862
Fox4 -- 192,647
MSNBC -- 159,432
Fox News Channel -- 139,503
CBS11 -- 112,931
KERA13 (PBS) -- 19,929

And there you have it.

Local news derby blip

In the only race unaffected by network cut-ins, Fox4 dominated for the third straight day in the 6 a.m. hour. We're now one-fifth of the way through the 20-weekday November "sweeps" ratings period, which ends on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

WFAA8's Shipp, Harris continue to major in major awards

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Veteran WFAA8 investigative reporters Brett Shipp and Byron Harris now have enough combined Alfred I. duPont-Columbia and George Foster Peabody awards to form an NBA roster. That would be 12.

Shipp won his third and fourth duPonts Tuesday while Harris will receive his fourth. It's the first time in duPont history that a local station has been recognized for three stories in a single year.

Harris, who won a duPont last year, also has a Peabody award in his trophy case. He joined WFAA8 in 1974.

Shipp, who won a Peabody last year, already has three of those. Formerly with KDFW-TV (Channel 4) before Fox bought the station, he joined WFAA8 in 1994.

Harris's latest duPont is for his investigations of the Export-Import Bank, an obscure, taxpayer-funded federal agency. He uncovered an alleged $243 million in "bogus loans."

One of Shipp's two newest duPonts is for a much-publicized and controversial investigation of grade-fixing at South Oak Cliff High School, which eventually had to forfeit its 2006 state basketball title by order of the DISD.

He also won a duPont for a series of reports on Atmos Energy's alleged lax approach to repairing dangerous gas leaks that in the past have caused fatal explosions. In one such case, an elderly couple was killed in their home.

The duPont and Peabody awards are uniformly recognized as the TV news equivalents of the Pulitzer for print journalism and the Oscar for feature films.

No local station in the country has two reporters with this many of them. And it's an almost certain bet that no station ever will.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Oct. 31-Nov. 2)

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Two giant-sized football games -- pun sort of intended -- dominated D-FW's weekend TV landscape.

Stripped of any and all super powers, the pea-shooting Dallas Cowboys were obliterated 35-14 Sunday afternoon on Fox by the swaggering New York Giants.

And on the night before in Lubbock, a near-miracle, last-second touchdown pass gave Texas Tech a wild 'n' crazy 39-33 win over previously No. 1 Texas on ABC's nationally telecast college game of the week. The Red Raiders remain unbeaten and now are the No. 2 college football team in the country while the previously unbeaten Longhorns slipped three rungs to No. 4.

The Cowboys are just plain rank.

OK, let's look at the numbers from the cheap seats. (Remember, we're now counting total viewers in addition to total homes. For a complete explanation, click on the October archives or here.)

Sunday's Cowboys-Giants mismatch, which began at 3:15 p.m. and mercifully ended three hours later, averaged 1.03 million total viewers and 697,200 homes in D-FW.

Those numbers both peaked between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m., with 1,209,000 viewers and 796,800 homes.

Saturday night's Tech-Texas game, which stretched from 7 to nearly 11 p.m., hauled in an overall average of 719,105 viewers and 430,770 total homes.

Nothing else really mattered over the weekend -- ratings-wise at least -- save for Friday's local newscast derby on Day 2 of the November "sweeps."
At 10 p.m., CBS11 took the top spot in both total viewers and total homes, with WFAA8 a very unaccustomed second in those measurements. WFAA8 settled for a single win among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 comfortably won the 6 a.m. ratings battle in all three measurements, with NBC5 second and WFAA8 a distant third.

The three 6 p.m. golds as usual went to WFAA8, but the wealth was spread at 5 p.m.

WFAA8 and NBC5 tied at the earlier hour in total viewers. The Peacock took first in total homes, with WFAA8 tops among 25-to-54-year-olds.