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Squeezing through: Nielsen shows CBS11 beating WFAA8 by a speck for its first 10 p.m. news win in total viewers while WFAA8 declares it a tie (updated)

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CBS11 is first at 10 p.m. in total viewers for the first time in a ratings "sweeps" period. WFAA8 wins with advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds and otherwise claims first-place tie. Photos: Ed Bark

No matter how it's sliced, CBS11's 10 p.m. news win in total viewers is less than paper thin.

In fact, WFAA8 is insisting it's a flat-out tie.

"We are so far within the margin of (statistical) error that it's absolutely ludicrous to talk about a winner or loser," WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin said Monday. "It's a tie. I don't think it's accurate reporting to say somebody won or lost."

"That sounds like they didn't win," CBS11 president and general manager Steve Mauldin fired back. "A win is a win. Absolutely it's close. No one said it wasn't. But it's absolutely a win, and it's a big win. It certainly is not a dead heat."

The CBS-owned station's inaugural triumph in the late night news wars (whether judged as a win or a tie for first place) marks the first time since the November 2006 sweeps that WFAA8 hasn't won outright. NBC5 won that ratings period before WFAA8 began its streak in the February 2007 sweeps.

WFAA8 continued to run first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

"In all the key demos that really relate to revenue, we clearly are No. 1 (at 10 p.m.)," Devlin said. "And that is despite them having an enormous lead-in advantage over us (from CBS entertainment programming). "They're a wind-aided television station."

Mauldin agreed that CBS11 should have won earlier at 10 p.m. than it has.

"I'm just really excited to win now," he said. "I think they're a good news organization, but I'm really not interested in their excuses. I'm more focused on what we're doing. The last time I checked, we won it. Whether we won by a big nose or a big chest, we hit the tape first."

The 10 p.m. total viewers race was so close that we're going to break it down all the way to three decimal points. We'll also give you the Live+3 numbers, which slightly increase each station's overall average for the 20 weekdays of the sweeps. Live+3 measures recorded viewing over a three-day period.

Here are the final 10 p.m. total viewer numbers before Live+3 is averaged in. Each rating point equals 67,863 viewers under revised estimates issued this fall by Nielsen Media Research.

CBS11 -- 3.364 rating (228,291 viewers)
WFAA8 -- 3.329 rating (225,916 viewers)
NBC5 -- 2.046 rating (138,848 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.112 rating (75,464 viewers)

Here are the Live+3 numbers, which give CBS11 a bit more breathing room:

CBS11 -- 3.525 rating (239,217 viewers)
WFAA8 -- 3.448 rating (233,992 viewers)
NBC5 -- 2.178 rating (147,806 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.133 rating (76,889 viewers)

As in previous sweeps periods, CBS11 again benefited from a sizable prime-time lead-in advantage. The 9:45 to 10 p.m. portion of CBS entertainment programming averaged 283,667 same-night viewers while competing shows on ABC averaged 195,106 viewers during those 15 minutes.

NBC's The Jay Leno Show limped toward 10 p.m. with an average of just 118,489 viewers for its closing 15 minutes. Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast averaged 80,689 viewers from 9:45 to 10 p.m.

Although it finished a very distant third, NBC5 did manage to improve on its lowly lead-in from Leno. WFAA8 as usual also upped its 10 p.m. news audience from its ABC inheritance.

WFAA8 finished comfortably on top at 10 p.m. in November 2008 with an average of 292,292 viewers while CBS11 ran second with 239,148. (Each rating point equaled 66,430 viewers a year ago compared to 67,863 now.)

In other local news sweeps results, WFAA8 won by a more comfortable margin at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, with CBS11 a close, competitive second.

NBC5 dethroned Fox4 at 6 a.m. with first place finishes in both ratings measurements. WFAA8 likewise ran the table at 6 p.m., retaining its crowns from a year ago. The 5 p.m. golds were split between WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

This marked the first sweeps period in which all four major news competitors won at least one battle. CBS11's breakthrough at 10 p.m. is tempered by the fact that it finished last in the other three time periods, save for a third-place showing in total viewers at 6 p.m.

"We still have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas," Mauldin acknowledged.

Here are the other November sweeps ratings results, using the Live+3 numbers:

10 p.m.

WFAA8 -- 3.443 rating (105,666 viewers)
CBS11 -- 3.138 rating (96,305 viewers)
NBC5 -- 2.406 rating (73,840 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.481 rating (45,452 viewers)

6 A.M.

NBC5 -- 1.827 rating (123,986 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.525 rating (103,491 viewers)
WFAA8 -- 1.244 rating (84,422 viewers)
CBS11 -- .669 rating (45,400 viewers)

NBC5 -- 2.312 rating (70,955 viewers)
Fox4 -- 2.179 rating (66,874 viewers)
WFAA8 -- 1.625 rating (49,871 viewers)
CBS11 -- .899 rating (27,590 viewers)

6 P.M.

WFAA8 -- 2.467 rating (167,418 viewers)
NBC5 -- 1.682 rating (114,146 viewers)
CBS11 -- 1.395 rating (94,669 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.354 rating (91,887 viewers)

WFAA8 -- 2.060 rating (63,221 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.521 rating (46,679 viewers)
NBC5 -- 1.445 rating (44,347 viewers)
CBS11 -- 1.069 rating (32,808 viewers)

5 P.M.

WFAA8 -- 1.733 rating (117,607 viewers)
NBC5 -- 1.522 rating (103,287 viewers)
Fox4 -- 1.458 rating (98,944 viewers)
CBS11 -- 1.084 rating (73,563 viewers)

Fox4 -- 1.798 rating (55,181 viewers)
WFAA8 -- 1.459 rating (44,777 viewers)
NBC5 -- 1.318 rating (40,449 viewers)
CBS11 -- .750 rating (23,018 viewers)

In other November sweeps ratings of note:

***Univision23's Spanish language Noticias 23 local newscast ran fourth at 10 p.m. in total viewers, beating Fox4. It moved up to third place with 25-to-54-year-olds, outdrawing both Fox4 and NBC5.

The 5 p.m. edition of Noticias 23 also placed fourth in total viewers, ahead of CBS11. And it moved up to second place among 25-to-54-year-olds, trailing only Fox4 by a narrow margin.

***Among prime-time local newscasts, Fox4 averaged 93,855 total viewers at 9 p.m. opposite The 33's comparatively paltry 24,906 viewers for its local news hour. But The 33 outdrew both hours of TXA21's "First In Prime" newscast, which had 20,223 viewers from 7 to 8 p.m. and 13,980 from 8 to 9 p.m. The 33 also had more viewers in the 25-to-54 age range than TXA21.

***The previously noted late night news lead-in of 118,489 viewers for NBC's Leno show contrasts with 159,432 viewers for Peacock programming in November 2008. Most local Peacock stations aren't happy. But when you're owned and operated by NBC Universal, as NBC5 is, it's both fruitless and suicidal to complain publicly.

***The Live+3 numbers for prime-time lead-in programming show some pretty dramatic differences for the offerings on ABC and CBS. In other words, increasing numbers of viewers are DVR-ing, TiVo-ing or VCR-ing these programs.

Here's a look:

CBS' 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in audience jumped from 283,667 total viewers to 373,043 under the Live+3 measurement.

ABC's lead-in audience increased from 195,106 to 257,296.

There was nothing this dramatic for Leno or Fox4's 9 p.m. newscasts.

Leno had 118,489 same-night viewers from 9:45 to 10 p.m. He nudged up to 126,429 in the Live+3 averages.

Fox4's local newscasts had a minimal bump, too, from 80,689 to 82,182.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Nov. 24) -- WFAA8 wins big, but CBS11 still on top in 10 p.m. news combat

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Pictures tell the story in this pair of frame grabs. In one instant: Donny wins Dancing. In the next: WFAA8's 10 p.m. news -- at 9:59.

WFAA8 bolted out of Dancing with the Stars faster than sports anchor Dale Hansen from a vegan dinner Tuesday night.

It then used a baseball bat to club arch rival CBS11 in the frenetic 10 p.m. newscast ratings race.

Still, it may not have been enough. CBS11 has retained a tissue paper-thin lead in the late night news ratings with only Wednesday remaining in the four-week November "sweeps." For obvious reasons, neither station will divulge whether it plans to "throw out" the Wednesday edition by taking the traditional "H" for pre-Thanksgiving Day holiday travel.

Should CBS11 figuratively "take a knee" and stay with the ratings number it has? Or should it count on the usually potent lead-in from CBS' CSI: NY? As noted in previous posts, CBS11 has never won in total viewers at 10 p.m. in one of the three principal ratings sweeps months -- November, February and May. And it very much wants its first gold. The promotional possibilities are endless -- and priceless.

Meanwhile, should WFAA8 go for broke Wednesday night in hopes of pulling into a first-place tie with CBS11? That's a considerable risk, though, because ABC's 9 p.m. lead-in is the little-watched Eastwick, which is running out the string after being canceled. Live, nude anchors maybe?

OK, here's where we stand.

WFAA8 easily won Tuesday's 10 p.m. battle, drawing 352,888 D-FW viewers after the last quarter-hour of Dancing furnished 373,280.

Runner-up CBS11 had 244,307 viewers for its late nighter, coming off a not-too-shabby 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in of 291,811 viewers from CBS' The Good Wife.

That pulled WFAA8 to within one-tenth of a rating point (6,786 viewers) after 19 of 20 weeknights. Or to get down to the real nitty gritty, CBS11 now has a 3.384 Nielsen rating (which rounds off to 3.4) while WFAA8 is at 3.329 (which rounds off to 3.3).

It wouldn't take all that much for WFAA8 to creep up to a 3.350 -- which would go down as a 3.4 in the Nielsen books. That likely would leave the two stations in what basically is a statistical tie. And realistically, that's the best that reigning champ WFAA can hope for.

All of this may seem insignificant. But as noted, it's a promotional and morale-boosting giant step for CBS11 to finally climb the mountain at 10 p.m. They might even have a hoe-down.

WFAA8, on the other hand, has all but clinched a 10 p.m. win among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. The ABC station doubled CBS11's audience in that demographic Tuesday night.

In Tuesday's other local news derby results, NBC5 ran the table at 6 a.m. and looks as though it will score narrow November sweeps wins over Fox4 in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds.

The Peacock also won at 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers while Fox4 did likewise with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 is safely in the house with twin sweeps wins at 6 p.m. and likely will scratch out a narrow first place finish at 5 p.m. in total viewers. But Fox4 looks like the 5 p.m. sweeps gold medalist in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Because of the holidays, full ratings results for local newscasts might not be available until Monday.

And oh, by the way, Donny Osmond and Mark Cuban's former pro partner, Kym Johnson, won Dancing with the Stars. But the finale still wasn't Tuesday night's top draw in D-FW. CBS' NCIS wore that crown, pulling in 359,674 viewers in the 7 p.m. hour to top Dancing's 346,101 from 8 to 10 p.m.

Note to readers: It's Thanksgiving eve and lots of us have fun things to do. So we're going to bag the "Night in the Lives" content analysis for Tuesday night's 10 p.m. festivities. We'll be watching Wednesday's 10 p.m. news, however, in case anything really weird happens. Have a great holiday!

Anchor Baron James being dropped by Fox4


Fox4 anchor Baron James, who co-anchors the station's 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts with Clarice Tinsley, is being let go after roughly a decade in the D-FW market.

"Baron James' contract has not been renewed," a station spokesperson confirmed Wednesday morning. His last day at Fox4 will be on Jan. 17th, the spokesperson said.

James has not returned a phone message and an email left Tuesday. Last summer, he was off the air for more than two months after surgery to remove a growth from his larynx. He returned on Sept. 16th.

Known for his flashy on-air wardrobes, James previously worked in Pittsburgh at ABC station WTAE-TV and before that with NBC affiliate WSFA-TV in Montgomery, Alabama.

His Fox4 bio notes that he and Tinsley were named "best anchor team" by the Associated Press in 2003.

James also has been part of the station's coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Tinsley likely will solo anchor at 5 and 10 p.m. after James departs.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. news titans -- WFAA8 and CBS11 (Mon., Nov. 23)

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Could my tap water cause cancer? Might I get shot on the freeway?

Fear of the unknown can be a reliable bestseller on local newscasts large and small.

On the last Monday of their down-to-the-wire November "sweeps" ratings race, arch rivals WFAA8 and CBS11 both topped their 10 p.m. newscasts with bait-and-hook, worst case scenario stories.

"At least three people shot at along one North Texas highway," CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar teased. "The latest victim -- a college student. What you need to know before you hit the road."

"Something's in the water. It's not just one water source with radioactivity," WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos countered. "Tonight a News 8 investigation."

Two of D-FW's better reporters, CBS11's J.D. Miles and WFAA8's Brett Shipp, then stepped in to do their duties. But was it some of their best work? Not really.

Miles stationed himself live at Walton Walker Blvd. and W. Illinois Avenue, where a 19-year-old Dallas Baptist University student was shot in the leg earlier this month while returning from a baby-sitting gig.

She didn't cut off any motorists or "aggravate anyone," the student told Miles, who showed viewers a bullet hole in the side of her car.

Less than a month ago, two people enroute to D-FW Airport also were shot at along "this same stretch of freeway," Miles told viewers. Police are looking into the "possibility" they may be related, he said. The police spokesman didn't sound all that convincing, though. It seemed more as though Miles had coaxed him into stating the obvious -- that anything is possible.

Shipp led WFAA8's newscast for the second straight weeknight with a report on "hazardous levels of radiation" in drinking water. On Friday's newscast it was Hudson Oaks. On Monday came Aledo, where "gross alpha particles" have exceeded the limit at one water well for the past four years, Shipp said.

An "environmental advocate" from Parker County again was brought in to express her concern. And an old-timer at a coffee shop declared, "I already knew it was bad."

Officials from both small cities of course have downplayed any health concerns while also taking steps to reduce whatever level of risk there might be. So is Shipp unduly milking the situation? Well, better to be safe than sorry. But no one disagrees that copious amounts of the allegedly unsafe water would have to be consumed over an extended period of time to pose any threat at all.

WFAA8 also threw an "electronic pickpocketing" scare into viewers, courtesy of reporter Jason Whitely's story.

Via an "RFID Reader," a thief supposedly can scan a wallet and get a credit card number "without ever touching you," Whitely said. But the only credit cards vulnerable are new ones that can be "tapped" rather than swiped when paying up. Whitely also interviewed a guy who sells "ID Strongholds" to stop the RFID-armed thieves. So was this more of an infomercial than a clear-and-present danger?

CBS11 reporter Nerissa Knight's piece on "Secret Black Friday Deals" also had the scent of an infomercial, although DealTaker.com in fact turns out to have a lot of good information on bargains and day-after-Thanksgiving deals. Besides that, it's free.

Knight probably didn't please old-school print-meisters, though. She touted the website as a convenient alternative to "sifting and shuffling through mounds of 'cluttery' newspapers."

23 minutes and counting -- CBS11 resumed its 23-minute, uninterrupted run of news and weather content before the first commercial break after abandoning it Friday night. WFAA8 in turn continued to copy CBS11, which started the gambit last week. Why are the stations doing this? It's an effort to keep viewers from bailing out early on the second-half of 10 p.m. newscasts. In an ongoing air-tight ratings race, even an extra one-tenth of a point could be pivotal. But after the "sweeps," look for this to end.

Worth watching -- WFAA8's Shelly Slater took a Consumer Reports approach to Reebok's heavily promoted, $99 Easy Tone sneaker, which has a "natural instability" that supposedly firms calves and hamstrings. A chunky woman looked thrilled to have them, but a skeptical spine surgeon warned that the shoes possibly could cause back problems after prolonged use.

CBS11's Ginger Allen had an interesting story on a woman who resisted chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed eight years ago with "early stage breast cancer." The woman is now cancer-free, she says, after an alternative regimen of certain vegetables (cabbage and cauliflower for instance), "high-dose Vitamin C" and yoga. Both Allen and a doctor cautioned that this isn't for everyone.

Steve Stoler of WFAA8 had an informative report on Pizza Hut's plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Frisco to Plano, which is offering big-time tax incentives.

ABCs of CSI -- CBS11 folded another pair of CSI-related blurbs into its newscast, including chances to win tickets to a new exhibit at a Fort Worth museum by hitting on the station's website. Enough. Please stop now.

Cowboys bitch about refs but profit from missed call -- CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg, who does the team's radio-casts with Brad Sham, showed he's no homer by telling viewers that the Cowboys' lone, game-winning TD against Washington Sunday should have been nullified. That's because Dallas had two illegal receivers downfield, Laufenberg pointed out, illustrating the blown call with a freeze-frame.

"The officials missed it, and (head coach) Wade Phillips should be glad they did," Laufenberg said.

R.I.P. Harry Husker -- WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen said he lost one of his three Longhorns when Harry Husker passed away at age 24.

"We think he killed himself" after learning that the Nebraska Cornhuskers will have to play Texas in the Big 12 championship game, Hansen said.

Alas, it didn't stop there.

Hansen noted that any of his deceased steers always gets a special service. "Husker was Catholic, so it was an incredibly long service," he added.

"Did it end at Whataburger?" weatherman Pete Delkus inquired.

"It ended right at Whataburger," said Hansen.

Eat mor chikin.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. news titans -- WFAA8 and CBS11 (Fri., Nov. 20)

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WFAA8 apparently missed the memo.

CBS11 ended its brief fling with elongated commercial-free news content Friday. WFAA8, which copied its arch rival's ratings "sweeps" gambit on Thursday's 10 p.m. edition, went ahead with another 23-minute helping of news and weather before yielding to its first batch of sponsors' messages.

The usual format is 10-to-14 minutes of news before breaking away and returning with weather. But CBS11, locked in a down-to-the-wire 10 p.m. ratings race with WFAA8, tried to keep viewers hooked earlier last week with what amounted to a news/weather marathon. On Friday night, though, CBS11 returned to form, cutting to commercials at the 10:13 p.m. mark.

As posted earlier, CBS11 ended up nipping WFAA8 by just one-tenth of a rating point (6,786 viewers) in Friday's Nielsens. WFAA8 is the reigning sweeps champ and CBS11 has never won at 10 p.m. Just three weeknights remain before November's festivities end on the night before Thanksgiving.

Locked in a virtual tie, each station is looking for any edge it can get. But WFAA8 has a sledgehammer in waiting on Tuesday night, when ABC's two-hour Dancing with the Stars finale leads directly into its late night newscast.

CBS11's lead story Friday piggybacked onto a story that WFAA8 broke earlier this year. Reporter Jack Fink had the still inconclusive findings of an independent city investigation into alleged rampant sexual harrassment within Dallas Fire Rescue. The principal accuser is Leanne Siri Edwards, previously the highest-ranking civilian woman in the department. WFAA8 was the first local TV station to publicize her allegations.

"A warning now. Some are very graphic," Fink said of some of the report's findings.

WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos primed the pump a little harder in a news tease about "the chief, an affair and racy video."

Chief Eddie Burns has acknowledged sending a cell phone video of himself shirtless to a non-city employee with whom he was having an extramarital affair. That's not a violation of department policy because the woman didn't work for him. Nor is it exactly "racy video."

To its credit, CBS11 managed to get Chief Burns on camera after a public speaking engagement. He deferred comment, but was pleasant and said that the overall results of the investigation looked "positive." WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely did not get any remarks from the chief.

CBS11 later resorted to brief footage of former Dirk Nowitzki girlfriend Christa Taylor whining and crying to Inside Edition, which the station airs at 4:30 p.m. weekdays. She again said she wasn't a "golddigger." The non-story got a big tease anyway.

Decidedly more news worthy was Jay Gormley's second report on "another charity interrupted" by police, who stopped motorcycle clubs from distributing boxes of chicken to the homeless. The clubs lacked a city permit and running water, said Gormley, noting that police say they have no choice but to enforce the law.

Anchor Doug Dunbar later had an affecting report on therapy horses who are being used successfully to treat troubled kids. He did basically the same story earlier in the month, but it's tough to quibble with that. CBS11 is planning a half-hour Christmas special on the treatments at Rocky Top Therapy Center.

The station also wound up its week-long "Social Experiment" series with Ginger Allen's look at a young single woman who is getting around town without a car. Not exactly earthshaking stuff, but moderately interesting.

WFAA8 led its 10 p.m. proceedings with Brett Shipp's report on unacceptably high uranium levels in Hudson Oaks' drinking water. The small city responded on its web site with a declaration that "Hudson Oaks Water is Safe to Drink" and that reports to the contrary are "misleading and unnecessarily frightening residents."

A city spokesman twice told Shipp on camera, "When we were notified, we took the well off line." Shipp accused him of not answering his question on whether he personally would have been worried about drinking possibly contaminated water.

Two other WFAA8 stories hit closer to home -- and to the heart. Gary Reaves had an interesting look at an increase in storage shed auctions being held after renters fell delinquent on their payments. Buyers get only a quick peek at the possessions inside before having to make their bids.

"Trash or treasure, they have to take it all," Reaves noted. "And leave the storage space clean."

WFAA8's David Schechter also looked at the ramifications of a continued tough economy. He focused on a middle-aged woman recently evicted from her home. She had lived alone since her husband died four years ago, but no longer could make the payments. Her possessions were taken from the home and dumped in the adjoining yard, where they sat rain-soaked in the mud while the woman wept and her daughter tried to help.

Those are the kinds of TV pictures that stick with you. Here is Schechter's story.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 20-22) -- Cowboys nooner slogs past one mil mark

The Cowboys' trance-inducing 7-6 win over arch-rival Washington squashed everything in its path without being a blockbuster.

Noon-starting games tend to be a little slow on the draw. As were the Cowboys, who for the second straight Sunday were shut out for three quarters before notching a lone TD.

Fox's presentation, which stretched to 3:08 p.m., averaged 1,096,465 D-FW viewers. That was just enough to nudge it past the season-opener at Tampa Bay, which had 1,065,449 viewers to rank as the least-watched game to date. The win over the Bucs also began at noon on Fox.

Still on top is the regular season debut of Jerry's Palace, in which Dallas narrowly lost to the Giants on NBC's Sunday Night Football. That game averaged 1,737,293 viewers. (Note: Totals have been readjusted from previous posts after Nielsen Media Research revised its viewer population figures upward for the fall TV season. The Cowboys-Giants game gained almost 37,000 viewers under the new figures.)

In prime-time Sunday, NBC's Eagles-Bears game easily outpointed ABC's competing American Music Awards. The Eagles' victory averaged 515,759 viewers while the AMAs had 312,170.

Saturday's attractions as usual were paced by ABC's prime-time college football game. In the latest edition, Texas crunched Kansas to the tune of 339,315 viewers.

The 10 p.m. local news race remained air-tight, with CBS11 nipping WFAA8 Friday in total viewers by a score of 223,948 to 217,162. Just three weekdays remain in the November sweeps, with the two stations still running neck-and-neck. The market's 10 p.m. titans tied for first Friday among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. WFAA8 retains a slim edge in that key demographic.

NBC5 took the gold at 6 a.m. in total viewers, but WFAA8 scored a rare win among 25-to-54-year-olds by finishing a nose ahead of Fox4.

WFAA8 ran the table at 6 p.m. and also won at 5 p.m. in total viewers. Fox4 finished first at the earlier hour with 25-to-54-year-olds.

New KERA13 documentary is wholly Trinity -- circa '60s/'70s

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The Trinity River has alligator gar and endless possibilities.

The Trinity Killer is still at large on Showtime's Dexter, but presumably will be disposed of by season's end.

The Trinity River still looms large, as it has for generations and generations to come.

Dallas-based KERA13's Living with the Trinity, premiering Monday, Nov. 23rd at 9 p.m. central, does not re-dredge the stormy pros and cons of a nine-mile tollway to be built over the storied river while it's simultaneously being redeveloped into the country's largest urban park.

Filmmaker Rob Tranchin's instructive one-hour documentary instead winds back to the mid-1960s, when the flood-prone, twisty-turny Trinity was to be straightened into a barge canal running all the way from North Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas congressman Jim Wright, later to become Speaker of the House, spearheaded the project after persuading Congress to approve nearly $1 billion in funding. Wright, 86 and a survivor of tongue cancer, contributes a new interview for Living with the Trinity. He's visually worse for wear but still lucid.

The "canalization" of the Trinity eventually went under after voters in 17 counties narrowly rejected additional funding in a 1973 bond referendum. By that time, a counter-offensive had been mounted by C.O.S.T. (Citizens Organization for a Sound Trinity), whose champions included newly elected Republican congressman Alan Steelman, a telegenic Dallas businessman.

Steelman, also interviewed anew for the documentary, had upset crusty Democratic incumbent Earle Cabell, a proponent of the massive Trinity makeover. Although his future seemed bright, Steelman dropped out of politics after failing to unseat Lloyd Bentsen in the 1976 U.S. Senate race.

Living with the Trinity does a nice job of gathering archival footage and re-telling a story that already seems like ancient history. It's a balanced look at both sides of a then very volatile argument. And if you stick around until the end, you'll also get an eye-opening, current-day look at an imposing alligator gar fished out of the Trinity by gleeful sportsmen.

Wright still believes in his long-ago pet project, but says in retrospect, "If the people didn't want it, we didn't want it." The Trinity has no real say in any of this. It just keeps rolling along.

KERA also has a companion web site, TrinityRiverTexas.org, which will post Living With the Trinity after broadcast and already houses last week's radio series, Banking with the Trinity.


This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. news titans -- WFAA8 and CBS11 (Thurs., Nov. 19)

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All in one gulp: WFAA8's John McCaa, Gloria Campos, Pete Delkus.

D-FW station executives keep telling your friendly content provider that ratings "sweeps" periods are antiquated. That they compete in the same way every night year-around. That certain stories aren't geared toward those merry months of November, February and May. That it really doesn't matter who wins a sweeps competition because this is a marathon.


Or to put it more tactfully, what a crock.

On Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast, WFAA8 matched CBS11's November sweeps gambit of providing more than 20 minutes of uninterrupted news coverage before the first commercial break. The usual break point is between the 10- and 14-minute mark. But both stations went all the way until 10:23 p.m., folding their weathercasts into this elongated stretch before finally yielding to the first batch of ads.

Why? Because with just four weekdays remaining in the 20-day November competition, the two stations are locked in a virtual tie for first place in the total viewer Nielsens. WFAA8 is the defending champ and CBS11 is trying to win for the first time ever. So anything you can do we can do better -- which is basically what WFAA8 is saying by replicating CBS11's commercial-free ploy to hold viewers in place all the way to the sports segments.

Odd but calculated story choices also were made Thursday night.

CBS11 led its newscast with the saga of a plucky 76-year-old University Park woman whose purse was snatched by a couple of punks.

"Hear from the elderly woman who tried to take on two robbers," anchor Doug Dunbar teased at the top before reporter Jay Gormley assumed the position with a live report.

The woman, Dorothy Thompson, told Gormley that she briefly tried to hold onto her purse before grudgingly letting go. She emerged unhurt, save for a small bruise on her arm.

WFAA8 countered by leading off with a "Pepper Spray Arrest." Reporter Jason Whitely told the tale of Jason Simpkins, who was stopped on suspicion of theft (wrongly as it turned out) and then taken downtown for having a four-ounce can of "Law Enforcement Strength" pepper spray.

Simpkins, later exonerated, said he spent $6,200 in attorney's fees. He rightly feels wronged.

Mind you that both of these relatively smallish crime stories were top-of-the-newscast headliners in a TV market of almost 6.8 million viewers. Gotta grab 'em in the early going, though, especially when every one-tenth of a rating point is paramount in a down-to-the wire sweeps race.

CBS11, as previously noted, also has taken to providing printed teases within its 10 p.m. newscasts. On Thursday night, viewers first were informed, "Coming up in 3 minutes: Dirty Dining in Dallas." And a bit later -- "Coming up after weather: Meet a CSI star tomorrow."

"Dirty Dining" is investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham's ongoing series on restaurants with fruit flies in the kitchen, food left to the ravages of improper temperatures and someday maybe, even bats in the belfry. The usual culprits are mom-and-pop eateries that indeed need to clean up their acts. But in this latest report, even a few empty boxes in Cowboy Chow's kitchen were deemed a safety hazard by a zealous health inspector. I wonder if the CBS11 newsroom microwave could withstand such scrutiny.

The CSI star turned out to be supporting player Wallace Langham, who appeared Friday morning at a new Fort Worth CSI attraction that CBS11 also promoted during Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Thursday's edition also included "our exclusive interview" with Simon Baker, star of CBS' The Mentalist. It just so happens he also has a new movie out. Anchor Karen Borta narrated the sit-down with Baker, but an unseen Sandie Newton interviewed him.

On WFAA8, investigative reporter Byron Harris had a lengthy piece on prominent North Texans who own private jets that are taxable only during those times their aircrafts are actually in D-FW. Some try to avoid heavy taxes by keeping the planes elsewhere as much as possible.

"Is somebody committing a foul here?" Harris asked after dropping the name of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. "No. It's all perfectly legal, signed off by Dallas County tax officials."

So did this story really fly? Not entirely. It was more "So what?" than "Aha," although Harris did get to reel off two other high-profile plane owners -- Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman.

WFAA8 was on firmer ground with reporter Chris Hawes' second followup to her story on high levels of cancer-causing benzene in air samples taken near some natural gas facilities, including the Barnett Shale in Fort Worth. I was too dismissive of Hawes' first report; this looks like a story worth pursuing, and Hawes has been doing just that.

Overall Thursday night, WFAA8 had a more content-rich newscast than CBS11. Both stations also played some games during the course of their all-out fight for 10 p.m. bragging rights in one of those otherwise inconsequential ratings sweeps months.

Holding the hammer -- When all is said and done, WFAA8 likely has an irresistible force in Tuesday night's two-hour Dancing with the Stars season finale. It will air from 8 to 10 p.m., serving as a no doubt very potent lead-in attraction on the next-to-last night of the sweeps.

WFAA8 will be promoting this like crazy, on newscasts and wherever else it can. CBS11 might have to promise anchors in swimsuits to engineer any major audience shift. Its featured quartet is much fitter to be sure. But I don't think we've quite reached that point yet. Maybe next November.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Nov. 19) -- tighter 'n' tighter at 10 p.m., electrical fire included


A fire knocked out NBC5's late night lineup Thursday. nbcdfw photo

Oarsmen/women are rowing ever more furiously in the bowels of the big Ben-Hur boats.

The headmasters are cracking their whips, demanding suck-you-in stories, killer promos, hooks, lines, sinkers -- whatever it takes.

Or at least it's pretty to think so.

WFAA8 overcame another big lead-in disadvantage Thursday night, edging CBS11 at 10 p.m. to throw the November "sweeps" ratings race into over-drive with just four weeknights remaining before everyone towels off. The two Big Tunas are locked in a virtual dead heat, with WFAA8 the reigning champ and CBS11 striving to win at 10 p.m. in total viewers for the first time ever.

CBS11 had slowed WFAA8's backstretch momentum with a morale-boosting win Wednesday night. WFAA8 hit back Thursday by overcoming CBS11's audience windfall from The Mentalist.

WFAA8 ended up totaling 278,238 D-FW viewers at 10 p.m., up from the 190,016 who watched the 9:45 to 10 p.m. close of ABC's Private Practice. CBS11's runner-up 10 p.m. newscast had 251,093 viewers, down from the 366,460 inherited from The Mentalist.

WFAA8 also prevailed at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. That race remains close, too, although front-running WFAA8 has a little more breathing room in this key demographic.

Where were Fox4 and NBC5? Their 10 p.m. newscasts basically were lapped three times by both WFAA8 and CBS11. In the total viewers measurement, Fox4 ran third with 81,436 viewers while the Peacock recorded one of its all-time lows -- 54,280 viewers.

Something's very weird about these numbers, though. Nielsen shows NBC's Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon registering "hashmarks" (no measurable audience) from 10:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m. And yes, there's a definite explanation for that.

NBC5's nbcdfw.com website reports that an electrical fire in the station's main Fort Worth building forced an evacuation at about 10:10 p.m. Thursday.

The fire, in the station's electrical room, was put out at about 11:30 p.m., the account says. "By 2 a.m., most systems had returned to normal operation."

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown, NBC5 says.

In other local news derby results, NBC5 ran the table at 6 a.m., where it still holds a narrow lead over Fox4. But on Thursday, WFAA8 tied Fox4 for second in both ratings measurements.

WFAA8 again swept the 6 p.m. ratings, where it's firmly in control. The 5 p.m. race remains close, through, with NBC5 and WFAA8 tying for first in total viewers Thursday while the Peacock won comfortably among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Oprah's long countdown to a sign-off is going to be just fine with WFAA8

oprah oprah-winfrey

Oprah Winfrey's long goodbye -- and eventual abandonment of her daytime talk show -- looks like the best of both worlds for Dallas-based WFAA8.

First of all, she's not going anywhere until Sept. 9, 2011. And as that day grows nearer, interest likely will only heighten in The Oprah Winfrey Show, which launched on Sept. 8, 1986 and has long been anchored at 4 p.m. on WFAA8. Any audience boosts can only help the station's struggling 5 p.m. newscasts, which have faded in the ratings during Winfrey's descent from juggernaut to loss-leader.

Simply put, WFAA8 is paying an arm, a leg and a torso for her show, which paid off very handsomely in the first 20 years or so. Winfrey used to decimate everything in her path. And her lead-in, combined for many years with a 6:30 p.m. Wheel of Fortune lead-out, helped WFAA8's early evening newscasts to record huge margins of victory over those on Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11.

In recent times, though, Winfrey's D-FW ratings have dipped to unimagined depths. On Wednesday, the day before her Harpo Productions announced a quit date, Oprah drew just 67,863 viewers in running third behind Fox4's double dip of Judge Judy (74,649 and 95,008 viewers) and NBC's homegrown First At Four newscast (87,988 viewers).

At the prices WFAA8 is paying, that's a doubleheader defeat. Now the station can begin planning a future without Oprah, which could include its own 4 p.m. local newscast if the station chooses. Whatever winds up there will be far cheaper.

Winfrey will elaborate on her decision during Friday's show, which should be a widely watched tear-fest. Her destination beyond Oprah is cable's yet to be launched but previously announced OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. She'll help develop programming for OWN and might even have her own show. But Harpo says it definitely will not be an extension of her syndicated program, which will have 25 seasons in the bank by the time she calls it quits.

The move away from free TV is both a sign of the times and a considerable risk. Cable's dual revenue streams -- from both advertisers and subscriber fees -- are increasingly attractive in times when the longstanding broadcast model is viewed by some as an outmoded Model T.

Still, Winfrey's overall omnipresence is bound to take a big hit. Howard Stern may have made a financial killing by moving to Sirius Radio. But his audience and visibility are fractions of what they once were.

For now, though, Sept. 9, 2011 is a long way off. Excuse WFAA8 executives if they count the days and privately wish they could fast-forward them. Everyone sucked up to Winfrey -- save for sports anchor Dale Hansen -- during her recent co-anchoring of a 5 p.m. newscast after a visit to the Texas State Fair. In truth, though, WFAA8 almost assuredly will be better off without her. Thanks for the memories -- but you can't take those to the bank.

"I don't want to be on TV. Thank you" (but she was anyway)


This motorist didn't seem to mind being on TV during Fox4's latest "Street Squad" segment. That's reporter James Rose on the left.

Fox4 has an aggressive, hard-charging reporter in James Rose, whose "Street Squad" segments are featured weekly on the station's 9 p.m. newscasts.

In this case, though, he came off as a bit of a bully, too. Rose's Tuesday report originated from Lewisville, where many motorists are making illegal left-hand turns from a straight ahead-only lane to avoid an oft-crowded overhead bypass. Police supposedly wrote 97 tickets in 90 minutes while Rose observed the proceedings. The cost per ticket is $167. Not a bad revenue producer.

Rose approached several motorists after they received their tickets. One violator was reasonably friendly but firm after Rose asked her, "What's your reaction to the cops crackin' down?"

"No, no, I don't want to be on TV," the woman told him. "That's fine. People are breaking the law. But I don't want to be on TV."

"Why did you do it?" Rose persisted.

"I don't want to be on TV. Thank you," the woman reiterated before driving off.

She was shown on TV anyway, even though Rose seemingly had his pick of other motorists who didn't mind being seen with him while Fox4's cameras rolled.

"Virtually everyone we talked to was open and honest," Rose said. Three of them talked to Rose and also were a part of his story. The woman pictured above could be seen smiling at him.

None of these people are public figures. Nor are they heinous criminals. So shouldn't the woman who clearly didn't want to be on TV been allowed to drive away in peace rather than be shown for all to see? In effect, was she "ambushed?"

Here's the video from myfoxdfw.com. Let me know what you think.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Wed., Nov. 18)

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All in one gulp: CBS11's Doug Dunbar, Karen Borta, Larry Mowry.

We pause now for this important commercial-free message: In hopes of keeping viewers tuned in during the hotly contested home stretch of the 10 p.m. news ratings race, CBS11 lately is reeling off 22 minutes of uninterrupted coverage.

In other words, the station is doubling down on an old "11 on 11" slogan from the time before CBS bought KTVT-TV in 1999.

The 22 minutes, which include Larry Mowry's weathercast, are a marathon run within a typical 35-minute 10 p.m. newscast (30 minutes in the case of Fox4). Stations typically cut away to the first commercial break after 10 to 14 minutes of news content.

CBS11, in a pitched battle with WFAA8 for the 10 p.m. lead in total viewers and advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds, is looking for any edge it can get down the homestretch of the November "sweeps," which end on the night before Thanksgiving.

The station also is using on-screen "Coming up in 4 minutes" tags to tout its most heavily promoted stories. On Wednesday night, those plugs were for Ginger Allen's walk through the Fort Worth Museum of Sciences' new "CSI Experience" exhibit and Part 3 of an ongoing "Social Experiment" series in which guinea pigs go a week without texting, the Internet, their cell phones, etc.

After this big burst, all that's left is Babe Laufenberg's nightly sports segment -- which begins around 10:24 p.m. -- and a few video shorts amid two clusters of commercial breaks. Whether long-term or not, it's an interesting strategy that CBS11 hopes might be a bit of a game-changer opposite WFAA8's more conventionally structured newscast.

Content-wise, CBS11 had two stories of note Wednesday night. Jack Fink reported on lags in flu vaccine deliveries in Collin County compared to Dallas and Tarrant Counties. And Melissa Newton had an interesting look at how child custody cases are resulting in more instances in which the husband wins out. That's because more and more mothers are working, in some cases reversing or altering traditional stay-at-home roles.

WFAA8 countered with two standout stories of its own. Crime victim coverage permeates your basic local newscast. But Jason Whitely cut through the typical yellow police tape with his story on a World War II pilot and former longtime elementary school principal who was robbed and beaten in his home after merely answering the front door. The subhuman assailant, who's still at large, then stuffed poor old A.J. Hilliard in a closet.

Whitely interviewed the plucky Hilliard, who's head was bandaged and who still considers himself a lucky man after having to abandon his aircraft during a WWII mission. It really made you feel for the guy while at the same time hoping that the flesh-coated animal who did this to him winds up being severely punished.

WFAA8's David Schechter, the station's principal transportation reporter, had a lengthy piece on TXDot's use of easily broken pylons to divide HOV lanes from the other freeway traffic.

"TXDot had no idea if they would work -- and they did not," said Schechter. His Exhibit A was a motorcyclist who may have suffered irreparable brain damage after a motorist swerved into him when the pylons gave way. Schechter reported that hundreds of tubes were broken and left missing for a year and a half until TXDot launched a $450,000 repair project. In the interim, serious accidents occurred that otherwise probably wouldn't have.

"Things take a little bit of time. It's not an instantaneous issue that's gonna be resolved," said TXDot spokeswoman Cynthia Northrop White. That didn't sound very convincing. Nor did White look terribly reassuring in Cruella De Vil makeup and a matching mega-mane of jet black hair.

Fox4 and NBC5 had little to offer of note, although the Peacock's Grant Stinchfield at least provided a little comedy relief with his semi-earnest story on how people are spreading swine flu to themselves by touching their faces too much.

"Bottom line: infected hands near your face is the quickest way to implant the flu," Stinchfield said before capping his piece with a doctor's advice. Said the sawbones: "I don't think it's time to necessarily stop shaking hands, but it may be time to stop picking your nose."

Picking two: With five weekdays left in the sweeps, we're going to put our "Night in the Lives" spotlight on just the two stations that matter right now -- WFAA8 and CBS11. They're battling down to the wire for November's 10 p.m. ratings crown while Fox4 and NBC5 have absolutely no chance to win.

Although NBC5 has improved somewhat, its content is still seldom a match for WFAA8's or CBS11's. And Fox4 basically is repeating its 9 p.m. newscast in lackluster shorter form rather than making any effort to have it stand out on its own. In short, it's just not worth the extra time it takes to watch Fox4 and NBC5. So we won't -- at least for the rest of the sweeps.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Tues., Nov. 17)

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Goodnight sweet home of former Dallas Maverick Kurt Nimphius.

Jumbo-sized, fall-down, go-boom video generally is prized by your basic TV news gathering operation.

The pictures pretty much tell the story, and viewers get a nice ooh-ah moment in return. This is particularly true when a well-known building breathes its last.

It was surprising then, to see WFAA8 resort to a "Courtesy: The Dallas Morning News" tag for murky video of Reunion Arena tumbling down Tuesday afternoon after almost 30 years of service. The original home of the Dallas Mavericks -- and site of many a high-powered concert -- left lots of dust and memories just a few blocks from the Belo downtown compound, where WFAA8 and the DMN are divided by only a driveway and a guard shack. I kind of expected the Full Monty on WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast, but instead saw only cursory treatment and lousy pictures in comparison to those on Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11.

Fox4 paid the most respects, with James Rose posted live at the demolition site Tuesday after anchor Baron James set the table by telling viewers, "Reunion Arena went out in style, crumbling and collapsing in a massive cloud of dust."

Those who engineered the downfall called it a "textbook collapse," said Rose, who also gave viewers a little history of the place, complete with video from a Michael Jackson concert. The pictures, both from ground level and overhead, were suitably wowza. A yahoo spectator told Rose, "It sounded like two freight trains colliding. I mean, it was awesome."

NBC5 deployed reporter Omar Villafranca after anchor Jane McGarry noted that the first performance at Reunion was by Parliament Funkadelic.

"Today's demolition was sort of like a rock concert," Villafranca said. "You had plenty of loud noises if you were out there."

His story also featured a crazed onlooker who seemed to be play-acting for the cameras more than just a little. Fortuitously, the second part of his rave-up was silenced by audio problems.

CBS11 didn't have a reporter on the scene for its 10 p.m. newscast. But the station did have its own overhead pictures from Chopper 11. WFAA8, relying on video from a newspaper web cam, looked out to lunch in comparison. The demise of Reunion, easily the day's foolproof picture story, cried out for more from its next door neighbor TV station. But on its most-watched newscast of the day, WFAA8 barely gave the old showplace a glimpse.

The station's wizened Gary Reaves no doubt would have done a nice job with a Reunion essay. But he instead spent his time on a story about Cowboys Stadium being without an interior American flag during a recent high school football game.

A military color guard is generally the way Jerry's Palace rolls, but this particular one didn't have a Stars and Stripes in hand, Reaves reported. Cowboys officials say it was a "communication breakdown." And Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, when pressed by Reaves, said he'd prefer that Old Glory be flying at all times inside the Cowboys' emporium.

It wasn't exactly a mega-scandal, but WFAA8 consistently has been far more critical of Cowboys Stadium than rival stations. Coincidentally or not, its network, ABC, also is the only Big Four broadcaster without any NFL games. The Cowboys haven't been on ABC and WFAA8 since Monday Night Football relocated to ESPN several seasons ago.

Going the extra miles -- CBS11 had the only staff reporter in College Station Tuesday night for the 10th anniversary of the since officially discontinued Texas Aggie bonfire celebration, in which 12 students were killed. The station's Jay Gormley reported live from the scene; Fox4 also had a live report, with Keri Bellacosa of Austin's Fox7 doing double duty.

Worth watching -- Ace WFAA8 general assignment reporter Jim Douglas had an eye-opening story on a backlog in DNA testing that resulted in the very belated arrest of a sub-human who abducted and sexually assaulted a 13-year-old Cleburne girl 10 years ago. The FBI had the abductor's DNA for more than four years after he was held on another charge. But the feds only recently got around to testing it and then arresting 53-year-old Dennis Griffith of Bosque County.

CBS11's Carol Cavazos had a heartwarmer on a 24 cents-per-DISD student fundraising effort on behalf of a paralyzed former Pinkston Vikings football player whose number was 24. And anchor Karen Borta narrated an interesting piece titled "Man With No Heartbeat." Jovial 40-year-old Michael LeBlanc of Irving instead has been surviving with a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) while awaiting a possible heart transplant.

Rhyme time -- The kids played quietly off-camera Tuesday, allowing WFAA8 weatherman Pete Delkus to do his 10 p.m. forecast uninterrupted after Monday's effort was waylaid by hijinks from anchors John McCaa, Gloria Campos and Dale Hansen.

Delkus then read an extended poem from a viewer who wrote in part, "Delkus gave the forecast, he knows the weather state. While Hansen, John and Gloria made it hard to concentrate."

Uncle Barky liked his poem better. Peace out.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Mon., Nov. 16)


WFAA8 took aim at Jerry's Palace with a terrorist scare tease.

Was this really necessary?

"Terrorism. Violence. It's all been hitting close to home. Could the Super Bowl be the next target?"

Anchor Gloria Campos and WFAA8 led with that cheap ratings "sweeps" tease Monday night, targeting the 2011 extravaganza at Cowboys Stadium for possible mass destruction.

Reporter Chris Hawes' subsequent story -- "Securing the Super Bowl" -- took a bracingly more sedate approach to the precautionary measures being drawn up by law enforcement officials. So did Arlington police chief Theron Bowman, who said calmly, "I can assure you . . . we are working diligently to ensure that this is the absolute safest place it could be. And we don't worry about those scenarios here."

Fox4 and NBC5 also had Super Bowl stories -- but of a far more benign nature. Their accounts were tied to a gathering of area mayors and Big Game organizers, all of them intent on showcasing North Texas and Jerry's Palace to the best extent possible. Amping up the fear factor -- as WFAA8 did -- made the station seem unduly trigger happy and alarmist -- if not childish.

On a much higher plane, WFAA8's David Schechter had a followup on what so far has been the most impactful story of the sweeps. He told viewers earlier this month of a loophole that allowed jailed illegal immigrants charged with serious crimes to be transported back to Mexico scot-free by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In reaction to Schechter's story, bail amounts have been hiked substantially to $100,000, making it far more difficult to get sprung.

All four major TV news providers reported on the controversial new guidelines for mammograms by the government-funded United States Preventive Services Task Force. In short, women now are being told that regular screenings for breast cancer should start at age 50 instead of 40. And that mammograms should be undergone every two years rather than annually.

Fox4 led its 10 p.m. newscast with the findings while rival stations eagerly touted the near-freezing weather at hand Monday night and early Tuesday morning. The station's Sophia Reza had a more balanced report than CBS11's Melissa Newton, who interviewed only naysayers, including a "flabbergasted" and "shocked" doctor.

NBC5 and WFAA8 opted for brief anchor readers on the new breast exam guidelines. This was particularly puzzling in WFAA8's case. It has the market's only full-time medical reporter in Janet St. James. But she instead stuck with an OK story on "discount health care" possibilities, which could and should have been saved for another night. When major medical news breaks, your ace reporter in that field should be turned loose on it.

Worth watching -- CBS11 investigator Bennett Cunningham turned from "Dirty Diners" to overturned rigs in his interesting analysis of big truck accidents and still lax safety precautions in areas where they're more likely to occur. And the station's Ginger Allen had the first installment in CBS11's week-long "Social Experiment." Its inaugural guinea pig was a teen addicted to text-messaging who had to give it up for a week. "I've been better at talking now," she acknowledged before returning to her texting ways. Next up: Internet deprivation. The horror.

NBC5's Grant Stinchfield ventured to Colbert, Okla. to report on illegal immigrants "flooding into Texas" because of its less strict laws. Colleague Randy McIlwain had another talker -- on a University of North Texas student vote that will determine whether same sex couples can be part of the homecoming court.

Fox4's trusty Fil Alvarado relayed some good information on a wealth of seasonal jobs opening up around the country. He interviewed two young women who were lucky enough to land some of them.

Blooper reel -- NBC5 anchor Brian Curtis narrated one of his station's standard issue "Crime Alerts." But the video never appeared as he told viewers, "These surveillance photos show the suspect pointing his gun and demanding money."

It's just Pete doing his dumb weather, so let's screw around -- WFAA8 temperature taker Pete Delkus was deep into his near-freezing forecast when he laughed and then lectured anchor mates Campos, John McCaa and Dale Hansen, who were carrying on off-camera.

"You have no idea the concentration level you have to have to go on the air and be a professional like I am when these three are over here playing the games that they're playing behind me," Delkus told viewers. "If we could 'punch them up,' I think everyone at home would be surprised . . . if not offended."

Delkus slogged through the rest of his forecast before adding, "I'd bring the belt out on them tonight, but I don't think there's a big enough one for you (meaning plus-sized Hansen)."

"They were wrestling with their chairs," Campos clarified.

Everyone then had a good laugh, Big Pete included. But they probably shouldn't pull this during a tornado.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 13-15) -- Punchless Pokes still pack 'em in

The Dallas Cowboys returned to Fox Sunday. And win or lose, that's never a bad thing for any station's bottom line.

Dallas' 17-7 loss to Green Bay averaged 1,411,550 D-FW viewers, 636,012 of them in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic sweet spot. Nothing else came close, of course, including a competing NASCAR race on ABC that had 128,940 total viewers. Also buried by Cowboys-Packers -- the Dallas Mavericks' road win at Detroit, which drew 33,932 viewers on Fox Sports Southwest. All nine regular season Cowboys games have drawn more than a million viewers.

NBC's marquee Sunday Night Football matchup of the Colts and Patriots dominated the prime-time numbers with 495,400 viewers, with WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast pulling in a respectable 291,811 viewers to rank as nighttime's second-most watched attraction. On AMC, the 7 to 9 p.m. launch of a new three-part version of The Prisoner had 13,573 viewers locally.

TCU's Saturday night trouncing of Utah on College Sports Channel presumably did quite well in these parts. But the network does not subscribe to the Nielsen Media Research ratings service, so we'll just have to go on assumption. ABC's competing Saturday night attraction of Texas Tech and Oklahoma State averaged 203,589 viewers.

In Friday's local news derby results, WFAA8 continued to inch closer to CBS11 at 10 p.m. with a win in total viewers. The ABC station had 203,589, matching Tech-Okie State. CBS11 ran second with 162,871. Eight weekdays remain in the 20-day November "sweeps," with CBS11 trying to win at 10 p.m. in total viewers for the first time ever.

WFAA8 also finished first at 10 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. It's gradually starting to distance itself from CBS11 in this key measurement.

NBC5 added to its 6 a.m. lead with twin wins while WFAA8 ran second in both ratings measurements. Fox4's early morning fortunes have fallen on hard times in the past 7 weekdays. The station will need a big rally to repeat as No. 1. Fox4 swept the November 2008 competitions.

WFAA8 took both of Friday's golds at 6 p.m. while tying Fox4 and NBC5 for first in total viewers at 5 p.m. Fox4 won at the earlier hour with 25-to-54-year-olds.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Fri., Nov. 13)

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Rebecca Lopez, ticketed Ernestina Mondragon and J.D. Miles

D-FW television's two most prominent police reporters led their stations' 10 p.m. newscasts Friday, with WFAA8's Rebecca Lopez in part trying to shoot down some of the reporting by CBS11's J.D. Miles.

Quick note: both reporters live and breathe their beats. Their rivalry is deep-seated and hard-edged, with some contending that Lopez at times profits from her close ties with cop shop reporters for The Dallas Morning News, the Belo-owned, cross-promotional cousin of WFAA8.

Lopez has some big notches on her belt, though, including last March's exclusive report on the emergency room incident between Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats and Dallas police officer Robert Powell, who resigned after the story went national. Miles got the consolation prize in that instance -- the first interview with Powell.

Friday's lead stories, on a recent sharp reduction in ticket-writing by Dallas police officers, were spurred by WFAA8's Oct. 22nd report on a Hispanic woman who was cited for making an illegal U-turn, being without her driver's license and being a "non-English speaking driver." Lopez's WFAA8 colleague, Jason Whitely, reported that story on the air after Lopez handed it off to him, WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine said. Dallas police chief David Kunkle, who will be resigning his post next spring, then publicly apologized for the language citation. A subsequent internal investigation turned up more instances of such tickets being written.

Lopez's Friday story, titled "Ticket Tumble," said that police records subsequently showed a sharp drop-off in traffic citations, with some officers refusing to write tickets in protest because they fear being disciplined if they make mistakes. More than 700 tickets were written on some days in early October, but that number plunged to 41 on Oct. 31st, according to figures cited by Lopez.

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway worried that the public's safety is being compromised.

"We still cannot allow people to run stop signs or red lights," he said.

Lopez contended there is no truth to a "bogus email" being circulated by officers. It supposedly says they will be disciplined and possibly fired if they make too many ticket-writing mistakes.

"I'm not sure where that is coming from, other than just rumors," DPD spokesman Lt. Andrew Harvey said on camera.

But Miles' story said that the new disciplinary measures in fact are in place and have led to the ticket-writing slow-down. Anchor Doug Dunbar first set the stage by telling viewers, "Could be open season in the city of Dallas for speeders, red light runners and other traffic violators."

"Some officers are protesting a new controversial policy that they say is too harsh," anchor Karen Borta added. "And they'll stop writing traffic tickets until it's changed."

Miles said that a "strict new" ticket-writing directive is fact, not fiction. The policy "could lead to termination if officers make five or more mistakes on traffic tickets," he said. "How are officers taking this? By protesting."

His Exhibit A was a patrol officer in "heavy disguise" (silhouetted, voice disguised), who told Miles in part, "I'm not doing my family any good if I get days off or fired over a ticket."

Miles quotes the same DPD spokesman -- Lt. Harvey -- as WFAA8 did. "All of us are expected to do what we signed up for," he said, "to protect and serve the community with professionalism."

Competitors Fox4 and NBC5 had no coverage at all on the ticket-writing downturn and the reasons behind it. That left WFAA8 and CBS11 to duke it out during their continuing tight battle for ratings supremacy at 10 p.m.

Feel good beat -- CBS11's Ginger Allen had an interesting story on a 65-year-old man whose debilitating heart disease was reversed by a stem cell procedure in Thailand. He couldn't get the operation in the U.S. Also, Fox4's Natalie Solis contributed a nicely done piece on an elderly woman whose condemned West Dallas home is being rebuilt by members of the retired NFL Players Association, with former Dallas Cowboys Jay Novacek and Preston Pearson among the Good Samaritans.

Bullseye on Mansfield -- WFAA8 had two investigative pieces tied to Mansfield public policy. Whitely reported on a controversy over city-paid workers getting swine flu shots ahead of ostensibly more needy individuals such as pregnant women, health care providers and children.

The station's Brett Shipp looked at the many Mansfield hats being worn by retired Fort Worth attorney Bill Lane, who now holds a variety of city offices. Former Mansfield mayor Barton Scott questioned whether one man should have that much power while Shipp looked into a questionable city business relationship between Lane and his brother-in-law. Shipp noted at story's end that Lane, who declined to be interviewed on camera, also is in charge of the distribution of swine flu shots.

Not your grandmother's McGarry -- For the second straight night, male colleagues directed a little sexual heat toward anchor Jane McGarry, who wore a purple dress in honor of TCU's big game Saturday night against Utah.

Co-anchor Brian Curtis asked sports anchor Matt Barrie, stationed at Cowboys Stadium for a high school playoff game, whether he could see McGarry's garb.

"No, I can't," he rejoined. "I'm guessin' that's fortunate for me."

"She's rockin' this purple dress," Curtis assured Barrie, who wasn't buying into the night's color scheme.

"What happened to unbiased media? This isn't purple," Barrie said, pointing to his powder blue shirt.

Over on WFAA8, weatherman Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen both sported purple ties while news anchor Gloria Campos wore a dress that wasn't quite as purple as McGarry's, but probably close enough. Or maybe my DVR replay color is off.

Delkus is "trying to kiss up to everybody in Tarrant County," Hansen jabbed. "Mine (his purple tie) just comes up in the normal rotation. Every three days I start over."

That seems like a good stopping point.

WFAA8's longstanding Santa's Helpers toy drive has dealt him out, signature spokesman Troy Dungan says (updated)


Pete Delkus and Troy Dungan at earlier Santa's Helpers event.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be without Troy Dungan's participation in Dallas-based WFAA8's annual Santa's Helpers toy drive.

Dungan, synonymous with Santa's Helpers for more than 30 years, said he has not been asked to join this year's campaign.

The station's longtime featured forecaster, whose last WFAA8 weathercast aired on July 18, 2007, had joined successor Pete Delkus on both the 2007 and 2008 Santa's Helpers drives.

"None of the executives (at WFAA8) have approached me about being part of the 2009 Santa's Helpers campaign," Dungan said via an extended email Thursday from Oklahoma City, where he was both visiting a grandchild and suffering from laryngitis. "When Kathy Clements was general manager, she told me that I would be a main component of Santa's Helpers as long as I wanted to be. She was moved 'upstairs.' Things change."

As of this early Friday afternoon writing, current WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin has not responded to an email sent early Thursday evening and a mid-morning Friday phone call asking for comment. Dungan was contacted after several unclebarky.com readers said they had heard that he wouldn't be involved in this year's toy drive.

A spokesperson for WFAA8 said Monday that the station will have no comment on Dungan's version of events.

"No sour grapes," said Dungan, who will be 73 on Tuesday. "Santa's Helpers is a great charity. I was its principal spokesman for 32 years. But to answer your original question, it was the management at Channel 8 and not me who decided on a 'transition.' "

Dungan said he got an inkling of Christmas future late last year, when he dropped by WFAA8 to do a "recording session for one of my commercial clients."

"By the back door I saw a stack of the 2008 Santa's Helpers posters -- with only Pete Delkus' photo and no photo or mention of me. I asked (a WFAA8 programming executive) about it, and he said he thought I would be pleased since I had helped bring Pete to Channel 8 and that now it was 'time for a transition.' "

But Dungan said that his partial services contract with WFAA8 "was the only one I ever had that actually called for my being paid for Santa's Helpers events that year. Since I felt obligated to keep my end of the bargain, I did work on 12 Santa's Helpers events, including all of the 'drive-throughs.' My name was never mentioned in any of the publicity for the Santa's Helpers campaign."

After stepping down as WFAA8's featured forecaster, the station "had the option to use me up to 25 days between July '08 and July '09," Dungan said. "I had worked five days on news/weather appearances before Santa's Helpers. I was never called back after Christmas for anything else."

Dungan, whose commercial activities include foundation repair ads that regularly appear on WFAA8, said he will be free and clear of the station on Jan. 19, 2010.

"I can, if I wish, go to work for any TV station in the D-FW market as long as it is not doing weather," he said. "Which is okay since I did the last weathercast I was ever going to do on July 18, 2007."

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Thurs., Nov. 12)

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Sports anchor Babe Laufenberg and Cowboys staffer Rich Behm

CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg's extended exclusive interview with paralyzed Dallas Cowboys staffer Rich Behm provided an uplift on a night otherwise marked by heavy-duty crime and tragedy stories on all four stations.

Behm, paralyzed during the May 2nd collapse of the team's practice bubble, said he at first thought he was dead and then realized that "something was horribly wrong." His wife, Michelle, also talked to Laufenberg as they sat side by side in the couple's home.

The Behms laughed easily, with Michelle saying, "He amazes me every day."

"Do you hold out hope that you'll walk again?" Laufenberg asked.

"Oh yeah," Behm said, also noting that "I have a wife and three kids, and the minute I feel sorry for myself, we're in big trouble."

It was his first interview since the tragedy. And Laufenberg acknowledges, on the cbs11tv web site, that he's known both Rich Behm and his brother, Chris, for many years. It also obviously helps that Laufenberg is a former Cowboys quarterback and the game day analyst on the team's radio broadcasts. That said, Laufenberg did a very good job with the interview, and deserves credit for that.

NBC5 also had a unique Cowboys angle during what usually is the inconsequential small talk following sports anchor Newy Scruggs' segment.

The station's piece on the team's upcoming game with the Packers noted that QB Tony Romo intends to let his hair keep growing until the Cowboys lose. News anchor Jane McGarry then said she likes Romo's hair long.

"She's always on those young guys," Scruggs then said of the still frisky, middle-aged McGarry.

"Thank you. I think," McGarry rejoined before Scruggs said, "Tony Romo . . ." and stopped there.

"Ah, be quiet," a chuckling McGarry shot back. But you just knew she loved it.

NBC5's Scott Friedman earlier had an interesting piece on what anchor Brian Curtis termed a "Texas-sized comeback" in cattle rustling. Friedman, who otherwise anchors NBC5's weekend morning newscasts, reports only occasionally for the 10 p.m. newscasts. But his extended pieces invariably are worthy and well-produced. This one was from Hubbard, TX in Hill County. So much for the monthly travel budget.

WFAA8's Thursday late nighter was uncommonly pedestrian, with anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos narrating a heavy volume of short video blips as well as promoting Sarah Palin's upcoming Monday appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and sports anchor Dale Hansen's latest "Unplugged" non-sports commentary on the station's ratings-challenged Daybreak program.

Enterprise stories by WFAA8 reporters Chris Hawes and David Schechter were nothing exceptional this time out. In short it was pretty much a yawner.

Sad to say, Fox4's throw-in-the-towel 10 p.m. newscast was pedestrian as usual. It also was the heaviest on crime/tragedy, where Fox4 lately has supplanted NBC5 as the station to beat in that field. There were no distinctive enterprise stories at all. Everything Fox4 had also was reported by one or more of its rivals.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Wed., Nov. 11)

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Local TV newsies Bennett Cunningham, Sophia Reza, Ken Kalthoff.

All four stations led their 10 p.m. editions with Dallas police chief David Kunkle's surprise resignation. Let's get to the important news, though, such as stories on sickness-spreading little turtles and restaurants that also can make you upchuck.

CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham spread things a little thick again with another of his "Dirty Diners" exposes. This latest adventure, in the tradition of WFAA8's thrilling "Eat, Drink and Be Wary" escapades of yesteryear, even included a brief cartoon rendering of a humanoid making a barfing sound while sucking on a thermometer. Viewers got a glimpse of this after Cunningham spotted a basket of raw shrimp daring to exist near room temperature at the Grand China Super Buffet in Fort Worth.

"Eat this shrimp and it could make you very sick," said Cunningham before the cartoon character blecched.

The story also included an animated mouse, bird and roach scampering/flying across home screens during Cunningham's subsequent visits to Cowtown's Cattlemen's Steakhouse and Fried Chicken Deluxe. The latter restaurant now has a "spotless" kitchen after a previous inspection uncovered roaches in the chicken batter, Cunningham noted.

He ended by telling viewers that "all of the restaurants in this story passed a re-inspection and did much better." But the obvious implication is that they'd still be serving potentially stomach-turning food without Cunningham's interventions. Cattlemen's obliged by kicking him out, which is always a welcome touch when cameras are rolling.

The "Dirty Diner" jaunts make for "entertaining" news, I guess. And Cunningham has them down to a science, as did long-gone WFAA8 investigator Charles Duncan during his rodents 'n' roaches patrols. But the populace at large likely wouldn't suffer unduly if Cunningham stuck a fork in this thing. At best it's strictly a "show-and tell" sweeps gambit -- and an old one at that.

Over at Fox4, reporter Sophia Reza tried to crack down on sales of miniature turtles, which are ripe with salmonella according to zoologists. Sales are supposed to be illegal, but some mall kiosk vendors and online entrepreneurs still dare to peddle 'em. Little kids, we're told, tend to put their fingers in the turtles' tanks and then in their mouths. Result: they could get sick.

Maybe so, but this extended report seemed more alarmist than alarming. In primitive times, Little Barky and his brothers all had little pet turtles. None of us got sick from constantly picking them up and having races with 'em. But what did we know? Perhaps the little shell-shockers merely spread sickness in the head, eventually turning one of their grown adult former masters into a TV critic.

On the Kunkle front, CBS11's J.D. Miles got the most extensive comments from him via printed excerpts from their phone conversation. In contrast, NBC5's Grant Stinchfield told viewers, "Chief Kunkle did not return my email requesting comment."

Later on NBC5, veteran reporter Ken Kalthoff did double-duty with two stories of decent interest. His first piece was on advance party-planning for the 2011 Super Bowl at Jerry's Palace. Then, in a return visit, Kalthoff reported on the greatly diminished use of checks in recent years. Neither story was earth-shaking, but both had some interesting facts and figures.

Peacock reporters Ashanti Blaize and Omar Villafranca also had worthwhile pieces. She reported on Wal Mart's plans to avert the "Deadly Shopping Stampede" that left one Valley Stream, NY employee trampled to death during last year's "Black Friday" frenzy. He reported on the high costs to high schools that want to have a playoff game at Jerry's Palace. But the $7,500 per team asking price is well worth it, the teams say.

WFAA8's marquee story, again by Jason Whitely, was on the growing number of inattentive airline pilots. In the last decade, more than 6,100 were either warned or disciplined, according to a federal data base reviewed by the station.

Most of these problems, initially reported by air traffic controllers, are dealt with "behind closed doors that you and I aren't going to hear about unless there's an accident," aviation attorney Don Swaim told Whitely. Hmm, kind of sounds like the standard operating procedures at your basic TV news operation, both locally and nationally.

WFAA8 also had a pair of nice Veterans Day heartwarmers by Shelly Slater and Chris Hawes. And all four stations reported on a former Vietnam War POW who at long last had his dog tags and wedding ring returned to him after captors confiscated them.

Fox4 easily had the most extended coverage of D-FW's Veterans Day ceremonies, with all of the collected footage narrated by anchor Baron James. Compared to its competitors, the station again was notably short on stories with on-camera reporters attached to them. There were just three on Fox4; NBC5 had six, WFAA8 had five and CBS 11 had five plus a sports segment story on the Cowboys by Steve Dennis.

It's true that Fox4, by its own choosing, has five fewer minutes at 10 p.m. than its rivals. Still, the station seems to be going through the motions at a time when continued poor ratings for Jay Leno's 9 p.m. show afford an opportunity for Fox4 to slip ahead of NBC5 into third place at 10 p.m.

The 10 p.m. ratings instead show Fox4 sinking to a distant fourth at that hour mid-way through the November "sweeps." Energy, people. Energy. No wonder sports anchor Mike Doocy silently stared straight ahead during Wednesday's closing jabber among James, Clarice Tinsley and weatherman Dan Henry.

Doocy didn't look at all happy or comfortable. Maybe he played with a miniature turtle earlier in the day.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Tues., Nov. 10)

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Local TV newsies Jack Fink, Meredith Land and Jason Whitely

Recaps of Tuesday afternoon's Fort Hood memorial ceremony figured prominently on D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts. But only one of the onsite reporters found a way to advance the story beyond the usual package of taped highlights and interviews.

WFAA8's Chris Hawes and her cameraman caught the sights and sounds of 300 soldiers returning from Iraq to Fort Hood Tuesday night. Titled "Heartfelt Homecoming," the story captured the flip side of the grieving that took place earlier in the day, with President Obama extolling the 13 who had died at the hands of Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan.

"They're all yours. Go get 'em!" a public address announcer enthused before loved ones back home raced to embrace soldiers returning from a year-long deployment. Most memorable visual: A young woman with her baby in arms looking for, finding and hugging her husband as WFAA8 caught the moment.

Hawes showed good instincts in getting this story, which just as easily could have turned up on Fox4, NBC5 or CBS11. But it didn't, despite the presence of Fox4's Steve Eagar and Sophia Reza, NBC5's Scott Gordon and CBS11's Stephanie Lucero.

Lucero gets the consolation prize for her interview of an overjoyed reservist who had just learned on her cell phone that a wounded 18-year-old private she helped to treat was going to be OK. She received the news from the young soldier's father while CBS11's cameras rolled.

Two of the stations -- NBC5 and CBS11 -- led their newscasts with other stories before turning to Fort Hood.

NBC5's Ken Kalthoff had an extended look at an airplane equipment malfunction in which an emergency slide was dislodged and fell from the sky over North Texas. No one apparently was hurt, and officials are still looking for the debris. Rival stations had briefer stories on the unplanned air drop.

CBS11's Jack Fink weighed in with a far meatier lead story that no one else had. He reported on a TXDOT funding controversy in which a traffic-clogged North Texas stretch of I-35 allegedly is being shortchanged while a portion of the highway through much less traveled Waco gets a $1 billion renovation.

Area officials say their cooperation with TXDOT hasn't reaped the promised rewards. "A stab in the back, and I'm not happy about it," groused Judge Mary Horn of the Denton County Commissioners Court.

WFAA8's big ticket story of the night came from Jason Whitely, who followed up on the station's previous reporting on alleged repeated sexual harassment of women employees of Dallas Fire Rescue.

Representatives of DFR have clammed up, prompting the Texas Attorney General's office to order that closed Internal Affairs investigations of harassment be made public. In one instance a paramedic was fired after making sexual advances on a pregnant woman and later talking explicitly about oral sex in the presence of a patient being transported to Parkland Hospital. WFAA8 first broke this story last April.

On NBC5, reporter Meredith Land stripped down to a workout outfit to exercise with 81-year-old tycoon T. Boone Pickens, who has a strict daily regimen in order to keep his mind and body in shape. "Inside Boone's Brain" turned out to be an interesting profile, with Land also interviewing a neuro-scientist who said his brain composition remained almost identical to people one-third his age.

In other good work, WFAA8's Steve Stoler had the only interview with the best friend of a 28-year-old Wylie man who was beaten to death by five teenagers after he warned them to stop speeding through his neighborhood. August Walters, who had just returned from a fishing trip with the deceased, said that his best friend died in his arms after he came to his aid.

Also, Fox4's Melissa Cutler for the second night had the only enterprise story of note on her station's 10 p.m. newscast. She interviewed a survivor from the Luby's Cafeteria murders on Oct. 16, 1991 in Killeen, where Fort Hood is located. Rev. Kirby Lack, who had been shot in the back, told Cutler that "it doesn't bother me now. It really doesn't. I will not allow a circumstance or a situation to identify me or control me."

In the sports segments, Fox4 was the only station without coverage of Tuesday's unveiling of the TCU football team's cool new uniforms. This is not inconsequential. The unbeaten, No. 4-ranked Horned Frogs have their first sellout in several years Saturday for a key game against formidable No. 16 Utah. ESPN's College Game Day program also will make a first-time visit to the TCU campus. So it really is a big deal, and Fox4 simply blew it by not being there.

Try saying this fast 10 times -- CBS11's Ginger Allen sallied forth with a story on the author of The Super Sexy Single Mom on a Budget. One of her suggestions: take a cruise. Oh shaddup.

Blooper reel -- CBS11 badly screwed up its on-screen identifications during Melissa Newton's report on a contentious hearing at Fort Worth City Hall tied to a proposal to add transgenders to the city's official anti-discrimination policy.

Veteran Dallas radio personality Rick Vanderslice, who supports the proposal, was identified as "Janice Colston, counter-protestor." Vanderslice's name earlier was attached to a man who wasn't him.

Advertisements for themselves -- Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley narrated video of the annual Dallas Historical Society honors, at which "I won the Creative Arts award for my body of work here at Fox4 and in the community." Tinsley also was shown speaking at the ceremony.

On CBS11, anchor Karen Borta narrated brief video of sports dude Babe Laufenberg co-hosting a "Football 101" class at Cowboys Stadium.

In each case, this isn't news and we don't need to know it.

Brought to you by Pete 'n' Dale -- The nightly "Tickle Me Elmo" byplay between weatherman Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen found WFAA8's featured temperature-taken showing off a 1985 Cowboys schedule with a picture of the long ago announcing team of Hansen and Brad Sham.

"Look at Brad Sham with a beard," Hansen observed. "It looks like I was working with a terrorist there for a while."

Anchor Gloria Campos fought without success to stifle a politically incorrect giggle, prompting Hansen to ask, "Are you still with me, Gloria?"

"I don't wanna be," she replied.

Frankly, it was a funny line. As Hansen will tell you.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Mon., Nov. 9)

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Local newsies Omar Villafranca, Karen Borta, David Schechter

We're in the heart of the four-week November "sweeps" ratings competition, with two 10 p.m. heavyweights -- WFAA8 and CBS11 -- slugging it out for first place while Fox4 and NBC5 fight for table scraps.

We'll follow all of their news presentations for the next two weeks, with the sweeps ending on the day before Thanksgiving.

Fox4's 10 p.m. news needs a tonic compared to the others. It offered just three stories with identifiable reporter bylines, only one of them really an enterprise effort. That was from Melissa Cutler, who had an interesting piece on a longstanding salvage yard threatened with closure as part of the future Riverfront Drive development.

"We just don't want to be kicked out on our ear," said the owner of the fourth generation family business.

The station otherwise offered two reports on Fort Hood, one live from the scene by Sophia Reza and the other originating from the station's news room, courtesy of James Rose. All told, Fort Hood-related coverage consumed the first seven minutes of the newscast before Fox4 reeled off a burst of local crime-and-tragedy stories narrated by anchors Clarice Tinsley and Baron James.

In contrast, both WFAA8 and CBS11 led their newscasts with crime-related enterprise efforts.

WFAA8's David Schechter had a troubling story on illegal Mexican immigrants charged with serious crimes but never prosecuted. That's because they're put on buses and deported by Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE. Accused rapists and drug dealers were among those getting free passes, Schechter reported.

On CBS11, reporter J.D. Miles did a jailhouse interview with a woman, Michelle Smith, sentenced to 210 years in prison after being convicted of ignoring her husband's repeated sexual assaults on their four-year-old daughter.

Smith contended she knew nothing of the abuse, and that "10, even 20 (years in jail) would have been fair." Instead, the 42-year-old convict will be eligible for parole in 90 years. In a companion online poll promoted by CBS11, 79 percent of respondents said "Her punishment fits the crime." Meanwhile, her husband is serving a life sentence.

CBS11 anchor Karen Borta later had an extended story on a mother of three who's "battling the odds" after being told she has incurable Stage 4 breast cancer. Borta actually got out in the field for this report, a rarity among anchors in today's TV news domains. So far the mother has survived for 15 months, rejecting her doctor's grim prognosis. It was an inspirational and worthwhile story.

WFAA8 reporter Gary Reaves had another uplifter, about an elderly woman faced with foreclosure on her home after her deceased husband refinanced it without her knowledge. Instead Well Fargo stepped in to drastically lower her monthly mortgage payments while the Knights of Columbus will be repairing a badly dilapidated roof. All's well that ends well.

NBC5's best effort of the night was from the reliably sturdy Omar Villafranca, who reported on a Denton mother who believes that her son was among those killed in 2002 by notorious "D.C. Snipers" John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

Muhammad, scheduled to be executed Tuesday night, has not responded to letters from the mother, Sarah Dillon, imploring him to either admit to or deny killing her son, Billy Gene, who was 28 at the time.

Trusty NBC5 Night Ranger Scott Gordon did double duty Monday night, reporting from Fort Hood at the top of the newscast and later providing a purportedly "rare look" at how the roof on the new Cowboys stadium got built. But the story basically amounted to a handout from the construction company and the Cowboys, who respectively provided video and still pictures to NBC5.

Few sweeps nights -- or any night for that matter -- go by without at least one story on the latest lazy way to shed fat or varnish wrinkles. WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James again carried the ball on this front after anchor Gloria Campos teased "the coolest new way to fight flab."

It turns out you perhaps can freeze it into submission via a new procedure that costs a thousand bucks a pop. A young woman on the receiving end seemed delighted with the prospect of losing a few dollops of tummy lard. Or as St. James concluded, she's "hopeful she won't have to hide under scrubs much longer."

Anchor John McCaa seemed skeptical before getting off a rare quip. McCaa said he lived in Nebraska for 15 years before arriving at WFAA8, and "the cold didn't make me lose any weight. I don't know what that's all about."

Blooper reel -- CBS11 reporter Jack Fink's otherwise capable story on allegedly bilked condo time share owners was slugged "Buyer Beward."

Carbon Copies -- Fox4 and NBC5, who have a "content sharing" arrangement (along with CW33), were the only stations to report at 10 p.m. on the happy recovery of a missing miniature donkey named Sunny and a convenience store shoplifting investigation. Perhaps that's just coincidental, perhaps not. But both stations need to step it up if they have any intention of matching the enterprise exhibited by their comparatively ratings-rich rivals.


The President and First Lady pay their last respects. Photo: Ed Bark

Tuesday afternoon's memorial service at Fort Hood, attended by President Obama and his wife, Michelle, received truncated coverage on WFAA8 compared to rival stations.

The ABC affiliate elected to stay with the soap opera One Life to Live until shortly before 2 p.m., when the President began his remarks. Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all had covered the ceremony in its entirety up to that point, providing a context that WFAA8 bypassed.

The ABC News coverage, anchored by Charles Gibson, also ended earlier than the others -- at 2:15 p.m. WFAA8 bailed out, too, rather than provide an alternative live feed.

Fox4's extended coverage, a mix of local and Fox News Channel commentary, ended shortly after WFAA8's. NBC5, which went with its network's coverage, cut away next while CBS11, with local anchor Doug Dunbar presiding, stayed with the memorial service until 2:27 p.m.

The above picture, of the Obamas paying tribute to each of the 13 shooting victims, played out live only on CBS11 among the four broadcast outlets. It was a good decision on the station's part. WFAA8 on the other hand erred on the side of brevity, shortchanging a ceremony that clearly was more important than a garden variety soap opera episode.

Those who missed CBS' As the World Turns, which regularly airs from 1 to 2 p.m., can set their recorders for 1:12 a.m. Wednesday, Dunbar advised.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 6-8) -- Cowboys run up ratings score, falling short only of home opener

NBC's second Sunday Night Football game with the Cowboys nearly measured up to the first.

Dallas' 20-16 win over Philadelphia kept the Nielsen fires roaring with an average of 1,614,249 D-FW viewers in a game that ran from 7:30 to 10:50 p.m. That's easily the second biggest turnout for the eight regular season games to date. Only the home opener in Jerry's Palace drew a bigger crowd, with 1,700,608 watching the Giants edge the Cowboys.

Cowboys-Eagles also amassed 797,335 viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic. Pocket calculator technology says that edged the previous 2009 season record of 787,612 for the Sept. 20th Cowboys-Giants game.

Earlier Sunday, the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway averaged 146,146 total viewers on ABC, falling well short of competing NFL games on CBS and Fox. San Diego's last-second win over the Giants drew the biggest crowd, averaging 524,797 viewers on CBS.

Sunday's late night local sports specials were overwhelmed opposite the Cowboys, with Dale Hansen's league leader on WFAA8 drawing 1/20th the audience tuned to the closing stages of the game. What're ya gonna do? Perhaps he should have diversified and gone with a badminton special.

On Saturday, the debut of Fox's The Wanda Sykes Show lured 79,716 viewers to finish an overall third in the 10 p.m. hour. A new episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live easily topped the late night field with 212,576 viewers.

In prime-time on TXA21 Saturday, the Dallas Mavericks' rout of Toronto had 112,931 viewers while the competing Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game drew just 26,572 viewers on Fox Sports Southwest.

Friday's biggest prime-time draw, an edition of ABC's 20/20 featuring Diane Sawyer's interview with Rihanna, had 192,647 viewers to give WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast a bigger than usual lead-in boost. The station then won at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. CBS11 finished second in total viewers and NBC5 was the runner-up with 25-to-54-year-olds.

In other local news derby results, NBC5 swept the 6 a.m. competitions for the second straight weekday after losing three straight to Fox4 in their pitched battle for the top spot.

WFAA8 had nice returns in the early evening, running the table at 5 p.m. and also notching a win at 6 p.m. in total viewers. Fox4 broke through for its only win of the day with a first place finish at 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Cowboys win by Eagles beak, with Michaels-Collinsworth sharp throughout


Cowboys take over after refs rule McNabb short. Photos: Ed Bark

Did QB Donovan McNabb make it to the peak of the Eagles beak or not during the 4th quarter of NBC's Sunday Night Football gem?

Announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, the best in the business, were on top of that one and everything else in the Cowboys' gutty and controversial 20-16 road win against Philadelphia.

This was a game of inches on three key occasions, with the Eagles losing two out of three challenged rulings and forfeiting a pair of second half time outs in the process. Michaels and Collinsworth, who replaced the retired John Madden this season, have an inside-out knowledge of the NFL rule book and the intricacies of the game. And they spelled everything out in clear and often colorful terms Sunday. That's all you can ask for in an announcing team, and these two invariably measure up.

Take the "Eagles beak" call. In a 13-13 tie game, Philadelphia decided to go for it on 4th and inches from the Cowboys' 44. McNabb's quarterback sneak seemed to be enough for a first down, but the referees spotted the ball short. Eagles coach Andy Reid threw the challenge flag and replays seemed to show McNabb's elbow touching down with the ball farther upfield at the peak of the beak of the Eagles logo.

Still, the original ruling was upheld and the Cowboys took over on downs. Collinsworth told viewers that referees can use on-field logos as visual evidence in re-spotting the ball. But he also noted that the semi-sideways McNabb's invisible left arm might have touched the ground before his right.

The upshot: Philadelphia had no time outs left with 10:49 still left in the fourth quarter. And the Cowboys, with great field position, quickly struck with a 3rd and 14 touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin. The 49-yard score was the lately celebrated Austin's only catch of the game.

An earlier second half challenge also went against the Eagles, but Michaels and Collinsworth sided with the Cowboys on that one. They were impeccably fair throughout, and pointed at times, too.

"We've seen a lot of Walt's (ref Walt Anderson) fingers tonight, haven't we?" Collinsworth said, noting his repeated signals of inches to go for a first down.

"Yes, we have," Michaels agreed. "A few fingers have been directed at Walt as well."

"We are in Philly," Collinsworth added.

Michaels also imaginatively termed Cowboys' running back Marion Barber "sort of the Mariano Rivera for the Dallas Cowboys." In other words, when you need to grind down the clock -- as Dallas did in the closing minutes -- Barber is one of the league's optimum closers.


None better. If only they could work Monday Night Football, too.

The scintillating Cowboys' win, their fourth in a row, puts them at 6-2 and atop the NFC East. Which means that ESPN radio's (103.3 FM) Randy Galloway will be hard-pressed to snort "Cows stink" or call for head coach Wade Phillips' firing on his weekly "Over-Reaction Monday" horsecrap fest.

Next up for Dallas is a road game against the Green Bay Packers, who stunk worse than rotting Limburger in losing Sunday to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those who read this site regularly know that your friendly content provider is a now far-removed Wisconsin native who still pines for the Pack.

But Green Bay has sunk to 4-4, has beaten only doormats and looks like an easy mark for the talent-laden, on-a-roll Cowboys. This is the NFL, though, where today's fragrant bouquet can be tomorrow's dung heap. Ask the New York Giants. And don't be shocked if the Packers somehow rise from their currently unmarked grave. Hopefully they'll at least rise to the smell of fresh-cut cheddar.

Michaels and Collinsworth again will get next Sunday's marquee matchup though -- the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts vs. the proud and still unbowed New England Patriots.

However it turns out, these two guys undoubtedly can be counted on to call another great game. Their performance throughout the turbulent Cowboys-Eagles contest should be used as a teaching tool in broadcast 101 courses. Terrific work from start to finish.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Nov. 5) -- heavy duty news day favors WFAA8 in afternoon hours

Local coverage of the horrific shootings at Fort Hood preempted mid-to-late-afternoon entertainment programming Thursday, with WFAA8 attracting the overall largest audiences.

Here's the breakdown from 2:30 to 5 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the preferred advertiser audience for news programming:

WFAA8 -- 106,288
Fox4 -- 79,716
NBC5 -- 73,073
CBS11 -- 53,144

WFAA8 -- 51,600
Fox4 -- 36,424
NBC5 -- 27,318
CBS11 -- 21,247

The largest audiences gathered between 4 and 5 p.m. before regularly scheduled newscasts kicked in. In that hour, NBC5 edged Fox4 for second place in total viewers but remained third among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 ran first in both measurements.

Ratings for news coverage couldn't match those of CBS' The Mentalist, which easily had Thursday's biggest haul with 365,365 total viewers in the 9 p.m. hour while also winning with 18-to-49-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for non-news programming.

Fox's Bones began the night with a 7 p.m. win in total viewers, but ran second to CBS' Survivor: Samoa in the 18-to-49 demographic. CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation paced the 8 p.m. field in both audience measurements.

CBS11's 10 p.m. newscast took its dominant Mentalist lead-in to the bank with a win in total viewers while WFAA8 again finished second. The tables were turned among 25-to-54-year-olds, though, with WFAA8 topping runner-up CBS11.

At 6 a.m., NBC5 ended Fox4's three weekday winning streak with a two-pronged sweep.

WFAA8 won in total viewers at both 5 and 6 p.m. while also taking a 5 p.m. gold in the 25-to-54 bout. NBC5 won at 6 p.m. in that demographic.

Shootings at Fort Hood put local TV news stations to test


Feeling the news with Fox4's Shaun Rabb, Steve Eagar. Photo: Ed Bark

Thursday afternoon entertainment programming abruptly gave way to the shocking events at Fort Hood, where 12 people were killed and 31 wounded in shooting that broke out shortly after 1:30 p.m.

The early going is the truest test of a news operation's ability to mobilize its reporters, get to the scene, line up interviews and gather information. In that respect, Fox4 lagged well behind NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11.

Most of the station's coverage originated from its newsroom, where anchor Steve Eagar and reporter Shaun Rabb seemingly vamped for time while Fox4's rivals conducted live interviews and got their reporters in place for live dispatches.

NBC5 quickly had reporter Scott Gordon in the saddle while WFAA8 dispatched reporters Shelly Slater and Gary Reaves to Killeen, home of Fort Hood. The ABC station also had a live interview from Washington with Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; NBC5 summoned retired general Bill Lawson to the anchor desk, where he provided perspective on the situation to anchors Brian Curtis and Meredith Land.

CBS11 initially concentrated more on live interviews of mothers with sons stationed at Fort Hood. One mom, Julie Miller, was overjoyed to learn her son was safe.

"We can hear the relief in your voice," anchor Tracy Kornet told her. "Have you been crying tears of joy?" Well, that's overdoing it a bit.

In contrast, Rabb and Eagar talked amongst themselves at length, with Rabb the most emotional while Eagar's voice tended to fade in and out while he discoursed on video or live shots from other sources.

"Yes, yes, what a day. What a day," Rabb said at one point.

That's called "feeling the news," which is understandable to a point. But Fox4 looked ill-prepared to do much of anything else all the way up to 5 p.m. The lengthy Rabb-Eagar discourses seemed to be camouflage for an almost total lack of actual first-hand reporting

Anchor Heather Hays was up to speed on emails, though, repeatedly reading praise for Fox4's "caring and calm" approach to the story while also noting that viewers initially objected -- by a three to one margin -- to wiping out an afternoon lineup of court shows. Dissenting voices later rallied to Fox4's defense, Hays later reported at length. The station at least gets an A for covering itself.

It got so bad that at one point Rabb noted, "From around the world there are going to be journalists coming here, Steve Eagar. As a matter of fact we have crews enroute."

Compared to rival stations, they were awfully slow in getting there. Fox4's early coverage was so static at times that Rabb and Eagar might as well have been on the radio. Maybe they had no choice but to cross-talk while their station very slowly got its act together. But the hand-wringing and redundancy became hard to bear if you watched at any length.

By the regularly scheduled 6 p.m. newscasts, all four stations had a reporter in place live outside Fort Hood's Ernie Beck Gate, where the media were awaiting a promised news conference. CBS11's Jay Gormley and Fox4's Melissa Cutler joined Gordon and Reaves, but the waiting game persisted all the way to 6:30 p.m. At that point, all four stations went to their regularly scheduled entertainment programming -- three rag mags and Wheel of Fortune.

A "new sex tape scandal" was promised at the very start of Access Hollywood on Fox4. That's quite a stark transition. But at least it gave the news department time to regroup and get ready for the 9 p.m. newscast after a long afternoon of running behind.

Author/anchor/survivor Norville remembers the not-so-good-old Today daze


Author/anchor/survivor Deborah Norville in Dallas. Photo: Ed Bark

Her stormy tenure on NBC's Today long has been yesterday's news. Still, it ties into the title of her latest book, The Power of Respect. Did Deborah Norville get any at all during the time she bridged the gap between Jane Pauley and Katie Couric?

During a recent book signing and "PowerLunch" speaking engagement at sprawling Prestonwood Baptist Church, Norville makes no effort to resist this bait. Nearing 15 years as anchor of the syndicated Inside Edition and with six books to her name, she's no longer the coltish "Other Woman" who allegedly schemed to drive the older Pauley from her Today desk job in late 1989. Being a self-assured survivor doesn't entirely remove the sting, though. Norville still seems to remember Today as though it were yesterday.

"I don't think 'disrespect' is a strong enough word for what they did to me. I was vilified," she says during an interview with unclebarky.com.

Norville, 51, says this almost agreeably. Her lips don't purse and her eyes aren't narrowing. But still . . .

"You can sit today and look back at all the coverage, and it's hard for your jaw not to drop at what they did to me," she says. "The only thing I would do differently is ignore NBC admonition not to talk to the press. They forbade me to speak to anybody. It was an information blackout. And the result was, I was torpedoed."

Norville, teamed with Bryant Gumbel on Today, soon found herself in the shadow of another "Other Woman." Katie Couric wasn't blonde but she sure was cute and perky. She subbed for Norville during her maternity leave, which instead became permanent. In spring 1991, Couric officially replaced her, ending Norville's 15-month tenure on Today, which had fallen behind arch rival Good Morning America in the hotly contested breakfast hour ratings race. Most of the blame was heaped on Norville.

"I've been underestimated every step of my career, and I knew I was being underestimated then," she says. "I won an Emmy during that period, so it clearly wasn't that I was a poor reporter or asked bad questions. I was younger and blonder than Jane Pauley. That was apparently my huge failing."

Norville had a shortlived national radio show and also briefly worked for CBS News before replacing Bill O'Reilly as Inside Edition anchor in March 1995. All of her books have been written since then, including two for children, one on knitting and an account of life after Today titled Back on Track: How to Straighten Out Your Life When It Throws You a Curve. She's also the married mother of two sons and a daughter.

"The 'younger thing' has certainly taken care of itself," Norville says. "And the 'blonde thing' -- anybody can be this color. I'll give you the phone number of the guy who does it every six weeks. What I've always tried to do is prove to whoever employed me that they had not made an error in judgment. And that maybe there was a bit more to Deborah Norville than they might have first thought. I don't worry about that anymore, but that was something that certainly was of concern in my early career days."

She mostly writes her books in early morning or late night hours, but occasionally researches them while on the job at Inside Edition.

"I mean, how long does it take you to write an 18-second intro into 'Balloon Boy's mother admits it was all for media attention?' That doesn't burn up a lot of my brain cells or take a lot of my time."

Inside Edition airs at 4:30 p.m. weekdays in D-FW on CBS11. It's something of a fast-food appetizer for the meatier trio of 5:30 p.m. network newscasts, which come January will have women anchoring two of them. Couric still presides over the CBS Evening News and Diane Sawyer will soon succeed Charles Gibson as anchor of ABC's World News. For a brief time in the early 1990s, Norville substitute- anchored weekend editions of the CBS Evening News. She now plans to watch Sawyer.

"I'm huge fan," Norville says. "Diane made it OK for blondes to be smart in television. I personally owe her a lot, just because of her intelligence, grace and dignity. I think she's going to be great. I would watch that space."

She's otherwise happy to be called "a survivor" in a business where Pauley's gone into virtual eclipse and Couric is still constantly battling her detractors.

"But you know what, when any of us come into this world, no one in that delivery room says, 'From here on out, kid, it's gonna be fair.' So you can either moan and groan or you can say, 'Man, I'll show 'em.' "

Norville figures she has.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Nov. 4) -- Series swan song makes clean sweep

The Yankees' closeout of Philadelphia in Game 6 of the World Series also shut down all competing programming Wednesday night.

Stretching from 7 to 10:50 p.m., the Series averaged 305,578 D-FW viewers on Fox while also triumphing from start to finish among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

It was close in the 8 p.m. hour, though, with Game 6 pulling in 318,864 total viewers opposite CBS' Criminal Minds (298,935).

The Series also again cut into the late night newscasts on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11. But in a downsized competition, CBS11 won comfortably in total viewers, corralling 245,791 to runner-up WFAA8's 146,146. CBS11 beat WFAA8 by a smaller margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 continued its November "sweeps" resurgence at 6 a.m., whipping second-place NBC5 in both ratings measurement for its third straight weekday sweep.

The 6 p.m. golds were split between WFAA8 in total viewers and NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

At 5 p.m., CBS11 uncommonly won in total viewers but plunged to fourth in the 25-to-54 demographic, which was won by WFAA8.

Superman: Dirk's 29 in the 4th a singular Dallas sports feat


Dirk Nowitzki's record finish raised Mavs from dead. Photo: Ed Bark

Sure it was only Game No. 4. But this was the Dirk we've been waiting for.

Unchained, unyielding and bar-room brawling his way to the basket, Dirk Nowitzki carried the Dallas Mavericks like never before Tuesday night. His team record 29 -- 29!!! -- points in the fourth quarter took the Mavs from a seemingly lopsided home loss to a resounding 96-85 victory over the Utah Jazz. It broke a 25-year-old team record for points in any quarter, surpassing Mark Aguirre's 24 a quarter-century ago.

Nowitzki, who ended up with 40 points for the game, clearly wanted the ball to himself after watching his teammates do essentially nothing for much of the game. He willed the Mavs to this win, stunning the commentators on Fox Sports Southwest with one of the most electrifying one-man shows in Dallas sports history.

You just love to see things like this. Soft? Nowitzki had iron in his jock strap on this night. And if this is a sign of things to come, then the Mavs finally have their true Kobe. Or Larry Bird if you will. A guy who demands the rock when it matters and then sinks the opposing ship.

What an effort. Dirk Nowitzki may have earned the NBA's Player of the Month honor with just a single night's work. Now let's see if the rest of the Mavs follow his lead.

***Oh yeah. On a decidedly lesser note, former Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin finally got voted off ABC's Dancing with the Stars Tuesday night. He gave it a game go, but his eviction was at least a couple of weeks overdue.

What are your ABCs of DVR viewing?

RV3 Jay-Leno

House supposedly profits from DVR viewing; but not Jay Leno.

Here are two dueling headlines for you.

"TV Finds That Mortal Foe, DVR, Is a Friend After All" -- Nov. 2nd New York Times story (print version) by Bill Carter.

"NY Times sucked in by Broadcast PR Again, DVR Confusion Awaits" -- rebuttal on tvbythenumbers.com by Bill Gorman.

What's astonishing in Carter's account is the assertion that 46 percent of advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds supposedly watch the commercials during DVR playback. He cites Nielsen Media Research as the source, with its findings based on viewership of the Big Four broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

"It's completely counter-intuitive," the Times quotes ABC research president Alan Wurtzel as saying. "But when the facts come in, there they are."

Nielsen doesn't give the networks any DVR ratings boosts unless the commercials are watched. In other words, if you fast-forward through the advertisements, your viewership is discounted in the so-called "commercial plus three" ratings, which measure audiences for shows that are either watched live or played back within three days.

So far this season, the Big Four networks supposedly are averaging a 10 percent increase in ratings when DVR viewing is added. Shows with big DVR viewership -- commercials and all -- include Fox's House and Fringe, ABC's Grey's Anatomy and FlashForward, CBS' How I Met Your Mother and NBC's The Office and Heroes.

"This was going to spell the demise of the network TV model," a representative of a media buying firm tells the Times. "Now they seem to be reveling in it."

So much so that NBC's The Jay Leno Show, initially touted as "DVR-proof" by the network, is now seen as a liability in that regard. That's because hardly anyone is playing it back, resulting in even lower ratings for Leno then he already has.

OK, let's be highly skeptical about all of this. We've got a DVR here at unclebarky.com central. And never once have I played back a show without fast-forwarding through the commercials. Isn't that a bottom-line reason why many people record shows? Not only can you watch them when you want, but you save time by bullet-training through those increasingly lengthy ad breaks.

The Times account says "the behavior that has underpinned television since its inception still persists to a larger degree than expected." Namely, that TV viewing is a "passive activity" in which sitting through commercials remains somewhat ingrained. Or says Fox programming executive Preston Beckman, "Sometimes you just forget" to hit the fast-forward button.

I never forget. Although if nature calls, commercials sometimes are left running in the interim.

DVR penetration supposedly has grown to 33 percent of households, up from 28 percent a year ago. And those percentages will only increase. So here are a few choices for you, with your comments welcomed and appreciated.

A. I don't have DVR, VCR, TiVo or any of that stuff. Watching TV shows at their appointed times is still the way I roll.

B. I watch a lot of programs via DVR, and almost always fast-forward through the commercials. Why wouldn't you?

C. DVR increasingly is the way to go, but I regularly sit through the commercials. Some of them are pretty entertaining, and I like to look at the network promos, too. Besides, what's the hurry?

D. What a crock. There's no way that 46 percent of DVR users actually watch those commercials. The Times should know better than to be sucked in by all of this.

Let's hear from you.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Oct. 30-Nov. 1) -- Cowboys, Favre, Series give Fox a Sunday sports steamroller

Fox flexed with an ultra-potent Sunday pro football doubleheader before Game 4 of the World Series showed enough muscle to carry the night.

That made Fox4 a D-FW ratings Goliath from noon until 10:45 p.m., when the Yankees all but snuffed the life out of the Phillies with a big ninth inning and a commanding 3-1 edge in the Series.

The Dallas Cowboys' rout of the Seahawks led off with an average of 1,096,095 D-FW viewers before Brett Favre's ballyhooed return to Green Bay's Lambeau Field drew another mega-crowd of 830,375. Fans choked on their Brett-wursts as the onetime Packer darling led the Vikings to another high-scoring win over his old team. Wisconsinite Uncle Barky's heart sank like a two-foot putt as Favre made it two for two. Green Bay now wears a shroud in his wake.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys improved to 5-2, presumably muting the "Cows stink" blather from radio host Randy Galloway's "Over-reaction Monday" show on the local ESPN frequency. All seven of this fall's regular season Cowboys games have topped the one million mark in TV attendance, although Sunday's relatively easy win ranked higher only than the season-opening win over Tampa Bay, which drew 1,042,951 locally.

A total of 525,074 viewers of Sunday's Cowboys-Seahawks were 18-to-49-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for non-news programming.

Game 4 of the Series averaged 372,008 total viewers, with CBS' Cold Case coming closest to beating it with 279,006 viewers in the 9 p.m. hour. Yanks-Phils had a bigger edge among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, with ABC's Brothers & Sisters offering the most resistance.

Saturday's Game 3 of the series, saddled with a one hour, 20 minute rain delay, averaged only about one-third as many total viewers as Game 4. It was badly whipped by ABC's competing Texas-Oklahoma State game, which easily led all Saturday programming with 312,221 total viewers.

Friday's Day 2 of the November "sweeps" ratings period saw CBS11 ring up twin wins in the 10 p.m. local news competition. The station won fairly comfortably over runnerup WFAA8 in total viewers and by a razor's edge among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

CBS11 prevailed in the late night news wars despite virtually identical audiences for the 9 p.m. network lead-in programming, CBS' Numb3rs and ABC's 20/20. On opening night of the sweeps, CBS11 had squandered a significant advantage from The Mentalist.

In 6 a.m. festivities, NBC5 nipped Fox4 in total viewers, but the two stations tied for first among 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 swept the 6 p.m. competitions and Fox4 did likewise at 5 p.m.

Note to readers: We plan to resume our "Night in the Lives" content analysis of late night sweeps newscasts, starting next Monday. With the World Series still in play, Fox4's 9 and 10 p.m. newscasts have been either preempted or delayed well past their starting times. So we'll wait a bit, which also helps your friendly content provider to conserve his stamina.

Mauldin vows to take CBS11 to top spot in late night news


CBS11/TXA21 president and GM Steve Mauldin. Photo: Ed Bark

My latest "Media Matters" piece in D CEO magazine is an up-close look at D-FW television executive Steve Mauldin, who runs the shows at CBS11/TXA21.

It makes for timely reading as the four-week November ratings "sweeps" begin in earnest. Mauldin vows to make CBS11 No. 1 in late night news, something the station has never accomplished. Could this be the station's first trip to his promised land? You can read the complete story here.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Oct. 28) -- World Series starts slow, gets ball rolling

We live in a TV market where Wednesday night's Game 1 of a high-powered World Series couldn't beat a cartoon show in its first hour.

Specifically, NBC's Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins From Other Space beat Yankees-Phils from 7 to 7:30 p.m. before a rerun of the same special also prevailed in the 7:30 to 8 p.m. slot.

It was close, though. Game 1 had 166,075 D-FW viewers in its first half-hour, with Mutant Pumpkins nabbing 172,718. Yanks-Phils then inched up to 172,718 viewers from 7:30 to 8 p.m., but Mutant Pumpkins upped its game, too, to 186,004 viewers.

Lest you wonder, the Series did very well nationally, ranking as the most-watched Game 1 in five years with an average of 19.5 million viewers. But D-FW is becoming renowned as a stinko baseball market. How stinko? The 8 to 8:30 p.m. portion of the Series ran third to ABC's Modern Family and CBS' first half-hour of a Criminal Minds repeat.

Things finally picked up from there, with Yanks-Phils prevailing from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. while averaging 245,791 viewers overall.

Among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, the Series was outdrawn by ABC's The Middle and Cougar Town during the 8 to 9 p.m. hour.

In the last local news derbies before the four-week November sweeps, CBS11 won a downsized three-way 10 p.m. race in total viewers. But WFAA8 prevailed among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 ran the table at 6 a.m., NBC did likewise at 5 p.m. and WFAA8 had the golds in the 6 p.m. newscast competitions.