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CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley shares his wedded bliss

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Veteran CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley got married Sunday night at the Adolphus Hotel to Dallas social worker Robin Lisa Raxlin, originally from Toronto.

Gormley, who also makes movies on the side in partnership with John Venable, sent the above photo to unclebarky.com and asked if it could be posted.

Why certainly. And congratulations to the newlyweds.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Oct. 26) -- Oprah's state fair show nets WFAA8 a kewpie doll


"Oh my God, I'm gonna want another one of these." Inflated ratings for Oprah Winfrey's Monday Texas State Fair show also gave viewers an appetite for WFAA8's following 5 p.m. newscast. Photo: Ed Bark

Oprah Winfrey's once in a lifetime visit to the Texas State Fair yielded an increasingly rare victory over the competing Judge Judy Monday. It also spurred WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscast ratings.

The State Fair show lured 192,647 D-FW viewers in the 4 p.m. hour, more than doubling Oprah's audience on the previous Monday (86,359 viewers). WFAA8's followup newscast then drew an identical 192,647 viewers in rubbing out runnerup Fox4 (106,288 viewers).

On the previous Monday, WFAA8 had 112,931 viewers at 5 p.m., with NBC5 on top (132,860 viewers).

WFAA8 also rode Oprah's State Fair show to a win among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Fox4 finished a closer second.

In the broadcast network universe, Monday's prime-time numbers again were paced by CBS' CSI: Miami (332,150 total viewers in the 9 p.m. hour) and ABC's Dancing with the Stars performance show (312,221 viewers from 7 to 9 p.m.).

CSI: Miami also won among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, the preferred audience for entertainment programming. Dancing controlled everything except the 8:30 to 9 p.m. slot, where it was beaten by CBS' The Big Bang Theory.

But all of the above were whipped in both measurements by ESPN's Monday Night Football (Eagles vs. Redskins), which averaged 352,079 total viewers and also ran wild among 18-to-49-year-olds.

NBC again struggled all night, running fifth across the board with a lineup of Heroes, Trauma and The Jay Leno Show. KERA13's 9 p.m. premiere of the locally produced Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper in Peril managed 19,929 total viewers.

In other local news derby results, CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers, but fell to third with 25-to-54-year-olds behind front-running WFAA8 and Fox4.

NBC5, last at 10 p.m. in both measurements, again ran first at 6 a.m., marking its ninth straight doubleheader sweep in the weekday competitions.

The 6 p.m. golds were shared by WFAA8 in total viewers and the Peacock among 25-to-54-year-olds.

"Did ya ever think about why you watch the news that you do?"

Cornpone and cowboy-centric, this 1987 promo starred the late Dennis Weaver as an otherwise unidentified spokesman for WFAA8's newscasts.

At the time Weaver was starring in ABC's shortlived Buck James series, in which he played a sawbones modeled after Houston's famed Dr. Red Duke. Note the steer head and gun rack on the hardwood walls of his cracker barrel domain.

"In my book there's only one," says Weaver. "One choice every day. News 8."

Never mind that Weaver, who'd long been a household name and face, likely had never settled in with a WFAA8 newscast. He had the gift of persuasion, though. And the money back then was probably pretty good. So hell, why not give it a shot, with Weaver quoting his "dad" and crossing his legs before broadly grinnin' at spot's end. You'd buy a tarantula from the man, now wouldn't ya? Enjoy.

Stop the Presses at last rolls on a local TV screen near you


Mark Birnbaum, Andy Streitfeld, Manny Mendoza at April 2008 showing of Stop the Presses at AFI Dallas Film Festival. Photo: Ed Bark

Metaphorically at least, ample ink already has been spilled in these spaces on Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper in Peril.

Previous posts can be found here and here and here.

Still, this is a big night for the 80-minute locally produced documentary, which has its TV premiere on Monday, Oct. 26th at 9 p.m. on Dallas-based KERA13. A national airing on PBS stations is scheduled for sometime early next year, according to publicity materials.

Stop the Presses is the work of veteran Dallas filmmaker Mark Birnbaum and former Dallas Morning News colleague Manny Mendoza, who joined yours truly and more than 100 staffers in taking a buyout in mid-September 2006. The film's principal financier is Andy Streitfeld, CEO of AMS Production Group.

A few sobering updates have been made since Stop the Presses had its world premiere in April 2008 at the AFI Dallas Film Festival. According to data from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a total of 10,000 newspaper journalists have been laid off or taken buyouts since the film was completed. That brings the total to 14,000 since 2001. Things obviously are happening fast.

Ironically or symbolically, figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show further circulation dropoffs for the country's top 25 daily newspapers. The Dallas Morning News suffered the third steepest declines, dropping 22.16 percent in Monday-Friday circulation (to 263,810 copies) compared to the same six-month period ending in September 2008.

Worse yet, the DMN topped the list of Sunday circulation downturns, falling 19.29 percent to 390,520 copies, according to the Audit Bureau.

Birnbaum and Mendoza obviously have had trouble keeping up with all of these gloomy facts and figures. Even so, their film gets better with age, crystallizing what's happened to newspapers in recent years via an assemblage of talking heads and clips from old movies. If anything, It seems timelier than ever.

One of the many interviewees is your friendly content provider, who's not in the best of moods. Feelings were still raw when Birnbaum and Mendoza visited unclebarky.com central less than a week after the Sept. 15, 2006 buyouts. But at least they didn't show the tracks of my tears, which frankly were plentiful.

Former Dallas mayor Laura Miller, who also worked at the DMN, sets the stage by saying, "I was too much of a rebel child to have a good time at The Dallas Morning News. Rebel children don't last very long . . . although Ed Bark lasted a long time."

Cut to the curmudgeon, who remembers being "pissed off" about the mantra from higher-ups that those who didn't want to roll with the "dynamic changes" at the DMN were more than welcome to leave.

"People who are leaving are the dynamic people," I groused. "Whether you're trying to start your own web site or whether you're facing a very uncertain future, but daring to face it."

No one in upper management at Belo Corp., which owns the DMN, would talk to the filmmakers, who conducted more than 100 interviews all told. Among them are former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, humorist Dave Barry and actor Ed Asner of Lou Grant fame.

The most prominent interviewee of all, the recently deceased Walter Cronkite, was left on the cutting room floor. He was having a "bad day" articulating himself, Birnbaum explained.

Stop the Presses is impressive work from two dogged filmmakers who worked tirelessly to make it resonate. Birnbaum and Mendoza should be commended for that. They persevered, kept the faith and finally are receiving some overdue exposure. Good for them.

GRADE: A-minus

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Oct. 23-25) -- big win and more mega-ratings for Cowboys


Gums up! Miles Austin celebrates another big day. Photo: Ed Bark

The Cowboys' impressive win over Atlanta Sunday rang up another ratings bonanza for Fox, with 1,368,458 D-FW viewers partaking.

That put the game in the No. 3 spot on the regular season dance card, trailing Cowboys-Giants (1,700,608) and Cowboys-Broncos (1,441,531). All six regular season games have topped the one million mark, with the low point on opening day, when 1,042,951 viewers watched Dallas defeat Tampa Bay.

For the Falcons game, 667,687 viewers were advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds. That's nearly half the total audience, which is another impressive feat.

The Cowboys' warmup act, Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh on Fox, averaged a hefty 604,451 total viewers. In prime-time, Arizona's win over the Giants drew 425,152 viewers on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Over on Fox, Sunday night's competing Game 6 of the Yankees-Angels Al championship series averaged 239,148 viewers to trail both football and ABC's 8 to 10 p.m. lineup of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters. But baseball beat both ABC soaps among 18-to-49-year-olds. The Yanks closed out the Angels and will face Philadelphia Wednesday in Game 1 of the World Series on Fox.

Saturday's attractions were led by Texas' rout of Missouri on ABC's Saturday Night Football. The game averaged 259,077 total viewers.

On Friday, WFAA8's homegrown 6:30 p.m. Behind the Curtain special on the new AT&T Performing Arts Center drew 73,073 viewers to run fifth in the time slot. The top draw, Wheel of Fortune on CBS11, had 139,503 viewers. Still, Behind the Curtain had more viewers than the two ABC series that followed it, Supernanny (39,858 viewers) and Ugly Betty (59,787 viewers).

At 9 p.m., NBC's The Jay Leno Show had a smallish 126,217 viewers, still good enough to tie for first at that hour with CBS' Numb3rs. Leno slipped to a fourth place tie with Numb3rs among 18-to-49-year-olds, with TXA21's closing hour of the Mavericks-Rockets pre-season game leading the way.

Over on cable, USA network's 9 p.m. premiere of the critically praised White Collar drew 59,787 total viewers while also lagging in the 18-to-49 demographic.

In Friday's local news derby festivities, WFAA8 ran the table at 10 p.m. with wins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 continued its winning ways at 6 a.m., racking up two golds for the eighth straight weekday.

Early evening results again were split. WFAA8 won in total viewers at 6 p.m. and NBC5 did likewise at 5 p.m. Fox4 ran first at both hours among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Bumps in the road: Conomos hiccups her way through traffic update

Stay tuned in the video below for a big grand finale hiccup during this recent Alexa Conomos traffic report on WFAA8's Daybreak.

That takes a little pressure off NBC5 meteorologist David Finfrock, whose forecasts are still prone to coughing spells.
Ed Bark

Doocy's unintended doozy: veteran Fox4 sports anchor still on sidelines while trying to regain his voice

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Off the air for nearly a month, Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy remains uncertain of when he'll return. Meanwhile, inquiring readers want to know more.

"This has been a strange deal," he says in an email to unclebarky.com. "About a month ago, I had the bad cold/flu that so many people have been dealing with. Apparently the severe cough caused some vocal cord bleeding. I've been without much of a voice for better than two weeks now. I'm seeing a specialist who tells me the voice will return, but it needs more rest. So that's what I'm doing . . . I see the doc again later in the week, and we go from there."

Max Morgan, Fox4's only other full-time sports anchor/reporter, has been filling in with an occasional assist from news staffer Richard Ray.

"He's approaching a Ripken-esque streak for sportscasts," Doocy said of Morgan. "All of the guys in our sports department have been great."

Deep throat problems are not uncommon at the Dallas-based station. As previously reported in these spaces, anchor Baron James was off the air for more than two months after undergoing surgery to remove a growth from his larynx that had increasingly affected his speaking voice. He returned to Fox4 on Sept. 16th.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: WFAA8 will preempt the 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23rd edition of Entertainment Tonight -- yay!!! -- for a half-hour special on Dallas' new AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Behind the Curtain, hosted by Gary Cogill, "takes viewers on a guided tour of all parts of this impressive complex," the station says in a publicity release.

Cogill, who previously hosted WFAA8's Good Morning Texas, was pulled from that show in late July to become the station's full-time arts and entertainment reporter.

"Last summer we made a firm pledge to quality coverage of performing arts in North Texas," WFAA8 president/general manager Mike Devlin said in a statement. "And this broadcast special is part of that commitment."

When the cliche fits, wear it: A win is a win is a win

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At least one NFL head coach looks less like one than the Cowboys' Wade Phillips. But Brad Childress' Vikings are still unbeaten.

OK, let's see now. Which of these NFC East teams currently looks better than the much-maligned Dallas Cowboys and their verbally spat upon head coach, Wade Phillips?

Is it the Washington Redskins, who lost at home to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs and failed to score a touchdown?

Is it the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost on the road to the puke-inducing Oakland Raiders and failed to score a touchdown?

Is it the New York Giants, who were embarrassed 48-27 by the New Orleans Saints in a game that wasn't that close?

Imagine the outcry among D-FW sports commentators had the Cowboys been on the receiving end in any of these three games? The market's two loudest Foghorn Leghorns, Randy Galloway of ESPN's 103.3 FM and WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, of course would be having the times of their lives. Not that they already haven't.

Galloway, on his Oct. 12th "Overreaction Monday" edition, was typically eloquent in repeatedly chanting "Cows win, Cows win, Cows stink." That was after the team's admittedly less-than-pretty overtime road win in Kansas City, which made them 3-2. Galloway said Dallas would have been better off losing that one, so that owner Jerry Jones could have fired head coach Wade Phillips during the bye week.

Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News also wants Phillips outta here and Richie Whitt of The Dallas Observer calls him "Stumbledoofus" among other things.

Hansen of course also tore into the Cowboys, saying they gave off a malodorous smell in barely beating one of the NFL's doormats. Winning ugly in this town is tantamount to mooning Roger Staubach at a church fundraiser. It just isn't done.

After the events of this past Sunday, though, it's high time to spout the old cliche and make it stick. A win is a win is a win. And by the way, that narrow and much-vilified Cowboys loss on the road to Denver isn't looking so stinko now that the Broncos are 6-0 after an impressive Monday Night Football win at San Diego.

You may wonder why a mere TV critic is daring to express sports opinions. Well, as a former high school sports editor and lifelong sports fan, I'm gonna dare to say I know about as much as any of the above experts. As a native Wisconsinite, my principal allegiance is to the Packers. But with 30 years under my belt in North Texas, I like to see the Cowboys win and figure that should be good enough right now in a league where just about everyone struggles from week to week.

It's true that Phillips is a dumpy looking guy who lacks the ramrod demeanor and taut physique of a Bill Cowher, a Mike Shanahan or the sainted Tom Landry. But if the Cowboys beat Atlanta at Jerry's Palace Sunday -- and you can pretty much bet they will -- they'll be 4-2 and again in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot. A lot of teams would still kill for that.

December's coming, of course. And if Dallas craters again, then go ahead and burn Phillips, Jones and QB Tony Romo at the stake. But right now, any win should be embraced without "style points," as Galloway says in his rare reasoned moments before again shooting off his cigar-fouled, Cuervo-lacquered mouth.

One more thing. Shanahan and Cowher are both seen as the kind of "authoritarian" coach that Jones again must hire to restore discipline and fear at Valley Ranch.

But Shanahan's firing at the end of last season so far hasn't hurt unbeaten Denver. And Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin won a Super Bowl in just his second year after Cowher resigned as head coach in 2007.

Phillips seems highly unlikely to lead the Cowboys to the promised land. Still, you never really know, as last Sunday's games again showed. I'll of course slit my throat if Green Bay loses on the road to 1-5 Cleveland this Sunday. But that's why I'll also be happy with any kind of a win, no matter how lucky, ugly or "undeserved."

Channeling your 10 p.m. viewing habits

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Brand loyalty is only a push button away in most red-blooded American homes.

For years we've had remote possibilities. In Little Barky's formative years, it was far more arduous -- and dangerous -- to change the channel from The Lawrence Welk Show to Have Gun, Will Travel. A kid could get yelled at for that. And you also had to get up, physically click the channel to the left or right and then screw around with the "fine tuning." Lotta trouble.

Still, many viewers apparently remain affected by "lead-in" programming, particularly when it comes to D-FW's local 10 p.m. newscasts. A big audience for a 9 p.m. show generally carries over into the 10 p.m. hour, with a significant percentage of viewers choosing to stick with the channel that got them there. At least that's what the daily Nielsen ratings often show.

As the four-week November "sweeps" approach (start date is Oct. 29), CBS11 is in strong position to win for the first time ever at 10 p.m. Its network's powerful Monday-Friday arsenal of 9 p.m. crime shows has something to do with that. But CBS11's newscast also is doing a better job of retaining the large audiences it inherits on most nights. And the product has improved, too.

NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts, lately crumbling under the weight of lousy lead-ins from The Jay Leno Show, had a lengthy stay in first place from Feb. 2002 through Nov. 2006. Not coincidentally, NBC was still flexing in the 9 p.m. hour with hits such as ER, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and even Dateline.

WFAA8, which had long been dominant at 10 p.m., reclaimed the top spot in February 2007 by beating NBC5 in total viewers. Not coincidentally, the station got a big boost -- and also made its own luck -- by opening its new Victory Park studios in January of that year while also becoming the first D-FW station to present its newscasts in high-definition. It aided WFAA8 in overcoming a not-so-hot ABC prime-time lineup in which its best 9 p.m. lead-in bets were Boston Legal and 20/20.

CBS11's April 2007 hiring of controversial news director Regent Ducas likewise was a plus for WFAA8. His "run 'n' gun," car wrecks 'n' crime approach created havoc in the newsroom while also taking the station on a downward spiral in the ratings. For a brief time, NBC5 had only the second-worst newscast in town. Five months later Ducas was replaced by the far higher-planed Scott Diener. But the damage had been done, and it's taken a while to undo it.

This is prelude to a multiple choice, unscientific survey of readers' 10 p.m. news viewing habits. Your comments are encouraged, and here's the overall question:

How do you like your late night newscast served?

A. Over easy -- Whatever 9 p.m. show I'm watching, I'm usually hooked by one or more of the newscast "teases" during commercial breaks. So I tend to stick around for that story or stories rather than change channels. Besides, I've been entertained for the previous hour, so why not give a little something back?

B. Scrambled -- I like to sample from various newscast menus, so I tend to click around to see who's doing what. If something doesn't interest me, I move on.

C. Hardboiled -- It doesn't matter what 9 p.m. show I'm watching. I'll always switch to my favorite 10 p.m. newscast, or simply stay in place if it's on the same channel. By the way, whatever happened to viewer loyalty?

D. Poached -- I usually watch Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast. Then, because the 10 p.m. edition is mostly a replication, I'll either change to another local newscast or watch an entertainment program.

E. Eggs in other baskets -- I seldom if ever watch the late night local newscasts. I'd rather check out the "fake news" on The Daily Show, Sports Center or something else entirely. Early to bed is also an option.

Let's hear from you in the Comments section. I'd really like to know.

Oprah/Dale; Dale/Oprah

For those who didn't see it and wished they did, below is video of Oprah Winfrey's close encounter with sports anchor Dale Hansen on WFAA8's Monday 5 p.m. newscast.

Also included: a clip of a high-haired Winfrey from a 1986 edition of The Ed Busch Show, which used to air on the Dallas-based station.

Postscript: Hansen says his Oprah moments also have become fodder for TMZ.

"They rip me after telling me how much they enjoyed it," he notes in an email to unclebarky.com. "Balls the size of raisins."

Or perhaps sour grapes?
Ed Bark

TXA21 signs WRC-TV's Garvin as new "First in Prime" co-anchor (updated)


Keith Garvin, a veteran TV newsman who has spent the last three years at NBC-owned WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., will be the new co-anchor of TXA21's First in Prime 7 to 9 p.m. newscasts.

He'll be replacing Chris Salcedo and joining incumbent Tracy Kornet.

"I'm very much looking forward to joining the team at TXA21," Garvin said in an email Monday night to unclebarky.com. "I was raised in Bryan-College Station and have followed the Dallas-Fort Worth market for years."

TXA21, sister station of CBS11, hasn't officially announced the hire yet, so there's no specific information on Garvin's start date. He joined WRC in October 2006, and has been a weekend anchor for the station's News4 Today. Garvin also worked as a general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor on other WRC newscasts.

(Confirming Garvin's hiring in a news release Tuesday, CBS11 said he'll start anchoring in "mid-November.")

He previously spent three years at ABC News as a correspondent and substitute anchor. Garvin earlier worked at WTVD-TV in Raleigh, NC and is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno, where he had a football scholarship.

Salcedo's future at TXA21 is yet to be determined.

Also of note at CBS11/TXA21 -- John Knicely, hired less than two months ago as a freelance reporter, has already left the premises to take an anchoring job at CBS affiliate KMOV-TV in St. Louis.

Knicely had joined CBS11/TXA21 from WCCB-TV, the Fox station in Charlotte, N.C.

Oprah glides through WFAA8 newscast, survives encounter with sports anchor Hansen


Oprah Winfrey co-anchors with incumbent Gloria Campos on Monday's "special edition" of WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscast. Photos: Ed Bark

Maybe they should hire her. But she might have to take a bit of a pay cut.

Yes, that indeed was Oprah Winfrey smoothly co-anchoring with Gloria Campos on Monday's "special edition" of Dallas-based WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscast. By her recollection, the "Queen of Talk" hadn't pulled this duty since December 1983, when she was with WLS-TV in Chicago.

Earlier Monday, "I went to the State Fair and ate my way through it," Winfrey said of her mid-morning taping of material for a future Oprah Winfrey Show, which serves as the ratings-challenged 5 p.m. newscast's lead-in program.

Winfrey never stumbled during her time-sharing with Campos. She also played make believe on another front, referring to "our Gary Cogill" while introducing his live report and "our website" in reference to wfaa.com.

What looked like a semi-throng gathered outside WFAA8's Victory Park studios to watch Winfrey's performance, which also included reading a stock market report, small-talking with weatherman Greg Fields and introducing stories by reporters Darla Miles (who's soon leaving for New York's WABC-TV), Gary Reaves and Debbie Denmon.


Split-screen smoothie: Winfrey with Cogill.

Winfrey later inserted an advertisement for herself. "Well, look out there at that crowd. It's only getting better and bigger," she told Campos.

"And they want to see you-know-who," Campos assured her.

You-know-who didn't venture outside during the 5 p.m. newscast. But she did have a close in-studio encounter with voluble sports anchor Dale Hansen, who usually doesn't appear on this edition.

Hansen ostensibly was there to plug his Friday night Texas-Oklahoma football special on WFAA8. But he instead may have given Winfrey the creeps, even though she gamely laughed along.

"Would you like to take this opportunity to apologize to America for introducing us to Dr. Phil?" Hansen asked her.

"No, I'm not," she said. "Aren't you proud of your boy from Texas?"

"No," said Dale, who then resorted to the kind of banter he usually reserves for jolly weathercaster Pete Delkus.

"This is my real hair," he informed Winfrey. "You can touch it if you like."

Which she actually did -- gingerly. (Point of reference: On a recent edition of Oprah, comedian Chris Rock dug his hands deep into the host's roots while promoting his documentary film Good Hair.)

A wound-up Hansen then wound things up by noting how excited his wife, Chris, was about his meeting Winfrey.

"Twenty-nine years. And this is my biggest highlight of my life, according to her," Hansen said before the shot clock finally ran out on him. Not even close proximity to Winfrey can keep Hansen from talking about himself. But he did have a good point about Dr. Phil.


Touching me, touching you: Winfrey fingers Hansen's waning locks.

Campos closed matters by showing Winfrey a clip from her 1986 interview on WFAA8's long-defunct Ed Busch Show. Winfrey dutifully looked horrified.

All in all, the newscast ran remarkably smoothly, with Winfrey to the manor born. You'd never know she hadn't anchored in nearly 26 years, although she's obviously had a little on-camera experience in the interim.

Could it be true that reading news copy is so easy that even a caveman can do it? Actually, Hansen's already proven that. Next question.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Oct. 9-11) -- Cowboys again make Fox4 feel like a million


Record-setting Miles Austin runs to touchdown glory. Photo: Ed Bark

The Cowboys' face-saving overtime win against Kansas City again rang up more than one million D-FW viewers at the Nielsen cash register.

Even so it was the second-lowest total of the regular season, with 1,102,738 viewers watching the early starting game on Fox. The season opener against Tampa Bay, also a noon game on Fox, remains in the basement with 1,042,951 viewers. NBC's Sunday Night Football baptism of Jerry's Palace is still comfortably on top, with 1,700,608 watching the Cowboys narrowly lose to the Giants.

Cowboys-Chiefs, which ran from noon to 3:35 p.m., had its peak audience between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m., when 1,381,744 watched.

Obliterated was the competing Giants-Raiders game on CBS, which stumbled in with an average of 46,501 total viewers.

CBS fared appreciably better with Sunday's second game, won by Denver in OT against New England. That one peaked between 6:15 and 6:45 p.m., when 611,156 viewers watched each of the 15-minute segments. That contrasted with just 33,215 viewers for the game's first 15 minutes, when the Cowboys were still playing.

NBC's one-sided Sunday Night Football matchup between the unbeaten Colts and victory-less Titans averaged 391,937 total viewers, still good enough to sweep the prime-time Nielsens.

On the college football front, Saturday night's much-anticipated Florida-LSU matchup on CBS averaged a surprisingly small 192,647 viewers. ABC's competing Iowa-Michigan game lagged with 99,645 viewers.

ABC's daytime attraction, Oklahoma vs. Baylor, was Saturday's most-watched college game with 219,219 viewers.

CBS swept Friday's prime-time Nielsens in total viewers with its regular lineup of Ghost Whisperer, Medium and Numb3rs.

But Fox's Dollhouse showed some signs of life among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, winning the 8 p.m. hour in that measurement while Medium fell to third behind NBC's Dateline. ABC's 20/20 won at 9 p.m. with 18-to-49-year-olds; NBC's The Jay Leno Show drooped to third.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 took first in total viewers at 10 p.m. for the first time in a week, with NBC5 and CBS11 sharing the silver. WFAA8 also ran first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Close behind were NBC5 and CBS11.

The 6 a.m. golds were split between Fox4 in total viewers and NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demographic. WFAA8 slid to an early morning fourth with 25-to-54-year-olds, but won the 6 p.m. newscast competitions in both measurements.

Fox4 had comfortable twin wins at 5 p.m., with its double dose of Judge Judy clubbing WFAA8's Oprah Winfrey in the 4 p.m. hour while NBC5's First At Four local newscast ran second.

WFAA8 hopes for a big boost in Monday's numbers with a heavily promoted visit by Winfrey during the station's 5 p.m. edition. She taped a future show at the Texas State Fair Monday morning.

"Mike and Mike. They even cover showers."

KXAS-TV (Channel 5) had Jane and Mike (news anchors McGarry and Snyder), immortalized in a series of mid-1990s "JAM" promos.

KDFW-TV (Channel 4) had Mike and Mike (sports anchor Doocy and weatherman Burger), who got something of a copycat buildup in 1995.

We're still waiting for someone to unearth and post a JAM spot on youtube. That'd be nirvana. Meanwhile, snack on this kinda goofy 30-second "Mike and Mike" spot. Fourteen years later, Doocy remains in place while Burger has long since left Ch. 4 and currently takes temperatures at CBS11.

Cut to the chase -- television always does


Fugitive motorist finally splashes to a stop on live TV. Photo: Ed Bark

Another idiot led police on a prolonged car chase in late morning/early afternoon hours Friday.

All four of D-FW's major TV news providers -- Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 -- went along for the ride, which had a 1:02 p.m. grand finale in Navarro County. Everyone then quickly went back to their soap operas and court shows. Sorry for interrupting 'em, folks. But we just can't keep ourselves from performing a public service.

Yeah, they'll all tell you that live coverage of this sort aids in keeping the public from getting in harm's way. Never mind that you're presumably watching TV within relatively safe surroundings during these preachments.

In truth, this is what passes for "good television" in our rubbernecking age. And once a station joins the chase, it's hard to drop out before police finally throw the culprit to the ground.

WFAA8 briefly tried to escape, shifting to ABC's One Life to Live at 1 p.m. But it quickly scurried back to the action as the fugitive was bumped off the road to a water-logged stopping point. By that time, one of Fox4's play-by-play analysts already had compared the motorist to a running back looking for a hole.

The dummy inside the pickup truck allegedly had assaulted a police officer earlier. But it wouldn't have mattered if he'd only stolen a kid's lollipop. This is the easiest form of semi-suspenseful show-and-tell live "news" coverage, even if it only encourages other imbeciles to lead police on merry chases in pursuit of being teevee stars. Look, momma, that's me on them smokin' rims. I done did good, huh?

At the national level, both HLN (which used to be CNN Headline News) and Fox News Channel also joined in for portions of the chase. Those of us who decry all of this are probably only wasting our verbiage. Because it's only a matter of time until the next meandering, bump 'n' run car chase commences. And to borrow CBS11's slogan, that's "coverage you can count on."

Former D-FW television news photogapher finds a picture-perfect niche


Former local TV photographer Gregg Primus and his son, Gregory, at Just DVD It! headquarters in their Arlington, TX home. Photos: Ed Bark

ARLINGTON -- It seemed pretty grim at the time. But Gregg Primus says he owes his business acumen to the boss who sacked him after nine years spent as a photographer at Fort Worth-based NBC5.

"We were clashing big-time, so he found a way to fire me," Primus says of his oil-and-water relationship with then news director David Overton. "To this day I wish I could find him to thank him for that. What he did was light a fire under my butt."

It was June of 1992, and a newly married Primus had little money in the bank. So he freelanced "here and there," cut grass and painted houses.

"I did whatever I had to do," he recalls. "My business mind got in gear."

He decided to become a freewheeling freelance photographer rather than being "locked down to one thing." In that vein Primus worked briefly for Dallas-based WFAA8's now defunct Metro program and then for a decade at D-FW's Fox4. Several years ago, a neighbor asked him if he could transfer one of his old VHS tapes to a DVD.

"At that time I didn't have any equipment, so I just did it at Channel 4," Primus says. "He was just floored. So that bell went off in my head. And from that point on, I've been buying equipment left and right."

We're talking in the low overhead corporate headquarters of Just DVD It!, which Primus, 53, has operated out of his home for the past couple of years. Bring him your oldie, moldy VHS or Beta tapes, and he'll put them on a shiny disc. Son Gregory, 16, edits when necessary, but only as a temporary, after-homework employee of his dad. As an adult he plans to become a pilot.

"Welcome to the new reality -- working out of the house," the elder Primus says. There's a lot of this going around, in media circles and otherwise. Many of his newfound clients are anchors or reporters looking to preserve their career highlights -- or acting out of self-preservation in case they're suddenly downsized.

"I've gotten quite a number of people looking to put together a resume, and you can understand why," Primus says. "Everybody's laying off."

Primus' most prominent client to date is veteran Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley, who by his count has sent Just DVD It! 150 to 200 tapes from her more than 30 years at the Dallas-based station.

Tinsley is documenting her career for posterity -- and before many of her old industrial-sized Beta tapes decay beyond repair.

"Tapes are just disintegrating -- even when they're put on a shelf and are just sitting there," Primus says. "If you leave your stuff on tape, it might not be there. Tapes rot after 15 or 20 years -- or sooner."

Other TV clients have included Fox4 reporter Lari Barager, CBS11 news staffers Steve Dennis, Nerissa Knight and Sana Syed, and former Fox4 reporter Paul Adrian. Another Fox4 alumnus, reporter Jason Overstreet, sent Primus numerous boxes of archival tapes from the Arlington-based United States Bowling Congress, where he's now employed as director of public relations.

"It may take me a couple of years to do that project," Primus says.


Entrepreneurial spirit: Primus is happily getting the word out.

Many TV stations have been converting to a tapeless digital format while phasing out or junking their old equipment.

"You can't just go to the edit bay and transfer your stuff over anymore," Primus says. "The tape machines are gone, so they come to me because I think I may be the only one investing in old technology. That's why my broadcast industry business is really heating up."

Primus scours ebay for old-school equipment at bargain prices. Industrial Beta machines that used to sell for $19,000 brand new can now be had for $400 in good condition, he says. An engineer friend who still works at a D-FW station checks out the incoming equipment. It's like buying used cars, tire-kicking included. Primus says he recently scored a vintage industrial Beta tape machine for $300 at a Plano pawn shop.

He initially thought his business would mostly be standard consumer requests for wedding and family tape transfers from VHS to DVD. There's still a market for that, including one client who wanted Primus to up-convert his father's autopsy tape.

"I've had people come to me with pornography, too, and I told them we don't do that," he says.

The going rate is $25 for two hours of VHS tape transfered to a DVD. Most TV newsroom clients pay $40 for a broadcast/professional format conversion or $65 for a digital betacam transfer.

"It doesn't take a whole lot for me to do this, so I don't want to gouge anybody," Primus said.

Finding and keeping a new career such as this isn't what he had in mind after learning his camera skills as a "motion picture photographer" during a six-year hitch in the Marines. But Primus will take what he's given himself -- a gainful new business in times when a complete reinvention is sometimes the only answer.

"I expect an onslaught of business," Primus says confidently. If so, he's brought it on himself.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun, Oct. 2-4) -- Rocky Mountain high/low for Cowboys

Bucked by the Broncos, the Cowboys nonetheless lit Fox's fire Sunday with another million-plus audience in D-FW.

This time 1,441,531 viewers were in attendance, with a high of 1,667,393 watching the spine-tingling closing minutes. That ranked Cowboys-Broncos second among this season's four regular season games, trailing only the not-so-grand opening of Jerry's Palace on NBC's Sunday Night Football (an overall average of 1,700,608 viewers).

Of the 1,441,531 who watched Sunday, nearly half -- 719,546 -- were advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

The Cowboys' warmup act, Giants-Chiefs on Fox, averaged 352,079 total viewers. That outdrew the competing Patriots-Ravens game on CBS, which had 298,935 viewers. NBC's prime-time Steelers-Chargers faceoff averaged 325,507 viewers.

Airing opposite the Cowboys, the Texas Rangers' last regular season game at Seattle drew a test pattern-sized 13,286 viewers on Fox Sports Southwest. All in all, though, it was quite a year for the hometown nine.

CBS' Sunday night premiere of the new medical drama Three Rivers sloshed into view with just 152,789 viewers to finish fourth in the 8 p.m. hour.

Saturday's most-watched attraction, Oklahoma's prime-time loss to Miami on ABC, averaged 332,150 viewers.

Over on ESPN Saturday, the mighty Wisconsin Badgers' win over Minnesota drew 39,858 D-FW viewers during late morning/early afternoon hours. Wisconsin retained the giant Paul Bunyan ax, symbol of supremacy in college football's oldest rivalry, by edging the Gophers on their spanking new home field. Uncle Barky's alma mater is now 5-0, including a win over vaunted superpower Wofford before Big Ten play commenced in late September. Next up: powerful but beatable Ohio State on the road. Will the Badgers rise up and be Johnsonville brats or wind up as wieners? All of North Texas is hanging on the answer.

Meanwhile, in Friday's local news derby festivities, CBS11 ran first in total viewers at 10 p.m. by edging WFAA8. But NBC5 had the win among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. In that measurement, CBS11 fell from first to fourth.

The Peacock also took the gold at 6 a.m. in total viewers, but lost by a sliver (three-hundredths of a rating point) to Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds. Basically that amounts to a tie.

WFAA8 won at 6 p.m. in total viewers and shared first place with Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

At 5 p.m., NBC5 won in total viewers and WFAA8 prevailed among 25-to-54-year-olds.

"Live Newt Girls" -- with a pimp impression, too!


Lodge owner Dawn Rizos and her PR maestro, Michael Precker, on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night. Photo: Ed Bark

Um, Michael, that outfit made you look like, well, a pimp. And poor Dawn looked like a deer caught in the headlights -- at dusk.

Chortling over Newt Gingrich's latest dumb move, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show welcomed Dawn Rizos, owner/CEO of The Lodge, and her in-house PR man, Michael Precker, to Thursday night's edition.

Why they were there is detailed in the story below. In brief, a money-grabbing organization headed by Gingrich had named Rizos an "Entrepreneur of the Year" provided she paid $5,000 to join his conservative American Solutions for Winning the Future club. She duly sent him a check. But the honor, to be given on Oct. 7th in Washington at an "intimate dinner," was rescinded after Gingrich belatedly learned that The Lodge is a Dallas-based upscale gentlemen's club.

Thus the "Live Newt Girls" graphic in the right lower corner of home screens Thursday night. Keith Olbermann also toyed with Gingrich on his preceding Countdown program, saying he had "pulled out" after learning The Lodge was a "strip joint."

Precker, a friend and former colleague at The Dallas Morning News, knows how to butter the bread for media outlets. The story received wide play locally Wednesday after he sent out a press release and copious supporting materials. National attention followed, and why not? It's a delicious little morality play, with Mr. Family Values (Gingrich) again caught with his pants down. His organization earlier had intended to award a porn producer -- Pink Visual -- before discovering its true mission. This guy used to be House Speaker?

Unfortunately, Precker and Rizos didn't exactly make a winning impression Thursday night. Rizos at best looked uncomfortable on camera and acted too aggrieved during her limited remarks. And Precker's appearance only served to reinforce the stereotype that a woman needs a man to do much of her talking.

You live, you learn. And your friendly content provider isn't such a whiz in front of the cameras either. But if the national media roadshow continues, it'd be best to let Rizos appear on her own. Precker could prep her beforehand, but otherwise should stay out of the picture.

In any case, his Thursday night TV wardrobe just has to go. It also would have been better had Precker not invited Maddow to The Lodge at segment's end. She didn't seem too down with that.

Newt's topless trip-up gets taken to the next level -- national TV exposure for The Lodge

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Rachel Maddow, Newt Gingrich and Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge.

Well, no one can accuse the Lodge, its owner, Dawn Rizos, and "writer in residence" Michael (P.T.) Precker of not milking this one to the hilt.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's embrace and then rebuke of Rizos, publicized via a volley of press releases Wednesday, has landed the Dallas-based businesswoman an invitation to appear on Thursday's edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Precker disclosed Thursday. Comedy Central's The Colbert Report also has expressed interest.

"Gosh, this is fun," said Precker, who himself appeared earlier this year on CNN's now defunct D.L. Hughley Show. He happily regaled the host with tales of his transition from an award-winning reporter for The Dallas Morning News to assistant manager at "one of the nation's premier gentlemen's clubs, which has received many local and national honors over the years for its elegance, beauty, fine cuisine and integrity." FYI, you also can watch women take their clothes off.

Numerous local media outlets already have eaten this one up, with Gingrich the fool on the hill after his conservative American Solutions for Winning the Future said it planned to honor Rizos as "Entrepreneur of The Year" for "your success in building your business and recognition of the risks you take to create jobs and stimulate the economy."

In return, though, Rizos would have to pony up an annual $5,000 fee to join the organization. She did so, and planned to be at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on October 7th for a "very small intimate event" at which Rizos would receive her award, meet Gingrich and have dinner with him.

What ultimately happened was predictable, but no less a publicity coup. Gingrich's organization disinvited Rizos Tuesday, contending a mistake had been made.

"We're very disappointed," Rizos said in Precker's hand-crafted release. "We were very honored to receive this award (see below) and it's really kind of rude for them to change their minds at the last minute."


Either way, The Lodge wins and Gingrich looks like an idiot.

Had Rizos actually received the award, The Lodge could have trumpeted it in a publicity release applauding him for embracing the club's family values and the job-provider who exemplifies them. Because after all, The Lodge "helps hundreds of people support their families, further their educations and build successful futures," Rizos says.

Rejection is even better, though. Gingrich is a money-grabbing phony either way. But now his organization seems even more inept and craven. The right hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. A boob belatedly finds out that boobs are involved after he first snuggles up to The Lodge's money. The emperor has no clothes. And so on.

Now it's all in P.T. Precker's hands. And believe me he's no slouch at priming the pump and getting various media outlets to drink up. First stop: The Rachel Maddow Show (8 p.m. central Thursday). Ultimate possibility: a joke on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update."

"My pants are going crazy," Precker said, referring to the rush of publicity.

Have a good dinner, Newt.