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Gamesmanship at 10 over Smadi followup interviews


Shadowy figure: CBS11's Jack Fink interviewed alleged terrorist bomber's estranged wife on Tuesday's 10 p.m. news after WFAA8's Jason Whitely first got to her in daylight hours. Photo: Ed Bark

D-FW's two 10 p.m. news kingpins battled for bragging rights Tuesday via followup interviews with those closest to alleged terrorist bomber Hosam Maher Husein Smadi.

WFAA8 struck first on Tuesday's early evening newscasts, where reporter Jason Whitely made exclusive contact with Rosie Duron, who's separated from Smadi and says she plans to seek a divorce. His report also aired on the 10 p.m. newscast, with Whitely still stationed live in Italy, Texas, where Smadi had lived.

Duron "shied away from the camera, but not the questions," Whitely told viewers. He shielded her from view while the camera had his back.

"I love him. He is everything," she said while WFAA8 also showed printed excerpts on screen. "What he has done is amazing. But it's crazy. I can't believe it."

Smadi is charged with intent to bomb downtown Dallas' Fountain Place after FBI agents supplied him with bogus explosives. Duron told Whitely that he "never ever, ever mentioned anything like this."

They separated after just three months. "Rosie blamed it on long hours at work, and Smadi being too clean," Whitely said without elaboration. "She remembers the split crushed him."

CBS11, beaten on the interview, played catchup at 10 p.m., with Jack Fink reporting live from Smadi's former residence in Italy. He captured Duron in a double silhouette against a brick wall. A bit spooky but certainly eye-catching.

"Rosie didn't want to be seen during our interview, but wanted to be heard," Fink told viewers.

She termed Smadi a "sweet guy. Wouldn't hurt a fly. I mean, wonderful guy."

Duron also denied rumors that Smadi had paid her to marry him in order to avoid deportation.

"Did he offer you $5,000?" Fink asked.

"No sir," she said.

CBS11 has been trailing WFAA8 in post-terrorist arrest scoops, but made a breakthrough on Tuesday's 10 p.m. edition with what it touted as "the first American television interview" with Smadi's father in Jordan.

"CBS11's Jay Gormley joins us now with the exclusive," anchor Karen Borta said. Earlier, in a tease during CBS's 9 p.m. episode of The Good Wife, anchor Doug Dunbar said that Smadi's father would be "telling us his own fears" about his son.

That's not entirely true. Gormley, who narrated the interview from CBS11's Fort Worth studios, never went to Jordan. Nor did he talk to Smadi's father, Maher Smadi, via satellite.

CBS11 is, however, owned and operated by the CBS network. So technically, "us" is more or less an operative word. And CBS11 news director Scott Diener, in a subsequent email response, says that CBS11 took the reins in this case.

"Actually, WE initiated the interview through our bureau resources in Jordan," Diener said, meaning the CBS network news bureau. "The interview was for us exclusively and did not run on the CBS Network, nor was it provided for the CBS News affiliate feed."

WFAA management declined to comment on the veracity of CBS11's claims. Whatever you think of Diener's rationale, Smadi's father had some interesting things to say. And no other station had him on-camera.

"This big change in my son's life truly scared me," Maher Smadi said of his April visit to Italy to see him. "I was about to call the police for the safety of my son."

Smadi also said that his son had "become fanatical in his religious beliefs."

Perhaps you're wondering where Fox4 and NBC5 were during all of this.

Fox4 basically was left in the dust, settling for reporter Shaun Rabb's interview of a friend of Smadi's estranged wife. And NBC5 didn't try at all, offering no followup coverage of Smadi during its Tuesday 10 p.m. edition.

Miles to go: WFAA8 reporter and substitute anchor leaving for New York


Darla Miles, who joined Dallas-based WFAA8 in December 2006, is leaving to join WABC-TV in New York.

WFAA8 management confirmed her departure Wednesday.

Miles has been a Fort Worth-based general assignment reporter for WFAA8, and also occasionally filled in as a weekend anchor. She arrived in North Texas from WTVD-TV in Raleigh, NC, where she spent three years.

Miles also had worked for CNN and WJBF-TV in Augusta, GA. She is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta and began her broadcasting career at the city's WCLK radio.

WABC is ABC's signature "flagship station." New York is the largest TV market in the country, with D-FW ranked No. 5.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Sept. 28) -- two-pronged Cowboys attack sticks fork in competition

The Cowboys' Monday Night Football win over Carolina of course routed everything in its wake, even the big ticket stuff.

What might surprise you, though, is that more D-FW viewers saw the game on cable than on free broadcast TV. It was close, though.

ESPN's presentation averaged 617,799 viewers for a game that began at 7:41 p.m. and stretched to 10:34 p.m. TXA21's simulcast of ESPN's coverage had 597,870 viewers for a super-sized grand total of 1,215,669.

That fell well short of the Cowboys-Giants home season opener, which amassed 1,700,608 viewers on NBC's Sunday Night Football. But it exceeded Game 1 of the regular season at Tampa Bay, which had 1,042,951 viewers on Fox.

ABC's two-hour Dancing with the Stars and CBS' CSI: Miami made the best showings against Cowboys-Panthers.

Dancing, featuring Michael Irvin and Tom ("We're gonna dance 'til it breaks") DeLay grimacing in pain on a bad foot, drew 272,363 viewers from 7 to 9 p.m. CSI: Miami then had 298,935 viewers in the 9 p.m. hour.

But Fox's House outdrew the first hour of Dancing among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds while CBS' Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory bested Dancing in the 8 to 9 p.m. slot.

NBC's premiere of the action-medical drama Trauma ran fourth at 8 p.m. with 119,574 total viewers. It held the same spot with 18-to-49-year-olds, in each case outdrawing the season premiere of Fox's Lie to Me.

The Jay Leno Show had NBC's smallest audience of the night, with just 79,716 total viewers.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the Texas Rangers officially bowed out of the American League West race with a late night 11-0 drubbing at the hands of the Angels, who clinched first place in the division. Ending at 11:45 p.m., the game averaged 19,929 exceptionally diehard baseball fans, who dwindled to 4,650 in the final inning.

In the daily local news derby, CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

All four stations had notably diminished audiences, though, opposite the closing stages of the Cowboys' game. CBS11's total viewer count of 172,718 was a sharp drop from 279,006 on the previous Monday, when it also won the 10 p.m. competition.

NBC5 had twin wins at 6 a.m. before Fox4 cleaned house at both 5 and 6 p.m. with first place finishes all around.

That left WFAA8 out of the winners' circle entirely, which is still unusual but no longer an extreme rarity.

Rowlett savoring life beyond TV news while teaching on the side


Tracy Rowlett with his SMU broadcasting class. Photo: Ed Bark

Off the air for more more than a year and "happy as a clam" in semi-retirement, Tracy Rowlett says he's signed off for good as one of D-FW's signature news anchors.

Instead he's teaching a small class in broadcasting issues at SMU while otherwise spending much of his free time with wife Jill and their autistic son, Michael. He also spent last weekend at his 50th high school reunion in Wichita, Kansas.

"I really thought that maybe I would miss it," Rowlett, 67, says in an interview shortly before his class is in session. "I mean, I did it for so long. But I truly have not, and I especially don't miss television news as it today. I was able to work at the local level during the real halcyon days when Channel 8 (WFAA) was the premier station in the country. So I had a great career. I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish over a long period of time. But it was time for me to leave, and I'm glad I did."

Rowlett spent more than a quarter-century at WFAA8 before stunning both his employer and the local TV news industry by jumping to KTVT-TV (Channel 11) in 1999 after CBS bought the station and offered him a multi-million dollar deal.

He then pulled a second big surprise in July of last year, leaving CBS11 to become the head anchor of Shale.TV, a then under-construction website being sponsored by Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

Skeptics abounded, but Rowlett said that Chesapeake had promised him full editorial control in a venture that also lured award-winning D-FW news producer John Sparks, former Dallas Morning News reporter/network news producer Olive Talley and, later, CBS11 reporter Mark Johnson.

But Shale.TV never materialized. Citing a debilitating economy, Chesapeake abruptly dropped it in October 2008. Rowlett believes there was an unstated reason as well.

"The economy certainly had a lot to do with it, but I honestly think it might have been those folks re-thinking what they were getting into," Rowlett contends. "We had been so adamant in telling them that we wanted to do every story we felt deserved to be told -- not just the positive stories. So as the economy started plummeting, I think they decided that maybe they didn't need negative press from inside as well. So I think that was part of the reason they pulled the plug on it."

Rowlett taught broadcast news writing at SMU in the 1990s while still anchoring at WFAA8. His new class is much smaller and devoted to issues ranging from alleged liberal media bias to new ways in which news is reported. The class also recently revisited Edward R. Murrow's famed 1960 CBS documentary Harvest of Shame.

"You don't want to let the brain go completely dead, so working at SMU is helping me in that regard," he says.

Rowlett also is seeing his son, Michael, 23, make heartening progress in small steps.

"He's responding in ways he never has before," Rowlett says. "I'm responsible for feeding Michael, and he's always been bottle-fed. But now he's eating food. It's an amazing breakthrough for all of us."

Rowlett decries what he terms the "consultant-driven nonsense" on many latter day local newscasts.

"If someone actually tried to do good, hard investigative reporting and put on a decent, informative newscast, I think it would still work," he says. "But whether the managers running those stations would have the guts to do that is very, very doubtful . . . I don't mean to sound as negative as all that. I certainly think that television news should have an important role to play in all of our lives. But it's not playing that role now, and I'm not sure it ever will again."

Whatever occurs, Rowlett says he's over and out. Not that the once high-priced services of an elder statesman would be in high demand anymore during the ongoing downsizing in TV markets big and small. He accepts that reality, too.

"I saw where somebody said, 'Oh, Tracy's just a bitter old man.' Nothing could be farther from the truth. I truly am blessed in every way, both in the career I had and where I am now."

Heavy, but sometimes lightweight coverage of terrorist threat tops Thursday's 10 p.m. newscasts

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Police mug shot of Smadi, and his intended target, Fountain Place.

"Team coverage" of the thwarted terrorist bombing of Fountain Place dominated 10 p.m. newscasts Thursday after the story broke during early evening hours.

WFAA8 had the most thorough account, but also some ill-considered lapses in its news scripts. Most of the new information had to do with 19-year-old suspect Hosam Maher Husein Smadi's previous life in Italy, TX, where accounts varied as to where he worked.

Fox4 and WFAA8 both said he had worked at a Shell station off of I-35. CBS11 said it had confirmed he was employed at Texas Best Smokehouse, which is located inside the station. NBC5 quoted what amounted to hearsay from a woman, Shelly Thompson, who said, "I just heard that the guy that was the manager at the Sonic had plotted a terrorist threat or a bomb at a building in Dallas."

NBC5's Ashanti Blaize reported the story while standing live in the dark in Dallas, although she supposedly "searched for people who knew him (Smadi)." Blaize said that Thompson also told the station that Smadi "even interviewed her daughter" for a job at Sonic.

The Dallas Morning News agreed with CBS11's account in its website coverage. NBC5 so far is alone among both television and print accounts in making any Sonic connection.

All four stations responsibly underscored that this was an FBI sting operation in which Smadi was given a fake bomb for his intended destruction of the prominent downtown Dallas skyscraper. He parked a Ford Explorer in a parking garage beneath Fountain Place before attempting to detonate the phony explosive with his cell phone.

"The minute he made that call -- boom -- it went straight to the FBI," WFAA8 anchor Shelly Slater told viewers via a script that should have been more carefully vetted.

Later in the station's newscast, WFAA8 reporter Monika Diaz, reporting live from Italy, made another ill-advised slip.

"His friends and neighbors called him a rock star," she said of Smadi. "Tonight they are blown away by his arrest."

But WFAA8 also had the only interviews with Italy residents who actually were friends with the suspect.

"That's not the 'Sam' we know," said a woman who said he had babysat for her.

At newscast's end, WFAA8's David Schechter talked to a woman who said she had Smadi over for Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking with her identity and face concealed, she made yet another unfortunate choice of words after saying that Smadi must have been "coerced" into his criminal actions.

"If you tell him 'It's fun, it's great, you'll have a blast,' he's always down for it," the woman said.

Fox4's Sophia Reza and CBS11's J.D. Miles also reported live from Italy, but couldn't round up anyone who said they actually knew the suspect.

"No one would comment about Smadi, other than to say that they were very surprised," Reza told viewers.

"People who know Smadi aren't speaking on camera," Miles said. "They say authorities have told them not to talk. But those who worked with him here at this popular I-35 travel stop have looks of absolute disbelief on their faces tonight."

NBC5 offered viewers no visual evidence that Blaize ever went to Italy at all. But the station wasn't shy about displaying several comments posted on the nbcdfw website, which its corporate parent is pushing hard after drastically revamping it. "Kudos to the FBI for their successful operation and for protecting America from scum like that," one commenter said in part.

Three of the four stations, excluding CBS11, talked to retired FBI agent Danny Defenbaugh, who supervised the Dallas office during the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. Only WFAA8 spelled his name wrong, with two f's.

On the plus side, WFAA8's Brad Watson had the best summary of how the sting unfolded. NBC5's Scott Gordon's account also was both easily understood and succint. He ended by telling viewers, "The FBI stresses tonight the public was never in any danger. Smadi was under constant surveillance. The bomb was not real."

Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 all reported that a "suspicious package" had been found later Thursday night on the sixth floor of Fountain Place. But only CBS11 and anchor Doug Dunbar put any further fears to rest by also assuring viewers that it turned out to be "a bucket of unknown liquid, nothing lethal, we're told."

In contrast, WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos said there was "no word on what was found." And Fox4 reporter Emily Lopez said police are "waiting on the owner to identify its contents."

GMA's Roberts MIA on WFAA8's Daybreak

The beauty of live TV is often its blemishes.

In that vein, here's a howler from a recent edition of Dallas-based WFAA8's Daybreak. Co-anchor Chris Flanagan is ready to embark on his usual cross-promotional chit-chat with a Good Morning America anchor, in this case Robin Roberts. But she's not quite ready for him. Take a look, with the advisory that Flanagan is not quite color-corrected.

Przybyl joins Good Day on otherwise blue Monday for Cowboys fans


Co-anchor Tim Ryan "surprises" new deskmate with 5th grade yearbook pictures during Monday's Good Day on Fox4. Photos: Ed Bark

Pretty in dark pink, vowel-deprived Lauren "What's a Przybyl?" Przybyl (PRIZ-BULL) made her Good Day debut Monday after a nearly seven-month gap in which various in-house staffers sat beside incumbent Tim Ryan.

Przybyl dawned on the same day the 2009-10 TV season officially starts lighting up prime-time with a freshman class and new episodes of returning favorites.

Fox4, as WFAA8 did in January 2008 with Cynthia Izaguirre, wasted no time in trumpeting the newcomer's previous local connections. In the 6 a.m. hour, Ryan brought forth her 5th grade yearbook while Przybyl feigned surprise at the pre-plotted trick played on her.

"I'm gonna get you guys for this. Am I turning red right now?" she said after Ryan displayed a picture of Przybyl as a dark-haired 'tween at Colleyville's O.C. Taylor Elementary.

Przybyl earlier noted that she was born in Arlington and went to Grapevine High School.

Ryan primed that pump by telling her, "It's a homecoming for you."

The Baylor University grad arrived from Boston's WHDH-TV in Boston, where she spent the past five years anchoring and reporting. Przybyl also had a formative stint with TXCN, the now stripped-down cable news network owned by Dallas-based Belo Corp., which also runs rival WFAA8. Not surprisingly, that didn't work its way into Monday's conversations with Ryan and weatherman Evan Andrews.

"You brighten our forecast," Andrews said.

"Aw, that's sweet," Przybyl rejoined.

She got through her first day OK, absorbing Ryan's occasional soft jabs while trying to steel herself for what will be a very long and demanding four-hour daily shift.

"If I start falling asleep, you guys just start nudging me on either side, OK?" she said while sandwiched between Ryan and Andrews.

"You'll get used to Tim eventually," sports anchor Mike Doocy later assured her. "Although some never do."

Make no mistake. Ryan is the show's ringmaster, a survivor with ingrained stains on his Good Day coffee cup. He's seen 'em come and go -- and he's still not going anywhere.

When not welcoming Przybyl, Good Day spent a good part of Monday pounding away at complaints about the "Party Pass" situation at Cowboys Stadium. Reporter Saul Garza repeatedly termed it a "disaster" that left many disgruntled fans on the outside looking in during Sunday night's christening game with the Giants, who won on a last-second field goal.

There also were repeated visits to Sunday afternoon's Plano balloon festival, where the show's Good Daze Band performed. Footage of Ryan writhing to "Twist and Shout" drew raves from his new co-anchor. In time she'll have to learn to throw a few strategic jabs.

Przybyl replaces Megan Henderson, who left Good Day in late February and coincidentally is scheduled to show up Monday evening on The 33's inaugural 5:30 p.m. local newscast. Henderson, as previously posted on this page, will be doing entertainment dispatches from Los Angeles, where she's now co-anchoring early morning shows for KTLA-TV. Both stations are owned by Tribune Broadcasting.

During her Monday debut, Przybyl came up completely empty only when tipping her virginal Good Day mug. So far so good, with viewers now getting a chance to see if she'll percolate.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 18-20) -- Cowboys crash through Emmys party with mega/jumbo numbers


Jerry was a happy man until the bitter end. Photo: Ed Bark

The agony of defeat had more than 1.7 million witnesses Sunday night while the agonies of defeats on the Emmys settled for peanuts.

NBC's Sunday Night Football, showcasing the grand regular season opener of Jerry's Palace, drew 1,700,608 D-FW viewers in dwarfing the North Texas audience for the previous Sunday's regular season kickoff at Tampa Bay (1,042,951 viewers on Fox).

The Cowboys' last-second 33-31 loss to the Giants pummeled the itty bitty Emmy awards on CBS, which drew just 166,075 viewers while ABC's presentation of King Kong had 86,359 watchers.

Of the Cowboys' viewership, 787,612 hit the demographic sweet spot -- advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds. The Emmys, hosted by a game Neil Patrick Harris, had 71,306 viewers in this age range while Kong managed 32,412.

NBC5's late night Sunday newscast, which started around 11 p.m. after NBC's post-game show, fell to 418,509 total viewers, but still easily won its time slot.

Pro football as usual also ruled Sunday's afternoon hours, with CBS' down-to-the-wire Bears-Steelers game the biggest draw with 484,339 viewers. Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the Texas Rangers' early afternoon home loss to the Angels had 39,858 viewers. The team's post-season chances aren't officially impossible yet, but John Edwards has a better chance of winning Father of the Year. A dismal 2-7 homestand saw to that.

Saturday's biggest sports attraction, ABC's prime-time telecast of Texas vs. Texas Tech, clicked the Nielsen turnstyles to the tune of 465,010 viewers.

In Friday's local news derby, NBC5 came up big for most of the day, winning at 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

But the Peacock fell to second in both measurements at 10 p.m., where WFAA8 scored twin wins.

Night 5 of NBC's The Jay Leno Show won its 9 p.m. time slot, with ABC's 20/20 coming in second at that hour.

Palace coup during a "classic matchup in an ultra-modern setting"


The local TV ratings will go through the roof, too. Photos: Ed Bark

Lose the last one in the old stadium, lose the first one in Jerry's biggest excess story.

But it still looked pretty promising for the Cowboys when NBC splashed the above graphic on-screen during the third quarter of Sunday Night Football.

Dallas still trailed the New York Giants 20-17 but would soon take a 24-20 lead on QB Tony Romo's touchdown run. So the camera caught owner Jerry Jones flashing thumbs-up to all those paying customers before standing and applauding their record-busting effort.

Surely everything would turn out OK in the end. But after a bucking bronco of a game -- and a sterling effort by NBC's announcing team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth-- New York branded the Cowboys with a 33-31 loss on a last-second field goal.

The Peacock got what it wanted, a "classic matchup in an ultra-modern setting," as Bob Costas put it before NBC put Cowboys Stadium in the company of the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon and other wonders of the world.

Costas also supplied the postscript -- "What does it feel like to silence 100,000-plus?" -- before turning it over to Andrea Kremer's interview with winning Giants QB Eli Manning.

NBC's coverage was first-rate throughout, giving Jones and his team a showcase with all the trimmings. But the Cowboys' owner couldn't buy a win -- or for that matter, a break. The ball twice bounced in mysterious ways -- into the waiting hands of Giants' players. Not that Romo won't be taking most of the hits Monday for throwing three interceptions.

In the end, well-meaning but comical Wade Phillips jumped up and down before watching that dadburned 37-yard field goal beat him at the buzzer. NBC caught his final frustration in closeup (see below) while a fleeting companion shot showed Jones dying at least 105,121 deaths.


Henderson returns to D-FW -- different time, different station and from afar

Megan Henderson in KTLA website picture

D-FW viewers longing for Megan Henderson's return will be getting their wish -- from a distance, though.

Henderson, who left Fox4's Good Day at the end of the February "sweeps," will be doing daily entertainment segments on Dallas-based The 33''s 5:30 p.m. weekday newscasts, which launch on Monday, Sept. 21st.

Henderson is now co-anchoring the early morning newscasts at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. Both stations are owned by Tribune Broadcasting, giving The 33 a synergistic relationship with KTLA and Henderson, who will report on various Hollywood goings-on.

In an odd twist, Henderson's Good Day replacement, Lauren Przybyl, will make her Fox4 debut on the same day Henderson is scheduled to start reporting on The 33.

Today goes to the Matt for full-blown celebration of Jerry's Palace


Lauer and Jones are beamed up on giant video screen. Photos: Ed Bark

Jerry Jones got everything he wanted Friday -- a virtual informercial for his new Cowboys palace on the nation's No. 1-rated network morning program.

NBC's Today sent Matt Lauer and Al Roker to Arlington while Meredith Vieira remained in Manhattan to jab, "Talk about a big head, Lauer" when his noggin appeared on Jones' gargantuan high-definition video screen.

Lauer couldn't get over the place.

"Trust me, Meredith," he said for openers, "this place puts the Big in the Big D. This stadium is an engineering marvel."

Seldom was heard a discouraging word. Actually, amend that to "never." Lauer did, however, summon the temerity to ask Jones about building a $1.12 billion stadium during a recession while they rode in a cart along the field of play.

But Jones flicked that one off as though Lauer were a fly on one of his stadium's $60 pizzas ($90 if you're in a luxury suite).

"We all are sensitive to the times that we're in," Jones said. But the best way to beat back a recession is to "sell our way out of it," he proclaimed.

Not that Lauer needed to be sold.

During a videotaped tour of the stadium with former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith, he got to push a button and reach for the sky.

"How cool is that?" Lauer marveled. "I'm opening the roof at Cowboys stadium."

Smith said that anyone who can't get fired up over playing in a place like this shouldn't be on the field. Unmentioned was Smith's much-publicized prediction that the Cowboys will go 7-9 this season.

Lauer and Roker kept gushing over the size of Jerry's showplace. The video screen alone weighs as much as a 747 jet, Lauer noted. And the Cowboys shower room "is as big as my whole apartment in New York," he added.

Lauer even visited one of the men's restrooms in a full-out effort to display all of the "first-class amenities."

"One thousand 700 toilets," he enthused. "No waiting."

Former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager made her debut as Today's newest correspondent with a taped piece on 11-year-old Dalton Sherman, whose motivational speaking has made him a youtube sensation and landed him on both the Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres shows.

Sherman said he wants to be a news anchor someday, or "maybe president." On cue, he warned at story's end: "Watch out, Matt Lauer, because I might be taking your job."

Lauer -- "This is some place, folks" -- was no threat to Mike Wallace Friday. No one expected an inquisition, but nary a word was said about the costs of attending a game or even parking your car. On the contrary, Lauer instead noted, "They only pay $29 dollars for a standing room only seat."

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders also made an appearance, of course, after Lauer proclaimed them "America's sweethearts, cheering on America's Team."

That's bulletin board material for any members of the New York Giants who might have been watching -- and perhaps also throwing up. Lauer and Roker, who both live and work in New York, also received Cowboys jerseys with their names on back. They loved the stadium cuisine, too, including the mac 'n' cheese with truffles proudly displayed by one of Jerry's chefs.

"Are the prices crazy, or is it kind of within reason?" Lauer dared to ask.

"The quality makes the price," the chef said without being pressed any further.

Jones and the Cowboys couldn't have asked for any more deference -- even from Mickey Spagnola. Most people in the D-FW viewing area probably ate it up. Wonder about the rest of the country, though.

Here are more scenes from the scene -- as captured off a television screen.


NBC5's Meredith Land requested and received a hug from Lauer.


Live from the souvenir shop: That Roker's quite a joker.


Jenna Bush Hager filed her first report as Today correspondent.


You can't make this stuff up: Lauer's urinal analysis.


An interlude with "America's Sweethearts," as Lauer called them.


As seen on TV: Lauer outside the stadium with cheering section.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 17) -- Leno bumped off by Mentalist repeat

NBC and The Jay Leno Show perhaps got a taste of what's to come next week when a rerun of CBS' The Mentalist took the 9 p.m. hour.

It was close, though. And Leno still prevailed among advertiser-preferred 18-to-49 and 25-to-54-year-olds.

In D-FW's total viewer Nielsens, Mentalist had 212,576 and Leno 199,290, marking the comic's first defeat in four outings. But Leno trounced Mentalist in the 18-to-49 measurement, with 106,960 viewers to Mentalist's 58,342. Leno had a likewise large margin with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS will attack Leno with a full frontal assault next week, when new episodes of its popular crime series fill the 9 p.m. hour.

NBC also had new episodes of four comedy series Thursday, but none of them fared very well. The Peacock's premiere of Community had the largest overall audience, drawing 126,217 total viewers at 8:30 p.m. But that was good for only a third-place tie with ABC's Grey's Anatomy repeat. A rerun of CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation led the way with 232,505 viewers from 8 to 9 p.m., followed by Fox's Season 2 premiere of Fringe (172,718 viewers).

Community moved up to the second spot among 18-to-49-year-olds, outdrawing Fringe.

NBC's season premieres of Saturday Night Live Thursday and Parks and Recreation ran fifth in total viewers from 7 to 8 p.m. The season's first new episode of The Office improved a bit to fourth place. Office had the best showing with 18-to-49-year-olds, tying the first half-hour of Fringe for second place.

The season premiere of Fox's Bones commanded the 7 p.m. hour in total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds, with the launch of CBS' Survivor: Samoa taking second in both measurements. Bones had more total viewers -- 232,505 -- than Leno.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 swept the 10 p.m. Nielsens in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. It did so despite receiving the night's weakest lead-in audience from ABC's Private Practice repeat.

WFAA8 also had uncommon good news at 6 a.m., where it nipped runnerup Fox4 in total viewers. But Fox4 had the edge with 25-to-54-year-olds, with NBC5 sliding to third in both measurements and barely outdrawing CBS11 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Thursday's early evening golds were split between early morning's top dogs. WFAA8 won at 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers while Fox4 took the top spots among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Good Day viewers get first taste of Przybyl

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Good Day's new co-anchor arrived on tape Wednesday. Photos: Ed Bark

Local television's least-kept secret, incoming Good Day co-anchor Lauren Przybyl (PRIZ-BULL), made her Fox4 debut Wednesday morning via a trio of videotaped segments.

It put an official end to the Dallas-based station's "What's a Przybyl?" campaign, in which incumbent anchor Tim Ryan served as front man. Readers of unclebarky.com have known the answer since late July, but Fox4 had declined to confirm Pryzbyl's hiring from WHDH-TV in Boston. Her official start date on Good Day is Monday, Sept. 21st.

Ryan further primed the pump Wednesday by introducing three video snippets of the North Texas native and Baylor University grad. In the first one, which aired at 6:26 a.m., she revealed "the most valuable lesson that she has learned and I should learn," Ryan said.

Przybyl (typos probably are inevitable) said she's learned from experience to "be nice to people. You never know when you'll run into them again."

Reporters interview people on some of the best and worst days of their lives, she said. "You've gotta be friendly. And you've got to put on a happy face. And more importantly, you have to be understanding and respectful at the same time."

Przybyl later talked about covering the Rattlesnake Roundup as a rookie reporter in Abilene and of getting to know recurring Good Day guest Pat Green during the time the country singer served beer at George's bar in Waco while she imbibed as a Baylor student.

Good Day currently is locked in a seesaw battle for first place with NBC5's 6 a.m. waker-upper. The Peacock won Tuesday's ratings race, but Fox4 was on top of the Monday Nielsens. Pryzbyl is replacing Megan Henderson, who left Good Day at the end of the February ratings "sweeps" to join KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

We leave you with a picture of Ryan and temporary Good Day co-anchor Dan Godwin high-kicking with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes at the end of Wednesday's show. Merry Christmas.


Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Sept. 15) -- big dropoff for Jay, but he's still the 9 p.m. winner

Night 2 of NBC's The Jay Leno Show did roughly half the business of Monday's Kanye West-fueled premiere.

Still, that was easily good enough to vanquish competing 9 p.m. programming in both total viewers and advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Tuesday's Leno, following a two-hour season opener of NBC's The Biggest Loser, averaged 239,148 viewers in D-FW, a big drop from the 471,653 for opening night.

The final hour of CBS' Big Brother 11 ran second with 126,217 viewers, followed by a reprise of Barbara Walters' interview with the late Patrick Swayze (119,574 viewers) and Fox4's 9 p.m. local newscast (112,931 viewers).

Loser drew 179,361 viewers from 7 to 9 p.m., winning the second hour but losing the first to CBS' NCIS repeat.

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, the faltering Texas Rangers' second dismal loss to the last-place Oakland A's gave WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen no further reason to make what now would be a shocking in-person appearance at the ballpark. Your friendly content provider witnessed the 6-1 stinker in person while 86,359 watched the game on FSS.

In local news derby results, WFAA8 bucked NBC5's lead-in advantage from Leno to win at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 reclaimed first place at 6 a.m. with twin wins after Fox4 ruled Monday's Nielsens.

Fox4 rebounded with twin wins at 5 p.m. and also had the 6 p.m. gold among 25-to-54-year-olds. NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first place at 6 p.m. in total viewers.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Sept. 14) -- it's Leno in a landslide

Bolstered by Kanye West's one-night act of contrition, NBC's premiere of The Jay Leno Show punched out the competition Monday night.

Averaging a whopping 471,653 D-FW viewers and peaking at 518,154 during West's appearance in the closing 15 minutes, Leno had nearly three times the audience of CBS' runnerup CSI: Miami rerun (159,432 viewers in the 9 p.m. hour).

A very nice-sized 248,895 of Leno's viewers were in the 25-to-54 age range, the target demographic for news programming. NBC5's followup 10 p.m. local newscast kept 166,942 of 'em to easily best second place WFAA8, which had 121,412 viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic.

The Peacock also coasted to a 10 p.m. win in total viewers, drawing 325,507 in again besting WFAA8 (239,148 viewers after a comparatively skimpy lead-in from the Dreamgirls movie on ABC).

It's early, of course, and Leno will have to go against first-run programming next week, when the fall season officially starts. Still, these are boffo returns, with NBC also enjoying a runaway win among 18-to-49-year-olds, the favored audience for entertainment programming.

NBC's two-hour America's Got Talent set the table by commanding the 7 to 9 p.m. slot with 318,864 total viewers.

Interestingly, though, CBS' Late Show with David Letterman edged Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show in total viewers despite a sizable lead-in disadvantage. One of the Peacock's bigger fears this season is that viewers will watch Leno at O'Brien's expense. Nationally, Dave has beaten Conan in total viewers for nine straight weeks, but still trails him among 18-to-49-year-olds.

Earlier Monday, Oprah Winfrey's interview with Whitney Houston had 119,574 total viewers in the 4 p.m. hour. That was good enough to edge NBC5's First At Four local newscast and Fox4's double dose of Judge Judy. WFAA8's struggling 5 p.m. newscast then responded with wins in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds.

In other local news derby results, Fox4 continued its recent comeback at 6 a.m. by beating arch rival NBC5 across the board. The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Fox4's Good Day also bested the three network morning shows in both measurements.

Fox4 likewise had good news at 6 p.m., where it ran the table. The station has been especially strong in recent weeks among 25-to-54-year-olds, where it's now clearly the station to beat.

How funny: NBC5's news teases a match for the intended comedy in Jay Leno Show


NBC5's Brian Curtis shills for featured flasher story. Photos: Ed Bark

The funniest comedy during The Jay Leno Show may be the nightly promotions for NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts.

On Monday's premiere, co-anchor Brian Curtis took the wheel for a second time after Leno warned late in the show, "Hey, take a look at what's happening on your late local news!"

Uh-oh. This was Curtis' cue to miraculously maintain a straight face while standing coatless in the station's Fort Worth control room.

"Coming up after Leno, a naked man with a paper bag over his head," he began. "It might sound funny to some. But it's not to the woman who found him in her backyard. Hear what he left for her."

Curtis also flogged a story on the dangers of plastic packaging, but was cut short by a network promo after saying, "Tonight we uncover . . ."

They're apparently saving the really good stuff -- "Boy Trapped In Refrigerator Eats Own Foot" -- until later in the week. But the old flasher-with-a-sack-on-his-head gambit meshed nicely with Leno's closing "Headlines" emission -- "Q & A with local attorney Dick Talkin."

Leno then thanked his guests before re-warning viewers, "Your local news starting right now." And it did -- within a finger snap.

After a few minutes of foreplay, Curtis stationed himself in front of a big "Flasher" graphic and threw it to reporter Ellen Goldberg, standing live in the dark in Lake Highlands.


Goldberg is a generally capable reporter, but had her marching orders. So she dutifully brandished a brown paper sack to illustrate the still at large culprit's wardrobe. He allegedly jumped a fence and then flashed a woman through her french doors, Goldberg related. The 27-year-old "victim" talked to Goldberg via cell phone, telling the intrepid reporter that this may have been "nothing more than high school hijinks."

Curtis had promised viewers they'd learn what he "left for her." But Goldberg's account made no mention at all of this. And who are we to speculate?

Goldberg did, however, underscore the gravity of the situation by noting that a Lake Highlands woman was "not amused" by any of this. Unfortunately, she said this within a split second after that same woman was shown laughing while Goldberg talked to her.

Veteran Night Ranger Scott Gordon later chimed in with his urgent story on dangerous clamshell plastic packaging, said to cause 6,000 injuries a year. Some people call it "rage wrap," he noted. Larry David, for one, works himself into a frenzy over it in an early episode of this season's Curb Your Enthusiasm, returning to HBO on Sunday, Sept. 20th.

David, who plays himself, isn't yet running around naked with a paper sack over his head. But if he wants material for future episodes, NBC5's news teases seem like a great place to start. Leno might want to recycle them, too. He needs all the comedy gold he can get.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 11-13) -- Cowboys look like a million in season opener on Fox

The Dallas Cowboys and Fox4 kicked off the new season with a mega-audience that surpassed last year's crazy opener against Philadelphia.

Dallas' 34-21 win at Tampa Bay averaged a gargantuan 1,042,951 D-FW viewers, outscoring the Cowboys' insanely entertaining 41-37 victory over the Eagles in last September's curtain-raiser at the old Texas Stadium. That game, showcased on Monday Night Football, drew a combined 930,399 viewers locally on ESPN and TXA21, which had the area non-cable rights.

Cowboys-Bucs, which ended at 3:14 p.m. Sunday, peaked at 1,335,243 viewers in the game's closing minutes. The followup Giants-Redskins game, also on Fox4, then averaged a hefty 690,872 D-FW viewers in also squashing all competing programming.

Then came the mighty Packers last-minute win over the hated Bears on NBC's Sunday Night Football. Ending at 10:45 p.m. with a 21-15 Green Bay win, the game averaged 438,438 viewers while also wiping out the first 15 minutes of Cowboys-heavy, 10:30 p.m. local sports specials on WFAA8 (285,649 viewers) and CBS11 (106,288 viewers). Fox4's earlier starting 10 p.m. Sunday sports special managed 86,359 viewers.

The playoff-contending Texas Rangers' rain-delayed doubleheader against Seattle, which began around 5 p.m. and stretched to 10:32 p.m. on Fox Sports Southwest, peaked with 119,574 viewers between 8:30 and 8:45 p.m.

Sunday's big loser in the pro football Nielsens, the Jets-Texans game opposite Cowboys-Bucs, drew just 33,215 viewers on CBS11.

In the college football carousel, Saturday's big prime-time matchup between Southern Cal and Ohio State led the way with an average of 279,006 viewers on ESPN. An afternoon matchup between Texas and Wyoming managed 73,073 viewers on Versus while the University of North Texas' overtime loss to visiting Ohio drew 33,215 viewers in prime-time on TXA21.

In Friday's local news derby results, NBC5 nipped WFAA8 at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. In each case the margins were less than one-tenth of a rating point, so essentially they tied.

Fox4 edged NBC5 in both measurements at 6 a.m. and also ran the table at 5 and 6 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 had the total viewer wins at both early evening newscast hours.

"Everyone's a memory"

Three blasts from WFAA8's not-so-distant past -- anchors Jeff Brady and Macie Jepson and "Why Guy" Mike Castellucci -- are featured in this clip from a 5 p.m. newscast.

Fittingly, Brady says, "Everyone's a memory," at the end of the segment. He's referring to the promotional trinkets featured in a "Why Guy" feature. But otherwise he seems to have a crystal ball.

Anyone miss these three at least just a little? Castellucci's now at KUSI-TV in San Diego, Brady's running a Dallas-based PR firm and this is the last I've heard from Jepson.

Here they are together again, with weathercaster Pete Delkus dropping in at the end. He's still there.

This just in: Przybyl spelled backwards is Lybyzrp


Good Day's Tim Ryan primes pump for newbie. Photo: Ed Bark

Fox4's hiring of Dallas native Lauren Przybyl as Good Day's new co-anchor, broken by unclebarky.com in late July, is yet to be announced publicly by the station.

But they've inevitably started playing the name game with her in a new spot in which incumbent anchor Tim Ryan asks various locals, "What's a Przybyl?"

Phonetically it's PRIZ-BULL. Or at least that's the way Ryan's rollin' with it. "I've never heard that word before," an elderly woman tells him.

The spot ends with an announcer proclaiming, "Przybyl -- coming Sept. 21st to Good Day." Some viewers might still think that's a new animal mascot or in-house band. But at some point, Fox4 will reveal all to anyone who's still puzzled.

Megan Henderson, now with KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, left Good Day at the end of the February "sweeps" ratings period. Various Fox4 staffers have filled in for nearly the past seven months, principally Krystle Gutierrez.

Przybyl arrives at Fox4 from NBC affiliate WHDH-TV in Boston, where she'd been an anchor-reporter for the past five years. The Baylor University graduate also worked at the Belo-owned TXCN cable network in Dallas, and stations in Waco and Abilene.

Fox4 lately has regained some momentum in the 6 a.m. local news wars, battling NBC5 for the top spot. The Peacock remains the defending champ after winning the last major ratings period, the May "sweeps," in both total viewers and advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds.

Also of note in early morning TV -- Alexa Conomos, traffic reporter for WFAA8's Daybreak, will return to the show Friday, Sept. 11th, after a 12-week maternity leave. She now has two children, Alexandros Luka, 2, and baby Alexei Britton.

Doin' what they think they've gotta do -- The successes or failures of The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Jay Leno Show are crucial to the ratings fates of WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscast and NBC5's 10 p.m. edition.

So it's hardly surprising -- although not terribly newsworthy -- that anchors for the stations would be sent out of town to interview Winfrey and Leno.

WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos went to Chicago for her sit-down with Winfrey. It aired during Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

NBC5 anchor Brian Curtis went to L.A. to interview Leno. It aired during Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

The stakes are higher for the Peacock, because The Jay Leno Show (premiering Sept. 14th) will be the Monday-Friday lead-in for NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts. It may be highly cost-efficient for the parent company, but could be a lead-in dead weight on many a night opposite CBS' still very potent crime series. They include CSI: Miami, CSI: NY and The Mentalist, which has been moved to Thursdays at 9 p.m. as part of a full-blown effort to torpedo Leno.

WFAA8's struggling 5 p.m. newscasts similarly rely heavily on Oprah's lead-in performance. Reruns of her show have been a bust all summer, and even the new ones aren't what they used to be. Once dominant at 4 p.m., the show now regularly runs second to Fox4's double dose of Judge Judy. And for better or worse, WFAA8 is contractually stuck with Oprah for at least two more seasons.

That's why interviews with Leno and Winfrey found their way into their respective stations' most-watched newscasts. And why NBC5 anchor Jane McGarry ordered, "Be there" (for Leno) after Curtis had done his deed.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Sept. 9) -- Obama health care speech tangles with season launch of Fox's Dance

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President Obama's speech to Congress on health care reform drew a "You lie!" retort from South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson. NBCdfw.com later headlined it, "Rude Dude's Obama Interlude." Oh how far we've evolved since learning to walk upright. Getty Images

It turned out to be quite a night in TV land.

President Obama's 7 p.m. speech to Congress on health care reform went opposite the fall season premiere of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance while the official Republican response battled the opening minutes of Fox's heavily promotedGlee.

The unofficial GOP response came during the speech itself, when Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina bellowed, "You lie!" after Obama said that his bill does not include benefits for illegal immigrants. What a country.

Overall, the speech and two Republican responses stretched to 8:11 p.m., giving Glee a head start on a new results edition of NBC's summertime juggernaut, America's Got Talent. Here's how it played out in the D-FW Nielsen ratings.

So You Think You Can Dance had 146,146 total viewers, outdrawing the audience for any single network covering the president's speech. Dance also won from 7 to 8 p.m. among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Here's the total viewers count -- network by network -- for Obama's speech:

NBC -- 139,503
ABC -- 132,860
Fox News Channel -- 106,288
CBS -- 79,716
CNN -- 59,787
MSNBC -- 33,215
PBS -- 13,286

The 8 to 8:11 p.m. runover mostly was devoted to brief network analysis and the official Republican response from Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana. Nielsen measures in 15-minute increments, and in that time frame Glee had 152,789 total viewers to run third behind NBC and ABC.

Glee averaged 119,574 viewers overall, beating only a repeat of ABC's Wipeout among the Big Four broadcast networks. It fared the same with 18-to-49-year-olds.

In local news derby results, only Fox4 and NBC5 started at the appointed 10 p.m. hour, with Fox4 edging the Peacock in total viewers and winning by a comfy margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 also prospered at 6 a.m., tying NBC5 for the lead in total viewers while winning by a relatively wide margin with 25-to-54-year-olds.

The evening news golds were split. WFAA8 won at both 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers but Fox4 ran the table at those hours in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Hansen-style: blow off Texas Rangers as long as possible (updated to include rebuttal by Hansen in "Comments" section)

page5_blog_entry146_2 Dallas-Cowboys-logo

WFAA8's Dale Hansen always dresses his best for the Cowboys.

No one says it more than WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen. In fact it's been his mantra in recent weeks. Dallas Cowboys pre-season games are meaningless, worthless and probably shouldn't be played at all.

But talk is cheap, as Hansen again proved during Friday's 10 p.m. newscast.

The Cowboys had just ended their pre-season via a bumble-filled, truly meaningless game against Minnesota, with both teams resting their first-stringers throughout.

On the same night, the gutty, injury-riddled Texas Rangers won a genuinely meaningful game at Baltimore, moving within two games of Boston in the hot chase for a post-season wild card spot. It continues to be a helluva story.

Hansen mostly couldn't be bothered -- with baseball, of course.

"Just for you, I'll get to the Rangers eventually," he told anchor Gloria Campos.

"Way at the bottom of the rundown," she noted

Hansen then led his sportscast with highlights from the Cowboys-Vikings game after noting, "There was a lot of bad football tonight."

"And it's finally over!" he later rejoiced. "The games start counting next week."

He next went to a selection of high school football highlights, followed by some national and local college football stuff. The Rangers were his caboose, prompting Campos to note, "You're leaving the good news 'til the end."

"Just for you," Hansen told her, saying in so many words that the Rangers were fortunate to be included at all. "It's a chance to be a good September," he added.

On Tuesday's 10 p.m. newscast, Hansen emphatically said the Rangers wouldn't make it to the post-season, but at least were still trying hard on that particular night by sweeping a doubleheader from Toronto. Gee, thanks.

The Rangers and baseball in general rank somewhere below beach volleyball in Hansen's sports pecking order. OK, that's an exaggeration, although not much of a one.

Here's the deal, though. If Cowboys' pre-season games count for nothing -- as Hansen keeps preaching -- then why not dump them toward the middle or end of his sports segment on a night when the Rangers' fourth consecutive win in fact counted for a lot? Instead, Hansen treats coverage of the team's against-all-odds stretch drive as a nuisance -- or a sop to Campos. It's not laughable anymore. In fact it's kind of contemptible on his part.

Hansen's basic retort -- and I've heard it many times -- is that this is a football town, period. And that he must be doing something right because WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscasts are still No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings. As are his extended Sunday night sports specials.

That held true during the last major ratings period -- the May "sweeps." So Hansen still has both of those legs to stand on, even though it's been a very wobbly summer for WFAA8's Nielsen numbers.

Not for the Rangers, though. Their TV ratings are significantly up and this is promising to be the team's best summer in a decade, with meaningful games in abundance down the stretch.

It'd be nice if Hansen symbolically would take notice by taking himself out to the ballpark when the Rangers return home this Friday. Maybe he could even wear a Hawaiian shirt -- his showy ritual at Cowboys' training camp -- as a peace offering of sorts. At least it would show he's paying attention for once.

Meanwhile, go Rangers -- whether Hansen gives a crap or not.

Reporter Katherine Blake opting out at CBS11

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CBS11's Katherine Blake and wedding pic from Facebook page.

Katherine Blake, a member of D-FW-based CBS11's late night reporting team, is leaving the station to spend more time with her new husband and family.

She publicized her plans Thursday night on her Facebook page. The station later said her last day will be Sept. 18th.

Blake joined CBS11 in August 2007 from Denver's KCNC-TV. She earlier worked for KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV, both based in Los Angeles.

CW 33 news director addresses rumored romance between newly hired sports reporter and Cowboys QB Tony Romo

48062308 romo

Candice Crawford, HS sports reporter for The 33, and Tony Romo.

Is she or isn't she? Even her news director still doesn't know for sure.

Rampant gossip site postings, later picked up unsubstantiated by numerous other websites, say that Candice Crawford, who covers high school sports for Dallas-based CW33 (KDAF-TV), lately has been dating Dallas Cowboys QB/horndog Tony Romo. They may or may not have hooked up during her ongoing stint with the weekly Cowboys Special Edition, which airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. on rival CBS11 and is produced by the team.

David Duitch, who hired the former Miss Missouri USA in July, said Wednesday that he hasn't asked Crawford, 22, about any such relationship. Nor has she told him anything.

"Candice's personal life is her own business, and I don't ask her who she dates," Duitch said in his first comments on the matter. "If I learn of any conflict of interest, it would be addressed."

Crawford was out of the office on both jobs Wednesday, Duitch said. She worked for Special Edition in the morning and then headed immediately for her high school assignment for CW33. She so far hasn't returned a phone call asking for comment.

Duitch, who became CW33's news director last summer, said Crawford told him of her work for Special Edition before the station hired her. Being on the Cowboys payroll is nothing new in local TV sports. CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg currently is the team's approved radio analyst, teaming with Brad Sham. Before that it was WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen.

"I informed Candice she would not be allowed to cover the Dallas Cowboys for us," he said. "I know I can depend on Candice to conduct herself as the professional she is."

She might be a harried professional of late. Google's national search trend site had her No. 1 earlier Wednesday before Crawford slipped to No. 7 by mid-afternoon. Could her ability to focus on high school sports coverage via cw33gameday.com be compromised by packs of slobbering paparazzi?

"I know she's covering the high school football games, and people know where she's going to be each week," Duitch said. "I really have only seen Candice act in a very professional way since she joined our staff. And I have every expectation that she would continue to act that way."

Romo, for his part, seems to be ever on the prowl, lately for blondes. The 29-year-old's recent breakup with Jessica Simpson came after a relationship with former American Idol champ Carrie Underwood.

Before he became the Cowboys' first string quarterback, Romo attempted to go through an intermediary to date Mesquite model Shannon Hughes, who placed second in NBC's 2005 "reality" series search for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. But she was already engaged (scroll to the bottom of this unclebarky.com story for more details on that misfire).

CW 33's Crawford recently interviewed a pair of Allen High School senior quarterbacks for one of her reports. Backup Tucker Carter confided, "I wear the same boxers every game day."

"Do you wash them?" Crawford inquired.

He assured her he does.

Eeeeeee! reptile dysfunction

News anchors and talk show hosts regularly get themselves into these predicaments. A designated reptile handler arrives onstage and hilarity/fear ensue. So we start off September by presenting this three-way faceoff among:

A. Former NBC5 anchor Michael Scott and a leapin' gecko. Warning: this is the gold standard and quite possibly unbeatable in the annals of impromptu responses to unexpected reptilian developments. Still high-larious seven years later.

B. TXA21 anchor Nerissa Knight's petrified response last February to a visiting rattler. The station's sportswoman, Gina Miller, then calmly steps in and seems right at home.

C. An excerpt from Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien's jittery reaction last week to a snake and trainer Nigel Marvin, who'd already been bloodied below the right ear by a previous creature.

Who's best of show? Let the scales of justice prevail.