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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Dec. 28-30)

Could the Cowboys' play-dead effort against Washington on one network exceed audiences for Saturday's three-network telecast of the drama-rich Patriots-Giants matchup?

In D-FW at least, that's still a rhetorical question.

Fox's presentation of the Redskins' 27-6 win averaged 750,165 total homes Sunday. New England-New York drew 221,078 homes on CBS, 217,143 on NBC and another 82,810 on cable's NFL network. Push-button calculator technology says that's a grand total of 521,031 homes. And that's a surprisingly big blowout.

With all 16 regular season Cowboys games in the books, unclebarky.com can now give you a complete rundown of the most- and least-watched. Note that these numbers all reflect the games' actual running times, with each rating point in D-FW equaling 24,356 homes, according to Nielsen Media Research. Here's the top-to-bottom list:

Cowboys-Packers (Nov. 29 on MY27/NFL Network) -- 1,088,901 homes
Cowboy-Patriots (Oct. 14 on CBS) -- 884,123 homes
Cowboys-Bills (Oct. 8 on TXA21/ESPN) -- 856,896 homes
Cowboys-Bears (Sept. 23 on NBC) -- 854,896 homes
Cowboys-Vikings (Oct. 21 on Fox) -- 852,460 homes
Cowboys-Eagles (Nov. 4 on NBC) -- 832,569 homes
Cowboys-Eagles (Dec. 16 on Fox) -- 830,540 homes
Cowboys-Giants -- Nov. 11 on Fox) -- 819,376 homes
Cowboys-Giants (Sept. 9 on NBC) -- 803,748 homes
Cowboys-Redskins (Nov. 18 on Fox) -- 801,312 homes
Cowboys-Lions (Dec. 9 on Fox) -- 799,080 homes
Cowboys-Panthers (Dec. 22 on MY27/NFL Network) -- 780,001 homes
Cowboys-Redskins (Dec. 30 on Fox) -- 750,165 homes
Cowboys-Rams (Sept. 30 on Fox) -- 650,305 homes
Cowboys-Dolphins -- Sept. 16 on Fox) -- 625,949 homes
Cowboys-Jets (Thanksgiving Day on CBS) -- 616,207 homes

In Friday's local news derby, Belo8 was tops in total homes at 10 p.m. and tied for the lead with NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 notched two more wins at 6 a.m. while NBC5 made a pair of rare trips to the winners' circle at 5 p.m. Belo8 took the 6 p.m. battles in both total homes and in the 25-to-54 demo.

Roach clip

Most of America's consultant-goosed local TV news operations have gone the filthy, rotten restaurant route in years past or present. Here's a ham-handed promo for a vintage NBC5 stomach-turner. Note the big finish.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (holiday roundup, Dec. 21-26)

The Cowboys' home field playoff clincher against Carolina managed respectably big numbers Saturday night despite airing in the heart of the Christmas shopping/partying season.

A clear majority of D-FW homes -- 555,926 -- chose MY27's simulcast of the NFL Network's coverage. Add another 224,075 tuned to the league's official cable channel and ring up 780,001 total homes. That gives Cowboys-Panthers the No. 12 spot on the season's 15-game list, ranking a bit behind the Dec. 9th miracle win in Detroit (799,080 homes).

On Sunday afternoon, 353,162 homes savored the Bears' trampling of the Packers on Fox, ending Green Bay's hopes of freezing out Dallas in a Lambeau Field NFC championship game. The late afternoon CBS game between the still unbeaten Patriots and hapless Miami drew 284,965 homes while NBC's Sunday Night Football matchup -- Washington-Minnesota -- ran a hair behind with 282,530 homes.

Sunday's conclusion of ABC's big money game show Duel had just 85,246 homes in its corner. For the record, nurse Ashlee Register claimed a winner-takes-all $1.795 million jackpot.

NBC's Christmas Eve reprise of It's A Wonderful Life had elf-size ratings. Its 75,504 homes put it third behind a quintet of CBS repeats and ABC's telecast of the feature film Madagascar.

Local newscast ratings were of little note, with most stations "throwing out" all of their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day efforts. In other words, they aren't officially counted by Nielsen.

On the day after Christmas, NBC5 won at 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 again had twin wins at 6 a.m. while also easily whipping the three network morning shows from 7 to 9 a.m.

Belo8 ran first in both ratings measurements at 6 p.m. NBC5 had a win in total homes at 5 p.m. and tied Belo8 for the top spot with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Hello, I must be going

Many have come and lots have left. Numerous D-FW news reporters and anchors exited their stations in 2007, some not by choice. Here's an alphabetical roundup, including a selection of then and now pictures. Please fill in the blanks of any on-air people I may have missed.

Natasha Curry -- From early morning personality at Fox4 to early morning personality at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Jody Dean -- From co-anchor of late afternoon newscasts at CBS11 to devote full energies to KLUV (98.7 FM), where he's the featured morning drive personality.

Sarah Dodd -- From reporter/anchor at CBS11 to head of Dallas-based consulting business. Plans to enter law school in the fall.

Troy Dungan -- Semi-retired in July as longtime weathercaster at Belo8. Still makes occasional on-air appearances, particularly during annual Santa's Helpers toy drive.

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Natasha Curry at Fox4 and with KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Raquel Eatmon -- From reporter at CBS11 to WPMI-TV in Mobile, Alabama, where she then resigned after a short stay.

Chris Heinbaugh -- From Belo8 reporter to chief of staff for Dallas mayor Tom Leppert.

Eileen Gonzales -- Contract not renewed as reporter at CBS11. Current employment unknown.

Shannon Hori -- From co-anchor of CBS11's early morning show to 6 and 11 p.m. newscast anchor at WFOR-TV in Miami.

Jackie Hyland -- From co-anchor of Belo8's Daybreak to private life with her family in New York.

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Shannon Hori in her CBS11 days and at WFOR-TV in Miami.

Tiani Jones -- From CBS11 reporter to reporter and fill-in anchor at WKRN-TV in Nashville. But the station's web site currently isn't listing her as either.

Bert Lozano -- From Belo8 reporter to Weber Shandwick public relations firm, which has an office in Dallas.

David Quinlan -- From NBC5 reporter to the same position at KIRO-TV in Seattle.

John Pronk -- From longtime teller of Texas tales at Belo8 to private life at the moment.

Susan Risdon -- From NBC5 nightbeat reporter to president of Austin-based Red Media Group.

Dan Ronan -- Recently dropped as Belo8 reporter. Stay tuned.

Casey Stegall -- From Fox4 early morning reporter to L.A.-based correspondent for Fox News Channel.

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Casey Stegall in his Good Day days and at Fox News Channel.

Mary Stewart -- From CBS11 reporter to private life at the moment.

Todd D. Wallace -- From weekend anchor at NBC5 to featured weeknight anchor at WRTV-TV in Indianapolis.

Nigel Wheeler -- From NBC5 reporter to touring as lead singer with his band, Egress.

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As perimeter player at NBC5 and leading man at WRTV-TV in Indy.

Carol Wang -- From reporter and fill-in anchor at NBC5 to main anchor at KMTV-TV in Omaha, Neb.

Chris Yates -- From reporter and weekend/substitute sports anchor at Fox4 to Highland Park-based Continental Adjustors.

2007's Top 10 developments in D-FW television

It's been quite a year in North Texas TV, and unclebarky.com has strived to keep you on top of it all. From this perspective, here's a countdown of 2007's most notable happenings.

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10. Hack attack -- Weatherman David Finfrock's persistent on-air coughing fits prompted NBC5 to lead off the February "sweeps" with a heavily promoted story on what ails him. Basically, it's allergies. The gambit briefly put the Peacock in first place at 10 p.m. in its battle to somehow keep Belo8 at bay. But its newscasts soon would need a flu shot.

9. Strait-laced corp. loosens up with court jester -- Belo's image as a conservative, safety-first media company got a jolt with the hiring of "Ticket" bad boy Gordon Keith. His weekly late night talk show premiered in February on Ch. 52 (with which Belo has an operating agreement) before moving to the Ch. 8 mothership in the fall. Keith then ascended to further heights in December as the inaugural guest on the monthly Uncle Barky Show. Next up: Tracy Rowlett on Jan. 19th. Further details to come.

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8. Mavs man hits ABC's hardwoods -- Still recovering from hip replacement surgery, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban threw himself into the fifth edition of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. In tandem with lush partner Kym Johnson, he made the hit show's Final 8 after outlasting fellow celebrity competitors Josie Maran, Albert Reed, Wayne Newton and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. His eviction came just in time for basketball season. Nice timing.

7. Early morning scramble -- CBS11 tried to arouse its last place waker-upper by hiring former Belo8 morning man Scott Sams, who joined Shannon Hori in April. Hori then left in July for Miami, and was replaced by the station's Ginger Allen. Over at Belo8's Daybreak, Jackie Hyland departed at the end of the November sweeps to be with her family in New York. Hyland's successor, Texas native Cynthia Izaguirre, will join incumbent Justin Farmer in early January after becoming a star anchor in Albuquerque, NM. Through it all, Fox4 remains on top with its Good Day combo of Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson.


6. Stepping down, staying on -- D-FW anchor dean Tracy Rowlett gave up CBS11's 10 p.m. newscasts on March 2nd, with Doug Dunbar stepping in to join holdover Karen Borta. Rowlett, whose North Texas news career began in the mid-1970s with Belo8, also planned to retire in July 2008. But he recently re-upped for another two years at CBS11, where he'll co-anchor 5 p.m. newscasts, contribute weekly Sunday night "Perspectives" pieces and serve as a special projects coordinator.

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5. Throwing caution to the winds -- Former Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Pete Delkus became Belo8's star weatherman after legendary temp. taker Troy Dungan retired on July 18th. The jocular Delkus quickly found a foil in loquacious sports anchor Dale Hansen. Their almost nightly jabs at one another, usually instigated by Delkus, were dubbed "Pete 'n' Dale's Playhouse" by a perceptive unclebarky.com reader. But Belo8's resurgent 10 p.m. ratings have rival TV stations talking to themselves.

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4. Crisp conversions (minus one) -- Belo8 led the way in high-definition, converting on Feb. 2nd while also originating most of its newscasts from the shiny, new Victory Park studios. NBC5 waited until Sept. 7th to make it a twosome, but its error-plagued stealth conversion may have turned more viewers off than on. CBS11 joined in on Sept. 23rd, making a smooth transition that stood in stark contrast to the Peacock's. Still in the relative dark ages is Fox4, which hasn't yet announced a high-def launch date. They'd better hurry up, or risk becoming the equivalent of rabbit ears on an old Philco.

3. Reign of terror, error -- Looking to revive its moribund newscast ratings, CBS11 hired Kansas City cattle rustler Regent Ducas in March as the station's new news director. His "run 'n' gun" approach failed to improve ratings and also ran off reporters such as Sarah Dodd, Mary Stewart and Tiani Jones. Feeling the heat, president and general manager Steve Mauldin abruptly sacked Ducas on the weekend before Labor Day and pledged to make CBS11 respectable again under Scott Diener, who had been assistant news director. In the November "sweeps, CBS11 jumped past NBC5 in the 10 p.m. household ratings. But it's still having serious problems holding on to the big lead-in audiences regularly provided by CBS entertainment programming.


2. Still awaiting her fate -- Fox4's Oct. 16th suspension of veteran reporter Rebecca Aguilar, less than a month after she'd been named national Hispanic journalist of the year, generated heated debate both locally and nationally. Aguilar was escorted from the station's news room on the day after her exclusive televised interview with 70-year-old salvage yard owner James Walton, who'd shot and killed two intruders in the past three weeks. Some accused her of "ambushing" him outside a sporting goods store after he had bought another gun. Others contended that one of her questions to him -- "Are you a trigger-happy kind of person?" -- went way over the line.

Aguilar gave her side in an interview with unclebarky.com that generated more comments by far -- 134 -- than any posting before or since. She remains on paid suspension as of this writing, with Fox4 management steadfastly refusing any comment.


1. Seems like old times -- Belo8's 10 p.m. newscasts, which had run second to NBC5's since February 2002, returned to ratings dominance in 2007. News director Mike Valentine (pictured above with a Lone Star Emmy award) led the resurgence, in part by de-emphasizing quick-hit crime and tragedy reporting. Belo8 instead re-dedicated itself to lengthier pieces on issues of genuine import after flirting for a while with the Peacock's tabloid approach. Its impressive new studios and groundbreaking conversion to high-definition also helped to re-position Belo8 as a class act with a willingness to spend what it took to get back to the top.

In the November "sweeps" it was no contest in the late night news ratings. Only the early mornings, where the station continues to run a close second, are keeping Belo8 from a sweep of the four principal newscast competitions at 6 a..m. and 5, 6 and 10 p.m. A year ago that seemed improbable if not impossible.

Local TV review: A Why Guy Family Christmas Special (Ch. 8)


Somewhere between lame and likable lies A Why Guy Family Christmas Special.

Its star, Belo8 "Why Guy" Mike Castellucci, strives to both salute and satirize network television's old-school holiday outings. The half-hour outcome premieres on Wednesday, Dec. 19th, at 8 p.m.

Wearing a pastel striped cardigan, Castellucci channels Bing Crosby and Andy Williams while looking more like Don Knotts. He intendedly is far more a well-meaning, bumbling sad sack than a buttery crooner of Christmas standards. It's a fine line between pity and empathy, though. And Castellucci's attempts to impress babes and orchestrate a holiday feast tend to be more painfully awkward than funny.

He's on firmer footing with some heartwarming "Why Guy" stories of real-life Christmas joys. A previously aired piece on Salvation Army bell-ringers is something of a classic now. There also are interesting tales of a Muskogee, Okla. man with an addiction to Christmas inflatables and a Kentucky funeral home director who played Santa Claus to a couple of Dallas kids.

The special ostensibly is set at Castellucci's home, where a small bevy of beauties has gathered at a party he's more or less throwing. Guests drop in, including One Life to Live star Melissa Archer and Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson. Neither is used to particularly good effect, particularly Thompson during a segment built around pork bellies and Castellucci's otherwise bare kitchen.

Members of the Turtle Creek Chorale also drop in to sing a little bit. So does a friend named Roynell -- unfortunately.

This is locally produced programming, though, and Belo8 is just about the only D-FW station doing it outside the newscast realm. It's also home to "Ticket" jester Gordon Keith's weekly talk show. And Wednesday night's Why Guy effort will be followed by Every Little Bit Counts: A Family First Special with anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos.

Castellucci should be encouraged to try more of these. They're not easy to do, and they can be even easier to criticize. Bravo for putting yourself out there, though. The learning curve won't be quite as steep if there's a second time around.

Grade: C+

Belo8's Harris adds to trophy case

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Veteran Belo8 reporter Byron Harris has won a prestigious Alfred I. duPont Columbia University award, his third, for a series of Dateline NBC investigations titled "Television Justice."

Harris questioned both the effectiveness and ethics of the program's "To Catch a Predator" stings, one of which originated in Murphy, TX.

Jurors lauded Harris for "an old-fashioned, gum-shoe investigation in the era of Internet sex and reality television, conducted with restraint and methodical reporting."

One overriding question remains: Would Harris and WFAA-TV (Channel 8), an ABC affiliate, have proceeded with such zeal if the program were called Dateline ABC ? To his credit, Harris answered this question as best he could in an earlier interview with unclebarky.com.

Oddly enough, Dateline also won a duPont Tuesday for a story titled "The Education of Mrs. Groves."

Belo-owned TV stations in Houston (KHOU-TV) and St. Louis (KMOV-TV) likewise were honored among 13 recipients.

Awards will be presented on Jan. 16th.

Heather Hays and motherhood -- the sequel


Santa Claus and Fox4 anchor Heather Hays' first child, Emmy, appear to be getting along well. By next Christmas, she'll have a sibling.

Fox4 anchor Heather Hays, who became a mother for the first time on April 10, is preparing for an encore.

Hays confirmed Monday that she's expecting a second child. She also sent the above picture of daughter Emmy's first close encounter with Santa Claus.

"Yes, she is going to be a big sister this summer," Hays said in an email. The new baby (who I saw today!!) is due around June 26th. So at least this year I will get through May sweeps."

Hays co-anchors Fox4's 9 p.m. newscasts with Steve Eagar.

"We are treasuring every moment with Emmy," Hays said. "She is such a doll. I can't believe she is eight months old already. Whew!"

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

The outcomes had nothing in common, but the ratings were almost mirror images.

Sunday's Cowboys loss to the Eagles, co-starring Jessica Simpson in a VIP box, averaged 830,540 total D-FW homes on Fox. The first game, a Dallas rout of Philadelphia, drew 832,569 homes on Nov. 4th.

That puts Cowboys-Eagles II in seventh place on the regular season list of 14 games, just behind Cowboys-Eagles I. The Nov. 29th Cowboys-Packers game is still the runaway ratings champ, with a combined 1,088,901 homes on MY27 and the NFL Network.

MY27 also has simulcast rights to Saturday night's now very important Dallas-Carolina matchup, which otherwise will be in the fumble-prone hands of Bryant Gumbel and the NFL Network. "The Ticket" (1310 AM), radio carrier of the game, needs to immediately launch a cheeky turn-the-sound-down campaign. And Ticket jester Gordon Keith needs to turn around a quick Gumbel impression. Shouldn't be too hard. Maybe he's already got it down.

Elsewhere Sunday, Green Bay's defeat of the St. Louis Rams on Fox averaged 245,996 homes, edging the competing Patriots-Jets game on CBS (228,946 homes). NBC's Sunday Night Football faceoff between the Giants and Redskins ran a close fourth in the pro football derby with 224,075 homes.

Saturday's biggest attraction by far, Fox4's local 9 p.m. newscast, drew 182,670 homes while the Mavericks win over the Rockets on TXA21 managed 97,424 homes.

Those watching Saturday night's competing telecast of The Notebook on CBS (107,166 homes) had to be pissed at the jarring, snap-transition from movie's sentimental end to CSI promos. It was akin to sitting in Santa Claus's lap one second, and having your head in a guillotine the next. Really shabby.

Friday's local news wars ran true to form. Belo8 won at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the key advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 took the 6 a.m. races in both audience measurements and again whipped the three network morning shows with the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day.

The 7 to 9 a.m. results among 25-to-54-year-olds were especially striking. Good Day had 91,280 viewers in that demographic, more than Good Morning America, Today and The Early Show combined (82,740).

CW33's News at Nine: It's a talkie and in color

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CW33's Bob Goosmann, Dawn Tongish and Michael Rey

There's another local newscast in D-FW. It's not exactly a diamond in the rough, but it's clearly the product of a limited budget.

CW33's one-hour News at Nine originates from the country's fifth-largest TV market, even if it sometimes seems to be coming from Smallville. It's easy to overlook, and on most nights fewer than 50,000 homes are tuned in. Still, some attention should be paid, or so it says here. Let's go to the videotape.

Monday night's edition was anchored by Michael Rey and Dawn Tongish, who filled in for the featured team of Tom Crespo and Terri Chappell.

The first thing you notice, no matter who's anchoring, is that they stand up throughout the entire newscast. So does sports guy Bob Irzyk and, of course, live-wire weathercaster Bob Goosmann, a D-FW veteran who used to be the main temperature-taker at KTVT-TV (Channel 11) before CBS bought the station.

Everyone's vertical in what sometimes looks like a converted garage. If Belo8's sprawling new Victory Park studios are the market's Taj Mahal, then this is the one-bedroom efficiency. You'll see more frills in a van down by the river. Beware of bumping your head on the low overhead.

CW33 has a small reporting staff and seemingly limited live capability from the field. On Monday night, reporter Shana Franklin had the only live outdoor standup. After an opening Goosmann weather blip, she reported from the North Richland Hills neighborhood where an elderly woman was shot to death by a sub-human who first knocked on her door.

Franklin capably presented the story, but a nightly News at Nine gimmick didn't serve her well. Her sign-off was accompanied by a printed tease for "The Rant," in which viewers are encouraged to text-message their comments on various stories.

"The Rant" plug returned later. This time it soiled video of the tearful mother of a deceased pre-schooler. She was testifying at the trial of a day care center owner sentenced to two years in jail for her negligence and attempted cover-up. Hurry up, viewers, text your take on this one, too.

Alas, "The Rant" turned out to be a runt, despite anchor Tongish's declaration that "A lot of people (are) ranting" tonight. People have a lot to say."

Well, three viewers did, and they said basically nothing.

"She got off too easy," a ranter said of the day care center owner. Another opined that you can't even answer your own door anymore without worrying about breathing your last.

Here's my rant: End this stupid segment immediately. It's less useful than a tin can telephone.

Viewers can get a decent video sampling of news from around the U.S., although "Pinpointing America" isn't exactly an inspired title for another of CW33's nightly features.

Entertainment reporter Victoria Snee also chips in with a "Spotlight" segment that finds her in the company of various celebrities at promotional junkets. On Monday she happily squeezed one of Will Smith's biceps after he talked of getting bulked up for his new movie I Am Legend.

"Oh, hello!" Snee enthused. "Oh my God!" Smith said it was his favor to the ladies.

Anchor Tongish dutifully chimed in with a free ad. "Can't wait for that Will Smith movie," she said. "It's gonna be a good one."

Even on her night off, CW had a Chappell's show. It's a "Wednesday's Child"-like feature called "A Child to Love." The anchor took an 11-year-old girl named Sarah to NorthPark, where she got a little VIP treatment. It played pretty syrupy, but there's no need to criticize an effort to find adoptive parents for needy kids.

Breaks to commercials are bridged by an announcer's over-the-top teases of upcoming stories. And theme music deployed throughout the newscast sounds like something from Cliff Notes and his Tiny Bubbles Band.

The best reason to watch CW33's news is Goosmann's detailed weather segment. He does tend to go on and on, but clearly knows what he's talking about. Goosmann gets fewer bells and whistles than the Amish, although his station at least has progressed beyond paper maps and wooden pointers.

Sports anchor Irzyk did a nice job Monday with the obligatory Dallas Cowboys post-mortem. And he does have one more field reporter -- Dave Crome -- than NBC5's staff-starved Newy Scruggs.

Overall, CW33 puts on a product that might be state-of-the-art in Fargo, but too much like Etch-a-Sketch here. Anchors and reporters are striving to do the best with what they're given. Some are more capable than others. But you can bet that all of them would love to move up to a better situation in D-FW or elsewhere.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 7-9)

The Lions' jaws went slack while the ratings went up Sunday during the Cowboys' last-second win in Detroit.

Fox's early afternoon telecast averaged 799,080 D-FW homes, peaking at 949,884 in the final 15 minutes. The overall audience ranks 10th on a list of 13 regular season games, just behind the Nov. 18th Cowboys-Redskins matchup. The runaway champ, Cowboys-Packers on Nov. 29th, drew a combined 1,088,901 homes on MY27 and the NFL Network.

Cowboys-Lions virtually snuffed out all competing programming. The second most-watched attraction, CW33's combo of George of the Jungle and I'll Be Home for Christmas, averaged just 63,326 homes. Green Bay's return-to-glory rout of Oakland on CBS managed only 51,148 homes.

Sunday's late afternoon/early evening pro football attraction, unbeaten New England's crushing of Pittsburgh, drew 409,181 homes on CBS.

NBC's Sunday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and overmatched Baltimore Ravens averaged 211,897 homes to nip ABC's premiere of Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day (202,155 homes). But football pounded sentiment far more decisively among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

Friday's local news wars had the usual victors, other than Fox4's win at 5 p.m. in total homes over the usual frontrunner, Belo8.

The ABC station otherwise controlled the 6 and 10 p.m. numbers in both total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Belo8 also had the edge at 5 p.m. in the 25-54 demo.

Fox4 again ran the table at 6 a.m. And the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day won by unusually wide margins over the three network morning shows.

Aguilar suspension aired out by Poynter


Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar's ongoing paid suspension, now in its eighth week, has prompted a pro-and-con discussion in a new Poynter Institute article. You can read it here.

Station management remains in lockdown on the matter, declining all comment. Both Aguilar and Fox4 have attorneys in play.
Ed Bark

There's no hugging in reporting

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Belo8's Debbie Denmon went out of bounds with Terrell Owens.

It's a relatively minor infraction in the never-ending annals of on-air reporting.

Still, a pro should know better. And in this case we're not talking about Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens.

Perhaps you've heard that he threw a big, celebrity-dotted 34th birthday party for himself Monday night in Grapevine. It doubled as a charity event on behalf of the Catch a Dream Foundation, with Owens also asking guests to bring teddy bears to be donated to a children's hospital.

Belo8's bubbly Debbie Denmon joined other local TV reporters in covering the glittering event. She also brandished a big white teddy bear during her live shot on the station's 10 p.m. newscast. But that's not the infraction at issue.

Near the end of the pre-taped portion of her report, Denmon cozied up to Owens, beamed at him and said, "Happy birthday. Can I get a hug?"

He obligingly gave her one while she approvingly patted his back. That's a no-no if you want to be a real reporter, not a sycophantic gladhander. And Denmon has been around long enough to presumably know that.

By the way, she also got Owens' age wrong by two years, a rather fundamental mistake. She said he was 36. Close enough for a carny on the State Fair of Texas midway, but not in this venue.

Mike Devlin, president and general manager of Belo8, said Tuesday that he'd seen the report and would have no public comment on it. That's understandable.

All of the TV reporters covering the event duly noted that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo arrived without Jessica Simpson, supposedly his latest celebrity girlfriend after earlier sightings with Carrie Underwood and Britney Spears.

"And I did ask a very important question," Denmon told viewers at the end of her piece. "Where was Jessica Simpson? She was a no-show."

NBC5's Meredith Land had the only actual non-comment from Romo himself after observing that the highly eligible QB "dodged questions about a relationship with Jessica Simpson."

"I'm not gonna talk about my personal life tonight," he said, smiling.

CBS11's Jay Gormley was on the scent, too.

"Unless she snuck through the back door, there was no sighting of Jessica Simpson," he reported.

Over on Fox4, Jeff Crilley said that attending Owens' party was "like being at the Oscars."

But colleague Megan Henderson handled the indoor celebrity interviews, Crilley told viewers. He then added, "As far as celebrity gossip goes, Tony Romo came alone."

Epilogue: Back in his obscure backup quarterback days -- and before he became the NFL's reigning Don Juan -- Romo lusted after a certain area beauty who was already taken. Go here and scroll down a bit to see her picture and a vintage unclebarky.com account of Romo's effort to date her.