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And to all a good night: D-FW television's list of 2009 departures


This year's departure list of on-air D-FW television people is shorter than 2008's.

That's the relatively good news in a year when ratings and budgets for TV newscasts otherwise continued to decline. It raises the troubling question of which struggling sector of the "old media" -- broadcast TV or newspapers -- has the bigger upside/downside in years to come.

For now, though, we say a last goodbye and wish all of these people well. This alphabetical list of 2009's evictees, either by choice or force, is of on-camera personalities only. It is not meant to downgrade or diminish the efforts of the many who work behind the scenes to make these people look good.

In the end, though, readers of this site invariably want to know what's happened to the people who come into their homes. Some became quite famous during their stays here. Others were much less visible to viewing audiences. But virtually everyone built a following of some sort. So here's where they were -- and what they're doing now if information is available.

KEN ARNOLD (helicopter pilot, NBC5) -- Dropped in January when station opted to lease choppers from Garland-based Sky Helicopters, Inc.

JAMES AYDELOTT (meteorologist, NBC5) -- Joined station in June 2005 and left in February to become featured forecaster at KOKI-TV in Tulsa.

KATHERINE BLAKE (reporter, CBS11) -- Left the station in September, after two years, to spend more time with her new husband and family.

JEFF BRADY (anchor/reporter, WFAA8) -- Left the station in March after arriving in July 2000. Formed Dallas-based Brady Media Group before recently applying unsuccessfully for anchor position at San Antonio's KENS-TV.

ROCHELLE BROWN (Insights anchor, Fox4) -- Dropped along with the program in July. Joined the station in January 1978, predating even the arrival of anchor Clarice Tinsley.

HECTOR CAVAZOS (helicopter pilot, CBS11) -- Dropped in January when station opted to lease choppers from Sky Helicopters, Inc.

TOM CRESPO (9 p.m. anchor, The 33) -- Let go in February after joining the station in 1998. He's currently promoting his services on his own website.

BENNETT CUNNINGHAM (investigative reporter, CBS11) -- Left in December after 12 years because of a salary dispute. Intends to practice criminal and media law.

NORRIS DEAJON (reporter, The 33) -- Left station in February after a tenure of several years to pursue what he called "an exciting opportunity outside the news business." He is now a senior producer with Castleview Productions.

MEGAN HENDERSON (co-anchor, Fox4's Good Day) -- Left station in February after five-and-a-half years to join the early morning team at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

BOB IRZYK (sports anchor/reporter, The 33) -- Let go in January after 10 years at the station. He's currently promoting his services on his website.

BARON JAMES (anchor, Fox4) -- Signed off on Dec. 18th after his contract wasn't renewed. Spent a decade at the station.

BRETT JOHNSON (reporter, NBC5) -- Died in July at age 48 after what friends described as a "massive organ shutdown." Joined NBC5 in 1996 as a freelancer and had been a full-time reporter since early 2005.

KRISTINE KAHANEK (meteorologist, CBS11) -- Left the station in May after not figuring in future plans. Had been with CBS11 for seven years and published her second children's book this month.

STEVE MACLAUGHLIN (meteorologist, NBC5) -- Will be leaving, when his contract expires in January, to be nearer his family on the East Coast. Joined the station in January 2004.

DARLA MILES (reporter/substitute anchor, WFAA8) -- Left in December for WABC-TV in New York. Spent three years at WFAA8.

KRISTIN MITCHELL (co-host of Good Morning Texas, WFAA8) -- Left the show two months after joining it.

MELISSA NEWTON (reporter, NBC5) -- Laid off in May, she quickly transitioned to CBS11, where she's currently a high-profile freelancer.

MICHAEL REY (reporter/substitute anchor, The 33) -- Laid off in January after nearly three years at the station. Here's his current resume.

SCOTT WALLACE (helicopter pilot, Fox4) -- Dropped in January when station opted to lease choppers from Sky Helicopters, Inc.

NITA WIGGINS (sports reporter, Fox4) -- Dropped in January after contract expired. Spent a decade at the station. At present she's self-employed.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 18-20) -- Cowboys-Saints have it Big Easy in D-FW

On a Saturday night brimming with Christmas parties and sports bar patronage, the Cowboys' pulsating win over New Orleans tickled the in-home Nielsen ratings to a total of 1,384,405 D-FW viewers on two channel choices.

That probably doesn't begin to tell how many people watched the game via other venues. But in the measurements made available to local TV stations, Cowboys-Saints racked up 936,509 viewers on TXA21 and added another 447,896 on the NFL Network.

That's a decent-sized increase over the 1,214,748 who watched the previous Sunday's home loss to San Diego on CBS. But it falls well short of this season's record-setter -- a crowd of 1,737,293 for the September christening of Jerry's Palace in a high-scoring loss to the Giants.

All 14 of this season's Cowboys games have topped the one million mark, with the smallest crowd still the 1,065,449 who watched Dallas defeat Tampa Bay on Fox's opening day telecast.

The most-watched attraction opposite Cowboys-Saints Saturday night was ABC's reprise of The Santa Clause II, which had a skimpy-sized 74,649 viewers.

In Sunday's pro football action, Fox's Eagles-49ers game, capped by a smidgen of the Packers' last-play loss to Pittsburgh, was the day's biggest draw with 536,118 viewers. NBC's Sunday Night Football matchup, in which Carolina embarrassed the front-running Vikings, ran close behind with 508,973 viewers.

Over on TXA21, the Mavericks' gutty, Dirk Nowitzki-less home win over powerful Cleveland drew 101,795 viewers Sunday night.

In Friday's local news derby results, WFAA8 had twin wins at 10 p.m. in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. ratings in both measurements and did likewise at 5 p.m.

NBC5 and CBS11 tied for first in total viewers at 6 p.m., but Fox4 again hauled home the 25-to-54 gold. It marked the fifth straight weekday that Fox4 has won or shared first place in that key demographic.

Cowboys get December monkey off back, making Galloway a horse's ass -- again

DSCN1385 Randy-Galloway

Romo is all smiles after big win; Galloway chokes on cigar.

The Cowboys' delicious win over previously unbeaten New Orleans amounts to one big doody sandwich for a certain loud-mouthed and reliably wrong prognosticator.

Maybe you think I'm being a little harsh on Randy Galloway. No, not at all. He fully deserves it. No one in the wide world of D-FW sportscasting talks more trash than the sanctimonious, sarcastic grandpappy from Grand Prairie. So back atcha.

On Friday afternoon's edition of Galloway & Company (103.3 FM), the host semi-facetiously and repeatedly predicted a 100 to 3 Saints win. He of course also spent ample time ridiculing Dallas head coach Wade Phillips, whom he wants fired.

Galloway lamented that Saints' coach Sean Payton, a former Cowboys assistant, had been allowed to get away. At times he seemed all too willing to eat the peanuts out of Payton's excrement. "Doofus" Phillips clearly would have no chance Saturday night against such a mastermind.

Commercial breaks on Galloway & Company were bridged with various celebratory Saints' songs. The host of course was "keeping it real" while one of his sidekicks, Ian Fitzsimmons, had the temerity to say that Dallas at least had a chance against New Orleans.

We'll see what the old Cuervo-slurping character assassin comes up with on Monday's show. Probably a lot of excuses as to why Dallas won 24-17 but should have been routed. And how they prevailed despite Phillips.

Meanwhile, as previously noted, Galloway's long-running circus act continues to get pounded in the ratings by "The Ticket's" competing Hardline show. So shouldn't he be the one to get sacked?

In light of the way he hammers away at Phillips, that's a very fair question. Now more than ever.

No more James gang at Fox4 news


Baron James says goodbye on Friday's 10 p.m. news. Photo: Ed Bark

Fox4 anchor Baron James, his contract not renewed, has left the station a month earlier than previously planned.

James, who had been with the Dallas-based station for a decade, said his final goodbyes on Friday's 10 p.m. newscast. His last day initially was set for Jan. 17th, according to a station spokesperson who confirmed James' departure late last month.

James opted for a spiritual farewell while seated among co-anchor Clarice Tinsley, meteorologist Dan Henry and sportscaster Max Morgan.

"There's a time for everything, and now it's time for the next chapter of my life," James said. "And I always say, 'God's got a plan.' And there's no question this is the beginning of something divine. Thank you, again, and may God be with everybody."

James, who came to Fox4 from ABC station WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, earlier made reference to his oft-flashy on-air wardrobe.

"I can't thank you enough for being a part of my journey, allowing me into your homes, for the support you've given me over the last decade," he said. "Even all the jokes you've cracked about my suits and my shirts and my ties. I take with me only the best -- all things positive."

James co-anchored Fox4's 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts with Tinsley. The station has not said whether it will pair Tinsley with another in-house staffer or let her go solo.

Former TV meteorologist Kristine Kahanek weathers new career, publishes second kids book

Kristine_HeadShot tumblr_ktxi0dhvGx1qzqv8no1_400

Former CBS11 meteorologist Kristine Kahanek, who left the station in May after a seven-year stint, will be signing, selling and reading the second book in her children's series Friday (Dec. 18).

The venue is Plano's Legacy Books, where Kahanek and the illustrator of Katie and the Magic Umbrella: On Snowflake Trail will be appearing from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kahanek, who previously took temperatures at Dallas-based WFAA8, also has a line of Katie dolls, coloring books, umbrellas, DVDs, etc. So yeah, there is life after television. And she seems to be embracing it.
Ed Bark

Cowboys again in the crosshairs while commentators wade into Phillips


Wade Phillips took the Cowboys' home opener loss hard. Photo: Ed Bark

Well, at least the Cowboys haven't been trampled by anyone yet, although that obviously could change Saturday night in New Orleans.

Nor did Sunday's 20-17 home loss to the red hot San Diego Chargers smell as bad or any worse than:

***The Giants' defenseless 45-37 home loss to the Eagles in a game that could have put New York in control of the NFC East.

***The Steelers' upchucking 13-7 loss to the then 1-11 Browns, all but knocking Pittsburgh out of the post-season.

***The West Division-leading Cardinals' stinko 24-9 loss to the mediocre 49ers, in which Arizona committed seven turnovers and had an extra point blocked.

So once again, revving up my warm-to-the-touch sports opinion motor, I say to a riled-up Cowboys nation and its fomenters: Imagine the outcry if that had happened to reviled Coach Wade Phillips and his Cowboys 11.

Of course the outcry is pretty deafening anyway, with 103.3 FM's Randy Galloway and company again leading the charge and happily entertaining the idea of Phillips' immediate firing in favor of "Red Jesus" (offensive coordinator Jason Garrett).

That's a defensible idea only if Galloway also calls for his own firing, with frequent punching bag Matt Mosley replacing him. At least Phillips still has a winning record -- 30-15 -- as the Cowboys' coach.

Not so Galloway, whose mid-afternoon harangue has never come close to beating the competing "Hardline" program on "The Ticket" (1310 AM). And Galloway's been given far more time than Phillips to turn things around. He's also got the powerful ESPN radio network behind him. So put his head on a stick, I say. And parade him down Main Street for the masses to enjoy.

I wish "ol' Randy" no ill, though. We're long-ago former Dallas Morning News colleagues, and there's no real reason for him to be sacked. Nor is there a compelling or sensible argument to show Phillips the door with just three games left in a season where the Cowboys still hold the second wild card spot despite two successive losses in the dreaded month of December.

This might actually have something to do with Dallas playing teams that have winning records. During the same two-game span, the Saints have consecutive three-point road wins against the Redskins (now 4-9) and the Falcons (6-7). Washington had New Orleans beat until their kicker missed a chip shot field goal in the final minutes. And Atlanta was without its starting quarterback and running back.

I'm not saying Phillips is Moses, or even Jethro. He looks dumpy, is relatively colorless and doesn't have the gift of gab, which Galloway certainly does. But damn people, let's look at the record.

Dallas basically has been competitive in every game. Its worst loss was 17-7, to the Green Bay Packers. Can East Division rivals New York and Philadelphia say that? Hardly.

The Saints torched the Eagles -- 48-22 in Philadelphia -- in Week 2 of the season. The Giants have sustained a 40-17 loss to the Eagles and went down 48-27 to the Saints.

CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg noted the other night that Dallas is 7-0 against losing teams, but just 1-5 against opponents with winning records. That's true, but what else is new?

The Eagles have beaten the Giants twice, but their other seven wins have all been against teams with losing records.

The Giants have a pair of close wins against Dallas. Their other five wins are against NFL losers.

My native state Green Bay Packers are 9-4. But who have they beaten besides the Cowboys? Well, they beat the Ravens, now 7-6 after pounding the crap out of the hapless Lions last Sunday. Otherwise the Packers' wins are against the Bears (twice), the Lions (twice), the Rams, the Browns and the 49ers. In other words, nobody. And they do have that super-ugly loss to Tampa Bay, which still is the Bucs' one and only win this season.

The Minnesota Vikings? Seven of their 11 wins are against losing teams. That includes a wing-and-a-prayer pass on the closing play of the game to beat the 49ers at the Metrodome -- or whatever it's called these days.

The NFC's only other winning team, 8-5 Arizona, has a very impressive 30-17 home win against the now 11-2 Vikings. But then they turned right around and played dead Monday night at San Francisco. To repeat: seven turnovers and a blocked extra point against a less than imposing opponent.

In contrast, Dallas hasn't melted down just yet. Maybe the Cowboys will against a wild 'n' crazy offense in a wilder and crazier Superdome. But I don't think so. In fact, it would be just like Dallas to miraculously beat the Saints and then stumble at Washington in the following week.

That's the NFL, though. And in that belief, WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen and your friendly content provider actually have something in common. That station's self-proclaimed "Voice of Reason" lately has taken a chill pill regarding the Cowboys. He respects the team's overall character and actually seems to want Phillips to survive. In contrast, Hansen loathed previous coach Bill Parcells and last season's unholy trinity of Terrell Owns, Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson, all of whom were dispatched.

I like this version of the Cowboys, too. And as NFL coaches go, Phillips is hardly the roly-poly clown that Galloway keeps eviscerating.

The litmus test is Saturday night, though. If Dallas gets embarrassed, then they may not win another game. It'll then be fair enough to lay that one on Phillips and wait for his inevitable execution.

If they're competitive, though, then there's still hope. And that's what I'm predicting. The Cowboys may not win, but they'll look much better than either the Giants or Eagles did against New Orleans. Win or lose, they'll very much be in this game entering the 4th quarter.

If they indeed suck it up for Phillips, though, he'll of course get no credit. Should they get torched, Galloway again will be chanting, "Cows stink." Knowing, him, he might even urinate on the team picture while Mosley holds it for him and endures the back-splash.

That would be special, even if twice as many people are listening to "The Ticket."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 11-13) -- Christmas shopping, balmy day and another December loss help hold down Cowboys' crowd


Cowboys QB Tony Romo officially hates December. Photo: Ed Bark

Sunday's Dallas loss to San Diego at Jerry's Palace proved to be a turnoff in more ways than one.

The Cowboys of course dominated the day's ratings as always. But a D-FW crowd of 1,214,748 for the CBS telecast was one of the season's smaller ones on an unseasonably warm day in the heart of the Christmas shopping season. The opening day Sept. 13 road win at Tampa Bay is still this year's small fry, though, with 1,065,449 viewers on Fox. (Note: minor adjustments in some previously posted crowd totals have been made after Nielsen increased its D-FW population estimates earlier this fall.)

NBC's Sunday Night Football dominated the prime-time ratings, with 570,049 watching the Eagles beat the Giants in a high-scoring, largely defenseless shootout. In the day's early afternoon matchups, the Saints and Falcons on Fox (454,682 viewers) outdrew the Vikings-Bengals on CBS (271,452 viewers).

Saturday night's annual showing of It's A Wonderful Life on NBC showed its age by luring a relatively skimpy 74,649 viewers. It ran fourth overall in the broadcast universe while also being outdrawn by the Mavericks-Bobcats game on Fox Sports Southwest.

NBC's new edition of Saturday Night Live had the day's biggest audience, with 217,162 viewers.

In Friday's local news derby results, WFAA8 topped the field at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 scored twin wins at 6 a.m., knocking NBC5 from its customary No. 1 spot. The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its Good Day then beat the three network morning shows in both measurements, including the last Good Morning America for Diane Sawyer before she begins anchoring ABC's World News on Dec. 21st.

WFAA8 won most of the early evening battles, running the table at 6 p.m. and also taking the 5 p.m. gold in total viewers. Fox4 ran first at 5 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fakeout: Looks like a Christmas commercial, but instead it's a promo for . . .

First we see expectant-looking little kids. Then they start jumping for joy. Gotta be a Christmas commercial, right? Wrong. See if you can guess the punchline before this very nicely produced 30-second spot hits the finish line. But how effective is it?
Ed Bark

Heading West: CBS11 president/GM Steve Mauldin takes top job at KCBS/KCAL-TV in Los Angeles (updated)


Steve Mauldin in recent pose at CBS11/TXA21 studios. Photo: Ed Bark

Two weeks after CBS11 topped the 10 p.m. news ratings for the first time ever, president and general manager Steve Mauldin is leaving the station to assume the same position at CBS-owned KCBS/KCAL-TV in Los Angeles.

Mauldin, who also headed sister station TXA21 in D-FW, said in a telephone interview that he's already in place and has met his new staff.

"I'm here. I've started," he said. "It was a quick move and I'm excited about it. Things happened very quickly."

Mauldin was tabbed by CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn, who was named to the position on Nov. 9th.

"He (Dunn) thought we needed a new direction in Los Angeles and knew that I had a history here," said Mauldin, who previously worked at the city's KABC-TV. "It's an important piece of CBS real estate."

KCBS ranked third in late night local news for the November sweeps. CBS11 was in the same position when Mauldin arrived at the station nearly seven years ago.

"It's really not fair to make an assessment or comparison. I just got here," Mauldin said. "It's safe to say there's a lot of room for growth. I've been around meeting people today. It's just a really solid group, but it's going to be a lot of work here."

Mauldin, a native of Odessa, said it was difficult to leave North Texas.

"Very much so," he said. "Great roots there, and I look forward to coming back a lot."

Mauldin also is quoted in the official CBS corporate statement.

"I'm very excited to return to the Los Angeles market and embrace this terrific opportunity," Mauldin said. "The past six years in Dallas have been the most fulfilling years in my career and I'm so proud of everything we've accomplished together. But I'm looking forward to this new challenge, and Los Angeles is such a huge, diverse market with unlimited opportunities for growth."

Mauldin is replacing Patrick McClenahan, termed a former "valuable member of our team" in the CBS release. His interim replacement at CBS11/TXA21 will be Gary Schneider, currently the senior vice president and station manager for the two stations.

Schneider, in a telephone interview, said he hopes to be more than a fill-in.

"My objective would be to be the permanent general manager," said Schneider, 50, who previously ran TV stations in Houston, Austin and Seattle. "In due time, CBS will determine when to get the permanent person here. And hopefully that'll be me."

Schneider said he "didn't really have any inkling until the last day or two" that Mauldin would be leaving. "So it wasn't long in the works. It was a pretty quick deal."

He intends to fill the recent vacancy left by investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham, who left the station last week over a salary dispute.

"It's a seamless transition," he said. "It's a continuation of the momentum we've got here. So I'm not looking to make big changes. I'm just looking to keep the momentum going and keep the train on the right track."

Dunn, in the CBS release, praised Mauldin as "one of our most experienced executives running major market duopolies, having done so in both Dallas and Miami to great effect -- both in terms of driving sales growth and leading his stations to first place in late news. He is a local TV veteran who was successful in Los Angeles earlier in his career, knows the intricacies of our business very well and brings purpose and vision to every assignment he's given. Los Angeles is a huge market for CBS and we're privileged to have one of our strongest operators leading the charge."

In a separate memo to CBS11 and TXA21 staffers, Dunn said that Mauldin will "be making the move shortly" to KCBS/KCAL. It turned out that "shortly" meant the same day.

"You all know Steve as well as anyone," Dunn said in the memo. "There are few executives working in local television today who bring the track record, experience and vision that Steve does, and it's only natural we'd call on him for such an important leadership role."

Mauldin, 60 and a survivor of Stage 4 tongue cancer, joined CBS11/TXA21 in February 2003 from WFOR-TV in Miami. Despite substantial lead-in advantages from CBS prime-time programming, CBS11 remained in second or third place at 10 p.m. until the November sweeps, when the station nipped WFAA8 in total viewers in a down-to-the-wire photo finish. WFAA8 retained its 10 p.m. crown by a narrow margin with 25-to-54-year-old viewers, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

In a profile I wrote for the current issue of D CEO magazine, Mauldin said, "Have I been as successful as you think I should have been? You'd have to be on the inside to get a better sense of that. We have made more money every year I've been here until we faced the economic issue. But we still do better than most . . . Being a critic, as you know, is not that tough a job. Walking the walk is the tougher part."

Mauldin, a hands-on executive, tended to provoke strong likes -- or dislikes -- among station personnel. Former CBS11 anchor Tracy Rowlett, interviewed for the D CEO article, said of his old boss: "Steve doesn't lack confidence. I think he would tell you that TV is a business, and that news content should include specific stories for the key demographic -- women 25 to 54 years old.

"While we might disagree on newscast content and presentation, I have always liked him. And as with everyone, I always knew who set station policy. Every employee and department head is well aware of who manages CBS11."

Mauldin said, "I don't try to be intimidating. People who are in a leadership role and are aggressive sometimes have to make tough decisions. And not everybody understands those decisions or agrees with them."

'Tis not the season for WFAA8's GMT After Dark


"Santa Gordo" joins GMT hosts at show's end. Photos: Ed Bark

Had WFAA8 waited just two more days -- until Thursday -- it could have preempted an inconsequential rerun of ABC's FlashForward, which won't be returning until March.

Nuh-uh. D-FW viewers expecting to see A Charlie Brown Christmas and a new holiday-themed Disney special (Prep & Landing) instead were subjected to a live edition of the station's Good Morning Texas After Dark. This is naughty, not nice.

GMT, as noted here previously, basically is a collection of mini-infomercials sharing space with actual non-paid program content. It has its place, I guess, in WFAA8's overall bottom line scheme of things. But that place is at 9 a.m. weekdays, not in prime-time. And especially not on a night when you're rubbing out two family-targeted Christmas shows in favor of GMT hosts tra la la-ing about products whose purveyors buy air time to hawk them.

Co-host Amy Vanderoef almost apologized at the outset. "We love Charlie Brown, too, so we wanted to make sure you didn't miss this holiday tradition," she said.

Viewers then were invited to record the two ABC specials on Saturday, Dec. 12th, when they'll be airing from 3:05 to 4:05 a.m. on WFAA8. ABC also plans to repeat Charlie Brown on Wednesday, Dec. 15th and Prep & Landing on the next night. Sorry, but that's still not a fair trade-off.

It'd be one thing if GMT scrapped its usual format and presented an actual Christmas special without all the usual mini-infomercial trimmings.

But that didn't happen at all. The Texas-weaned band Bowling For Soup (think Cheap Trick) provided some respite with three tunes, even if the bouncy, show-closing "Hooray For Beer" sounded more like a young drinker's descent into alcoholism than a Christmas sing-a-long.

Then there was "Santa Gordo," with The Ticket's (1310 AM) super-snarky Gordon Keith no doubt crying at least a little on the inside while periodically dispensing gifts ranging from Mavericks tickets to Metamucil Digestive Fiber to a Grand Torino DVD to a picture of himself.

Keith is a very talented and funny guy -- in the right venue. But trying to make merry on GMT is akin to Ozzy Osbourne singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen with Andy Williams in Branson. Not a good fit.

Otherwise it was business as usual. The very briefly shown "Promotional Consideration Paid For By" disclaimer in the last commercial break listed Community Coffee, Northpark Center, Market Street and the Dallas Summer Musicals. WFAA8 also notes in fine print that "it does not endorse, sponsor or warrant any product or service referenced on Good Morning Texas. Any mention of products or services is for informational purposes only."

That said, the hosts gushed about everything put before them, sometimes mangling their blurbs a bit.

"Oh my gosh, I love all of this spread of toys that you brought," said Paige McCoy Smith.

Vanderoef similarly went cuckoo over the ongoing and coming attractions being presented by Dallas Summer Musicals, although she stumbled through her initial buildup for 101 Dalmations. Earlier she cooed about the pricey fashion statements being made by three insolent-looking models dressed in designer outfits available at Northpark.

Co-host Rob McCollum in turn got all excited about the products ready for purchase at Market Street. He earlier took a taped road trip to Firsco's Main Event Entertainment complex, where a spokesman tripped over his tongue a bit in enthusing, "We have some new venues and we're thrilled to show you about them."

Once upon a time -- two Decembers ago -- WFAA8 produced and presented A Why Guy Family Christmas Special, hosted by the since departed Mike Castellucci (now with San Diego's KUSI-TV). It was hit and miss, but a good and game effort nonetheless. Not only that, it was infomercial-free.

Your friendly content provider wrote that 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."

That obviously can't be said of GMT's holiday-themed After Dark special. It's all too easy to do, should be criticized and shouldn't happen again in the country's No. 5 television market.

That goes double on a night when Charlie Brown gets sacked. And really, for what?


A freeze-frame is worth a thousand words. And to all a good night.

Dirk gets up close, unusually personal in Fox Sports Southwest's latest In My Own Words special


Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki opens up and admits to a trauma-induced eating/drinking bender on a new episode of Fox Sports Southwest's In My Own Words series.

He tells interviewer Dana Larson that last May's media feeding frenzy over his since-ended relationship with Cristal Taylor prompted him to go "on a binge there where I ate and drank everything in sight, probably all of May and June. I was almost 265 pounds, the heaviest I've ever been in my career. Once I started to work out again I definitely had to lose some weight. I lost about 20 pounds and am now at 245."

The entire half-hour interview premieres on Friday, Dec. 11th at 10 p.m. (central) and will be repeated throughout the month.

Nowitizki also tells Larson that "I'm going to try to get my private life out of the media again for the rest of my career. I'm still trying to do the same things I did before, and that's have fun. I don't want to be miserable and think about what happened the last couple of months. I don't want to think about it all the time. I want to move forward and have fun with people again. Not only with my teammates, but with everybody like I did before. That's important to me."

The German-born forward, in his 11th NBA season, is having another MVP-caliber year so far. But he emphatically says that a championship is all that matters anymore.

"It would be nice to play in (this season's) All-Star game since it's here in Dallas, but I don't really care about it that much anymore," Nowitzki says. "It's all about winning the championship. That's way more important at this point in my career . . . I've got to win that championship."

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 4-6) -- more Giants-sized ratings for Cowboys

Sunday's Cowboys' loss to the Giants nonetheless racked up another big gain for the D-FW station carrying it.

In this case, Fox4 was the beneficiary, with the game averaging 1,445,482 viewers while peaking at 1,587,994 between 5:45 and 6 p.m.

The overall audience inched past the 1,431,909 viewers who watched Dallas beat Oakland on CBS11's Thanksgiving Day telecast. This season's ratings champ, among 12 games, is still the first Cowboys-Giants game, which unveiled Jerry's Palace to the tune of 1,737,293 viewers for NBC's Sunday Night Football. Each of the Cowboys' dozen games to date has topped the one million viewer mark.

The Peacock's latest Sunday Night Football attraction -- Arizona's thumping of Minnesota -- averaged a nice-sized 481,827 viewers in dominating all competing prime-time programming. But Fox's preceding 7 p.m. BCS announcement show topped it with 549,690 viewers from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's programming was dominated by Texas' last-second win over Nebraska on ABC. The Longhorns' 13-12 victory -- catapulting the team to a National Championship showdown with Alabama -- averaged 705,775 viewers. That's easily the biggest Saturday night audience of the fall TV season.

Friday's ratings marked a rare time slot win for NBC's The Jay Leno Show, which prevailed across the board at 9 p.m. in total viewers, 18-to-49-year-olds and 25-to-54-year-olds. In fact, it had the second biggest prime-time audience of the night (156,085 viewers), slightly behind only NBC's 7 p.m. Muppets holiday special (162,871 viewers).

NBC5's 10 p.m. newscast responded with a dominating win among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. The Peacock ran second in total viewers, though, behind WFAA8.

Fox4 and NBC5 tied for first at 6 a.m. in total viewers, with the Peacock nipping Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Fox4 mostly controlled the early evening newscast competitions, running the table at 5 p.m. and also winning at 6 p.m. with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 had the other gold, a 6 p.m. victory in total viewers.

CBS11 investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham balks at salary cut, abruptly leaves station


Facing a salary cut and a shaky local television news landscape, CBS11 investigative reporter Bennett Cunningham on Friday decided to leave the station to pursue a career in law.

News director Scott Diener announced his departure in a staff memo Friday, praising Cunningham as "a big part of our ratings success and growth over the past 12 years."

Cunningham, 41, said he saw a dim future ahead of him at the CBS-owned station after being offered a 10 percent pay cut that would have reduced his annual salary by $17,000. His contract with CBS11 had expired on Thursday.

"This is just not something I'm willing to accept anymore," Cunningham said in a telephone interview with unclebarky.com. "To win all these awards and to be rewarded with no incentive at all was really disappointing. So I put my foot down and said, 'OK, well, today's my last day.' They were surprised but they also understood. The station has been really supportive of me in the past, but this was a corporate decision. I'm sure if they had a satchel of money, they'd give it to me. . . I think they know I deserve it, but they said they don't have the money."

Cunningham said that management belatedly offered to keep him at his same salary, but "for what I bring to the table, I am worth a lot more than that. I wanted a raise, not just my old salary . . . Everybody wants to make a profit. I get that. But I'm not going to shrink my goals because an industry is going to shrink my paycheck."

Cunningham, who passed the bar exam in November 2007, said he plans to practice criminal and media law, initially out of his home.

During his estimable career at CBS11, Cunningham has done numerous reports on questionable spending by public officials. His series of Dirty Dining reports also have been staples during ratings "sweeps" months. He recently won a 2009 Regional Murrow Award for an expose on questionable travel expenditures by executives at DFW International Airport. At the Lone Star Emmy Awards earlier this year, Cunningham won three trophies, including his second straight as Best Investigative Reporter.

"I just kind of dilly dallied with it, and wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it," Cunningham said of his law degree. "Basically what I was finding was that I didn't have a lot of growth potential at the station. CBS is really bad at investing in people and helping them grow. So there was nothing else for me to do. I'm basically an investigative reporter with a shrinking salary in a shrinking TV news market . . . The only person I know that got a raise was (CBS11 president and general manager) Steve Mauldin."

CBS11 is coming off its first-ever ratings sweeps victory at 10 p.m. after nipping WFAA8 in the total viewer Nielsen ratings. But the four competing stations -- Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 -- cumulatively lost 161,856 viewers from a year ago, with WFAA8 down 66,376 and no station making any audience gains.

The same held true among 25-to-54-year-olds, the principal advertiser target audience for news programming. Year-to-year, the four stations were down 91,461 viewers, with WFAA8 running first despite dropping 38,531 viewers in this key demographic.

"Ultimately I wanted this to be my decision before it wasn't my decision," Cunningham said. "I didn't want to go the way of Robert Riggs (who was downsized by CBS11 in March 2008) and other reporters. I'm getting out at really the top of my game -- the top of the station's game. I wish them luck in the future."

Diener and Mauldin "have been very nice to me," Cunningham said. "But I'm a businessman, too, and this was a bad deal for me."

In his memo to staffers, Diener said, "We very much wanted Bennett to stay on and continue to contribute to our success, but Bennett tells me he wants to take advantage of his law degree . . . As many of you know, Bennett began a new family in the past year -- and this decision allows him to spend more time with them. The neat thing for Bennett is he leaves this profession at the very top of his game. Great journalistic stories. Prestigious awards. And being a key component within a news organization that produces the most-watched newscast in the state of Texas."

Cunningham and his partner, Michael Spann, made news late last year as the parents of an infant boy and girl who were born in Hartford, Conn. via gestational surgery. Gregory Adam and Liliana Elizabeth, who at birth had a life-threatening infection of her intestines, are now almost 14 months old and doing fine, Cunningham said.

"I had to be brave about doing this (leaving CBS11)," he said. "I'm not a big risk-taker, but I want my kids to take risks and not be complacent. So I shouldn't be either. I'd regret it if I never did this."

Spann is "100 percent supportive" and had urged him for the past two years to leave the TV news business, Cunningham said. His departure basically leaves CBS11 without an investigative unit. Although still billed as a member of "The Investigators" team, Ginger Allen's main responsibility is anchoring CBS11's early morning newscasts. She also frequently does lifestyles reports on the late night newscasts.

Cunningham joined CBS11 from KTVK-TV in Phoenix. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

WFAA8 loads up on CBS11 with sharp-worded rhetoric, but doesn't entirely hit its bullseyes

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This is somewhat reminiscent of the good old days in D-FW's local TV news wars, when station managers John McKay of KDFW-TV (Channel 4) and the late Dave Lane of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) knew how to spew some good quotes.

Your friendly content provider of course was a happy recipient. It took two to tangle, and these guys didn't mind making a little news.

WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin, still hot about CBS11 touting its first time ever win at 10 p.m. in the just-ended November sweeps, fired off a few more cannon shots late Monday afternoon. Atta boy.

His counterpart at CBS11, Steve Mauldin, demurred this time around after earlier saying that excuses were for losers.

Basically put -- and exhaustively reported in this post -- Devlin says that the two stations in reality tied for first place in total viewers and households because their final ratings were too close to out-pace the margin for error. He also notes, repeatedly, that WFAA8 won by a narrow but bigger margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Devlin and this reporter had what could be called an animated phone conversation Monday about what he termed a phony victory by a "wind-aided station" that reaps the benefits of bigger lead-ins from CBS' 9 p.m. crime series hits. Later that day, the station emailed a few more pithy quotes from Devlin. Let's look at what he says -- and whether he's on target. Here's one salvo:

"Using figures based on total viewers ages 2-plus to suggest a win in this day and age isn't very accurate. A five-year-old viewer, for example, really has no relevance for advertisers who are focused on reaching adults between the ages of 25 and 54. When children start buying homes, purchasing cars and furniture, then advertisers may consider them as viable viewers that should be counted. So others may count children as part of a 'victory;' however, the fact is all local stations make a living on adults between 25 and 54."

Devlin prefers the old-school "Household" rating to the total viewers figure. But he's virtually alone in that. Across this not-so-great TV land of ours, networks large and small all emphasize total viewer numbers over households. I don't know of a single exception. The argument is that people watch television, not buildings.

Using the household figure is the equivalent of actually getting up and turning a TV dial. It's that antiquated. But WFAA8 fared slightly better in the household rating, so that's why Devlin is using it as a counterpoint. It reinforces his contention that WFAA8 and CBS11 tied for first at 10 p.m.

The networks do of course, prize demographic groups over total viewers. For entertainment programming, the prize demo is 18-to-49-year-olds, followed in close order by 25-to-54-year-olds and 18-to-34-year-olds. For news programming, 25-to-54 is the principal target audience, and that's been stated time and again in these spaces.

WFAA8 certainly can claim a more clear-cut -- but still very slim win -- among 25-to-54-year-olds. But it's a little tougher to craft an on-air promo around that kind of a win. Imagine a script going something like this: "WFAA8 again is No. 1 for news among the only viewers who really matter to us. So thank you, 25-to-54-year-olds, for again allowing us to sell commercials at a higher rate. We'd like younger and older viewers to watch us, too. But if you don't want to, no problem. We're the 25-to-54-year-old station, and we want to stay that way."

You won't see that promo because it would be suicidal to a station's public image. Obviously it's much easier to tout yourself as No. 1 in total viewers -- which CBS11 can do based on Nielsen Media Research's final numbers.

Also, WFAA8 just happens to be D-FW's overall biggest loser in the year-to-year 25-to-54 ratings. Rival stations also are losing viewers, but for the most part at a less-acclerated rate, based on data from Nielsen. The year-to-year losses are occurring even though ratings inflation has bumped up the value of a rating point from 66,430 viewers to the current 67,863.

At 10 p.m., for instance, WFAA8 lost 38,531 viewers in the 25-to-54 demographic, a dip topped only by fourth place Fox4's free-fall of 40,365 viewers in the year-to-year November sweeps. CBS11 in comparison lost 9,138 viewers in the 25-to-54 age range.

At 6 a.m., WFAA8 lost 11,356 viewers in the 25-to-54 age range. a figure exceeded only by Fox4's shortfall of 15,632.

But WFAA8's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts easily "outpointed" rival stations when it came to audience losses. The station dropped 32,591 viewers at 6 p.m., with Fox4 down just 5,504. And at 5 p.m., WFAA8 lost 24,026 viewers in the 25-to-54 age range, easily exceeding the second biggest drop-off by NBC5 (6,308 viewers).

WFAA8 still won at 10 p.m. and 6 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demographic while relinquishing the crown to Fox4 at 5 p.m. and again running third at 6 a.m. But the station's year-to-year losses will have to be shored up. Because at this rate, WFAA8 won't win anything in November 2010.

Devlin also had this to say in the statements distributed Monday: "In November Channel 11 experienced an enormous advantage based on its CBS-fueled prime-time lead-in. At one time or another, all stations have been beneficiaries of that kind of help for local newscasts. This raises a fundamental question: Around the country, CBS affiliates scored significant and substantial wins in their late news during November thanks to the CBS lead-in. Can Channel 11 claim the same?"

It's true that CBS11 won in total viewers by a sliver. It's also true that it had a substantial lead-in advantage on many nights, although WFAA8 also benefited from two big-ticket ABC attractions -- the Country Music Association awards and the Dancing with the Stars finale.

It's not true, though, that big-market CBS stations automatically vanquished their rivals in the late night news wars.

For instance, an Internet search of major market results showed ABC stations winning the November sweeps in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Milwaukee. Although severely hampered by inferior lead-ins from The Jay Leno Show, NBC stations ran first in both Detroit and Washington,D.C.

CBS stations triumphed in Boston, Phoenix and Baltimore.

That obviously doesn't cover the entire landscape. And results in some big playgrounds remain hard to verify. But it does touch on a number of major markets in which CBS didn't win. That includes the two ranked just ahead of No. 5 Dallas-Fort Worth -- namely Chicago and Philly.

Devlin, a former WFAA8 reporter, is a fierce competitor who doesn't like to lose. Ditto the station's owner, Dallas-based Belo Corp.

In defending his station, though, Devlin also has opened the door to counter-points. CBS11 may be a succubus in his view. But the station has steadily gained on WFAA8 in recent years, and it's not all entirely due to lead-ins.

Both stations can rightly say that they presently offer a superior overall news product compared to Fox4 and NBC5. So it's going to be interesting to see how these two news/ratings titans battle it out on playing fields that are diminished, but still relevant.

And yes, for the record, I'm irrelevant in the grand 25-to-54 scheme of things. Nearing the age of 62 will do that to you. But I still feel frisky, dammit. So bring it on, wolf pups.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed.-Sun, Nov. 25-29) -- after the "sweeps" comes the catchup


Macy's annual parade got the ratings ball rolling on Thanksgiving.

The local newscast ratings wars have cooled down for a bit, even if the tempers at some stations haven't. But on to other matters, such as the Cowboys annual Thanksgiving Day home game.

Dallas trounced the Oakland Raiders on CBS11 to the tune of 1,431,909 D-FW viewers. As usual, that wiped out all competing programming, but still couldn't outdraw the regular season unveiling of Jerry's Palace, when the Cowboys lost to the Giants on NBC's Sunday Night Football while 1,737,293 watched. That's still the record-setter so far among this year's 11 regular season games.

The Cowboys' Turkey Day warmup act, Packers-Lions on Fox, drew a very nice-sized 624,340 viewers on Fox. And the morning hours were dominated by Macy's annual parade, which amassed 420,751 viewers on NBC and added another 142,512 for the CBS coverage.

The Thanksgiving night ratings were paced by Texas' high-scoring win at Texas A&M, which averaged 536,117 viewers on ESPN.

On Wednesday, the last day of the November sweeps, three of the four 10 p.m. local newscasts opted for a Holiday designation, which means they weren't counted as part of the overall averages.

CBS11, the only station to count its late nighter, had the largest audience with 203,589 total viewers. But that was a bit lower than its overall ratings average, so the station would have been better off leaving it out of the mix. It was a tough call to make, given the anticipated "lead-in" advantage from CBS' CSI: NY, which delivered by easily winning its 9 to 10 p.m. time period.

Moving on to a non-Cowboys Sunday, where the top ratings draw was Fox's Vikings-Bears game (563,263 viewers). NBC's Sunday night matchup -- Steelers-Ravens -- was runnerup with 481,827 viewers.

HBO fared relatively poorly with its four-hour prime-time presentation of the Madison Square Garden concerts tied to the 25th anniversary of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. The 7 to 11 p.m. extravaganza averaged just 20,305 viewers locally. The HBO movies bookending it -- The Rocker and The Day the Earth Stood Still -- both did better with 33,932 viewers apiece. Rock on.