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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Dec. 23-Sun., Dec. 26) -- Christmas night Cowboys still worth a million-plus

The Dallas Cowboys' coal-in-the-stocking Christmas night loss to pitiful Arizona still lit up the D-FW ratings on two channels of choice.

CW33's simulcast of the NFL Network's coverage averaged 803,381 viewers while the cable arm added 325,508. Hand calculator technology says that's a grand total of 1,128,889 viewers. The only Cowboys game to fall short of the one million mark this season was the dismal Halloween afternoon home loss to Jacksonville, which had 907,276 viewers as a warmup for that night's Game 4 of the World Series between the Rangers and Giants.

CW33's 5 to 6 p.m. Cowboys Christmas special featured a back-and-forth holiday quiz between injured Cowboys QB Tony Romo and his new fiancee, CW33 sports reporter Candice Crawford. The show won its time slot with 96,960 viewers.

ABC's marquee Christmas Day matchup between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers drew a nice-sized 235,474 viewers. Still, that barely exceeded the crowd for the preceding Celtics-Magic game (228,548 viewers).

Sunday's post-Christmas NFL action was topped by Fox's telecast of the Packers win over the Giants, which had 623,313 viewers. The preceding Jets-Bears matchup on CBS drew 436,319 viewers. NBC's snowed-out Sunday Night Football game between the Eagles and Vikings gave way to prime-time reruns that averaged just 96,960 viewers. Football generally draws more than four times that audience, unless it's the Cowboys. Then it draws more than 10 times as many viewers. NBC will get the game on Tuesday night instead.

NBC did far better with its traditional Christmas Eve reprise of It's A Wonderful Life, which had 166,217 viewers to lead all prime-time programming.

Thursday's top prime-time performer, CBS' repeat of The Mentalist, had 228,548 viewers. ABC's rerun of the Jim Carrey version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas pulled in second overall with 200,845 viewers.

In Thursday's local news derby results, Fox4 won all four major time periods (6 a.m. and 5, 6 and 10 p.m.) among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. The station also topped the total viewer Nielsens at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

CBS11 had Thursday's other two golds, winning in total viewers at 6 and 10 p.m.

All four major competitors took holiday knees on Christmas Eve, which means the newscast ratings don't officially count. But just in case ya care, NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first at 10 p.m., with the Peacock alone atop the 25-to-54 ratings.

Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. competitions and NBC5 did likewise at 5 p.m. The 6 p.m. firsts were split between CBS11 in total viewers and Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

And to all a good night: D-FW's list of 2010 TV departures


The names have changed, of course. But otherwise we try to keep our introductory copy the same in unclebarky.com's annual compilation of D-FW's television news departures.

This alphabetical list of 2010's evictees, either by choice or by force, is of on-camera personalties 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. We wish everyone well.

MIKE BURGER (weekend and fill-in meteorologist at CBS11/TXA21) -- Retired on Sept. 4th after 40 years in broadcasting, the last 10 with CBS11/TXA21. "I found myself looking in the mirror, saying 'What are you doing?' " Burger explained. "Do you want to do this until you're 70 and then drop over dead? It's time to have some fun."

GARY COGILL (movie critic, arts reporter and co-host of Good Morning Texas at WFAA8) -- After a 24-year career at the ABC affiliate, he left after his contract expired on Oct. 31st to start up a new film production company, LasCaux Films LLC in partnership with Dallas anesthesiologist Richard Touissaint and Richards Group managing partner Derrick Evers. "You spend your life talking movies, but deep down inside I've always wanted to make movies," he said.

JIM GRIMES (anchor-reporter at CW33) -- Departed the station in May to take a public relations position with Clearwire of Dallas. Grimes had been with CW33 since the momentous month of September 2001. "In a nutshell, I decided to try something new," he said of his decision to leave.

BRENDAN HIGGINS (early morning anchor/reporter at NBC5) -- Left in January after contract renewal talks reached an impasse. In a subsequent email, he termed the split-up "amicable." Higgins had joined Deborah Ferguson as the station's early morning co-anchor in December 2003. He still lives in North Texas and in June participated in a Paws in the City charity benefit with a Dancing with the Stars theme.

NERISSA KNIGHT (anchor-reporter at CBS11/TXA21) -- Dropped in December after three years with the stations. She so far has been unreachable for comment on her future plans.

JOSH LEWIN (TV play-by-play announcer for Texas Rangers) -- The team decided not to renew his contract in October after teaming Lewin with former Rangers player and general manager Tom Grieve since 2002. He's currently co-hosting an 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. sports talk show on Dallas-based 105.3 FM radio ("The Fan").

DAN X. MCGRAW (reporter at CW33) -- Resigned from the station in November after joining CW33 in May 2009 as a so-called "backpack journalist" required to report, shoot and edit his own stories. He had previously been laid off by The Dallas Morning News. Current occupation unknown.

CHRIS SALCEDO (anchor-reporter at CBS11/TXA21) -- Dropped by the stations in May after being hired in September 2006 as part of an inaugural "First In Prime" TXA21 anchor team that also included Tracy Kornet, Kenneth Taylor and Kaushal Patel. Only Kornet remains. Salcedo has since done some work with Dallas-based KRLD-AM radio.

JENNIFER SCHACK (weekend meteorologist at WFAA8) -- After 17 months with the station, she resigned in March to become the head forecaster at ABC affiliate WTVQ-TV in Lexington, KY. Schack is a native Kentuckian, so this was a chance to return to her home state.

MIKE SNYDER (anchor-reporter at NBC5) -- Was shown the door on July 1st after a 30-year career at the station, much of it teaming with Jane McGarry as co-anchors of the flagship 10 p.m. newscasts. He remains in North Texas, regularly posting updates and musings on his Facebook page. And Snyder recently posted that he has landed an executive consultant position with the Wolf Group, a North Texas-based communications company. "Would I like to stay? Sure I would," Snyder told unclebarky.com after being dismissed by NBC5. "I would absolutely love to stay until I could work no more. But now I've been given an opportunity to explore other adventures."

PELPINA TRIP (on-air Internet specialist at CW33) -- Gave up her nightly "Pelpina's Picks" segment in August to produce and host webcasts for geekbeat.tv. She had joined CW33 in early 2009 after graduating in December of the previous year from the University of North Texas.

HOLLY YAN (reporter at CW33) -- Laid off by The Dallas Morning News, she was hired in May 2009 as a so-called "backpack journalist" (see Dan X. McGraw). Left CW33 in July to take a newsroom position with CNN.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 17-19) -- Cowboys inch past one million mark with blown lead win over arch rival Redskins

The Cowboys' 33-30 win over Washington, after first squandering a big lead, had just enough punch with D-FW viewers to clear the one million bar Sunday afternoon on Fox.

The game averaged 1,038,855 viewers, dramatically down from the previous week's narrow home loss to the Eagles on NBC's Sunday Night Football. That one had 1,627,540 viewers, the biggest TV crowd of this forgettable season. Dallas and the Redskins are now both 5-9.

CBS' Jets-Steelers game, which followed the Cowboys and also went down to the last seconds, drew 498,650 total viewers while the Green Bay Packers' game but losing effort against the nearly invincible New England Patriots gave NBC 512,502 viewers in prime-time.

Saturday programming was topped by NBC's new edition of Saturday Night Live, which had 200,845 viewers to outdraw everything else shown during both the day and night.

Each of the four major providers had at least one victory in Friday's local news derby.

WFAA8 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers but NBC5 ran first with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

The Peacock also tied Fox4 for the top spot in total viewers at 6 a.m. and had the gold to itself among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox4 ran the table at 5 p.m.; NBC5 took first at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but CBS11 entered the winner's circle with a win in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Injured Romo completes a pass anyway -- to CW33's Candice Crawford


As you can see from the above, Dallas-based CW33 clearly is underplaying the news that its own Candice Crawford is newly engaged to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

They really need to get out and promote this. Why keep it a secret? Couldn't they at least build a special Christmas Day newscast around an exclusive interview with the gentleman who prefers blondes and his just turned 24-year-old fiancee?

Oh, but we kid the lovebirds -- And CW33, too. And it seems very likely that the station will be your "official source" for any and all news nuggets about the impending nuptials. For now, here are more CW33 website images -- of the ring and the happy couple. Eat your heart out, Jon Kitna. All you get to do is hand off to Tashard Choice.

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There he goes again: Gingrich wants another big donation from Dallas-based gentlemen's club

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich really should consider updating the mailing list for his conservative American Solutions organization.

To the delight of The Lodge, which modestly bills itself as "America's best-known and most-honored gentlemen's club," Gingrich again is asking owner Dawn Rizos for money.

This didn't go so well the first time around. As documented on this website, National Public Radio, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and numerous other news outlets, American Solutions last year offered to name Rizos one of its Entrepreneurs of the Year in return for a $5,000 donation. She was supposed to receive the honor during a private dinner in Washington, D.C.

Rizos sent the money, but belatedly was spurned by Gingrich after his people discovered that the Dallas-based Lodge specializes in picturesque, scantily-clad women. The Lodge instead used the returned check to open Newt's Nook, a recovery center for sick and injured dogs. They weren't the only ones to howl, with Maddow in particular having a field day and interviewing both Rizos and "writer in residence" Michael Precker on her show.

American Solutions now is asking Rizos for a suggested $1,000 donation -- "or even as much as $2,000" -- to become a card-carrying member of the organization. A copy of her 2011 membership card, affixed with both Gingrich's and Rizos' name, is attached to the two-page come-on.

"After the resounding rejection of Barack Obama's leftist ideology and governing policies on November 2nd, we stand on the verge of an exciting new era," the solicitation letter says. "Thanks to members like you, American Solutions played a critical role in helping create this year's sea-change election."

Rizos in fact has never been a member of American Solutions, and is passing on a chance to be one until the two parties "can discuss what happened last year." However, in the spirit of the holiday season, she has sent Gingrich a lifetime VIP membership card to The Lodge. The club says its value is $2,000 and includes among other things:

***Access to The Loft, our intimate members-only lounge with your personal concierge, and to the Wine Cellar.

***Complimentary admission at all times for you and your guests.

***A free steak-and-lobster lunch every Thursday, with the purchase of any two beverages.

***Invitations to our remarkable theme parties, which include feature entertainers, an elaborate gourmet buffet, and $2 drinks.

Rizos says The Lodge is expecting "huge crowds" during Super Bowl XLV week, but "I guarantee we will save a table for Newt."

Meanwhile, the conservative mover and shaker continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. And The Lodge again is overjoyed to again be on the receiving end of Gingrich's latest shakedown.

Baseball's official World Series film shows that the Giants still win


To the victors go the spoils. For the San Francisco Giants that means a starring role in Major League Baseball's official 2010 film, newly available on DVD from Shout! Factory.

Even so, it still hurts so good to be a Texas Rangers fan after the team magically made its first ever World Series appearance by punching out the defending champ New York Yankees. That makes this well-produced film a nice last-minute keepsake/Christmas gift for either longtime or jump-on-the-bandwagon supporters of the North Texas Nine.

San Francisco native and diehard Giants fan Rob Schneider capably narrates his team's march to improbable World Series gold. Neither team was picked by anyone to get to the Fall Classic, let alone the preceding playoffs. The Giants reveled in their "misfit" trappings while the Rangers finally found a pitching staff to match the team's reliably brawny offense.

Running for nearly 125 minutes, the film spends the first 19 of them on the Giants' regular and post-season march to baseball's biggest stage. The Rangers in contrast get only a four-and-a-half minute buildup. It's the difference between winning and losing.

It's nice to hear the occasional voice of Rangers' radio announcer Eric Nadel during both sections of the film. He's most evident in Game 3, exclaiming his trademark "That ball is history!" when Rangers' rookie third baseman Mitch Moreland hits a three-run "jimmyjack," as Nadel put it, to give Texas a 3-0 lead in the early stages of the team's first and only World Series win.

"I kind of blacked out goin' around the bases," Moreland says in a subsequent interview for the film.

Meanwhile, it's perhaps cold comfort to remember that the now departed Cliff Lee coughed up the bit in Game 1 of the Series, blowing a 2-0 lead before getting pounded out in the fifth inning. And Lee, of course, also couldn't match the continued artistry of the Giants Tim Lincecum in the closing Game 5.

There are no fresh reminiscences from Lee. But relievers Darren O'Day and Neftali Feliz, and general manager Jon Daniels join Moreland in reflecting on the Rangers Game 3 victory.

"It kind of felt like we had a Series going," Daniels says.

Additionally, the Rangers' David Murphy and Matt Treanor are caught off the cuff during Game 4 action, in which Texas was shut out 4-0.

"Throw the hangin' breaking ball right here," Murphy say hopefully from the dugout. But rookie pitcher Madison Bumgarner instead struck out Vladimir Guerrero in the clutch.

Giants catcher Buster Posey's home run to center field, putting the Giants ahead 3-0 in Game 4, initially looked like a long fly ball out from catcher Treanor's bullpen perspective.

"I didn't think he hit it that good," he says after the ball leaves the yard. The film also goes behind the scenes with a young Rangers fan who caught the rookie Posey's home run ball and had the class to return it to him after the game.

Another wound is re-opened in Game 5, when Lee gives up a three-run, two-out homer to Giants shortstop Edgar Renteria after matching six shutout innings with Lincecum. Renteria's death blow is recaptured from a variety of angles while the basic question remains: Why didn't they walk him with first base open and two outs? The Giants went on to win 3-1, with bizarro closer Brian Wilson ending the series by striking out Nelson Cruz.

"I had tears in my eyes for the guys," Giants great Willie Mays says.

The Giants' cable car victory parade is also included. Way to rub it in. But winners take all, and the Rangers came up short, both in the Series and in the time spent on them in this film.

An interesting postscript notes that Texas received two post-Series consolation prizes. Among the items acquired by baseball's Hall of Fame is the bat used by Moreland to hit the Rangers' first ever World Series home run and some pitching mound dirt from the first World Series game played on the team's home field.

It's not much. But it's a start.

Aguilar vs. Fox -- Epilogue


A key page from the jury's verdict in Aguilar vs. Fox. Photo: Ed Bark

So, upon further review, did the jury decide wisely? Should it have rejected former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar's claim that race and retaliation were the motivating factors behind her suspension and the eventual non-renewal of her contract?

Based upon the evidence presented in court -- and I heard every second of it -- jurors indeed rendered the proper verdict. Their swift decision Monday, after roughly one hour of deliberation, came as no big surprise. It would have been folly to decide otherwise based on the cold, hard realities of what they saw and heard.

The turning point in the six-day trial likely came on Day 3. That's when attorneys for NW Communications of Texas, Inc. (parent company of KDFW/Fox4) hit jurors with an avalanche of written performance evaluations and reprimands that dated to 1998, when Maria Barrs became the station's news director.

Aguilar was praised as a strong reporter with a capacity for developing "rapport with the 'regular' people." And her fluency in Spanish has "brought us stories no one else has," Barrs wrote.

In the same 1998 evaluation, though, Aguilar was criticized for being "widely perceived to be something of a troublemaker" who had "more than the usual number of unpleasant confrontations with officials and others involved in her stories." At one point that included calling the Dallas Police Department's public information officer a "puppet" in front of his co-workers. The evaluation also noted that Aguilar "will sometimes immediately reject a story idea or angle if it is not entirely to her liking, rather than hearing out the suggestion first."

Aguilar had been at Fox4 for four years at that point. But Barrs wasn't sold on her, recommending that discussions on a new contract be postponed for "at least three months." Message to jurors: this had been going on for a long time.

Some might deduce that Barrs had it in for Aguilar. And that she was determined to have her head on a platter some day. But jurors simply didn't buy that, in the end seeing Aguilar as the constant agitator and Barrs as a tough but fair boss who alternately nurtured and lashed Aguilar before finally throwing her hands up.

There's no doubt they had an ongoing personality conflict that sometimes cooled to a simmer but regularly re-heated to a boil. Both Barrs and Aguilar are strong-willed minority women from very humble backgrounds who worked their ways up to prominent positions in the country's fifth-largest media market. They can be prickly, demanding and sometimes unbending. But in many instances, relationships of this sort can live long and even prosper. In that respect, veteran Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb (who is African-American and was called by the defense) likely scored points with the jury on the basis of both his command presence on the witness stand and his declaration that "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." The clear implication: Aguilar had no clue in that respect.

Barrs and Aguilar in fact co-existed for nine years at Fox4 before their end game came in the form of that much-documented Oct. 15, 2007 interview with an elderly West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two would-be burglars in three weeks time. I've seen the finished product many times, and to this day do not see it as some sort of journalistic cardinal sin. Aguilar got an exclusive interview that every rival station coveted.

Her subject, the then 70-year-old James Walton, repeatedly protested about being on-camera during raw footage shown to jurors. But he also seemed in absolutely no hurry to drive away. He was both conversational and cantankerous, with Aguilar trying to draw him out while standing between Walton and his open driver's side car door. But to say she was "blocking" him -- as the defense repeatedly contended -- is basically nonsense. Aguilar immediately moved out of the way when Walton started his engine and then closed his car door. Yeah, she was aggressive in her pursuit of him. But there are a lot of hard-charging reporters in this market who would have behaved pretty much the same as she did. It's just that none of them will admit as much on the record.

The aftermath was explosive. Barrs and Fox4 general manager Kathy Saunders said the station was deluged with emails and phone calls from viewers who objected to Aguilar's supposed ambushing and bullying of a defenseless, geriatric crime victim. One boiling point: Aguilar asking Walton, "Are you a trigger happy kind of person? Is that what you wanted to do -- shoot to kill?"

Aguilar to this day says she has no regrets about including that question in the finished product. But it provided a ton of ammunition for her critics, and also was brought up during last week's court testimony.

The interview proved to be a final flashpoint, the "story that broke the camel's back," in the words of Fox's lead attorney, Michael Shaunessy. Saunders previously had overruled Barrs' recommendation that Aguilar's contract not be renewed after her latest two-year deal with Fox4 expired in early 2007. But the Walton story, and the reaction to it, prompted her to approve a paid suspension that eventually led to the official non-renewal of Aguilar's contract at its midway point in March 2008.

Fox4 had a clear contractual right to sever ties with Aguilar -- and didn't need a reason, jurors were told. It also was emphasized that the station paid her throughout her suspension, and then for another 90 days beyond the official non-renewal of her contract.

The fact that her husband, John, continues to work as a newscast director for Fox4 certainly didn't hurt the defense's case. It also was disclosed, by both sides, that Aguilar had been making a tidy $129,000 annually in what turned out to be the final year of her Fox4 contract. In times of continued steep unemployment, that's not exactly a sympathy point. And attorney Shaunessy no doubt knew as much when he noted during the jury selection process that a number of people in the 50-member pool were currently out of work.

The jury ended up being composed of nine white women, two white men and an African-American man. But the initial jury pool was made up of at least 20 percent minorities by my count, with attorneys on each side getting six picks. So if racial imbalance was a problem, -- as Aguilar indicated in post-trial comments -- then her lawyers had at least a little something to do with that.

Aguilar's principal claim against Fox4 was that the station continually ignored her written and verbal lobbying on behalf of hiring more minority newsroom managers. Specifically, Hispanic news managers. She ultimately paid the price for being a "thorn in the side" of management, as one of her attorneys, Chris Raesz, told jurors in his closing argument.

That's a hard argument to sell. Barrs, who is Asian-American, remains the only minority news director at any of D-FW's television news providers -- NBC5, WFAA8, CBS11, TXA21 and CW33. And in a "University of Diversity" article posted on this site in May 2008, Fox4 was found to have more minority reporters -- nine -- than any other news room. Its overall grade of B-minus was the second highest given, behind WFAA8's A-minus for its wealth of high-profile minority anchors.

Fox4 didn't complain about that article, but did bristle at the lengthy post-suspension interview Aguilar did with unclebarky.com. It came up during the defense's case against her and in Barrs' multi-paged Nov. 2, 2007 "Last and Final Warning" to Aguilar. By disclosing her side of how she had obtained the Walton interview, Aguilar had violated company policy, Barrs said. "As an experienced journalist," she wrote, "you are well aware that we routinely fight all efforts to inquire into our newsgathering process."

Alas, there's a lot of that going around, and certainly not only at Fox4. Although they hound the subjects of their stories, this market's TV news providers invariably construct moats around their castles when it comes to discussing anything regarding how they gather the news or handle "personnel matters." Being owned from afar by a corporation has only worsened things, although CBS11 remains more accessible and a bit more forthcoming than Fox4 or NBC5. The comparative mom-and-pop outfit, Belo-owned WFAA8, is no better, it should be noted.

Back in the "old days" -- the 1980s and '90s -- general managers such as John McKay, Dave Lane and Blake Byrne (who respectively ran the ships at Channels 4, 8 and 5) used to enjoy mixing it up. As did news directors Marty Haag, Mike Sechrist and Bill Vance (respectively of Channels 8, 4 and 5).

It's the major reason I covered Aguilar vs. Fox from start to finish. The inner workings of media companies generally are off-limits to both TV critics and the general public. But this case put a microscope on one of the country's major news operations, even though Fox4 -- as the station is billed in all of its promotions -- fell back on the old "KDFW" tag throughout the trial in an effort to dissuade jurors from at least subliminally thinking that the Fox corporate monolith easily could part with the couple of million bucks that Aguilar's attorneys wanted for her.

It also should be noted that attorneys from both sides were cordial and/or friendly throughout to the only reporter who bothered to cover this trial. Saunders and particularly Barrs also were approachable outside the courtroom. Obviously they didn't have to be.

The jury's verdict clearly was of great relief to them, and a bruising body blow to Aguilar. Both Barrs and Saunders say they'll "move on," and Aguilar should follow suit in this case. In the end, she was a dogged, outspoken reporter who won many awards but in the end overplayed her hand. As a prospective, ultimately unchosen juror said at the very start, "It's just that corporate usually wins out."

Corporate won out. They had the best cards, and they played them.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Mon., Dec. 10-13) -- Cowboys numbers go through the roof, probably for last time this season

The Dallas Cowboys' concluding game this season on NBC's big Sunday Night Football stage drew the team's biggest D-FW audience to date.

A mega-crowd of 1,627,540 watched the Cowboys drop their ninth game of the season, a 30-27 loss to the likely playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles. That's quite a pole vault from the season's ratings low point -- a measly 907,276 viewers for the Halloween home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 4-9 Cowboys almost assuredly won't approach Sunday's heights again with their remaining holiday season games against the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Eagles. In fact, the Christmas night game against equally crummy Arizona could well be the least-watched of this desultory season.

Also on Sunday, your friendly content provider's playoff-contending Green Bay Packers played like zeroes in a 7-3 loss to the lowly Detroit Lions that drew 325,508 viewers on Fox. A Jerry Jones-spiked edition of CBS' 60 Minutes lured a bigger crowd (408,616 viewers) after a football runover delayed its start time to 6:30 p.m.

Monday's prime-time Nielsens were controlled wall-to-wall in total viewers by CBS' all-new lineup of four sitcoms and a Christmas-themed Hawaii Five-0. In it, Steve McGarrett shot a machine gun to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." OK, not really, but the action hour did have a Christmas motif.

CBS also ran the table Monday night with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds while a new Mariah Carey Christmas special on ABC ran fourth across the board with a puny 55,406 viewers in the 8 p.m. hour. In contrast, CBS' combo of Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly drew 360,136 and 270,102 viewers respectively from 8 to 9 p.m.

Here are the local news derby results for Friday and Monday.

Friday -- CBS11 won at 10 p.m. in total viewers but NBC5 stretched its first-place streak to four straight weeknights among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

The Peacock also prevailed at 6 a.m. in total viewers while Fox4 had the edge with 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 swept the 6 p.m. competitions and tied for first at 5 p.m. in total viewers with CBS11. Fox4 won at 5 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Monday -- CBS11 had a bountiful day, again running first at 10 p.m. in total viewers and this time edging NBC5 among 25-to-54-year-olds to halt the Peacock's four-night run.

NBC5 took the 6 a.m. gold in total viewers while CBS11 made a rare appearance in the early morning winner's circle by tying Fox4 for the top spot with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 ran the table at 6 p.m. Fox4 and WFAA8 tied for first in total viewers at 5 p.m., with Fox4 winning the gold outright in the 25-to-54 measurement.

Former CW33 anchor Tom Crespo reunited with former newsroom boss


Anchor Tom Crespo, sacked nearly two years ago by Dallas-based CW33 as part of widespread makeover, has landed a spot as co-anchor of the featured weekday newscasts on KXII-TV, the Texoma-based CBS/Fox affiliate.

He'll be rejoining his old boss, Anthony Maisel, who last month was named news director at the station. KXII services both Texas and Oklahoma with a signal that reaches Ada, Ardmore, Durant, Sherman, Denison and Gainesville.

Crespo will join incumbent anchor Maureen Kane on Jan. 3rd, according to a TXII publicity release. Maisel hired him in 1998 while starting up a newscast from scratch at CW33. Crespo briefly survived Maisel's departure before being dropped in February 2009 by new news director David Duitch, who continues to run the Tribune-owned station's newsroom.

Maisel termed Crespo a "top-notch anchor and reporter" who is "dedicated to the community and will be a tremendous asset to our team."

Crespo, who's married with two sons, said in the release that the Sherman/Denison locale "has always been on my family's radar as an area that offers the kind of life style suited for raising our children."

Aguilar vs. Fox4 -- she loses on all counts as the Dallas-based media trial closes its books (updated)

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Rebecca Aguilar lost in court against her former employer Monday.

Rebecca Aguilar's civil suit against Fox4 ended emphatically in favor of her former employer Monday afternoon when a 12-person jury ruled unanimously against her.

Deliberations lasted only about one hour, a swift verdict considering the six-day length of the trial in a downtown Dallas courtroom. Jurors found that NW Communications of Texas, Inc., parent company of Fox4, had not parted ways with her on the basis of racial discrimination or in retaliation for her periodic efforts on behalf of hiring minority news managers.

"You heard a week's worth of testimony," Fox's head attorney, Michael Shaunessy, told unclebarky.com outside the courtroom shortly after District Court Judge Jim Jordan announced the jury's decision in the oft-acrimonious case. "KDFW (Channel 4) did everything it could to make her a good employee. In the end they couldn't save her from herself."

Shaunessy also said, "The speed of that verdict speaks volumes."

A distraught Aguilar quickly left the courtroom area. Her lead attorney, Bill Trantham, said simply, "You win some, you lose some."

In a subsequent reaction posted in the "Comments" attached to this article, Aguilar said in part, "I realized it was an uphill battle with the army of attorneys and paralegals that Fox brought in to take me on. I knew it was also an uphill battle with a jury made up of 11 white people . . . This was never about money. This was about making sure that when a corporation chants 'equal opportunity' for all, it means it. Not just lip service.

"Fox took my job, but it can never take away my voice and my passion for journalism. I hope I inspire others not to work or live in fear. I lost in the court of law, but not in the court of life."

Fox4 general manager Kathy Saunders, prime target of Aguilar's wrongful termination suit along with vice president and news director Maria Barrs, said outside the courtroom that "KDFW believed in the defense of this case. We are very happy with the outcome, and now we can move on."

Barrs added, "I'm really sad that this came to this. But I'm glad it's over. And the station and the newsroom are going to move on."

Aguilar was suspended with pay by the station on Oct. 16, 2007, the day after her controversial exclusive interview of then 70-year-old West Dallas salvage business owner James Walton. She approached him in a sporting goods store parking lot, where he had a new shotgun in his possession after previously shooting and killing two alleged burglars within three weeks time. Her nearly 14-year career as a Fox4 reporter officially ended on March 6, 2008, when Fox4 exercised its option to drop her at the halfway point of her latest two-year contract.

Aguilar was paid her salary throughout that period under a standard "pay or play" provision in reporters' contract. The station also paid her for 90 more days after opting not to pick up the second year of her contract. Her husband, John, continues to work at Fox4 as a newscast director.

In his 45-minute closing argument to the jury, Shaunessy said that Fox4's action solely had to do "with the fact that Rebecca Aguilar for more than 10 years was a bad employee."

The Walton interview, a flashpoint throughout the trial, "was an ambush interview from the start," jurors were told

Aguilar's relationships with fellow employees and supervisors were repeatedly problematic, and her reporting skills also began eroding in later years, Shaunessy said. He noted a previously referenced dustup with Fox4 reporter Emily Lopez, whom Aguilar supposedly had insulted while also allegedly telling an attorney via telephone that Lopez had been fired by the station.

Shaunessy described Lopez, who remains at Fox4, as "a young and frankly beautiful Hispanic reporter" whom the older Aguilar, now 52, supposedly saw as a threat to her.

He also compared Aguilar to former Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, whom Shaunessy said "was a lousy employee and he was an inconsistent player who couldn't be trusted."

Race and retaliation had nothing to do with the actions Fox4 took against her, Shaunessy told the jury, ending his closing argument with the words, "Rebecca Aguilar made her bed and she has to lie in it."

Trantham and Aguilar's co-attorney, Chris Raesz, shared the plaintiff's closing argument, with Raesz describing his client as a "thorn in their side" whose verbal and written lobbying for minority news managers made her increasingly expendable.

"When she starts pressing, they start coming in very negative," he said of her written evaluations. The Walton story at first was applauded within the newsroom before receiving heavy criticism via emails and phone calls to the station, Raesz told jurors. "Walton was the opportunity" to get rid of Aguilar, he said.

Trantham, who addressed jurors immediately after Shaunessy had finished, said the evaluations finding fault with Aguilar were "used as an instrument of oppression . . . This non-team employee -- they gave her a raise every time. These people (Barrs and Saunders) have covered up their wrongdoing by blaming her for everything."

Aguilar's salary had reached $129,000 annually by the time she was suspended, attorney Raesz told attorneys told jurors. A requested $2 million judgment, filed by Aguilar's first attorney, Steve Kardell, "ain't out of line," Trantham said, citing Aguilar's ongoing suffering and probable future lost income.

The jury didn't buy it after a trial in which both sides repeatedly swung hard at one another. Among those called to testify were Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley and reporter Shaun Rabb for the defense, and reporter Saul Garza for the plaintiffs. A fourth on-camera anchor-reporter, Richard Ray, showed up at the courthouse Monday morning in answer to a subpoena after returning from vacation. But Aguilar's attorneys excused him from testifying after both sides had rested their cases Friday.

Specifically, here are the four verbatim questions the jury addressed after hearing the official Court Charge late Monday morning from Judge Jordan.

Was race a motivating factor in any of the following employment decisions by NW Communications, Inc. regarding Rebecca Aguilar?

A. Exercising the "pay or play" provision of Rebecca Aguilar's employment agreement. (The jury answered "No.")

B. Not renewing Rebecca Aguilar's employment agreement. (The jury answered "No.")

Did NW Communications of Texas, Inc. take any of the employment decisions listed below because of Rebecca Aguilar's opposition to a discriminatory practice?

A. Exercising the 'pay or play' provision of Rebecca Aguilar's employment agreement. (The jury answered "No.")

B. Not renewing Rebecca Aguilar's employment agreement. (The jury answered "No.")

There was no outward jubilation on the part of either Fox's attorneys, or Barrs or Saunders, both of whom were present. They all then gathered to thank jurors for their service as the nine women and three men moved toward the 6th floor elevators at the George L. Allen Sr. Courts Building. One of the women jurors told Barrs she should write a book about her previously testified humble beginnings as one of 13 children born to poor parents.

For now, though, that's all she wrote.

Day Five: Aguilar vs. Fox

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Fox4 veterans Clarice Tinsley and Shaun Rabb myfoxdfw.com photos

Both sides rested their cases late Friday morning in the Rebecca Aguilar vs. Fox trial after jurors were treated to a jolt of star power from final witness Clarice Tinsley.

D-FW's dean of news anchors, a 32-year veteran at KDFW-TV (Ch. 4), was called in to buttress the defense's case against Aguilar, who is suing the Fox-owned-and-operated station for wrongful termination on the grounds of racial discrimination and retaliation.

There are no more witnesses on the docket, but ample work yet to be done. Opposing attorneys will make their closing arguments to a 12-person jury on Monday after Judge Jim Jordan reads them their marching orders. There is still some wrangling over exactly what jurors will be asked to deliberate on, but lawyers for Fox and Aguilar will have to hash that out before the jury is called in on Monday.

Tinsley worked 17 years for KDFW when it was a CBS affiliate before Fox bought the Dallas-based station in 1995.

It's Aguilar's contention that the station increasingly became averse to hiring minorities for news manager positions after Kathy Saunders became Fox4's general manager in 1997 and Maria Barrs was promoted to news director in 1998. Aguilar's repeated lobbying for more minorities in positions of authority eventually led to her suspension on Oct. 16, 2007, according to her lawsuit. The station allegedly found a pretext to dismiss her after Aguilar's controversial interview with a then 70-year-old West Dallas salvage business owner who shot and killed two would-be burglars within three weeks time.

Tinsley told lead Fox attorney Michael Shaunessy that she had seen no indication of fewer opportunities for minorities under the leadership of Saunders-Barrs. Nor did she feel Aguilar had been treated any differently than her newsroom colleagues, Tinsley testified.

"Their doors are always open," she said of Saunders and Barrs.

Tinsley said that Aguilar occasionally would broach the subject of discrimination in conversations they had. But Tinsley said she never witnessed any racial prejudice on the part of management, and advised Aguilar to keep her head up and continue to do a good job as a reporter.

"Very often she (Aguilar) would have the lead story" on newscasts, or a prominently played report in the first segment, Tinsley said.

Tinsley said she wouldn't work for a station with any pattern of racial discrimination. And that she'd do something about it if she ever became aware of such conduct at Fox4.

"Being someone who's on the air, it's like you're an ambassador for that news department, that news station," Tinsley said of her long tenure as a Fox4 anchor. She currently solos on the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts after former co-anchor Baron James' contract wasn't renewed.

"Did you and Ms. Aguilar get along?" lead plaintiff's attorney Bill Trantham asked Tinsley during cross-examination.

"Yes, we were friends," Tinsley said.

Still, the two really haven't talked since Aguilar's last day at the station, Tinsley said, describing her former colleague's suspension as a "personnel issue." The lone exception,Tinsley said, was a brief conversation about commemorative jackets they both received several years ago after being nominated for a worldwide, company-sponsored award by News Corporation, parent company of Fox4. According to Tinsley's recollection, Aguilar phoned to ask Tinsley if she still had the jacket she had been given.

During a brief return to the witness stand for rebuttal, Aguilar told Trantham that she had phoned Tinsley about 15 times after her suspension, but never received a return call.

Asked how she felt about that, Aguilar said, "I feel sad that I lost her friendship."

Tinsley acknowledged, during cross-examination, that she met with Fox attorney Shaunessy for about one hour Thursday night prior to her Friday morning testimony. That's certainly not uncommon in any lawsuit case, but Trantham was trying to give jurors the impression that Tinsley had been coached to tow the company line.

Earlier Friday morning, during the second segment of his testimony, defense witness Shaun Rabb praised Aguilar as a dogged reporter who probably had more "exclusive" reports than any other Fox4 staffer. But that was then.

"After Ms. Aguilar was suspended, you stopped talking to her, didn't you?" Rabb was asked.

Yes he had, Rabb said. And if he received any phone calls from Aguilar, he didn't return them.

Rabb said he also was an advocate for minority hiring at Fox4. But unlike Aguilar, he never sent any memos to that effect, Rabb said. He explained that that's not his style.

Asked whether opportunities for minorities had declined with Saunders and Barrs in charge, Rabb answered, "In my opinion, no sir."

In rebutting Aguilar's claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, Fox attorneys have sought to portray her as a sour-dispositioned co-worker whose street reporting skills also eroded over time.

Fox4 photo-journalist Marc Kaminer, whose longevity at the station equals Tinsley's, testified about a courthouse incident in which Aguilar "just kind of grabbed my side and kind of pulled me around" while he was shooting a defendant in the hallway.

She then balked at his handing a tripod to an accompanying station intern, saying station policy didn't allow that, Kaminer said. Aguilar carried the tripod herself to a Fox4 vehicle, and then intentionally dropped and damaged it, he said. He termed her comportment "quite nasty" and "embarrassing" for him. Kaminer then "absolutely" tried to avoid working with Aguilar from then on.

Asked whether he had any "lasting memories" of Aguilar, Kaminer replied, "That's all I really need to remember about her."

During cross-examination by Aguilar's co-attorney, Chis Raesz, Kaminer was asked to name any minorities in management positions at Fox4.

"I do not know of any," he said after a long pause. Fox co-attorney Erin Williams asked him about Barrs, who in fact is Asian-American. But Kaminer said he didn't know if Barrs is a minority or not.

A fourth witness for the defense, attorney Gregory Shamoun, testified that he had done an in-person interview with Fox4 reporter Emily Lopez in connection with the death of a child who died after allegedly being negligently left in a day care center vehicle during July, 2006.

Shamoun said he later received a second interview request from a phone caller who identified herself as Rebecca Aguilar. When he mentioned the earlier interview with Lopez, the caller told him that she had been fired by Fox4, Shamoun recalled. But Lopez is still at the station, and has been since that time.

In the rebuttal segment, Aguilar said of Shamoun, "I didn't know him. I didn't call him . . . I didn't know who he was until I saw him up here and he stated his name."

Obviously there's much for the jury to sort out, including what plaintiff's attorney Trantham disparaged as Aguilar's "phony personnel evaluations" from Barrs while the two sides argued over procedural matters after the last witness had been excused.

But they did agree to Fox4's offer of a TV set and DVD player to be set up in the jury deliberation room for any replays of the visual evidence presented in court. Judge Jordan had earlier noted that the jurors' room has nothing more technological than a chalkboard.

There's one caveat, though. The video equipment supplied by Fox4 cannot have any identifying characteristics -- such as a station logo.

There's a fighting chance for a verdict to come in on Monday.

New face at CBS11/TXA21 means exit of incumbent weekend anchor Nerissa Knight

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Nerissa Knight and CBS11/TXA21 newcomer Sharrie Williams.

Sharrie Williams has been named the new weekend anchor for CBS11/TXA21, replacing three-year veteran Nerissa Knight.

Williams, who will begin anchoring on the weekend of Jan. 22-23, arrives from CBS-owned WFOR-TV in Miami, where she worked for current CBS11/TXA21 news director Adrienne Roark. She has been a reporter and fill-in anchor at WFOR.

In a publicity release, CBS11/TXA21 president and general manager Gary Schneider noted that Williams covered this year's earthquake in Haiti and also is an avid sports fan who began her journalism career as a college student producing feature stories on University of Tennessee athletes for Fox Sports Net South.

Her "knowledge of -- and enthusiasm for -- sports makes her extremely well-suited for the Dallas-Fort Worth market," Schneider said.

Williams also has worked for WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Ala. and WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tenn.

CBS11/TXA21 director of communications Lori Conrad confirmed that Knight no longer is with the stations. The Wisconsin native came to D-FW in September 2007 from KBTV-TV in Beaumont. She told unclebarky.com at the time that she remembered watching Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley as a kindergartener during Tinsley's previous tenure at a Milwaukee TV station.

During her time in D-FW, Knight was working the weekend shift when the Dallas Cowboys' practice "bubble" collapsed on May 2, 2009, seriously injuring a special teams coach and a scouting assistant. CBS11 was first on the scene, and Knight anchored that afternoon's breaking news coverage.

Knight could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Day Four: Aguilar vs. Fox


Rebecca Aguilar and lead attorney Bill Trantham Photo: Ed Bark

The high stakes game of she said/she said continued during Thursday's court proceedings, with former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar and her ex-boss, vice president/news director Maria Barrs, again utterly at odds. This time an alleged apology is either true or false.

Aguilar, who is suing the Dallas-based station for wrongful termination, quickly fanned the flames in the opening minutes of her morning testimony after attorney Bill Trantham lit the match. Wearing his fourth Christmas tie in as many days, he asked Aguilar to recall a chance meeting between Barrs and Aguilar at the July 2009 funeral for reporter Brett Johnson, who worked for both NBC5 and Fox4.

During the previous day's testimony, Barrs flatly denied "apologizing" to Aguilar, but acknowledged reaching out to her because it seemed like "the appropriate thing to do" under the circumstances. Aguilar has a polar-opposite recollection.

"I feel a tug at my jacket, and it was her (Barrs), she told Trantham, her lead attorney.

Barrs then wished her good luck before inquiring about her son, Alex, Aguilar said. Then Barrs supposedly said, "I just want to tell you I regret everything I've done to you."

"I appreciate you saying that," Aguilar said she told Barrs, who next supposedly said, "I have a lot of regrets."

Aguilar said she was shocked by both admissions. Then another reporter walked up to hug her while Barrs walked away, Aguilar told Trantham.

During his session with Barrs Wednesday, Trantham asked her if she'd be surprised if a third party eyewitness could corroborate any apology to Aguilar.

"I would be surprised and disappointed that anyone would say that I said that," Barrs told him.

No such witness has materialized so far during the now four-day-old trial. But the jury is still out, so to speak.

Aguilar, who mostly blames Barrs for allegedly masterminding her downfall, was suspended from Fox4 on Oct. 16, 2007, the day after her controversial interview of a 70-year-old West Dallas salvage business owner. On the weekend before the interview, Walton had shot and killed an alleged burglar, the second time in three weeks that he had used deadly force on an intruder.

"He was a hot story. I mean, everybody was looking for him," Aguilar said in her testimony. "And you want the exclusive on that story."

Barrs previously said that Aguilar had "lied" to her about Walton's willingness to do an interview or be shown on camera. But Aguilar said she initially was praised throughout the newsroom for her scoop. The station then was hit by a wave of angry emails and phone calls from viewers who essentially accused her of bullying an elderly crime victim. Barrs earlier had termed it a "vehement response" unlike any she'd ever seen since becoming news director in 1998.

Aguilar recalled phoning Walton on the night the story aired. He never complained about his face fleetingly being shown on camera, but still "was really upset," she said. "He said it made him seem like an effin' weak old man."

Aguilar's paid suspension, under the standard "pay or play" terms of her contract, became an end game on March 6, 2008, when Fox4 exercised its option to drop her at the midway point of her latest two-year deal with the station. She still has trouble sleeping and continues to feel "terrible that it ended this way for me. I worked so hard."

"I missed my job right away," she added. "And I still do today. That was a punch in the gut."

Aguilar, who became teary-eyed on several occasions, said she remains "embarrassed" at letting her emotions often get the best of her whenever she's asked to recall her final day at Fox4.

In the last five years at the station, she broke about 125 "exclusives" a year," Aguilar claimed. "It's too bad at the end my firing overshadowed all that."

Her performance evaluations, which increasingly criticized both her workplace attitude and reporting skills, were "undeserved," she said. But "I definitely appreciate constructive criticism. Definitely," Aguilar emphasized.

In cross-examination, Fox's lead attorney, Michael Shaunessy, sought to depict Aguilar as wildly inconsistent in her praise and criticisms of her bosses. He also noted that she repeatedly received raises and contract renewals, most of them approved by Barrs, during her nearly 14 years at Fox4.

Under the terms of her 2005 contract, Aguilar's pay increased to $125,000 annually, he said, producing a verifying document that was shown to viewers. And even though Barrs was against another two-year renewal in 2007, Aguilar still got a new contract and raise, Shaunessy said.

Fox4 assignments editor Judi White, who has been at the station for more than 25 years, praised Aguilar's reporting skills in a 2007 video shown to jurors by her lawyers. It was in conjunction with Aguilar receiving that year's Broadcast Journalist of the Year award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

But Shaunessy noted that Aguilar earlier had gone to the station's Human Resources department to complain about White being racially insensitive for allegedly saying that "at least I don't hide behind my ethnicity."

Commenting on White, Aguilar initially told Shaunessy, "I don't know what they did to her." She then acknowledged, "I had heard she got suspended."

(It was later learned out of the courtroom that White in fact did not receive a suspension.)

Shaunessy said that Aguilar also had issues with reporter Emily Lopez during her early days at Fox4.

"You told a lawyer in Dallas that KDFW (Fox4) had fired Emily Lopez, didn't you?" Shaunessy asked.

Aguilar also allegedly threw a tape at Lopez in a courtroom, told her "you're a joke" and later sent a derogatory email to her, Shaunessy said during his cross-examination of Aguilar. She denied all of those accusations.

Shaunessy also again replayed the raw video of Aguilar's parking lot interview with Walton, picking it apart in the process. He then asked, "You don't feel like you did anything wrong, do you?"

"No," said Aguilar.

"You'd give yourself an 'A' wouldn't you?"


Aguilar's stated physical and emotional problems since her suspension opened the door for Fox's attorneys to show jurors portions of her medical records. And so they did, with Shaunessy showing jurors a July 6, 2010 evaluation from her doctor that said of Aguilar: "She says she is feeling well and really has no complaints, except for some dry mouth."

An earlier doctor's report, also displayed, said that Aguilar is "now doing freelance (work) and is going to school and is much happier."

Shaunessy also questioned whether Aguilar had made any concerted effort to seek a reporting job at an area television station. Aguilar said she had sent a resume to CBS11 "a few months after I was fired" and also applied recently for an open investigative reporter's position.

Asked about any job possibilities at Fort Worth's NBC5, Aguilar said without elaboration, "I can't work at an NBC station."

Her husband, John, still works at Fox4 as a director in the station's news department. So if she got a reporter position in another TV market, he would have to start over, Aguilar noted during earlier questioning by her attorney.

During her more than three years away from Fox4, Aguilar, 52, said she had gone back to school to learn new multi-media skills and has been mentoring about 40 journalism students around the country. Her suit against Fox4 initially asked for a $2 million settlement under the direction of her first and now former attorney, Steve Kardell.

During questioning by Trantham, Aguilar said she would like to be financially compensated for three years of missed work, but said that all monetary decisions should be left to the jury.

The plaintiffs also called two of Aguilar's former Fox4 colleagues Thursday, reporter Saul Garza and editor Steve Yakub. Both remain at the station and were only briefly on the witness stand. Yakub said he didn't recall any initial news room complaints about Aguilar's Walton interview. He later was one of three off-camera Fox4 staffers who received brief suspensions for their roles in putting the story on the air.

Garza was asked if Aguilar was a "pleasant person" to work with.

"Yeah," he said. "She's tough . . . I personally have learned a lot from her."

Two other potential witnesses for the plaintiffs, Fox4 reporters Brandon Todd and Lari Barager, were excused from testimony by mutual agreement from both sides' lawyers. In a compromise, it was read into the record that both white reporters had made errors in two stories that aired in the late 1990s during their respective first years at the station.

On-air corrections were made in each case, and the reporters' subsequent written evaluations included mentions of the errors. Neither was suspended, and neither Todd or Barager has made a significant reporting error since, Fox4 management earlier testified without either reporter being named.

The defense called its first witness, veteran Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb, during the last hour of Thursday afternoon's session, which was cut short by judge Jim Jordan's scheduled doctor's appointment for a surgical procedure on Wednesday of next week. He has insisted that the trial be completed before then.

Rabb praised Barrs and the other news managers that Aguilar had criticized. He also termed Aguilar an "excellent reporter" who in his view was treated "no different than anyone else."

It's common to have "spirited discussions" in TV news rooms, Rabb said. But "you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em . . . Discretion is the better part of valor."

This hasn't been a mirthful trial by any means. But Rabb drew the first genuine laughter of these proceedings when Aguilar's co-attorney, Chris Raesz, tried to stress the value of being first on a story.

If Channel 8, for instance, gets a scoop, "who's watching you at Channel 5" for a stale followup? he asked.

"Non one's gonna watch me at Channel 5, Mr. Raesz," Rabb deadpanned.

We'll close with his trademark sign-off: "Shaun Rabb. Fox4 -- pause, one-two-three -- news." His testimony will resume on Friday morning.

Day Three: Aguilar vs. Fox


Rebecca Aguilar will testify Thursday in ongoing trial. Photo: Ed Bark

The star attraction in Rebecca Aguilar's wrongful termination suit made a cameo appearance on the witness stand late Wednesday afternoon after hearing attorneys for her former employer, Fox4, amass a blizzard of performance evaluations and testimony that portrayed her as an increasingly dysfunctional reporter both in the newsroom and on the street.

"It's been a long day," Aguilar said, pretty much stating the obvious after her lead attorney, Bill Trantham, gently asked, "How do you feel up there now?"

Aguilar, whose testimony likely will consume all or most of Thursday's proceedings, briefly outlined her background and zeal for reporting before Judge Jim Jordan called a 5 p.m. recess in a trial that now looks as though it will enter a second week.

"It's a great job. I encourage it for anybody," Aguilar said of reporting.

She started in 1981 -- at a Toledo, Ohio TV station -- and worked almost 14 years at Fox4 before being suspended in October 2007 and dropped for good in March 2008 after the station exercised its option not to renew her latest two-year contract at its midway point. In her almost full day of testimony Wednesday, Fox4 vice president and news director Maria Barrs made it clear that she would have cut Aguilar loose sooner had it been her choice.

"Were you in favor of offering her a new contract (in spring 2007)," Fox lead attorney Michael Shaunessy asked Barrs.

"I was not," she said, adding that her dealings with Aguilar had become "exhausting" and "very frustrating."

"I did not believe anymore that she could change the way she did her job," Barrs said. But Fox4 general manager Kathy Saunders decided that Aguilar merited one more chance, Barrs said. Her much-publicized suspension came on Oct. 16th of 2007, the day after Aguilar's controversial followup story on a then 70-year-old West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two alleged burglars within three weeks time before she interviewed him in a parking lot after he had just purchased another shotgun.

Barrs and Saunders in earlier testimony repeatedly have described the man, James Walton, as a trembling crime victim who feared for his life and shouldn't have been shown on camera or interviewed after he repeatedly protested. Aguilar "misled" the station into thinking he had eventually fully consented, they testified.

"It was clear to me that she (Aguilar) had lied to me," Barrs said Wednesday.

Raw tape from that day, shown to jurors earlier this week, also shows that Walton seemed to be in no hurry to drive off and was conversational as well as cantankerous. An earlier Fox4 news story already had clearly showed him on camera, but from a greater distance. At one point, Walton held his hand to his face.

In Aguilar's on-air story, she told viewers that "Walton didn't want us to show his face because he's afraid someone will come after him."

But viewers got a fleeting closer look at him anyway as he prepared to enter his car before sitting in the driver's seat and talking at length to Aguilar. Footage from the earlier Fox4 story, in which viewers got their first glimpse of Walton, was edited into Aguilar's Oct. 15th followup story. Besides Aguilar, three off-camera Fox4 newsroom personnel involved in editing and packaging her story were later briefly suspended but are still employed by the station.

Aguilar's $2 million civil suit claims that her suspension was the end result of racial discrimination and retaliation for her repeated lobbying for at least one Hispanic news manager at Fox4 to improve the station's coverage of a viewing area with a substantial and growing Hispanic population.

Barrs, who became Fox4's news director in 1998 after joining the station four years earlier, issued her first written evaluation of Aguilar in 1998. The document, displayed to jurors, gave her a decidedly mixed review. Aguilar had been with the station for four years at that point.

Under the "Strengths" section, Aguilar was praised for being "able to develop rapport with the 'regular' people" while in her street reporter capacity. And "her language skills (Aguilar is bilingual) have brought us stories no one else has."

But under the "Improvements Needed" portion of the evaluation, Barrs wrote that Aguilar "seems to have more than the usual number of unpleasant confrontations with officials and others involved in her stories . . . At times it seems she allows her attitude to come before the story."

In one cited instance, Aguilar "called the public information officer" (of the Dallas Police Department) a 'puppet' in front of his co-workers," Barrs said in the evaluation. Additionally, "Rebecca will sometimes immediately reject a story idea or angle if it is not entirely to her liking, rather than hearing out the suggestion first."

Noting that Aguilar also was "widely perceived to be something of a troublemaker," Barrs recommended postponing discussions of a new contract "for at least three months."

"There were more problems associated with Rebecca and her co-workers than with any other employee," Barrs told attorney Shaunessy in testimony. Still, Aguilar also had a number of strong, exclusive stories during that period and could be a good co-worker when she put her mind to it, Barrs acknowledged.

Aguilar regularly wrote emails distributed to the news room in general, Barrs testified. In a Dec. 15, 2004 example shown to jurors, she encouraged staffers to "think beyond your non-Latino box" after being "very disappointed" by the rejection of her proposed story on Hispanic painters who, in her words, "are being forced to work and being fired when it's payday."

She also said in the email that "some of you have made an effort to look beyond your white and black borders."

A March 2000 written evaluation of Aguilar's work, also authored by Barrs, described Aguilar as a "good reporter" but a bad co-worker.

"Despite numerous discussions about her attitude, Rebecca continues to cause problems and get involved in issues that do not concern her," the evaluation said.

A 2001 evaluation gave Aguilar a comparatively glowing review. In the "Comments and Goals" section, Barrs wrote: "Rebecca continues to improve her attitude after her last performance appraisal. Specifically she has made an honest and consistent effort to stop complaining, stop spreading gossip among her peers, cease being harshly and unfairly critical of her co-workers, and to be more supportive of the goals of the news department. She is a valuable member of the news team."

The evaluation also noted an alleged serious error in a child custody story reported by Aguilar. And in another criticism, Barrs wrote that "Rebecca has a strong sense of ownership of the stories she reports. That can be a good thing, but she needs to remember the needs of the newscast come first."

At that time in her Fox4 career, "I thought Rebecca brought a lot to the table," Barrs testified.

The defense also produced an April 14, 2003 letter of recommendation in which Barrs championed Aguilar for a minority fellowship with the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.

"I thought she was becoming a member of the team," Barrs told Shaunessy.

But a pair of 2005 written evaluations indicated that Aguilar was backsliding in management's view.

In April of that year, Barrs noted that "Rebecca can become upset when her story ideas are not acted upon or her assessment of a story is questioned." The evaluation also said that Aguilar had made a "serious error in a script - wrongly reporting a man was HIV positive."

In October 2005, under a new 1 to 5 numbers system, Aguilar got an average rating of 3. At this point, Barrs testified, she began feeling that Aguilar was no longer a good fit for the station.

By early 2007 "there were a number of problems," Barrs told Shaunessy. In a Feb. 20, 2007 letter of reprimand -- tied to an allegedly error-filled report on a utility scam -- Barrs wrote, "Rather than expressing any contrition or apology for your errors, you were argumentative, defensive and hostile."

Aguilar then received just a 2 rating -- on the 1 to 5 scale -- in her next evaluation. And at that point, Barrs wanted her gone.

The Walton story -- and the angry reaction to it from a number of Fox4 viewers -- gave both Barrs and Saunders the impetus to suspend Aguilar and eventually part ways with her.

"I felt that we looked like we were beating up on an old guy who had been through a terrible experience," Barrs testified. "I just thought that it reflected very poorly on us (and the media in general) . . . I just think it's an example of why a lot of people don't like us."

On the day of her suspension, a weeping Aguilar was approached by a co-worker outside Fox4's downtown headquarters. In telling her she was suspended, Aguilar violated company policy forbidding employees to talk about internal personnel matters, Barrs wrote in her Nov. 2, 2007 "Last and Final Warning" to Aguilar. She also cited Aguilar for doing a taboo interview with unclebarky.com in which she explained the events leading up to her ill-fated interview with Walton.

In Wednesday's testimony, Barrs emphatically denied that she later approached Aguilar at a July 2009 funeral service for former Fox4 and NBC5 reporter Brett Johnson to apologize for what she had done to her. She did acknowledge reaching out to Aguilar because it seemed like "the appropriate thing to do" in that environment.

Attorney Trantham asked Barrs if she would be surprised if Aguilar's version of what happened at the funeral eventually was corroborated on the witness stand by another person who was in attendance.

"I would be surprised and disappointed that anyone would say that I said that (to Aguilar)," Barrs replied.

Aguilar will get her chance Thursday to both defend herself and rebut the defense's arsenal of written ammunition.

Day Two: Aguilar vs. Fox

2010-12-07 12.02.52

Chris Raesz, co-attorney for Rebecca Aguilar. Executives and attorneys for Fox4 have declined to be photographed. Photo: Ed Bark

Dallas-based Fox4's long-running leading ladies were center stage Tuesday as attorneys continued to build cases for and against former reporter Rebecca Aguilar on Day Two of her wrongful termination civil suit against the station's parent corporations.

Both were ready for their closeups, but to varying degrees.

General manager Kathy Saunders, who has held that position since 1997, continued to testify haltingly while being pressed by Aguilar's co-attorney, Chris Raesz. She regularly asked him to repeat his questions, but became notably more expansive and expressive in the face of much friendlier questioning from Fox co-attorney Erin Williams. That's more or less typical in any court case, although the contrast seemed particularly striking Tuesday.

Saunders' testimony took up much of the day before news director Maria Barrs took the stand at 3:20 p.m. Barrs, in that position since 1998, seemed appreciably more relaxed and conversational during slow-building but increasingly pointed questioning from Aguilar's outwardly folksy lead attorney, Bill Trantham. Her testimony will resume Wednesday morning in a protracted case that possibly could spill over into next week. A 12-person jury will decide on the merits of the suit.

Barrs depicted Aguilar, who joined Fox4 in early 1994, as a "fierce" reporter who "was very, very competitive. She loved getting a scoop."

Aguilar also became an advocate for more Hispanic managers in the Fox news room, Barrs said. "I think they came from her heart," she said of the newsroom memos Aguilar occasionally wrote and distributed.

"I'm a big believer in diversity," said Barrs, who is Asian-American. She also recalled having several meeting with Aguilar on the subject of improved and more knowledgeable news coverage of D-FW's growing Hispanic community.

But the two sharply and definitively parted ways after Aguilar's much-publicized and controversial interview with a then 70-year-old West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two alleged burglars within three weeks time in fall 2007.

She said that Aguilar "misled" the station in terms of James Walton's willingness to do an interview outside a sporting goods store after he had purchased another shotgun.

"Our newsroom was getting flooded with angry phone calls because people thought we were bullying a man who had been the victim of a crime," Barrs said.

Barrs, who did not see the story before or when it aired, said she then reviewed the tape and reached roughly the same conclusion. Aguilar was escorted from the news room on the following day, October 16, 2007, and has never returned. On March 5, 2008, the station exercised the option it had not to renew her two-year contract at its midway point. Aguilar received her salary throughout that period as mandated by a standard "pay or play" clause in the contract.

On the day she was escorted from Fox4, Aguilar and her husband (who continues to work at the station in an off-camera newsroom position), tried to see her in her office, Saunders said.

"I refused her husband" because she thought it "inappropriate," Saunders said. "Rebecca came into my office."

Saunders said she only told Aguilar, "I'm very disappointed." She quoted Aguilar as telling her, "I am so sorry. I made a mistake. I have done 3,000 stories."

Fox 4 had reached the point where "basically we could not trust Rebecca anymore," Saunders told Williams. Aguilar had become both an inadequate reporter in addition to being a recurring "poor newsroom room citizen," she said.

The station's investigation of the Walton interview climaxed with a multi-page Nov. 2, 2007 "Last and Final Warning" memo written by Barrs and approved by Saunders and Fox4 attorneys among others. The memo, addressed to Aguilar, was displayed and discussed at length during Williams' earlier questioning of Saunders.

"The tone of the (Walton) report was far too harsh and confrontational," Barrs wrote in one passage. "Your tone, as a general assignment news reporter, should be neutral."

Investigative reporters such as Fox4 veteran Becky Oliver are given more leeway in pursuing interview subjects, the station contends. And their quarry usually are suspected wrongdoers, not crime victims, the station has emphasized during testimony.

"The tactics you used (in interviewing Walton) should have been discussed with management in advance, were inappropriate and demonstrated poor judgment," Barrs wrote.

Her memo also said that Aguilar had violated Fox4 policy by doing a post-suspension interview with unclebarky.com in which she was "quoted extensively discussing the newsgathering process. As an experienced journalist you are well aware that we routinely fight all efforts to inquire into our newsgathering process."

The memo additionally noted that Aguilar had received two earlier warnings about the quality of her reporting, on Feb. 28, 2007 and on Sept. 27, 2007.

Attorney Williams opened her first segment with Saunders by again showing jurors raw footage of the Aguilar-Walton parking lot meeting.

By her count, Walton had asked nine times not to have his face shown on camera, Williams said.

The tape shows that Walton was alternately cantankerous and accommodating while making no effort to drive away while seated in his car. Aguilar stood between Walton and driver's side door while talking to him. But when he started up his engine, she said, "All right, I'll leave you alone," and stepped aside. In the raw footage, a Fox4 cameraman caught a fleeting glimpse of Walton through the windshield as he began to drive off.

Walton had said earlier in no uncertain terms, "Don't be takin' my Goddamn picture!" At that point Aguilar asked the cameraman to step away but persisted in trying to get Walton to open up.

"I'm surprised that you come out here and buttonhole me," he told her.

"I'm not here to get a scoop," Aguilar replied. "I'm here to get your side of the story."

Aguilar later asked Walton, "So John can't join us?" in reference to her cameraman.

"No, I don't want John to join us," he said. Again the cameraman pulled back, but Aguilar continued to converse with Walton. The camera remained in play, mostly capturing Aguilar standing next to Walton's car. In her testimony, Barrs said it's a basic rule of thumb to "keep the camera rolling" when out on a story. It's not a hard-and-fast edict without any exceptions, but "if you want to call it policy, yes. OK," she told attorney Trantham.

Two other Fox4 reporters, James Rose and Steve Noviello, came into play during attorney Raesz's questioning of Saunders.

In a November 2009 "97 tickets in 90 minutes" story during one of Rose's "Street Squad" segments, he reported on multiple motorists who regularly were making illegal left hand turns to avoid an oft -crowded overhead bypass in Lewisville.

Three violators agreeably talked to Rose on camera, but one woman wanted nothing to do with him after he asked her, "What's your reaction to the cops crackin' down?"

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

"Why did you do it?" Rose persisted.

"I don't want to be on TV. Thank you," the woman said before driving off. She was on TV anyway, as jurors saw in the story as it aired on Fox4.

Before jurors saw the video, Saunders said initially said she was not familiar with the story, which also was posted on the station's website. After seeing it, Saunders said she remembered it.

"Was Mr. Rose reprimanded for that conduct?" Raesz asked.

"No," Saunders answered.

Noviello, Fox4's lead consumer reporter, had a lengthy February 2010 piece on the now defunct Red Cat Consignment Boutique, whose husband and wife owners allegedly had closed shop and absconded with customers' goods.

One of the owners, Steve Hall, repeatedly told Noviello that he didn't want to be on camera.

"I'm not going to answer your questions," he said at one point before putting his hand on a Fox4 camera lens. "Hey, take the camera off me, man."

A followup story in which Noviello interviewed Hall's wife, Marukh, replayed the footage of her protesting husband, whose face again was clearly shown.

"Was Mr. Noviello, a white male reporter, reprimanded for his conduct?" Raesz asked Saunders.

"No," she said. But Noviello's story "most certainly went through our attorneys," Saunders later said.

(It should be noted that unclebarky.com reviewed both of these stories, criticizing Rose for putting the unidentified woman on camera against her wishes, but praising Noviello for his persistence in tracking down and exposing the seemingly negligent Red Cat owners.)

Three other Fox4 employees who had a part in Aguilar's Walton interview were later briefly suspended by the station, but remain Fox4 employees.

Saunders said she was not involved in the reprimands but did approve them in her capacity as general manager.

"It appears she (Aguilar) was singled out . . . You understand how people can feel that way?" Raesz asked.

"Yes," Saunders said.

Defense attorneys also displayed a series of Christmas cards that the Aguilar family had sent to Saunders. All except the last one, sent after her suspension, included flattering personal messages from Rebecca Aguilar. The Christmas 2005 card praised Saunders for being "an approachable boss. John (Aguilar's husband) and I admire you a great deal."

During questioning from Williams, Saunder also said that the station currently has about a 15 percent Hispanic work force on a staff of roughly 200 employees. In 2007, before "downsizing" hit local TV stations around the country, the percentage was about 13 percent on a staff of about 250, she said.

Testimony continues Wednesday in the $2 million case, with Aguilar possibly testifying sometime in the afternoon.

Aguilar suit against her former Fox employers finally has its first day in court


Rebecca Aguilar and her lead attorney, Bill Trantham. Fox4 execs and their attorneys declined to be photographed. Photo: Ed Bark

Former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar's $2 million wrongful termination civil suit against her ex-employers at last went to trial in downtown Dallas Monday morning, with a 12-member jury selected before attorneys squared off in oft-pointed opening statements.

Michael Shaunessy, lead attorney for NW Communications of Texas, Inc. and Fox Television Stations, Inc., sought to highlight what he termed the "two sides of Rebecca Aguilar." Her acknowledged abilities as a dogged, resourceful reporter clashed with an abrasive workplace attitude, he contended.

"Rebecca treated every question by a supervisor as an attack," Shaunessy said. Biennial evaluations in 2000 and 2002 praised her as one of Fox4's strongest reporters, but termed her a poor employee otherwise, he said, showing jurors documents to that effect.

Aguilar's head attorney, Bill Trantham, described his client as an "intense" reporter who "had ambitions to be the best of the best."

"Up until about 2004, it was one accolade after another," he said. But Aguilar also "had been conscious for a long time that minorities had been shortchanged at KDFW (Fox4)," Trantham alleged.

The plaintiff's continued lobbying on behalf of more minority news room managers prompted her bosses to find a pretext to get rid of her, he told jurors. Her October 2007 suspension with pay and an eventual dismissal in March 2008 at the halfway point of a two-year contract were followed by a January 2009 lawsuit in which she claimed racial discrimination and retaliation on the part of Fox

Aguilar's suspension came on the day after her controversial interview with an elderly West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two alleged burglars within three weeks time. The chain of events attracted national attention and heated debate on whether she had "ambushed" him (outside a sporting goods store where he had just bought another shotgun) or was just aggressively pursuing an interview that rival stations also coveted.

Fox attorneys showed jurors raw unedited footage of Aguilar's parking lot confrontation with the then 70-year-old James Walton. He repeatedly balked at being on camera but also was conversational and seemed to be in no great hurry to leave while she continued talking to him. Technical difficulties prevented the footage from being shown in its entirety Monday afternoon.

Attorneys for both sides said they expected the trial to last from four to six days. The pace was sluggish at first, with 160th district court judge Jim Jordan patiently sifting through what documents would be admissible in trial. Fox4 general manager Kathy Saunders and news director Maria Barrs both were periodically in attendance on Day One, with Saunders the first witness called by Aguilar's attorneys late Monday afternoon. She was questioned by Aguilar's second attorney, Chris Raesz.

Asked to cite current "aggressive" Fox4 reporters with a drive similar to Aguilar's, Saunders named veteran investigator Becky Oliver, Shaun Rabb, Brandon Todd and Emily Lopez. "Those are the ones that come to mind," said Saunders, who has been Fox4's general manager since March 1997.

But have any reporters won as many awards as Aguilar, named the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Broadcast Journalist of the Year less than two weeks before she was suspended? "I would really think Becky Oliver had as many if not more" awards than Aguilar, Saunders replied.

Oliver's name also came up in a document introduced by the defense team. In a January 2002 email to Barrs, Aguilar said she had no "passion" for conducting a reporters' workshop after Oliver had received Emmy recognition and she had been passed over. Defense attorney Shaunessy said it was another example of Aguilar's belligerent workplace attitude and disinclination to be a team player.

She improved for a brief time under the tutelage of Barrs, but "we couldn't keep Rebecca Aguilar turned around," Shaunessy told jurors. He also claimed that she increasingly "cut corners" in search of "sensational" scoops.

"The Walton story was the story that broke the camel's back . . . In the end, the bad outweighed the good," Shaunessy said at the end of an opening statement that ran at least twice as long as Trantham's.

Shaunessy also spent far more time quizzing prospective jurors from an initial pool of 50. He seemed to both score and slip during the process. Everyone agreed, for instance, that those who are wrongly terminated still should make an effort to find another job. The not so veiled implication was that Aguilar hasn't held a full-time job since her suspension. Her husband still works for Fox4 news, in an off-camera capacity.

The prospective jurors also agreed that it's fair to evaluate employees not only on their performance strengths but on their ability to get along with co-workers. But Shaunessy seemingly stepped into a minefield after asking the jury pool if they perceived Fox to be a typically powerful corporation with big advantages in any lawsuit. A significant numbers of hands went up in the affirmative.

"I already have a judgment in my head," an African-American woman who wasn't chosen said. "It's five of you against one of her," she added, referring to the larger defense team for Fox even though Aguilar was seated beside her two attorneys.

"It's just that corporate usually wins out," another prospective juror said as Aguilar fought back tears.

"Is there anybody who wants to serve on this jury?" Shaunessy then asked. Only a few hands went up.

One potential juror, pro golfer Justin Leonard, eventually was spared spending the week in a courtroom after saying he had a commitment to play in a tournament this week.

Attorneys finally decided on a jury of nine white women, two white men and an African-American man.

The trial resumes Tuesday, with several Fox4 reporters on the witness list, in addition to their bosses, Saunders and Barrs.

Aguilar herself also is scheduled to testify at some point.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Dec. 3-5) -- Cowboys pony upward while Trinity-Coppell pumps up TXA21's late night numbers


Cowboys kicker Jay Buehler exults in game-winning OT FG.

The belatedly resurgent Dallas Cowboys flexed like their old selves in the D-FW Nielsen ratings Sunday, averaging 1,343,586 viewers on Fox for a pulsating overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts.

The audience peaked between 6:15 to 6:30 p.m., when 1,613,688 viewers witnessed kicker Jay Buehler's game-winning field goal. It made Dallas a still woeful 4-8, but viewers no longer are tuning out interim head coach Jason Garrett's attitude-enhanced, hard-playing North Dallas Forty.

On Friday night, the relentlessly high-scoring battle of high school football unbeatens Trinity Euless and Coppell ended on the last play of this heavyweight playoff bout. Trinity's winning touchdown in a 41-40 game drew 166,217 viewers during the climactic 15 minutes between 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. That's not much compared to the Cowboys, but it did make TXA21 the market 's No. 1 broadcast station opposite Fox4's syndicated TMZ and the network late night attractions on ABC, CBS and NBC.

Overall, Trinity-Coppell averaged 103,886 viewers while CBS' Blue Bloods easily had Friday's biggest prime-time haul with 290,879 viewers.

On Saturday night, ABC's prime-time Big 12 championship game between Oklahoma and Nebraska drew 429,393 viewers. It was played on the grand stage of Jerry's Palace.

Sunday's non-Cowboys NFL games were paced by Giants-Redskins on Fox and Steelers-Ravens (NBC), each of which averaged 477,873 viewers.

Friday's local news derby results yielded a split decision at 10 p.m., with CBS11 winning in total viewers and WFAA8 on top among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 perked up in the early morning to sweep the 6 a.m. ratings by narrow margins over Fox4.

WFAA8 ran the table at 5 p.m. and also finished first at 6 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demographic. WFAA8 and CBS11 shared the total viewers gold at 6 p.m.

CBS11/TXA21 sports reporter Gina Miller rediscovers married life


Newlyweds Gina Miller and James Wyatt Neale Photo: Franco Gonzalez

Start spreadin' the news. Which CBS11/TXA21 sports anchor-reporter Gina Miller and James Wyatt Neale did in a big way by announcing their wedding in the Dec. 5 Sunday Styles section of The New York Times.

Miller, 36, and Neale, 48, were married on Monday Nov. 29th in Flippen Park in Highland Park. She's still the only woman working the sports beat on one of D-FW's Big Four local TV news providers. He's the founder and owner of Dallas-based Quorum Energy Company.

The new bride's first marriage ended in divorce, the announcement says. She'll continue to use her Miller surname professionally.

Sax and the city -- it used to be Ch. 5's calling card

TV news watchers with a little tread on their tires might remember the fairly stylish late 1980s newscast promos for Fort Worth-based KXAS-TV.

The station's "Night Team" campaign, with anchors Brad Wright and Alyce Caron then in the saddle, sought to portray the NBC station as sundown savvy and saxophone cool. Very Miami Vice-ish -- and hardly by coincidence.

"There's a difference at night," viewers were told in a song with ample sax appeal. "As the night moves to a different tune, Channel 5 is there."

Anchors Wright and Caron weren't even pictured until more than halfway through this one-minute 1988 promo. It was all about first creating a mood in times when KXAS still had its own self-standing, free-wheeling promotions department. NBC ownership has put all of that to bed, with "corporate" now calling most of the shots and spots from afar.

The "Night Team" ads also pictured late, legendary meteorologist Harold Taft and former sports anchor Scott Murray, who's still in D-FW as the head of Murray Media. Caron currently toils for the Home Shopping Network, describing herself as a "complete and total gypsy." And Wright has kind of vanished from sight, at least in terms of a gainful web search of his current whereabouts. Maybe some readers can help.