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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Feb. 25-27) -- down arrows for Oscars


Junior Oscar hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Photo: Ed Bark

Thoroughly predictable results in the major categories and two "young Hollywood" hosts with low name recognition among many oldsters may have combined to knock the Oscars for something of a ratings loop Sunday night.

Or maybe the ceremony itself is just getting old.

The 83rd Academy Awards on ABC averaged 907,267 D-FW viewers, down significantly from last year's total of 1,024,731. And that's despite annual ratings inflation that lifted the value of a single point from 67,863 North Texas viewers to the current 69,257.

Hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who replaced last year's comparatively ancient duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, the three hour, 15 minute presentation (7:30 to 10:45 p.m.) also took a dip among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds. That number fell from 443,578 last year to 417,906 Sunday night.

Still, the ratings were nowhere near as bad as in 2009, when just 677,586 viewers watched, with only 291,176 of them in the 18-to-49 demographic. That show was hosted by Hugh Jackman.

(Final national Nielsen ratings also showed the Oscars taking a year-to-year drop in both measurements, with a 12 percent decrease in 18-to-49-year-olds and a nine percent slip in total viewers (from 41.3 million to 37.6 million. ABC, in its publicity release, but a smiley face on the results by noting that Sunday's Oscars were the 2nd most-watched since 2007. The least-watched ceremony ever, with host Jon Stewart and No Country For Old Men the Best Picture winner, drew 32 million viewers in 2008.)

In D-FW Sunday night, CBS' CSI: Miami was the biggest draw opposite the Oscars, with 242,400 total viewers in the 9 p.m. hour.

The still red-hot Dallas Mavericks also played on Sunday, with a 5 p.m. early start time in Toronto. The Mavs blew past the Raptors after a grindingly slow start, but just 83,108 viewers tuned into the Fox Sports Southwest telecast. A Saturday night road win at Washington did a bit better, with 110,811 viewers on FSS.

In Friday's local news derby results, CBS11 swept the 10 p.m. ratings with comfortable wins in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 and NBC5 tied for the total viewers gold at 6 a.m., with Fox4 again having first place to itself among 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 won at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but Fox4 otherwise was tops in the early evening news competitions. It ran the table at 5 p.m. and added a 6 p.m. victory with 25-to-54-year-olds.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., Feb. 25th)

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Former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert chose two Dallas TV stations to sell his new U.S. Senate candidacy. Nonetheless, WFAA8 trumpeted its sit-down as an "exclusive." You make the call. Photos: Ed Bark

Friday's up-close look at the late night editions on D-FW's four major TV news providers marks the end of our two-week journey and nearly the end of the February "sweeps" ratings period, which winds up after Wednesday's presentations.

The highlight reel is less than eye-popping, which is typical of Fridays.

Fox4 again provided the best material, though, with its comparatively energized 9 p.m. edition. Newly minted U.S. Senate candidate and former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert was no quote machine. But he did spend a good deal of time live at the anchor desk with Steve Eagar and Clarice Tinsley, who was substituting for Heather Hays.

Leppert entertained a variety of questions from the two, contending that his long shot candidacy will bear fruit when the Texas Republican primary is held just over a year from now.

"We think we've determined a very clear path to victory," he said.

"Where do you stand on unions?" Eagar bluntly asked him earlier.

Leppert gave the impression that he can't stand them, emphasizing that "right to work is critical" in Texas.

The lengthy Leppert segment stretched into two parts, with the candidate beaming at viewers like a third-wheel anchor while Tinsley told viewers their discussion would continue "after this break." Leppert wasn't exactly riveting before or after the commercial bloc, but Eagar and Tinsley did their best to bring him out.

Later, on WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast, co-anchor John McCaa said that Leppert "told News 8 his intentions in an exclusive interview" taped earlier in the day for the station's Sunday morning Inside Politics program. The declaration of his Senate candidacy, while seated next to host Brad Watson and Dallas Morning News political reporter Gromer Jeffers, was hardly a news bulletin. Nor was it "exclusive" to anyone who had seen Leppert an hour earlier at the Fox4 anchor desk.

All four stations offered live reports from outside budget-crunched DISD headquarters, where teachers were camped out to be early in line for an incentive program that will let them collect 15 percent of their salaries -- with a cap of $10,000 -- for quitting their jobs.

Tinsley had the best introductory description, saying the scene at DISD "looks more like a Christmas season doorbusters line."

CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley took the silver medal for telling viewers that "it may be the hottest ticket in town. It's not U2. It's not R.E.M. This is DISD."

Fifth grade teacher Chris Czarnecki almost hit a grand slam. But Gormley left her out of his interview picture after Czarnecki got face time on Fox4, NBC5 and WFAA8. NBC5's Ellen Goldberg had the most pizza-eating shots after free pies were dropped off for the teachers.

Alleged terrorist bomber Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari's not guilty plea in Lubbock also drew coverage on all four stations. WFAA8 scooped the competition Thursday night with Craig Civale's interviews of two of the former Texas Tech student's roommates, both of whom appeared in silhouette at their request.

By Friday, though, the two young men had decided to both show their faces and give their names. WFAA8 had another go at them while CBS11 reporter Jack Fink also talked to the two. NBC5 again was the only station without a reporter presence in Lubbock.

Fox4 decided to accommodate a knuckle-dragger's ground level views on Aldawsari during Friday's extended "Viewers' Voice" segment. Said an unidentified male: "What you need to do is give him some of that Third World lovin' and cut their arms off. Once you have the evidence and show that on display they'll cut that crap out."

The station also flaunted the wisdom of "Manny from Garland," whose profane tirade at the anchors kept the bleeps rolling.

"Correct, castigate or completely flip out," Eagar encouraged "Viewers' Voice" participants before signing off with Manny saying, "You dumb sonofa . . ."

On a higher plane, Eagar brought home the pain of rapidly rising gas prices during an informative interview with former WFAA8 reporter Dan Ronan, who's now the head spokesman for Triple A Texas. Ronan had some interesting facts and figures, but didn't foresee any immediate consumer relief. Gas prices typically peak from mid-may to mid-July, he told Eagar.

On CBS11, viewers again got a double dose of reporter Arezow Doost, who also popped up twice earlier in our two-week monitoring period.

Doost led the 10 p.m. newscast with an interview of an elderly couple who allegedly were assaulted at an Arlington shopping mall by a since suspended Fort Worth fifth grade teacher whose students were on a field trip. She returned later with a lesser story on the possible dangers of meeting a man via internet dating sites that don't do background checks on their clients.

CBS11's Tracy Kornet then had an intriguing piece on how increasing numbers of women supposedly are "going gray" rather than hitting the dye bottle. Co-anchor Doug Dunbar riffed that both he and deskmate Karen Borta "have another 20 years before we have to worry about it." But in truth, only their hairdressers know for sure.

Friday's most ludicrous story tease came from WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos, who's still no gray lady.

"Is your heater making you fat?" she asked. "A change in settings could change your look."

The resultant news blip, drawn from yet another likely nonsensical study, said that people who keep their homes warmer are "twice as likely to become obese" as those who turn down their thermostats. Guess that kills the sauna industry.

WFAA8 fared appreciably better with Byron Harris' report from Olney, Texas on a new energy-saving aircraft dubbed the "Carter Copter" by its inventor. And reporter Monika Diaz kept viewers up to date on the construction progress of the Dallas Convention Center Omni Hotel with an interior tour of the taxpayer-funded high-rise. It's supposed to open 11 months from now.

PROGRAMMING NOTE -- With just three weeknights remaining in the latest "sweeps," CBS11 is taking the unusual step of preempting its 10 p.m. Monday newscast for a Crisis in the Classroom special anchored by Borta and Dunbar.

The half-hour program initially was scheduled to air on Sunday, Feb. 20th at 5:30 p.m., but was waylaid by a CBS Sports overrun. Then it was set for the same time period on Sunday, Feb. 27th before the station opted for a much more visible 10 p.m. Monday showcase.

CBS11 news director Adrienne Roark has declined to talk about any gamesmanship behind the switch. But she confirmed that "a special devoted to one topic" means the station will be eliminating the ratings for its 10 p.m. newscast on a night when WFAA8 generally gets its best lead-in of the week from ABC's 9 p.m. Monday episode of Castle. But CBS also does quite well with Hawaii Five-0 at that hour.

On Friday night's CBS11 newscast, Dunbar again assured viewers that following the special, "we'll all still be here to get you caught up on all the day's news and weather."

Whatever. CBS11 already has an all but insurmountable lead at 10 p.m. in the total viewer Nielsens and currently is No. 1 by a lesser margin among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. WFAA8, running second in total viewers at 10 p.m., has had a bigger overall audience than CBS11 on two of the previous three February sweeps Mondays.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., Feb. 24th)


Action anchors Heather Hays and Steve Eagar shared a screen with reporter Brandon Todd during Fox4's big dose of "Texas Terror Plot" coverage Thursday. All four stations led with it. Photos: Ed Bark

Their lead stories turned out to be no-brainers for the second straight night.

On Wednesday it was the excessive force firing of a Dallas cop, complete with an incriminating squad car dashcam video. On Thursday, Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all topped their late nighters with the foiled terrorist mission of 20-year-old Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari. His would-be targets, outlined in emails, included "The Tyrant's House," a k a George W. Bush's residence in the plush Preston Hollow area of Dallas.

Fox4 went all in during its one-hour 9 p.m. edition, hitting viewers with 14 minutes of continuous coverage. That was more than double the amount on any rival station, although they have just 35 minutes to fill with their featured 10 p.m. newscasts.

Fox4 began with reporter Matt Grubs' Dallas-based summation of the story before going to Brandon Todd in Lubbock, where the accused/arrested terrorist had been a student at Texas Tech and most recently at nearby South Plains College.

Todd interviewed Aldawsari's next door apartment neighbor, Carrie Skinner ("It's scary. It's upsetting."), as well as a Tech student who learned from Todd that he lived just below Aldawsari. Co-anchor Steve Eagar then joined former U.S. attorney Richard Roper for a live sit-down interview in the studio.

CBS11's Jack Fink likewise went to Lubbock and also talked to Skinner. The station then positioned J.D. Miles for a live shot near the Bush home, with some nearby residents telling him they'd always been a bit worried about living near such a potentially big target.

WFAA8's Craig Civale trumped his rivals, though, by interviewing two men who actually had lived with Aldawsari in Lubbock before he changed apartments. Both were shown in silhouette, telling Civale that Aldawsari "rarely spoke" to them and seemed interested only in soccer. But he "lost interest" when told that his native Saudi Arabia wasn't in the World Cup competition.

Jokes about Aldawarsi being a terrorist were deflected by his former roommates. "Guess we were wrong," said one of them.

WFAA8 also displayed Aldawsari's MySpace page, where he went by another name.

NBC5 was the only station that declined to spring for a plane ticket to Lubbock. Veteran reporter Scott Gordon instead did the best he could on the story while standing in the dark somewhere in Dallas.

"It is frightening to think about, that's for sure," co-anchor Brian Curtis added innocuously.

The station fared far better with reporter Grant Stinchfield's eye-opening "Only on 5" story about a scrapped airport security system -- Trace Detection Portals -- that the U.S. government blew $30 million of taxpayers' money on before deducing they didn't work.


Fox4's Eagar said the station tried to interview the victim, Rodarick Lyles, of the excessive force beating that led to the police officer firing. But Lyle's mother "ran interference" and thwarted an interview, he said, as Fox4 showed video to that effect.

Momma apparently was busy brokering WFAA8's exclusive interview of Lyles by reporter Gary Reaves.

"Lyles denies fighting police," Reaves told viewers. "He says he just stumbled as they tried to force his short arms behind his massive torso."

Viewers were shown some of his remaining visible wounds from the police beating, but Lyles otherwise had little to say while sitting next to his far more talkative mother. Police "kicked him like he was a dog," she said. Reaves lent a very sympathetic ear throughout.

***Longtime Fox4 investigator Becky Oliver apparently isn't about to take it down a few notches. And this continues to mar the overall impact of her stories.

Thursday's presentation, which targeted the allegedly abusive owner of a ramshackle Dallas residence for the homeless and mentally challenged, included footage of Oliver slamming a stack of code violations on a police car hood before she literally yelled out her script from a squad car-filled parking lot..

"It just seems like, 'Wow,what a drain on city services!" she later exclaimed rhetorically to Dallas city attorney Tom Perkins, who said they were doing the best they could under the circumstances.

It looked like a sad situation all around. But Oliver's brawling, braying style really could use a makeover. She's done some laudable investigative work during her many years at Fox4. And she'll be the first to tell you that. But her reports increasingly are becoming the equivalents of excessive and obnoxious end zone celebrations. This was particularly the case on Thursday night, when viewers got two doses of the same footage of Oliver pounding on the residence door and saying, "Can we please speak with Sarah (owner Sarah Thomas)? We know she's in there."

Would you answer the door? Hell no. Oliver doesn't necessarily need to go to charm school. But maybe she should hang out with colleague Matt Grubs for a few days. His understated style is bracingly effective. He gets the goods and the details without putting on a show. Oliver doesn't have to dial it down to that point. But she needs to do something.

***In the gaffe department, WFAA8 co-anchor Gloria Campos promoted a followup report on Friday's early morning Daybreak program. It was tied to the decision to remove a controversial anti-abortion billboard that was displayed in Manhattan but has ties to a North Texas preacher. It wasn't her fault that the station showed a dated companion graphic of Thursday's Daybreak interview with Dallas mayor pro-tem Dwaine Caraway, who's filling out the departed Tom Leppert's term.

Also on Thursday's 10 p.m. edition, a very loud off-camera laugh from a male WFAA8 employee rang out while the station touted the "Operation Education" page on its website.

Over on NBC5, viewers were told that Dallas City Councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Natinsky didn't show up at an inaugural candidate forum attended by the other two hopefuls, former police chief David Kunkle and ex-Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings.

Actually he did show up, but was 25 minutes late, according to a first-hand account on The Dallas Observer's "Unfair Park" blog. WFAA8 pictured the three of them together, but didn't have any audio from any of them. NBC5 had a couple of candidate sound bites, but left before Natinsky got there and then tabbed him a no-show.

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Finally, WFAA8 viewers got a chance to see reporter Shelly Slater and co-anchor John McCaa in altered states Thursday night.

Slater signed off with an avatar of herself after an interesting story on the effectiveness of virtual therapy for children with autism. And McCaa was congratulated on his "68th birthday" by weathercaster Pete Delkus before viewers got a glimpse of the purportedly real McCaa prior to applying his makeup.

Campos said he looked like James Earl Jones. McCaa actually turned 57 on Thursday.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., Feb. 23rd)


CBS11 sportster Steve Dennis managed to get a Super little story out of former Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Photos: Ed Bark

Maybe it would be best to begin like this: What you read in the following paragraphs may shock or surprise you. Reader caution is advised.

That's slightly tailored TV news-ese for stories that often aren't all that shocking, surprising or graphic. And in truth, Wednesday's late nighters on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 weren't all that much to write home about -- let alone dissect in these spaces.

Unclebarky.com is a gamer, though. And there in fact were some points of interest along with a few curiosities.

All four stations predictably led with the firing of a Dallas police officer for using dashboard cam-documented excessive force on a motorist who had been stopped for a minor traffic violation. (*CBS11 first threw in a weather blip from Larry Mowry, who said it was going to rain on Thursday.)

Police dashcam images are starting to replace convenience store robbery cams as providers of action video that can be used over and over by TV news operations large and small. And on Wednesday, the pictures of Dallas cop Quaitemes Williams wailing on suspect Rodarick Lyles were supplemented by oft-used previous footage of a Dallas officer savagely beating a motorcyclist with his billy club last year.

It otherwise wasn't much of a night for engaging enterprise reporting. Even Fox4's ever-experimental 9 p.m. newscast seemed a bit pooped out, with co-anchor Steve Eagar laboring to make a Facebook stress-out study come alive during an in-studio chat with "dating and relationship coach" Nina Atwood.

CBS11 had the most eventful newscast, but its oddities equaled its plusses.

Voluble veteran sports reporter Steve Dennis, an acquired taste for some, turned a pro forma Children's Medical Center appearance by Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman into a good little story about the prospects for a Super Bowl L in North Texas after XLV thoroughly soiled itself.

Dennis spring-boarded off sports anchor Babe Laufenberg's previous interview with Staubach, in which he championed Aikman to replace him as point man in the effort to land another Super Bowl at Jerry's Palace.

Aikman wasn't exactly enthusiastic. "I think the push for 50 is going to be very tough," he told Dennis. But would he spearhead such an effort? "I hope I'm not asked right now," Aikman said.

Staubach again acknowledged the problems with Super Bowl XLV before game-facedly saying that Aikman "hasn't said no for sure" regarding Super Bowl L.

Dennis asked Captain America why he shouldn't be the man for the job again. "I would be glad to help Troy any way I can," said Staubach, who might as well have added, "Our ass is (artificial) grass as far as getting this thing again any time soon."

The earth didn't shake. But Dennis got more out of these two than anyone else has. And all because he asked.

Earlier in the CBS11 newscast, reporter Jay Gormley had an interesting look at whether the emergency room at Arlington's JPS Diagnostic and Surgery Hospital in fact is as advertised. Eight different surrounding signs point would-be patients in its direction. But what they encounter is a padlocked door and a call-in box.

JPS CEO Robert Earley told Gormley that this doesn't constitute "false advertising." But the reporter also had previous public hearing testimony from Earley in which he said, "I don't feel comfortable at all with people having on their GPS system to go to that emergency room . . . It's not a full-fledged emergency room."

End result: the signs directing people to the facility are in the process of being taken down.

CBS11 also had a lengthy teenage "sex slavery" story in which reporter Tracy Kornet journeyed to Phoenix for a look at a safe house "campus" recently opened by the Street Light organization. Co-anchor Karen Borta said it "could become a model for North Texas." But the director gave no real indication that this would or could happen anytime soon. It seemed like a long way to go for a story that just didn't hit that close to home.

The station also had a curious dispatch from reporter Carol Cavazos, who extolled the virtues of a six-year-old kid preacher whose video from the Dallas-based Potter's House had -- guess what? -- gone "viral" on youtube.

"God tells me what to pray," said the kid, who really doesn't need so much attention at this age. His beaming mother confirmed that her son is "definitely God-sent." Let's hope he doesn't grow up to be yet another crooked or philandering TV evangelist. But this is how it all starts.

"That's a sweet child," anchor Borta said nevertheless. "Nothing sweet about Larry Mowry's forecast." Groan.

Luckily, the station had anchor Doug Dunbar to sprinkle a little vinegar on a closing blip about Kim Kardashian's Dallas appearance on behalf of her new lip plumper-upper product.

"Really?" Dunbar asked when Borta said she had met with fans. "That was awesome of her to do that," he added when Borta noted that Kardashian was only contractually required to shake 150 hands, but stayed a little extra.

Borta duly noted Dunbar's "sarcasm," which she in fact likely appreciated. In gratitude from this writer, Dunbar gets an unclebarky.com Man of the Year award, which of course has no intrinsic value or accompanying plaque or statue.


Well, there just really wasn't much else to grab onto Wednesday night. But this postscript in fact might shock or surprise you: WFAA8 weathercaster Pete Delkus had absolutely nothing to say to sports anchor Dale Hansen -- or vice-versa.

Where's Candice and who's Toni? CW33 strikes again


Meet Candice? Hey, that's not Candice. Photo: Ed Bark

Struggling CW33 probably needs to fix this at some point.

The Dallas-based station's website continues to picture Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's fiancee, Candice Crawford, as part of its News Team. But click on her page and you get a picture of someone else, named "Toni," under the "Meet Candice" portion -- which in fact is all about Toni.

As previously posted, Crawford left the station earlier this year to start planning her wedding. While at CW33, the former Miss Missouri USA reported on high school sports, did the weekly "Up All Night" feature and also collaborated with colleague Roni Proter on the five-minute "RC Project" segments that closed out the station's early evening newscast.

Toni is newcomer Toni Duclottni, who also has her own "House of Haute" blog. Her latest story for CW33, "Keeping Up with Kim (Kardashian)," aired on Wednesday's 9 p.m. newscast, which drew just 27,703 D-FW viewers. Here's her Kardashian moment.


This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., Feb. 22nd)


A fake thief pilfered Heather Hays' purse Tuesday. Photos: Ed Bark

Stay with me now. It actually wasn't that bad of an idea to stage the thievery of Fox4 anchor Heather Hays' purse while she and Steve Eagar presided over Tuesday's 9 p.m. newscast.

This turned out to be an experiment in witness identification on a station that continues to be more experimental by far than any of its local news competitors. And at least as often as not, this turns out to be a pretty good thing.

Tuesday's gambit was tied to Eager's subsequent live in-studio interview with Dallas County district attorney Craig Watkins, whose office is pushing for a state bill that would reform how police conduct lineups of suspected criminals. After the phony theft, Watkins and viewers were challenged to pick the purse snatcher from a lineup of five men shown in black and white photos on home screens.

Intentionally or not, Watkins picked the wrong guy. Which only served to buttress his argument that suspect identification can be a very tricky business.

One of the proposed changes in how it's done would ensure that the investigator showing a police lineup to witnesses has no knowledge of who the prime suspect is. Watkins contends that investigators armed with that information can sometimes subtly or not so subtly influence witnesses via body language, gestures or even a "nudge." Eagar noted that 21 convicted men have been exonerated during Watkins' term in office after being wrongly identified by eyewitnesses.

Watkins proved to be a well-spoken, direct-speaking interviewee and Eagar was a very able questioner during their extended segment together. And Fox4 again proved to be anything but dull in times when all local newscasts are being challenged to maintain their ratings when lousy weather doesn't do it for them.

Hays also did a live interview, this one tied to Tuesday's Dallas County Commissioners court hearing at which the police security seemed to be ridiculously beefed up following last week's heavily covered fireworks between commissioner John Wiley Price and speaker Jeff Turner. County Judge Clay Jenkins can't seem to reach a happy medium between letting the proceedings get out of hand and handcuffing citizens to the point where they were repeatedly deemed out of order and told to sit down.

"A lot of our citizens were robbed today of a chance to speak out," former DISD trustee Ron Price told Hays. Personal attacks or racial invective should not be tolerated, but pointed discourse is still integral to a free society, Price said. He made reasoned points throughout the interview, again giving Fox4 viewers something to chew on beyond the rote-like news blips that popped up Tuesday night on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11.

WFAA8 led its 10 p.m. newscast with an "exclusive" report that Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially would announce his long-rumored resignation Wednesday before mounting a full-time run for a U.S. Senate seat. Reporter Brad Watson did the story from the station's news room, citing "informed sources."

It should be noted that Leppert's chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, took that position in August 2007 after a seven-year stint as a full-time WFAA8 reporter. The Dallas Morning News, which regularly collaborates with across-the-street partner WFAA8 on local stories, also reported in Wednesday's print edition that it had learned "late Tuesday" of Leppert's resignation. The newspaper likewise cited unnamed sources.

However WFAA8 obtained the information, it definitely had it before any competing TV station.

NBC5 in contrast led its 10 p.m. edition with Wal-Mart's announced plans to open 12 new stores in Dallas, including three in the development-challenged southern sector.

"That is tax money and jobs the city has longed for," co-anchor Meredith Land said of the $200 million investment before turning the story over to reporter Omar Villafranca, who as usual handled it capably.

WFAA8 and CBS11 touched briefly on the Wal-Mart initiative while Fox4 oddly ignored it entirely. WFAA8 co-anchor John McCaa misspoke, though, when he added that Kroger also had announced a $200 million renovation of its South Oak Cliff grocery store. $200 million!? He meant to say $2 million.

CBS11 again strove to "own" the ongoing North Texas school budget shortfall story, devoting the first seven minutes of Tuesday's newscast to "Crisis in the Classroom" coverage. This included reporter Andrea Lucia's session with Arlington Girl Scouts who are writing state lawmakers with suggestions of how to help. On Monday night, reporter Arezow Doost got the views of a group of seven 1st-to-3rd graders. This is no coincidence. CBS11 is intent on including the formative wisdom of young students in its coverage. And so far it's been a pretty refreshing and cute idea.

Doost did double duty on Tuesday's 10 p.m. edition. She had an extended story on Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children with autism. And she returned later with a shorter dispatch on "black market breast milk." The autism story was far more interesting and affecting.

CBS11 threw in a clinker on exercises meant to rid women of what reporter Tracy Kornet termed "the dreaded saddle bag." That's extra flesh around the thighs, which prompts a suggestion to trim this sort of fat from newscasts and give Kornet something better to do.


Cheney redux? Sports anchor Dale Hansen went skeet-shooting with weather pal Pete Delkus,who's an avid hunter of live creatures, too.

WFAA8's Steve Stoler had a story on a Princeton, Texas family that won $10,000 on ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos with footage of their daughter inadvertently sticking a rectal thermometer in her mouth to take her temperature.

"I guess the $10,000 leaves a little better taste in your mouth," observed co-anchor Gloria Campos, who then cackled while crickets kinda chirped.

A few minutes later, the station treated viewers to footage of sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus on a skeet-shooting expedition.

Hansen refrained from plugging Delkus while he had the chance, and instead successfully hit two clay targets after a lesson from Pete. Pete then plugged his upcoming Park Cities Quail Unlimited banquet, which is a charity function.

WFAA8 still does the market's best high school sports stories, though, with Hansen making sure there's room for them. On Tuesday, Ted Madden had a nice piece on the rejuvenation of little Nocona's high school basketball team under the direction of former longtime Skyline coach JD Mayo.

***NBC5 was bitten hard by the word play bug in stories about bigger ambulances being ordered for fatter patients and on a study that says zinc can shorten the duration of common colds.

Night Ranger Scott Gordon did the ambulance dispatch, which included the usual below-the-chest videos of oversized stomachs and behinds.

"I can tell you that it's -- no pun intended -- it's growing," MedStar ambulance driver Matt Zavadsky said of the increase in heavy loads.

Then it was Gordon's turn to lob in a reference to the " 'growing' population" of heavy-set patients.

Then it was co-anchor Kevin Cokely's turn: "Like you said, big changes. Thanks, Scott."

Then it was reporter Ellen Goldberg's turn. The effectiveness of zinc is "nothing to sneeze at," she told viewers.

Havin' way too much fun with these daily compendiums. On the other hand, only three more nights to go. Or as the rug said to the floor, "I got you covered."

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., Feb. 21)

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CBS11 and WFAA8 have titles for their ongoing school initiatives. Photos: Ed Bark

Improbably but indisputably, education is hot, hot, hot.

Major budget shortfalls plaguing a number of North Texas school districts have prompted WFAA8 to follow the lead of arch rival CBS11, which earlier launched a "Crisis in the Classroom" initiative.

On Monday, WFAA8 launched "Operation Education," which like Crisis in the Classroom" has a web component and now a planned nightly presence on 10 p.m. newscasts.

WFAA8 began flying its flag with an exclusive lead story tied to documents of proposed school employee cuts obtained by the station. "The numbers are shocking," co-anchor John McCaa assured viewers before handing things over to reporter Jonathan Betz.

"Almost no campus is spared," said Betz, whose story showed some of the specific cuts under consideration at various area schools. The complete list is available on wfaa.com.

CBS11 led its 10 p.m. newscast with reporter J.D. Miles' dispatch on a planned ramped-up monitoring of police dash cam videos in hopes of keeping officers on their best behaviors when arresting or ticketing citizens. The station then went heavily into "Crisis in the Classroom" mode, noting that five school district budget meetings were being held Monday night. Carol Cavazos reported from the one in Grand Prairie, where there was no shortage of upset parents.

Co-anchor Doug Dunbar later took viewers through a new "Interactive Map" on dfw.cbslocal.com that allows visitors to pinpoint the budget deficits -- or in some cases, surpluses -- in their school districts. Richardson ISD currently is riding high with a $12 million surplus while Cleburne more typically has an $11 million shortfall facing it.

Fox4 doesn't have a logo or title yet for its education armageddon coverage. But the station did lead Monday's 9 p.m. edition with Natalie Solis reporting live from Grand Prairie's school budget hearing.

Meanwhile, NBC5 skipped school with a 10 p.m. newscast that had nothing at all on the budget mess. The station instead reverted back to being the old NBC5 -- for a night at least. That meant a lead story about a purse snatcher who encountered "one tough grandma," in co-anchor Meredith Land's words, but still pilfered $3,500 after dragging her across a North Dallas Chase bank parking lot.

Reporter Ellen Goldberg interviewed the injured but still resilient victim, whose 65th birthday is Tuesday. Land then dutifully dropped the word "scary" after Goldberg had wrapped up.

Land later had a lengthy story/infomercial on the "quietly booming" Sally Beauty Supply company, whose CEO, Gary Wintehalter, happily talked up the company's strong points while walking Land down a store aisle.

"What we're in business to do is help women who have problems with their hair," Winterhalter said generically.

Land also has gotten out of the studio to do some solid and interesting reporting in recent months, as has her deskmate, Brian Curtis. But the Sally Beauty Supply piece, although better than the recurring "Big Fat Savings" reports of yore, came off as way too much of a wet kiss. The company no doubt is super-thrilled about this free ride, but it really shouldn't have been given this much space in a No. 5 market newscast.


NBC5 also paid attention, for the first time on weeknight 10 p.m. newscasts, to the otherwise heavily covered blowup last week involving Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and a group of white speakers at the regular Tuesday meeting.

Substitute anchor Kevin Cokely noted that the Tuesday, Feb. 22nd gathering will have heavier security and what Tea Party activists promise will be a "much larger demonstration."

So where has NBC5 been? As noted in a previous post, the station didn't have any cameras in place when last week's confrontation unfolded. So on Monday night, it resorted to the above blurry and audio-less video from elbagarcia.com. That's the website of District 4 Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

NBC5's video shortfall on this big story was reminiscent of its problems during the May 2009 collapse of the Dallas Cowboys practice bubble. In that case, the station repeatedly had to make do with labeled footage from Dallas-based CW33. It's safe to assume that NBC5 cameras will be rolling during Tuesday's County Commission hearing. Otherwise heads might roll.


Veteran CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley, usually a familiar 10 p.m. face, popped in for the first time since this February "sweeps" monitoring began with the Monday, Feb. 14th late night newscasts.

Um, he probably shouldn't have bothered. Gormley had an extended story on a new phone app that allows motorists to "flag down bad drivers" by twitting or haranguing them via their hand-held devices. The app is called DriveMeCrazy. Some viewers instead might have been driven crazy by Gormley's waiting until nearly the end of his story to note in passing that the app "encourages drivers to file reports while behind the wheel. And to some, well, that's just another dangerous road to travel."

Gormley then further demonstrated the app during a live closing segment from his parked car. He said that motorists also could "flirt" with good drivers by messaging them after first getting their license numbers. Let's root for state legislation that would revoke the driver's license of anyone idiotic enough to use this thing while in transit -- or otherwise.

***On WFAA8, medical reporter Janet St. James journeyed to Austin for a story on yet another youthifier -- this one dubbed the "Vampire Facelift." Why? Because a patient's own blood is used to help smooth out that same patient's brainless head ornament.

"The results are much more natural," said the Austin doctor whose needle work costs $2 grand a treatment and currently is unavailable closer to home. Note to self: do not succumb to any come-ons for werewolf hair transplants or Frankenstein brand colorizers.

Earlier in the newscast, WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez had an interesting story on stalled efforts to reopen several Lower Greenville Ave. bars and restaurants in time for St. Patrick's Day. They were all burned down in last March's sweeping four-alarm fire. Lopez focused on the popular Italian restaurant, Terilli's, which hopes to be back in business by this June.

***Fox4 had an overall solid and informative Monday night edition, with occasionally bizarro co-anchor Steve Eagar nicely handling a long, live interview segment on a proposed bill that would allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus. Gov. Rick Perry already has said he would sign such a bill, so it's likely to become a reality with the current majority backing in the Texas statehouse.

Eagar and reporter Matt Grubs also teamed -- to better effect than in recent newscasts -- on a story that compared the massive teachers' union protests in Madison, WI to the built-in legal limits that any rallying Texas educators would face. Austin and Madison, Grubs noted, otherwise share an identity as "funky, college capitol cities." As a once fully-imbibing University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, your friendly content provider commends Grubs for his insight.

But Monday's best story, on any of the four major TV news providers, came from reliable, resourceful Saul Garza, whose "What's Buggin' You?" segments have righted a lot of little wrongs over the years.

This time out he came to the aid of a congenial, elderly man whose wheelchair travels in a busy Denton shopping area had been dangerously waylaid by a missing stretch of sidewalk. Garza had the perfect touch, and the story had a happy and very satisfying ending.

The man, Joseph Sanders, initially had been brushed off by TXDOT. But "you have a good reputation for getting things done," he told Garza.

That he does. No brag, just fact. Time and time again.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., Feb. 18)


Fox4's overkill coverage of John Wiley Price included this dressed up image of anchor Heather Hays taking aim with a gun. Photo: Ed Bark

Fox4 again loaded up on John Wiley Price/Jeff Turner/Mullah/Go to Hell coverage Friday night.

This is still defensible to a point. People continue to talk about Tuesday's war of words between perpetually outspoken Dallas County commissioner John Wiley Price and attorney/conservative activist Jeff Turner. And unlike its rivals, the station's featured 9 p.m. newscast has a full hour to fill against network entertainment programming on rival stations.

But Fox4 hit a low point -- and arguably a point of no return -- during Friday's extended "Viewers' Voice" segment. That's when someone decided it would be funny to doctor a film clip and super-impose co-anchor Heather Hays' head atop a pistol-pointing woman. She was shown taking aim after a Fox4 viewer urged, "Heather Hays, you need to give it a rest. Don't try to cross him up."

The reference was to Hays' live and lively interview with Price on Tuesday's 9 p.m. newscast. As previously written in these spaces, Hays pressed Price -- as she should have -- while also giving him ample time to defend his actions. But another of Fox4's brainiac viewers didn't quite see it that way, contending that "you could see the look on her (Hays') face. And it was very racial."

Co-anchor Steve Eagar, who usually presides over the nightly "Viewers' Voice" segment, rightly scoffed at this while also seeming to enjoy what Hays and Price had wrought on a night when he was off.

"Feeling a little uncomfortable?" he asked her after Friday's "Viewers' Voice" mercifully had ended.

"Still a little bit uncomfortable," she acknowledged after Fox4 seconds earlier brandished a videotaped tight shot of Hays looking cross-eyed into the camera.

"Let's move on then," Eagar said. "OK," she agreed.

Eagar was disinclined to give it a rest earlier in the newscast after reporter Matt Grubs reported on Turner's conciliatory visit to the Duncanville Islamic Center. Addressing members, Turner said he "didn't mean any disrespect" to Muslims when he condescendingly told Price, among other things, "I would say to the Chief Mullah . . . (which he repeatedly pronounced Moo-lah)."

Turner declined to flat-out apologize, though, and wouldn't elaborate to reporters afterward.

"Look, I don't want to make any more statements," he said on Fox4. "Please turn the cameras off. No? Let's go get some tea, OK?" The invitation was to Islamic Center head Thomas Muhammad, who was standing alongside Turner.

"What's your read?" Eagar asked in subsequent live cross-talk with Grubs.

"What he has to do now is somehow make this story go away, but . . . " Grubs said before Eagar cut him off.

"He stepped in it and he doesn't want to step in it again, basically. Right?" the anchor declared. "I mean, right?"

Grubs, a very capable reporter who lately has been cast as Eagar's caddy, laughed before replying, "Well, essentially he is. But just saying 'OK, that's the end of it' or 'I'm not going to say anything else, let's have a cup of tea' isn't going to make it go away."

Eagar then ended matters, segueing to a brief reader on American Airlines.

Fox4's ongoing efforts to re-invigorate and change up its 9 p.m. newscasts have been both laudable and laughable, although invariably interesting, too. Lately, anchors Eagar and Hays are being encouraged to air out their own opinions in a new segment called "The Take." On Wednesday's newscast, Eagar opined rather mildly that a Philadelphia high school teacher who had blogged about her students being "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners" might want to try another profession.

Grubs then was assigned to turn Eagar's riff into a story on Thursday's 9 p.m. edition. He began by saying that at least one viewer had "blasted 'Eags' comments last night."

Eags and company might want to re-evaluate this approach. Are we reaching the point where anchors are encouraged to generate followup news stories tied to their on-air opinions? And will poor Grubs be the hapless, designated elephant dung shoveler required to keep hitting the streets in pursuit of reaction to something the 9 p.m. anchors said during "The Take?"

There's nothing at all wrong with Eagar and Hays jumping feet-first into big breaking stories or hot topics by doing their own live interviews with newsmakers or experts. In fact they've been doing a lot of that lately, often to very good effect. But "The Take" seems both forced and tacked on in an ever-evolving newscast whose two anchors already get far more face time than any of their contemporaries.


CBS11's Andrea Lucia topped the news with some show 'n' tell.


CBS11 has a dogged digger in recent hire Andrea Lucia, whose lead investigative story Friday trained its sights on Arlington's quartet of dilapidated King Landing residences.

After interviewing some aggrieved tenants, Lucia said, "We decided to ask the city of Arlington just how many problems they've had with these apartment complexes. And this is what they gave us."

She then tossed an armload of 490 pages worth of violations onto a table. They landed with a big thump, which in this case gave her story added weight. The two owners of King Landing live in Florida and have arrest warrants out for them after ignoring citations and racking up $400,000 in unpaid fines, Lucia said.

CBS11 also continued its "Crisis in the Classroom" series with a likable little segment in which reporter Arezow Doost sat on some concrete steps and asked a group of seven first-to-third graders to give their thoughts on the ongoing budget shortfall. These weren't deep thoughts, but they were cute ones. When a little boy was asked what he might do to help, he told Doost, "I'd probably ask my mom and do whatever she says."

The station likewise scored with Bud Gillett's interesting story on a Falls County grave dig intended to find out more about long-deceased Texas Ranger James Coryell, former friend of Jim Bowie and a supposedly heroic figure in the revolution. Coryell County is named after him, but no known pictures exist.

Also on Friday's 10 p.m. edition, co-anchor Karen Borta followed up her retirement piece on former WFAA8 weathercaster Troy Dungan with a look at anchor Tracy Rowlett's life after he helmed 10 p.m. newscasts at both WFAA8 and CBS11. The story focused on Rowlett and his wife, Jill's, relationship with their autistic son, Michael, who is now a grown adult.

Rowlett and Dungan both made live appearances Thursday night at CBS11's anchor desk. On Friday, Rowlett again joined in, never mentioning WFAA8 but telling Borta, "You look terrific. And you and Doug (his successor, Doug Dunbar) by the way are doing wonderful, wonderful work. And I just so much enjoy being a viewer right now. You guys are terrific."

Then came the shiv after both Borta and Dunbar told Rowlett how much he had meant to CBS11 (after a star-making career of 25 years at WFAA8).

"You guys are doing a great job," Rowlett replied. "And the ratings show it."

Ouch. CBS11 indeed is whipping WFAA8 by a fairly comfortable margin in total viewers after 11 weeknights of the 20-weeknight February "sweeps" ratings period. The two stations have had down-to-the-wire battles in the past several sweeps competitions, with WFAA8 returning to the top last November after CBS11 for the first time ever ran first in May among both total viewers and the key 25-to-54-year-old target audience for news programming.

Borta's Thursday night profile of Dungan, who then was reunited with Rowlett on the CBS11 news set, generated a runaway first-place finish for the station on a night when a robust lead-in from CBS' The Mentalist also didn't hurt.

CBS11's featured players in turn seem to be getting just a bit chattier and goofier of late. Friday's 10 p.m. edition ended with a tongue-in-cheek story, orchestrated by the Allen Wranglers indoor football team, on the kidnapping of the team's mascot, Hoss. Suspects include Biscuit (mascot of the Allen Americans hockey team) and the Chick-fil-A cow, Dunbar said. The team is offering two season tickets to whoever can find Hoss, with help from clues on the Wranglers' website.

Weatherman Larry Mowry smiled, shook his head and noted what a "hard hitting story" this had been.

"That's why we leave 'em to the end," Borta added. Dunbar then cracked her up by adding "Tank's empty" before saying goodnight. It all seemed harmless and genuinely unscripted at the close of another work week. A little of this can go a long way, but this was just the right amount of banter on a station that's currently on a roll.

***Over on WFAA8, weathercaster Pete Delkus once again told sports anchor Dale Hansen that he looks fat.

Hansen supposedly had earlier told Delkus that his ankle was swollen, and "now I fear that it clearly has spread to the rest of his body," he explained.

"It definitely has spread to his head," co-anchor Gloria Campos jabbed.

WFAA8's newscast otherwise seemed a little thin on content but heavy on news blips and briefs.

Reporter Jason Whitely probably had the most relatable story, telling viewers that the cost of their daily coffee fixes will be going up due to big increases in bean prices. Jim Douglas had the second of his extended dispatches from aboard the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of California while sports reporter George Riba performed his own brand of Sports Illustrated jinx on the Baylor women's basketball team by lauding their 21-game winning streak and No. 1 national ranking. On the following night, Baylor was soundly beaten by Texas Tech.

***NBC5 led its Friday 10 p.m. newscast with co-anchor Brian Curtis intoning, "We have some serious security concerns tonight at DFW Airport."

Actually it wasn't that pressing. But this was a pretty good story, based on a tip the station had received on an undercover agent's success in slipping through five different body scanner checkpoints while carrying a gun. She had been testing the vigilance of the airport's screeners, none of whom have been disciplined, NBC5 said.

Reporter Grant Stinchfield broke the story during earlier newscasts, with colleague Ellen Goldberg then carrying the ball live from the airport on NBC5's late news. Her account of where the gun was hidden didn't quite mesh, though. Goldberg first said it was "tucked in her shirt," but then said it was "hidden in her undergarment."

Stinchfield later weighed in with a second story on how to save money on monthly bills. Simply threaten to switch providers, he said, quoting advice from a visiting expert. He also interviewed a North Texas man who said he'd had considerable success with that strategy.

I'm gonna call Verizon Fios.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., Feb. 17)


Old folks at home: Ex-WFAA8 mainstays Tracy Rowlett, Troy Dungan reunited Thursday on their old station's 10 p.m. enemy. Photos: Ed Bark

Time heals all wounds, but maybe not this one.

In the heart of the February "sweeps" ratings period, Tracy Rowlett and Troy Dungan joined forces at 10 p.m. on the station that wants to beat their old employer into the ground.

And as noted in an earlier post, CBS11 ended up crunching WFAA8 in Thursday's D-FW Nielsens with help from a potent lead from The Mentalist.

Rowlett, formerly WFAA8's signature anchor, and Dungan, its famed bow-tied weatherman, spoke of their mutual admiration for one another while seated at the CBS11 news desk with co-anchor Karen Borta. She had just profiled Dungan in his retirement years and will do the same for Rowlett on Friday's late nighter. The two of them hadn't been live together on a news set since Rowlett jumped from WFAA8 to CBS11 in 1999 -- and spent a decade there.

"He disappeared from the airwaves in 2007, gone but not forgotten," Borta said of Dungan, who's better known of late for endorsing a home foundation repair company and an electrician in a notably poorly lit commercial.

Dungan, recurringly shown with a wine glass in hand, did not exactly drink to his WFAA8 successor, Pete Delkus, during Borta's piece.

"I really like the way Larry Mowry does the weather," he told her. " 'Cause, honestly, he does it kind of like I would."

On the other hand, any praise of the competing Delkus likely would have found its way to the cutting room floor. But at least Borta mentioned his former station by name during her narrative on how Dungan now is enjoying the good life by traveling abroad with his wife and doting on his granddaughter.

"The weather's in my rear view mirror . . . I had enough of it. I don't miss it," he said.

Dungan also let it be known that he took good care of the big paychecks that WFAA8 used to hand him. He didn't buy a palatial palace of a house, like some did, Dungan said. So he's hardly scrapped for funds in retirement. "I'm blessed," he said. "This is just a good time in my life."

During their CBS11 anchor desk reunion, Rowlett made a point of saying that Dungan remains "one of my dear buddies." Dungan in turn proclaimed his "love" for Rowlett.

"So great to see Troy and Tracy again," co-anchor Doug Dunbar chimed in while standing next to Mowry at the weather station. Mowry, who said he met Dungan for the first time Thursday, thanked him for the compliment during Borta's report. Let's just say that management at WFAA8 has just been given bulletin board material for the next year or so. But for now, the ABC station is licking its ratings wounds at 10 p.m. while CBS11 is riding high and rubbing it in.

On Thursday's 10 p.m. edition, which ran a distant second in the D-FW Nielsens, WFAA8 countered with 30-year-old footage of sports anchor Dale Hansen very gamely wrestling a bear while employed by Dallas-based KDFW-TV (Ch. 4). He earlier had performed the same feat for an Omaha, Neb. TV station.

Delkus as always set the table after Hansen asked him, "What goofy thing have you come up with now?"

The footage in fact was a riot, with co-anchor Gloria Campos as always leading the off-camera merriment.

"If the photographer hadn't thrown in the towel, I think I could have taken him," Hansen said of the bear, whom he likely has outlived at this point.

"I think his head's over in Pete's den," he said, a reference to Delkus' love of hunting. That's a good line. But on Thursday night at least, Hansen's bout with a bruin turned out to be no match for CBS11's lovey-dove reunion of two former WFAA8 colleagues. Maybe Hansen needs to wrestle burly new Dallas Cowboys defensive coach Rob Ryan. And fast.


NBC5 anchor Meredith Land mopped up on Texas census numbers.


NBC5 is based in Fort Worth and doesn't mind pledging allegiance to Cowtown. WFAA8 is a creature of downtown Dallas, with its newscasts originating from those still relatively new Victory Park studios. It helps to explain the two stations' notably divergent approaches to eye-opening new census data for Texas.

The Peacock led its newscast with this story. Longtime Night Ranger Scott Gordon told a tale of two cities after co-anchor Meredith Land first noted that Dallas "barely showed any growth at all."

Fort Worth in contrast is "one of the fastest-growing cities in the country," said Gordon. Its 38 percent population increase from 2000 to 2010 matches the growth in Grand Prairie, although both cities trail what Gordon termed the "astounding" 141 percent population splurge in McKinney.

Gordon interviewed a very content new resident of Fort Worth while duly telling viewers that Dallas grew by just a measly .8 percent in the past 10 years. Among Texas' top cities, "Dallas saw the least amount of growth," he added in case viewers weren't yet grasping the idea that Fort Worth is going gangbusters while that other burg is starting to sink fast.

"Oh I love this city," the happy new Fort Worth-ian said in closing out Gordon's story. "I love Fort Worth a lot."

Both NBC5 and WFAA8, the only stations to report on the new census results, noted that the state of Texas is growing at twice the national average, with Hispanics accounting for the lion's share of the increases. But WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely underscored that Fort Worth's "growth spurt" of more than 206,000 people brings attendant transportation and budget problems with it. And Dallas' comparatively measly 9,000-person increase over the same 10-year period is "mainly because it is landlocked and has a lot less room for new development," Whitely contended.

That seems nonsensical, but let's look at this another way. Once upon a time, NBC5 used to worry about being overly perceived as "the Fort Worth station." It once had a promotional campaign that embraced both Fort Worth and Dallas, with the message being that NBC5 wasn't just a Cowtown outfit.

Times have changed. As 10 p.m. newscast ratings shrink, NBC5 knows it's far better to fully exploit its Fort Worth locale. Rival stations don't and won't ever have this built-in hometown advantage, even though CBS11's main offices are located just a few miles from NBC5's off of I-30.

It's all the better for NBC5 if Fort Worth is booming and Dallas isn't. The pool of available viewers only increases, even if population splurges obviously can bring attendant problems as well.

Here's something else NBC5 did Thursday night to highlight its ties to Fort Worth. For the end-of-newscast kicker, co-anchor Brian Curtis beamed about a Cafe Brazil opening in downtown Fort Worth. Ah yes, urban vitality, with Curtis then riffing, "How many hangovers have been cured at Cafe Brazil?"

His desk mates gave him the old pause one-two before Land tepidly said, "A lot."

"Not that I would know, right?" Curtis rejoined. It should be noted that Uncle Barky has hangovers older than Curtis' or Land's lives on this planet. So there. It's out there.

***Earlier in the newscast, Curtis crossed state lines and ventured to Kansas City's airport for an interesting look at its deployment of private security companies for passenger-screening rather than the federal government's TSA (Transportation Security Administration). The feds currently allow 16 airports to use private screeners, but recently curbed any further expansion of the program.

D-FW Airport has been open to using a private security firm, but for now is "very satisfied" with the TSA, spokesman David Magana told Curtis. But other airports say that private firms are more efficient than the TSA, which some suspect is the reason why the government suddenly is putting on the clamps.

Curtis did a good job on this story. And NBC5 also had an intriguing piece by Ashanti Blaize on how selling food baked in home kitchens is illegal in Texas. Her principal interviewee, a cake baker who was shown but not identified by name, said she'll continue to make treats illegally while remedial legislation is pushed.

NBC5 also had a hiccup Thursday night, with Curtis telling viewers that a "standoff" was still in progress between police and a man who crashed his car and took off running into a family's home. Curtis said the family was safe, so he got that right. But much earlier on Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, reporter Brandon Todd had a live interview with a police officer who said the entire matter already had been resolved peacefully, with the motorist under arrest and no one hurt.

***Fox4 topped its newscast with news that an alleged home health care scammer had been indicted after investigator Becky Oliver exposed her during a November "sweeps" hidden camera piece. "We're not ashamed to take help from anybody," including the media, U.S. attorney James Jacks said in announcing the indictment.

News operations love patting themselves on the back for stories that result in remedial "action" or arrests. Fox4 overdid it a bit, but Oliver deserves credit for providing ample visual evidence in her expose.

***In the much ado about little department, Fox4 reporter Matt Grubs followed up on comments made by anchor Steve Eagar during a new station segment titled "The Take."

On Wednesday's 9 p.m. edition, Eagar and anchor Heather Hays commented on a blog by a Philadelphia high school teacher who said that her students were "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners." Eager said that maybe she should find another line of work if that's how she feels.

At least one Fox4 viewer took offense. Or as Grubs put it, she "blasted 'Eags' comments last night, saying . . . 'I would like to see him in the classroom.' "

Eags? Whatever you call him, Steverino said he in fact once worked a couple of years as a substitute teacher. But Fox4 perhaps needs a little more schooling in what constitutes a real story and what seems to be a transparently flimsy promotional effort on behalf of "The Take."

Grubs is a really good reporter most of the time -- and should be given better things to do than pitch a pup tent of a "story" tied to something one of his Fox4 colleagues said on the air. Particularly when what Eagar said was hardly as dicey as the station made it out to be.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Feb. 17) -- CBS11 kayos WFAA8 with help from Troy/Tracy/Mentalist

These are not the best of times for WFAA8, which on Thursday took a thumping at 10 p.m. from arch rival CBS11 and its calculated but canny use of two former WFAA8 stars.

CBS11 began the second half of the February ratings "sweeps" by reuniting anchor Tracy Rowlett and weathercaster Troy Dungan, both of whom became big stars at WFAA8 but hadn't been together on a news set in almost 12 years, according to CBS11 anchor Karen Borta.

The usual hefty Thursday night lead-in from The Mentalist didn't hurt. But CBS11 kept a big chunk of that audience in routing WFAA8 and further lengthening its 10 p.m. lead in total viewers.

The last 15 minutes of The Mentalist had 387,839 D-FW viewers, with CBS11's newscast then drawing 346,285. WFAA8, which won the November sweeps by a narrow margin over CBS11, managed a runner-up 200,845 viewers, improving a bit on the 180,068 viewers it inherited from the last 15 minutes of ABC's Private Practice.

CBS11 also easily beat second place WFAA8 at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. Borta profiled Dungan on Thursday's edition and will do the same with Rowlett on Friday. Rowlett and Borta teamed for a decade after he jumped from WFAA8 to CBS11 in 1999. The former WFAA8 mainstays, both of whom worked for more than a quarter-century at the station, have remained off-camera pals but hadn't been seen together on a newscast since Rowlett left WFAA8.

In the prime-time ratings, Fox's American Idol again was Thursday's biggest draw, amassing 560,982 total viewers in the 7 p.m. hour.

At 8 p.m., Justin Bieber's guest appearance on CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation -- he climactically died in a hail of bullets -- did not seem to help the long-running show in D-FW's Nielsen numbers. CSI tied for second with ABC's Grey's Anatomy in total viewers, with Fox's Bones the leader. And it beat only NBC's 8:30 p.m. episode of Parks and Recreation among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

On TNT, the late-starting Dallas Mavericks game -- a win at Phoenix that stretched past midnight -- averaged a respectable 145,440 total viewers to beat all competing post-10 p.m. newscast programming. It was the last game before the All-Star break, and the Mavs' 40th win. Is it time to start getting excited about this team again, despite all the disappointing post-season developments in recent seasons? To quote Marv Albert, who called last night's game, "Yesssssssssssssss!" I genuinely think the Mavs are for real, barring any key injuries. Another plus: Dirk Nowitzki emerged from a long sleepwalk to bust out with 35 points. Injuries had knocked him off his feed, but it was starting to look as though he'd never regain his form. On Thursday night, he looked very much like the team-carrying Dirk of old. But this time he has all kinds of support on a very deep and veteran team.

OK, back to our regularly scheduled ratings summary for the other local news derby results.

Fox4 scored another doubleheader win at 6 a.m. and also took the 5 p.m. gold with 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 won at 6 p.m. in total viewers and tied Fox4 for first place in the 25-to-54 demographic. The 5 p.m. top spot in total viewers also went to CBS11.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., Feb. 16)

DSCN2620 DSCN2623

CBS11's Ginger Allen and Jane Slater respectively got out and about to report from the site of a police raid and a damaged battered women's shelter on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast. Photos: Ed Bark

CBS11's resourceful ladies of the night certainly aren't doing anything illegal. They are, however, lately dominating the air time given to reporters on the station's 10 p.m. newscasts.

On Wednesday's edition, all five stories with reporter IDs were by women. On Tuesday night, it was five of six stories. And on Monday's 10 p.m. program, our first night of ratings "sweeps" monitoring, women did three of the four stories. That's 13 out of 15, with nothing from either Jay Gormley or J.D. Miles, both of whom used to be almost nightly contributors.

No, these are not the bitter beer ramblings of an ancient male mariner. But it's a notable change in the 10 p.m. terrain under news director Adrienne Roark, who joined CBS11 in March of last year from the network's owned-and-operated station in Miami. And so far, with the usual help from its network's potent 9 p.m. lead-in programming, CBS11 leads WFAA8 by an average of just over 18,000 viewers per weeknight through the first half of the February sweeps.

(Roark replied to an email query early Thursday evening. "This actually is entirely coincidental," she said. "It's based on the stories themselves, the pitches, and what we decide makes it into the newscasts.")

Wednesday's CBS11 late nighter began with Melissa Newton's live report from Denton on the "Breaking News" guilty verdict in the case of a man who had been accused of murdering his estranged wife in 2004. All four major TV news providers had this story, but CBS11 was the only one to lead with it.

CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen next had an eye-opener on long-dormant cases in which accused wrongdoers were indicted but never really pursued by police.

"We read one horrific criminal case after another," said Allen, who focused on a woman who had been sexually assaulted as a child more than 17 years ago. But her assailant has never been arrested or brought to trial, despite being charged at the time.

"Does this make you feel like the system had forgotten you?" Allen asked rhetorically. The woman, who was silhouetted and also had her voice disguised, gave the answer that Allen of course knew was coming: "Yes, ma'am, it does."

It would be a refreshing departure if any and all reporters would refrain from asking standard-issue leading questions of this sort. But that's just not likely to happen anytime soon.

Allen also went on belated police raids that came up empty. And she interviewed Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who says he's trying to clean up the seemingly abundant cold cases left behind by his predecessors. Watkins was asked if it's "unnerving" for him to know there are so many indicted people still at large. Watkins said it should be unnerving for all Dallas County residents.

This was a very worthy story by an investigator who's still refining her skills.

CBS11 also had 10 p.m. newscast stories by Jane Slater (on the storm-damaged Annie's House for battered women); Arezow Doost (on "Virtual Church" ministers who preach via the Internet ) and Carol Cavazos (on a budding Justin Bieber -- shudder -- from North Richland Hills).

Viewers otherwise were treated to a promo by former WFAA8 weathercaster Troy Dungan, who as previously posted on unclebarky.com will be profiled this week along with ex-WFAA8 anchor Tracy Rowlett. Both made their names at WFAA8, with each spending more than a quarter-century at the ABC station. Rowlett also worked a decade at CBS11 after leaving WFAA8.

But that was then. "Hi, I'm Troy Dungan," said Dungan in his promo. "And I'll see you (Thursday) at 10 on CBS11 news."

Dungan and Rowlett (who will be profiled on Friday's late nighter), are scheduled to appear together live Thursday on the CBS11 news set, according to a tease on Rowlett's Facebook page. Anchor Karen Borta is doing the two pieces while WFAA8 management perhaps considers mounting a pair of Dungan/Rowlett dart boards in the news room. Who would have ever thought it would or could come to this -- and in a ratings "sweeps" period no less.


TV evangelist Marcus Lamb clearly is willing to dye for Christ.

NBC5 topped its Wednesday 10 p.m. edition with reporter Scott Gordon's "exclusive" look at an alleged sex scandal involving the father of the wife of Daystar Christian TV network evangelist Marcus Lamb, who late last year admitted to his flock that he had cheated on her.

"I don't even blame the devil," Lamb said on the air while his wife, Jodi, sat alongside him and tried not to get further soiled by dye from his hair, mustache or goatee. Now Jodi's dad, Bill Trammell, is being accused by an ex-Daystar employee of making improper sexual advances toward her during "Quiet Time" in his office.

Daystar terms the lawsuit "outrageous" and pledges to "vigorously defend itself," Gordon told viewers.

Sex scandals involving TV evangelists are barely news these days. Except that they're still fun to report and chortle over, so thanks for that, NBC5.

The station was on much higher ground, though, with co-anchor Meredith Land's well-told human interest story on a 12-year-old-girl who was attacked by a wild animal as a five-year-old. After undergoing more than 20 surgeries for severe scalp wounds, her disposition remains irresistibly upbeat. She continues to wear a wig, though, and willingly doffed it for Land. That takes courage, and it also helped to make this particular story even more special.

Wednesday also marked the debut of new substitute sports anchor/backpack journalist Rontina McCann, who subbed for Newy Scruggs while he headed for Texas Rangers spring training camp in Arizona. McCann got through her first night in pretty good shape, although she buried the lead in her Dallas Mavericks highlights segment, waiting until the end to note in passing that the home victory over the Sacramento Kings also marked the long-awaited return of guard Rodrigue "Roddy B" Beaubois.

"Welcome to our wacky little family," co-anchor Brian Curtis said after she finished. We'll leave it at that.

***Fox4 continued to make interesting use of its nightly extended live interview segment with a split-screen debate on the John Wiley Price controversy between conservative talk show host Mark Davis of WBAP radio (820 AM) and liberal Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders.

Co-anchor Heather Hays refereed their lively exchanges, which included Davis opining that "If a white official had done this, he'd have been gone by dinnertime yesterday."

"No he wouldn't," Sanders said.

Frankly, in this case, yes he would. Because there's just no way a white county commissioner would have been allowed to stay in office if he'd singled out a group of African-American people by race and then repeatedly told them to "Go to hell."

Price, who remains unapologetic, says he was provoked by white attorney Jeff Turner's repeated references to him as "the chief mullah" during Tuesday's county commission hearing. Turner pronounced it "MOO-lah," and Price saw this as having a racist connotation. Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb did a good job of setting the stage for the Sanders-Davis debate by playing footage from the hearing in the context of what both Turner and Price said. "Right now a lot of word wounds to be nursed on both sides of this issue," Rabb concluded before Davis and Sanders let loose without insulting or torching one another.

***On WFAA8, reporter Jason Whitely led the newscast with a story on DISD spending that he deemed questionable in light of the big budget shortfalls now facing North Texas school districts.

Whitely stood in front of Dallas' Ritz Carlton while noting that the DISD had spent more than $1,300 last year to rent a meeting room at the posh hotel. Other publicly owned spaces are readily available at no cost, according to a consumer watchdog interviewed by Whitely.

All told, $66,000 was spent last year on meetings in various "off-campus" locales, Whitely said. That might not seem like all that much, he added, but is "certainly an unwelcome appearance as layoffs loom."

Reporter Jim Douglas, one of the station's best, also may have been part of questionable spending -- by WFAA8. Douglas and a photo-journalist were dispatched to San Diego to interview Texans working aboard the USS Carl Vinson. Their duty is important and hazardous. And the video was nicely shot and assembled. But was this really money well-spent by WFAA8? Or more to the point, would it pass the Jason Whitely smell test?

In this view, reporter Gary Reaves got more bang for the buck with his trip to nearby Seagoville for a well-told story on the fight to preserve a condemned historic school building from demolition this summer by the DISD.

Here's the video of Reaves' story, followed by Land's.

View more videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., Feb. 15)


Heather Hays/John Wiley Price during Tuesday's Q&A. Photo: Ed Bark

Tuesday's "chief mullah/go to hell" imbroglio, co-starring Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and a gaggle of white people, soared right to the top of three D-FW late night newscasts.

But while Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 all led with the confrontation and its aftermath, NBC5 had no coverage at all on its 10 p.m. news. That's what happens when your cameras aren't in place at commissioners' court to catch the initial blowup.

NBC5 instead topped its its website for much of Wednesday with a brief Associated Press story accompanied by a picture of Price. There was no video, though.

Those with a big thirst for this story got a filled-to-the-rim 32-ounce cup on Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, during which co-anchor Heather Hays and Price sparred back and forth in a live interview.

Natalie Solis, subbing for Hays' regular desk partner, Steve Eagar, set the table by telling viewers that "politics took a back seat to racial tension when a lot of people lost their cool." Reporter Shaun Rabb then offered further details before Hays and Price squared off while she remained in Fox4 studios and he took a respite from attending a Spike Lee event at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

At the Commissioners' Court hearing, Price repeatedly said "go to hell" after telling citizens in attendance, "All of you are white." He was angered by the words of speaker Jeff Turner, who repeatedly referred to Price as the "chief mullah of Dallas County." At issue was Price's alleged role in forcing the departure of veteran county elections administrator Bruce Sherbet, who had held that post for 24 years.

Turner "crossed the line," Price told Hays, by using a word that has "traditionally been a very derogatory racial term."

"What do you say to folks who are now calling you the racist one, and that you crossed lines?" Hays countered.

"Well, you can call me the racist if you like," Price replied. "My position is he said 'mullah' at least six times before I finally responded."

The latter day dictionary definition of mullah is an "educated Muslim trained in religious doctrine." But Price contends that the word is rooted in slang that first was used against Italian-Americans and later, African-Americans. In Lee's landmark 1989 film Do the Right Thing, Italian-Americans derisively refer to some of their African-American neighbors as mullahs.

"At some point, don't you just kind of keep your mouth shut?" Hays asked, referring to Price's standing as an elected public official who perhaps should be above all of this.

Price laughed and answered, "No, I stand by what I said." And were the positions reversed, he said, his white colleagues on the commission would have every right to tell blacks to "go to hell" if they were provoked by racial slurs.

He later dodged Hays' question on whether he subsequently had called the Rev. Bill Lovell a "fat boy," although audio from the hearing indicates that he did.

"Apparently you're wanting to tell his story, somebody else's story," Price said both in reference to Lovell and to Lee's determination throughout his career to make films from a black perspective.

During the concluding "Viewers' Voice" segment on Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, one respondent already was using the race card against Hays.

An emailer identified only as Anthony said he supported what Price said, but "what I did not support was Fox4 attempting to paint Price's remarks as racist. Next time please have a more culturally diverse individual conducting the interview."

Another emailer, Natalie, said that Hays "didn't use professional interview techniques. She didn't sound like an experienced journalist. I normally don't necessarily have a problem with her, but I just wanted to comment and present my thoughts on this interview."

My thoughts on Hays are that she pressed Price for answers, as well she should have. Her questions were direct and to the point. Price was given ample time to answer at length while Hays kept challenging him, as a good interviewer should. She was hardly combative, though, and the color of her skin shouldn't matter a whit.

The lead stories on WFAA8 and CBS11 respectively were by reporters Jason Whitely and Andrea Lucia.

On CBS11, co-anchor Doug Dunbar unnecessarily first warned viewers that "there's some pretty strong language in our top story tonight. Language that comes from John Wiley Price, who 12 hours after a confrontation in a commissioners' court is still pretty angry."

Price in fact did look a bit upset during a taped snippet in which he asked Lucia, "What is it you don't understand? I said the word 'mullah' is racist. What is it you don't understand about that?"

He later said that it didn't matter what Turner's intent was in using the word. "It could have meant anything," Price said. "I took it as a racist term."

WFAA8 co-anchor John McCaa introduced Whitely's story by telling viewers, "It's a word few know and even fewer understand. But the term 'mullah' led to a disorder in the commissioners' court and an outburst."

All concerned, this time including NBC5, no doubt will have another whack at it during Wednesday's newscasts. Below is video of the complete Hays/Price interview:

Commissioner Price Tells Citizens to ‘Go to Hell’: MyFoxDFW.com

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., Feb. 14)


NBC5's Scott Friedman excelled with in-depth report. Photos: Ed Bark

It's the heart of the four-week February "sweeps" ratings period, prompting what some might see as another masochistic full-immersion into the late night activities of D-FW's four major TV news providers.

In order to retain a semblance of sanity, your friendly content provider prefers to view this as a periodic opportunity to catch up with the latest approaches on Fox4's featured 9 p.m. edition and the 10 p.m. programs on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11. You can't fairly critique without taking some refresher courses. So for these next two weeks, the idea is to watch each newscast in its entirety with an eye toward pointing out highlights, lowlights and in-betweens.

Two things jumped out Monday night. NBC5, once the laughable purveyor of flash, trash and cotton candy filler, seems to be intent on reversing that course. Also, Fox4's ever-evolving 9 p.m. news has another new segment that at first glance looks like a much better use of time than the old "News Edge" compilation of videos from far and wide.

Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all led with details of a high speed chase through Kaufman County that ended with State Troopers riddling a motorist and his runaway car with bullets. Police later learned, or so they said, that a child in a car seat was also riding along. Reporting live from outside Parkland Hospital, NBC5's Omar Villafranca had the most detailed, up-to-date account.

He obtained a photo, from family members, of the three-year-old child's minor but still angry looking back wound. He also reported, as did WFAA8, that the injury in fact was not caused by a bullet or a bullet graze. Villafranca emphasized that family members weren't excusing the evasive actions of the motorist, who was shot twice in the stomach. But they did claim, he reported, that calls were made to police dispatchers notifying them that a child was in the vehicle. Police denied receiving any such information.

Both Fox4's Matt Grubs and CBS11's Andrea Lucia unequivocally said that the boy had been grazed by a bullet. Grubs, stationed live in the dark by a highway "near Terrell," also told Fox4 anchors that the name of the motorist had not been released by police. But the three rival stations all identified him as Stephen Capps.

NBC5's Scott Gordon later had the only report from Austin on rolling blackout hearings that will be continuing Tuesday. CBS11 said that its Jack Fink likewise would be in the state capital by that time.

Monday night's best story also came from NBC5, with the invariably solid Scott Friedman reporting in depth on the numerous problems authorities have had with blurry or grainy red light camera pictures.

"It turns out the cameras take a lot of bad pictures," he said, noting that from 2007 to 2010, more than 780,000 red light-violating motorists got a "free pass" because of problems in reading their license plates. That's appreciably more than the 554,000 tickets that actually were handed out, Friedman said.

The story also highlighted a wrongly ticketed motorist from California who received a bill in the mail after authorities mis-read his plate. All in all, said co-anchor Meredith Land, more than $58 million in "potential fines" had been waylaid by inconclusive license plate images.

NBC5 also had Ellen Goldberg reporting live from downtown Dallas on the closing of the West End Morton's steakhouse after 23 years at that location. A new one is opening in "trendier" uptown Dallas, she noted. WFAA8 briefly mentioned the closing. Fox4, whose downtown studios are within a block or so of the old Morton's, made no mention of its demise.

After all this heavy lifting, NBC5 co-anchor Brian Curtis could be excused for promoting an end-of-the-newscast kicker by saying tongue-in-cheek, "We have breaking Barbie and Ken news when we come back." It turns out that Mattel is getting the two back together again after a six-year estrangement. News of this sort might have been a lead story -- honest -- on NBC5's godawful, garbage 'casts of old. In contrast, Monday's edition was solidly built from start to stop. And that's a bonafide news bulletin.

James Rose had the last words on Monday's "News Wrap" segment.

Fox4 has a full prime-time hour to fill opposite 9 p.m. network entries on rival stations. It's been re-tooling a lot lately, with one of the newer wrinkles looking good Monday night.

Co-anchor Heather Hays led viewers through a four-pronged "News Wrap" that made good and concise use of a like number of reporters. Melissa Cutler and Richard Ray respectively reported on entrants in the Dallas and Fort Worth mayoral races before Emily Lopez joined Hays in the news room to recount how a Dallas police officer stopped a dangerous wrong-way motorist by ramming him. James Rose closed the whip-around festivities with a report on blood bank shortages.

All of the reporters were given just enough time to flesh out their segments. Curiously, though, the "News Wrap" menu pictured above on the right-hand border could only be seen on high-definition screens. On a conventional "box" set, it's completely out of the picture.

Fox4 had less success with a live in-studio segment in which substitute anchor Natalie Solis interviewed pediatric Dr. Daniel Moulton about the possible danger of ultra-high caffeine energy drinks.

Moulton wore a sweater vest with his shirt tail hanging out the back. Was he trying to look all cool and Fox-ian? He instead looked disheveled while being shot several times from the rear.

Solis, as too many interviewers do these days, was prone to making statements instead of asking questions. Rather than elaborate, the obviously nervous Moulton simply agreed with her on two occasions, causing Solis to quickly run out of ammunition. Hey, this isn't supposed to be Jeopardy. Ask in the form of questions and you might have a better chance of getting answers.

On CBS11, co-anchor Karen Borta had an informative story on a 41-year-old woman cancer patient who's been getting possibly breakthrough vaccine treatments.

Borta and fellow anchor Doug Dunbar appeared to be more playful than usual on Valentine's night. Dunbar remembered 8-track tapes during his introduction of a new Deep Ellum museum enshrining them.

"As old as I am, that is older," Borta told him. Dunbar then bridged a commercial break with the advisory, "When old and older come back . . ."

WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp hammered away Monday night at Merritt Patterson, whose "whimsical" blogging for Park Cities People supposedly masks the latter day dark side of her Surrogate Parenting Center of Texas, which is going out of business.

Shipp interviewed egg donors and infertile couples who claimed to have been bilked by her in recent years.

"I don't know how she sleeps at night," one silhouetted woman said.

"She's basically wrecked people's dreams," said another of the aggrieved.

Patterson declined to do an on-camera interview but said by telephone that she's "sad" about the Parenting Center's demise and that those who are owed refunds will be paid by the end of March.

Shipp countered that Patterson began taking such steps only after WFAA8 began investigating.

He's deservedly won numerous major awards for his reporting. But this particular story seemed more than a little over-played and over-wrought.

Have you had a "Godo" Day lately?


Everyone makes a mistake now and then, although this one has all the makings of a legendary five-star blooper.

The above graphic attempted to promote Fox4's Good Day during Monday's 9 p.m. newscast. And this is a station that somehow spells co-anchor Lauren Przybyl's surname correctly the vast majority of the time. But this time, someone had a dodo day.
Ed Bark

Sports anchor Desmond Purnell the latest to leave CW33 (updated)

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Weeknight sports anchor Desmond Purnell has run out the clock at Dallas-based CW33, informed sources tell unclebarky.com.

Purnell joined the station from KYTX-TV in Tyler after covering the Dallas Mavericks' loss to Miami in the 2006 NBA Finals. His departure from CW33 leaves only weekend anchor/reporter Dawn Tongish, reporter Barry Carpenter, weekend sports anchor/reporter David Crome and meteorologist Bob Goosmann remaining from the on-camera CW33 news staff inherited by David Duitch when he became the station's news director in the summer of 2008. (Duitch later confirmed that Purnell is no longer with CW33.)

As noted in a recent post, general assignment reporter Shana Franklin, who specialized in sex stories, and sports/lifestyles reporter Candice Crawford, who's engaged to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, also have parted ways with CW33. Franklin's husband took a job in California and she will be joining him there after some February "sweeps" reporting for CW33.

Purnell so far has not returned an email asking for comment.

Revisiting the shockingly quick demise of Lone Star -- and how it sent Fox reeling

dallas01 LoneStarTrio

While TNT continues debating whether to shoot its Dallas remake in Dallas, it's instructive to revisit what a blow it was to Fox when its modern-day version of Dallas died almost instantly.

The network's shot-in-Dallas Lone Star had a bigger promotional buildup and the most favorable critical reviews of any new fall series. But the piddling audience for its Monday, Sept. 20th premiere led to its cancellation just one episode later. During last month's network TV "press tour" in Pasadena, your friendly content provider decorously asked the network's two top programming executives whether the opening night ratings for Lone Star were "like a punch in the nuts or something."

Pretty much so, yeah.

"We didn't quite know what to think," said entertainment chairman Peter Rice. "And we went online, and it just said, 'Lone Star dead.' "

That drew a laugh. But seriously, "it was a drag," seconded entertainment president Kevin Reilly. "I mean, it was a real bummer . . . We had an unbelievable amount of creativity. We put a lot of marketing behind it. This was not one we were just sort of throwing out there. And it really changed the complexion of our fall. If that show had had enough traction to stay on (the air), it would have changed the complexion. We wouldn't have had as much ratings trouble as we've had on Monday nights. When Lone Star was D.O.A., it was a gaping hole."

Fox immediately plugged in Lie to Me, which wasn't scheduled to return until Nov. 10th -- on Wednesdays. It delivered better ratings than Lone Star. What wouldn't have? But the relocation of Lie to Me prompted another move -- of Human Target from Fridays to Wednesdays. Which led to House reruns filling Friday's 7 p.m. (central) slot as a lead-in to The Good Guys, another made-in-Dallas series that since has been canceled.

Reilly compared the demise of Lone Star to the runaway success of Glee, which also had "inspired creators who you are thrilled to support. And you rally behind them . . . and you're happy to do it. When it works, it energizes everyone. And when it doesn't, it takes a lot of wind out of the sails."

So what does Lone Star's abject failure say about the value of TV critics' reviews? They obviously didn't move the needle in this case.

But Rice said it still matters whether a show is embraced or loathed before America's viewers vote it up or down.

"Anytime you are making a drama, it's important that the first people you show it to are the people that have taste, the people that are discerning," he said by way of bestowing a wet kiss on a ballroom full of TV writers. "When something is challenging like (Lone Star), if they say it's terrible, that's not going to be helpful. So it's important to us, and I think it's important to the viewers. Ultimately, this was an idea that was rejected on its concept, by a broad public when they had other choices."

The virtual still birth of Lone Star won't dissuade Fox from taking chances, Reilly added. "I can tell you one discussion we never had the next day was, 'Well, let's not do that again. Why did we put that on?' We analyzed some of the strategic (scheduling) moves, but never the intent behind it. I don't believe for a second that all of the great shows are on cable. I think it's painting with a roller. And some of that commentary after the fact, I think was not completely fair."

Fox still owns the four unaired episodes of Lone Star. They "may very well end up airing," Reilly said, but with no great expectations.

"A show that had a tremendous amount of marketing and a strong lead-in (from House) didn't pull a whole lot of viewers," Reilly said. "I don't know really know what it's going to do if we throw it on somewhere else."

If Lone Star's remaining episodes remain dead and buried, "I'll get you a discount on the boxed set," he promised.

It's been a rough past year for network TV series made in both North Texas and Austin.

ABC's The Deep End, a legal drama set in L.A. but filmed in the Dallas area, was dropped last February after just a handful of episodes aired.

The aforementioned Lone Star and The Good Guys were both born under bad signs. NBC's Chase, likewise a North Texas production, premiered last fall on Mondays, was switched to Wednesdays in midseason and now has been put on hiatus in favor of the plug-in game show Minute to Win It. So write that one off, too.

In Austin, Friday Night Lights ended production last year after a ratings-challenged, but critically acclaimed five-season run. The city quickly got another network series, ABC's My Generation. But it also went down for the count after just two episodes.

Another network drama series, CBS' Chaos (scheduled to premiere on April 1st), initially looked as though it was going to be filmed in North Texas. But the network and the series' producers instead belatedly decided on Vancouver during the time they waited for an up-or-down vote on a pickup.

"Better than Dallas," co-star Eric Close said during a January interview session for the show.

Close later had a chance to reboot, noting that he met his wife in Dallas and was talking about typography and the show's intent to have its rogue band of CIA agents travel all over the place.

"The last time I looked, I don't believe there's mountains covered in snow (in Dallas)," he said before Flag Pole Hill did its very best earlier this month. "So I think we're really looking for that global scope when we're shooting. That was partly the issue with Dallas."

It also should be noted that TNT has only committed to shooting a pilot for its proposed younger generation Dallas series. Although it's hard to imagine the network not following through with a series commitment after signing Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy to reprise their roles from the original CBS version.

Those were the days when TV series hunkered down and stayed a spell in North Texas, which also became home to CBS' Walker, Texas Ranger and two full seasons of Fox's Prison Break.

Lately that luck has run out, at least from a longevity standpoint. Still, it's better to have loved and lost -- and live to lick those wounds before doggedly trying again.

More animated than ever: Dirk in cartoon form on Sunday's The Cleveland Show


Whaddya s'pose Dirk is sayin' to Dwyane Wade? Fox photos

The Big German will be voicing his cartoon self on the Sunday, Feb. 13th episode of Fox's The Cleveland Show (8:30 p.m. locally on Fox4).

Dirk Nowitzki, shown above with Dwyane Wade and former Dallas Mavericks teammate Steve Nash, is among the NBA All-Stars on an episode subtitled "A Short Story and a Tall Tale." Also participating are LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett.

Want another look? The picture below is of Nowitzki, James and Garnett discussing why Bob Ortegel was dumped Tuesday as the color analyst for Mavs telecasts. OK, they're probably not really talking about that, but it's true that Ortegel, 70, no longer is in the Mavs picture. Must be some kind of youth movement, even though he's still not as old as Jason Kidd.


Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Feb. 8) -- big cold weather heat-up for Fox4's 9 p.m. news

Prospective bad weather invariably draws a crowd. And Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast had boffo box office returns Tuesday as Wednesday's icy blast began moving in for the kill.

The news drew 429,393 D-FW viewers, wiping out competing first-run entertainment programming on rival networks and nearly matching the night's biggest audience for CBS' 7 p.m. episode of NCIS (436,319 viewers). And among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, Fox4's 9 p.m. prelude to the morning's big freeze ranked as Tuesday's biggest draw, even topping its network's new hour of Glee.

The news reigned in the ratings without much lead-in help from Fox's 8:30 p.m. premiere of the new comedy series Traffic Light. It had 152,365 total viewers to rank a distant third in its time slot behind the second half-hour of CBS' front-running NCIS: Los Angeles (346,285 viewers). Traffic Light also took the bronze with 18-to-49-year-olds.

ABC's prime-time lineup barely registered with new episodes of No Ordinary Family, V and Detroit 1-8-7. The first two dramas ran fifth in both ratings measurements, with The CW's One Tree Hill and Hellcats finishing fourth. Detroit 1-8-7 inched past the 9 p.m. CW33 local newscast in total viewers, but likewise plopped into fifth place among 18-to-49-year-olds.

No Ordinary Family played particularly dead, drawing a sub-puny 62,331 total viewers, with only 13,162 of them hitting the 18-to-49 sweet spot.

In the four-way local news derby results, CBS11 jumped the 10 p.m. gun with a 9:58 start time that dumped out of The Good Wife before its promised preview of next week's episode. It worked, with CBS11 topping the 10 p.m. field in total viewers for the fourth straight weeknight while Fox4 and WFAA8 tied for second. (Note: other stations also have pulled early start stunts in hopes of keeping viewers from straying elsewhere. Viewers are getting screwed to a degree, but that's not really a prime consideration during sweeps wars.)

CBS11 hasn't lost at 10 p.m. in total viewers since the four-week February "sweeps" rating period started last Thursday. But Fox4's 10 p.m. edition continued its jarringly strong demographic performance by narrowly winning among 25-to-54-year-olds for the third time in four sweeps nights. That age group is the primary advertiser target audience for news programming. CBS11 fell from first to fourth in this key measurement, although all four stations' ratings were closely bunched together.

Fox4 ran the table at 6 a.m. and also won among 25-to-54-year-olds at both 5 and 6 p.m. CBS11 topped the 6 p.m. competition in total viewers by a hair over WFAA8 while NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first in that measurement at 5 p.m.

Network morning shows again frozen out by D-FW's "Winter Blast"


NBC5's Amanda Fitzpatrick again braved the big chill. Photo: Ed Bark

It's another icy, crappy morning in North Texas. Do you know where your network morning shows are?

For the fourth time in the last seven weekdays, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all ran another "Winter Blast" marathon while respectively preempting the 7 to 9 a.m. editions of Today, Good Morning America and The Early Show. Fox4's Good Day continued as usual with its regularly scheduled local two hours.

The visuals and rhetoric pretty much stayed frozen in place. Reporters shivered in the elements and pawed at the snow and ice while in-studio anchors told them how cold they looked. NBC5's Amanda Fitzpatrick spoke for the stations' great unwashed by noting, "The less you see of my face, the harder the wind and the sleet."

Weathercasters Pete Delkus on WFAA8 and Larry Mowry on CBS11 (along with his colleagues) again dramatically stripped down to their shirtsleeves while Fox4's calmer Evan Andrews remained coated and NBC5's Jennifer Lopez kept her sweater on.

School closings occupied bottom-of-the-screen crawl spaces while traffic crawled along. Motorists were exhorted to drive slowly, but a stalled car always makes for a prized live shot, particularly if it's facing in the opposite direction after spinning out.

Obliterating the network morning shows -- during the heart of the February "sweeps" ratings period -- is pretty much a no-brainer under these circumstances. Still, some viewers no doubt were beaten down by the redundancy or irked by promotions for network show attractions that never materialized. NBC5 sought to make amends by offering a delayed 9 a.m. telecast of Today's West Coast feed, which will include the show's featured interview with First Lady Michelle Obama.

All four stations of course have mounted their own promotional campaigns on behalf of their stellar winter weather coverage. Only WFAA8 had . . . Only Fox4 gives you . . . etc., etc.

Audiences in fact are comparatively huge for these weather-centric 7 to 9 a.m. segments, with Fox4 drawing the most total viewers on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week while NBC5 took the top spot on snow-blanketed Friday.

All of this has been a head cold for WFAA8, which used to be the automatic go-to station for big breaking news. Now it only beats longtime doormat CBS11 -- and not by that much on some days. Here's how it looked during Friday's 7 to 9 a.m. snowmageddon:

NBC5 -- 290,879 viewers
Fox4 -- 263,177 viewers
WFAA -- 186,994 viewers
CBS11 -- 145,440 viewers

Stay warm.

XX random observations on Super Bowl XLV


Packers coach Mike McCarthy gets the Gatorade splash. Photos: Ed Bark

Your friendly native Wisconsinite had a very fun and fine time watching the Green Bay Packers edge the Pittsburgh Steelers in Jerry's Palace Sunday.

Now that I'm of reasonably sound mind and body again, here are XX notes on what transpired.

I. Four of Fox's five prognosticators, with the understandable exception of former Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw, picked the Packers to win. Twelve of The Dallas Morning News' 16 sports staff predictors went with the Steelers. Uncle Barky picked the Pack to win 28-20 in a Friday post. Final score: 31-25. Sign me up.

II. Fox analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said before game time, "I would be shocked if this isn't one of the all-time greatest Super Bowls." He'll get no argument here.

III. Early Texas editions of Monday's New York Times sports section topped their front pages with the headline, "Unsafe Sections Leave Hundreds with Tickets but No Seats." Which means that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' ham-handed ambitions again blew up in his face. Jones had pockmarked Cowboys Stadium with about 1,250 makeshift seats in hopes of breaking the all-time Super Bowl attendance record of 103,985 for 1980's game in the Rose Bowl. He also persuaded the NFL to count the thousands of fans who paid $200 a pop to sit in the stadium parking lot and watch the game on a big screen. In the end, the official attendance of 103,219 fell short of the record while the Times twitted Jones' in-stadium seat-padding gambit as "something of a tragi-comic coda in a week of logistical nightmares and missteps."

IV. Jones hugged former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, Bill O'Reilly and President Obama made nice to each other and Bradshaw patched things up with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger after eviscerating him in early season comments. And this was all during the pre-game buildup, prompting Fox's Curt Menefee to note, "I'm not sure if this is Super Bowl Sunday or Valentine's Day."

V. Roger Staubach looked increasingly uncomfortable carrying the Lombardi trophy through a gauntlet of jubilant Packers during the post-game ceremonies. "I'm supposed to give it to you, Roger," he said to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Then I get outta here." Hey, suck it up and be a little more classy about this, oh Sainted One. Emcee Bradshaw in contrast showed how it should be done, exuberantly hailing the Packers as the NFL's newest kingpin.

Just before the National Anthem came this double-barreled promo for the new Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston film Just Go With It.

VI. Any pre-teen Little Johnnys watching the big game got a rocket-ride toward puberty via the above, very bouncy visual for the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It.

VII. Grizzled Sam Elliott's filmed black-and-white introductions of the two teams were a little over-cooked, but OK.

VIII. The pint-sized Darth Vader commercial for Volkswagen deservedly is getting the most post-Super Bowl buzz. Lotsa bang for little bucks.

IX. The Packers now have won four of the five Super Bowls they've played in. Among teams with at least three appearances, that's the second-best winning percentage, behind only the San Francisco 49ers with a perfect 5-0 record. And it doesn't look as though San Francisco will have a chance to lose one any time soon.

X. I'm giving Fox's game commentators, Aikman and Joe Buck, an overall grade of B. Solid work, but not particularly distinctive. NBC's Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth remain the best team in the land.

A-Rod gets finger food from handmaiden/gal pal Cameron Diaz.

XI. Buck did get off a good line, though, after one of Fox's celebrities-in-the-house shots caught Cameron Diaz finger-fooding Alex Rodriguez. "I'm sure Alex is thrilled we just put the camera on him at that moment," he said. "Being fed popcorn."

XII. Upon further review, the Black-Eyes Peas halftime show played better than the first time I looked at it. Although the music obviously was piped in, the four Peas, led by Will I. Am and Fergie, appeared to be actually singing. And if they weren't, their lip-syncing was flawless. Pageantry-wise, the performance jumped off the screen. So while U2 remains the gold standard for Super Bowl extravaganzas, this one gets an overall B+.

XIII. Glee's Lea Michele rose to the occasion with a powerful performance of "America the Beautiful" before Christina Aguilera both over-sang and bungled the lyrics during her featured "National Anthem" rendition. So Lea gets an A-minus and Christina a C-minus.

XIV. The man who needs no further introduction, Simon Cowell, won't be launching his new The X Factor talent competition on Fox until next fall. But the network banged the drum loudly for him in a towering Super Bowl ad that ended with the above image. On Monday, Fox followed up with a teleconference in which Cowell said that the X Factor winner will get a $5 million record deal. Auditions start on on March 27th in Los Angeles, with Dallas also in the seven-city mix at a later date. There's no upper age limit for contestants, and you can be as young as 12.

XV. From a pure production and storytelling standpoint, Coca Cola took the prize on Super Bowl Sunday with an animated spot starring fire-breathing dragons and a tale of two stern border security guards who briefly bonded over ice cold bottles of Coke.

XVI. Who would have envisioned a Super Bowl beer ad for Stella Artois, with actor Adrien Brody literally singing its praises?
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Animation for Coke and a cartoon Eminem for Brisk tea.

XVII. Eminem double-dipped, voicing a clever animated spot for Brisk tea and following up later with his real self in a stirring, filmic spot for Chrysler that also talked up Detroit. "This is the Motor City. And this is what we do," he proclaimed at commercial's end. Any questions?

XVIII. That Ozzy Osbourne/Justin Bieber spot for Best Buy? Really lame.

XIX. Cars and animals again held sway, with seemingly half the ads featuring one or the other -- or both. One of my favorites showed a parked motorist who found himself boxed in by wacky-driving monkeys. But it wasn't selling cars. It was touting careerbuilder.com.

XX. Finally, below is that pretty amazing "Best. Fans. Ever." spot produced for the NFL and featuring clips from old TV shows whose characters rather magically donned team garb. This is a side-by-side look at how the footage originally appeared -- and how it was doctored.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs.-Sun., Feb. 3-6) -- Super duper numbers for XLV


Packers prevail 31-25 in Jerry's Super bowl whopper. Photo: Ed Bark

The D-FW audience for Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium not surprisingly outdrew last year's crowd-pleaser while also hitting an astronomical peak audience of over 3 million Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers' 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers averaged 2,791,057 viewers on Fox, with a high of 3,068,085 during the game's climactic quarter hour -- 9 to 9:15 p.m.

Last year's New Orleans Saints' win over the Indianapolis Colts, likewise a close game, averaged 2,599,153 viewers in D-FW with a peak crowd of 2,911,323.

The D-FW market, fifth largest in the country, has a potential viewing audience of about 6.93 million, according to estimates by Nielsen Media Research. Opposite Sunday's Super Bowl XLV, the most-watched competing attraction, ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos, had a measly 41,554 viewers from 6 to 7 p.m.

Fox's post-Supie attraction, an elongated new episode of Glee, ran all the way to 10:45 p.m. It averaged 983,449 viewers, falling off as the night wore on. Still, that's easily the biggest D-FW audience ever for Glee.

Meanwhile, the four-week February ratings sweeps started last Thursday. Here's how it looked on the first two weekdays for the four major players -- Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11

CBS11 capitalized on a big lead-in from CBS' The Mentalist to edge arch rival WFAA8 at 10 p.m. in total viewers (325,508 to 311,657). But Fox4 was the surprise winner among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. It won by a sliver over CBS11 -- 138,248 to 137,627.

Fox4 rolled at 6 a.m., winning in both ratings measurements. CBS11 vaulted into third place, outdrawing No. 4 WFAA8 in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 ran first in total viewers at 6 p.m., but WFAA8 had a comfortable winning margin among 25-to-54-year-olds. The 5 p.m. golds went to WFAA8 in total viewers and NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

CBS11 again won at 10 p.m. in total viewers while slipping to second among 25-to-54-year-olds behind NBC5.

The Peacock and Fox4 split the 6 a.m. spoils, with NBC5 narrowly winning in total viewers and Fox4 edging to the top of the 25-to-54 heap. WFAA8 ran fourth for the second consecutive weekday in total viewers, but beat CBS11 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 ran the table at 6 p.m. and WFAA8 did likewise at 5 p.m.

A snow day at Flag Pole Hill gives CBS11 reporter Bud Gillett a chance to shine


No school, lotsa snow are a fun combo at Flag Pole Hill. Photo: Ed Bark

Amid all the trials and tribulations of Super Bowl week, here's a very charming, feel-good story from CBS11 reporter Bud Gillett.

There's nothing new about kids and their parents taking advantage of those rare slippery slopes at Flag Pole Hill in Dallas. But Gillett had a really nice touch with his Friday evening account. Maybe it'll bring a few smiles.

P.S. Since this question understandably comes up whenever Gillett's name is mentioned, his discrimination suit against CBS11 is no longer operative.

"It's resolved. That's all I'm authorized to say," Gillett said when contacted Saturday morning. As previously reported on this site, Gillett initially filed the suit on July 16, 2009.
Ed Bark

Final chapter in Packer backer buildup


Quarterback Bart Starr, MVP of the first two Super Bowls, drops back to pass on a Verizon Fios cable box while a miniature Brett Favre stays in uniform in a mockup of Lambeau Field. Photo: Ed Bark

OK, it's at last time to make a prediction in the big 'n' tasty Super Bowl XLV matchup between Uncle Barky's native state Green Bay Packers and the pillaging Pittsburgh Steelers.

So let's go with a final score of Packers, 28, Steelers, 20, which would make Green Bay IV and I in Super Bowls while Pittsburgh drops to VI and II.

Unlike Brett Favre, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers likes to play on climate-controlled turf. So what Green Bay did in the Georgia Dome to the Atlanta Falcons should be a reminder that this team don't need no stinkin' Frozen Tundra to bring its A-game.

Still, the Steelers are going to be tough, formidable and clearly ready to play. So it won't be easy, but I'm confident the Pack will prevail in Jerry's Palace while the Cowboys owner puts on a happy face and in the end says "Cheese."
Ed Bark

Heavy snow adds another Super Bowl week woe


A shiver runs through it: the road to Super Bowl XLV. Photos: Ed Bark

D-FW weathercasters under guess-timated Friday morning's snowfall, initially predicting a light dusting of little more than an inch before upwards of six inches fell on an already whipped North Texas.

They spent a good deal of time acknowledging their collective errors during early A.M. shows that again stretched through and beyond the network waker-uppers on ABC, CBS and NBC. Fox4's Good Day continued as usual until 9 a.m. -- and then kept going along with its competitors on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11. It afforded Fox4 co-anchor Tim Ryan additional time to carp about the seeming lack of preparedness just two days before Super Bowl XLV kicks off at Jerry's Palace.

Stalled cars, spinning wheels and hooded reporters in the field otherwise filled home screens when bleached-out weather maps and stay-off-the-roads traffic reports weren't holding sway. It all got worse when the snow intensified in Fort Worth around the time it was supposed to be moving out of the area. By 10 a.m. it had resumed snowing in Garland at unclebarky.com world headquarters. In short, holy crap -- with forecasted highs for Super Bowl Sunday already dipping from the high 50s to the high 40s. Which probably means it'll be in the 30s. (And in fact, by 11 a.m., that became the revised forecast.)

Over on Fox Sports Southwest, Dan Patrick tried to make the best of it by very ably shooting hoops in the snow in Victory Park. He then welcomed New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to his see-your-breath morning show.

"It's just a weird week in the year, and we have to accept that," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said Friday morning on ESPN2's First Take show while a steady snow fell behind him. The former Burlington, Wis. Demons QB then dodged making a Super Bowl pick.

Here are some more images from local stations' Friday morning coverage.


Frisky Fox4 reporter Fiona Gorostiza faked a forlorn look when Jersey Shore dumbo Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino turned out to be a no-show for a Thursday night party at BlackFinn in Addison. P.S. It turns out she was all wrong about that, because D Magazine's FrontBurner blog has a picture of him at the party.

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Tale of two spouses: weathercaster Greg Fields stayed toasty in the cozy confines of WFAA8 studios while his wife, CBS11 reporter Robbie Owens, was dispatched to a sub-freezing overhead bypass.


Southwest planes hibernated at a shut-down Love Field in Dallas.

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WFAA8's Cynthia Vega gets the best winter weather outfit prize while colleague Steve Stoler looks a little worse for wear.

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NBC5's resident old pro, Ken Kalthoff, said he survived a close brush with a skidding car while CBS11 meteorologist Jeff Jamison reported on stalled employees from outside the station's Fort Worth entrance.


Fox 4's Dan Godwin went topless while anchors asked him why.


The suns hung in there at unclebarky.com world HQ in Garland.

Icy grip in Super Bowl week prompts a reprise of WFAA8's all-time classic cold weather report

Former WFAA8 reporter Valeri Williams can laugh about it now, and did so when unclebarky.com caught up with her in a June, 2008 post tied to her still famed Nov. 24, 1992 live dispatch from sub-freezing Hedley, Texas.

Anchors Tracy Rowlett and Chip Moody tried but failed to stifle themselves after Williams had completed her numbed-lips account. Given what's befallen North Texas during Super Bowl week, here's another look at what befell her that night. This video is in far better shape than previous ones, and also includes a little more of Rowlett and Moody cracking up. Enjoy the show.
Ed Bark

"With Starr you think of success"

Some say he was just a cog in the Vince Lombardi machine, an average talent blessed with a coach and teammates who carried him to the Hall of Fame.

Others swear he's the most underrated quarterback ever, a Mr. Clutch who invariably made the big play and whose idea it was to call the climactic sneak that ended 1967's legendary Ice Bowl game with the Green Bay Packers topping the very valiant Dallas Cowboys 21-17.

Bart Starr will be in North Texas Saturday morning to present an award named after him to New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. At the annual Athletes in Action Super Bowl breakfast, he'll also join with former teammate and Texas Tech University great Donny Anderson to again relive the Ice Bowl with two thawed out Cowboys participants, Bob Lilly and Rayfield Wright.

Wisconsin native Uncle Barky continues to believe that Starr, the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, made the Packers run far more efficiently than any other quarterback of his day could have. It's true that he had a rather bland yessir/no sir personality. But on the field, Starr was the straight arrow steel in the Packers' spine, leading them to five NFL championships and the first two wins over the AFL in Lombardi's last years as Green Bay's coach.

In our penultimate countdown to the Packers' appearance in Super Bowl XLV, here's a pro and con video in which various analysts dissect Starr's true worth as a quarterback. In the end he has the hardware on his side. No brag, just fact.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Feb. 2) -- boom box numbers for Idol's hour in Austin


Dan Patrick was all hat, no cattle in Victory Park. Photo: Ed Bark

Fox's American Idol easily amassed its biggest D-FW audience of the new season with Wednesday's audition hour from Austin.

Airing from 7 to 8 p.m., it drew 768,753 viewers on another frigid night tailor made for TV watching. Idol's Fox followup act, Human Target, then nose-dived to 263,177 viewers, still good enough to edge the second hour of NBC's Minute to Win It. But Minute won with advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

At 9 p.m., CBS' Blue Bloods nipped the first half-hour of Fox4's local newscast in total viewers. But the news in turn edged NBC's Law & Order: SVU in the 18-to-49 demographic. Hardly anyone in that key age group watched Blue Bloods, which plummeted to fifth place and even finished well behind CW33's 9 p.m. newscast.

Fox4's locally produced XLV Live, which again ran from 9:30 to 10 p.m., fell well behind the second half-hour of Blue Bloods in total viewers. It ran second to SVU with 18-to-49-year-olds while ABC's new Off the Map doctor series ran a close third.

XLV Live also ran at 6:30 p.m., this time directly against a WFAA8 Super Bowl special with sports anchor Dale Hansen. XLV Live, helmed by anchors Steve Eagar, Heather Hays and Mike Doocy, beat the Hansen half-hour in both ratings measurements. But in total viewers, CBS11's competing Wheel of Fortune thumped both Super Bowl shows.

All four major local TV news providers again battled from 7 to 9 a.m. with extended foul weather coverage. Fox4 easily led the way in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. Here's how it looked:

Fox4 -- 277,028
NBC5 -- 193,920
WFAA8 -- 180,068
CBS11 -- 145,440

Fox4 -- 177,082
WFAA8 -- 105,628
NBC5 -- 86,988
CBS11 -- 52,814

Over on ESPN2 and Fox Sports Southwest, Mike and Mike and The Dan Patrick Show respectively braved the sub-freezing outdoors Wednesday morning from their locations in Sundance Square and Victory Park. Both drew exceedingly small D-FW audiences for their efforts, with ESPN's M and M averaging 4,848 total viewers and Dan Patrick, 2,770.

In the day's other local news derby results, NBC5 romped to 10 p.m. wins in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds while tying arch rival Fox4 for first place in both measurements in the 6 to 7 a.m. faceoff.

CBS11 entered the winners' circles with a 6 p.m. sweep and also took the 5 p.m. gold among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8's lone victory came at 5 p.m. in total viewers.

The four-week February "sweeps" ratings are underway as of today (Thurs., Feb. 3). In a memo to staffers Thursday, Fox4 celebrated the January performance of its 9 p.m. local newscast, which beat rival late night local editions for the first time ever among both 25-to-54-year-olds and 18-to-49-year-olds, the station said.

Fox4's 9 p.m. news, launched in July 1995 when it became a Fox owned-and-operated station, edged WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscasts among adults 25-to-54 by a score of 80,774 to 77,978, according to Nielsen Media Research data cited in the memo.

In the 18-to-49 demographic, Fox4's 9 p.m. news beat its 10 p.m. news by a score of 72,722 to 60,876, with WFAA8 in third place (58,573).

Billing itself as "the little station that could" in the memo, Fox4 management also said its 9 p.m. edition "holds the honor of also being the only late newscast in the market not to suffer year-to-year losses in viewers."

Let the February sweeps begin, when all four major TV news purveyors will be armed with first-run prime-time programming from their respective networks.

Another Super Bowl in North Texas? Dream on


Dan Patrick and guest Emmitt Smith chill out in Victory Park Wednesday during his show on Fox Sports Southwest. Photos: Ed Bark

Jerry Jones can keep smiling all he wants through his pearly veneers. But naw, the Super Bowl won't be returning to North Texas anytime soon -- if ever.

You can't control the weather, but you can control the site of the NFL's crown jewel. And as the party and event cancellations pile up, this much is all the more glaringly clear. Dallas and environs have neither the scenic beauty or communal, festive gathering spots of competing big cities.

Yeah, New Orleans is unseasonably cold right now, too. But Bourbon Street cures a lot of ills. New York could be snowy and icy, too, when Super Bowl XLVIII touches down in 2014. But I'll take Manhattan. In both instances, the sights, sounds, bars and restaurants are tourist attractions in themselves, regardless of whether the cities are hosting a Super Bowl or a majorette competition.

The game itself could and should be great within the climate-controlled confines of Jerry's Palace. That's not the problem. And ideal weather of course would take a lot of the edge off the comparatively nondescript venues available for all those grossly over-priced parties. But when the weather is frigid, where do Super Bowl visitors go to gather -- other than hotel lobbies?

Fort Worth's Sundance Square could have shone brightly were this week's weather not so frightful. But instead it's become a venue for the frozen chosen, with outdoor shows on ESPN affording hosts and guests the opportunity to see their breath before them as they otherwise bundle up and look like snowmobile drivers. On Thursday, the Mike and Mike morning show finally retreated indoors.

Over at Victory Park, Dan Patrick and his guests also have been reluctant cold warriors, with former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith carping about the sub-freezing temps during his Wednesday appearance.

The Super Bowl buildup has become more important than ever over the years. And in North Texas, that buildup is pretty much laying an egg. It's why you won't see another one of 'em in previous venues such as Minneapolis, Detroit and even Atlanta. Cold weather is too big a risk -- and the Mall of America or a trip to an auto plant is not enough of an enticement.

And oh yeah, rolling blackouts. Those can be real party poopers -- and North Texas has got 'em. In addition to icy roads, below-freezing temperatures and sub-zero wind chills for at least another day or two.

Maybe the Man Upstairs has looked down on Jerry and said, "Ya know something, I really don't like what that guy represents. Let's give him the polar opposite of manna from heaven."

It's a shame for all the volunteers and civic boosters and other people who have worked very hard to bring Super Bowl XLV to these parts. But you know what? It just isn't gonna work, no matter how much power Jerry wields among the NFL's fellow owners. Chances of landing Super Bowl L (50) in Dallas -- a big dream of Jerry's -- are getting to be about as likely as the Cowboys playing in it. That is, unless they get a new owner.

In truth, there isn't a player, a coach, a celebrity or a fan who wouldn't rather be in South Beach right now. Or in the French Quarter. Or strolling along Venice Beach to see both the ocean and all the attendant crazy 'n' colorful people.

Jerry says it's better this way, though. Get the crappy weather out of the way and wind up with a nice Super Bowl Sunday in which temperatures are predicted to be in the 50s. Yeah, that'll be nice for him and his palace. But in the interim, North Texas is no place to be. The NFL will take note of this -- and won't get fooled again.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Feb. 1) -- super-sized news numbers as North Texas remains in icy grip


Frightful weather sends Super Bowl week skidding out of control. Photos: Ed Bark

Hungry for the latest news and hunkered down in their homes in many cases, North Texans invested heavily in Tuesday's local newscasts.

The 6 p.m. editions on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 drew the biggest overall audiences of the day while extended morning editions also figured heavily in viewers' plans. Let's look 'em over.

WFAA8 led the 6 p.m. parade, but all four stations were in the hunt with a combined audience of more than 1.25 million viewers. Here's the breakdown:

WFAA8 -- 360,136
Fox4 -- 304,731
NBC5/CBS11 -- 297,805 each

Fox4 topped the field, however, in the principal 25-to-54-year-old advertiser target audience for news programming, beating runnerup WFAA8 by a score of 161,548 to 142,908, with NBC5 and CBS11 trailing in that order.

Sizable audiences also were up for the usually little-watched 5 a.m. portions of local waker-uppers. Fox4 edged NBC5 in total viewers from 5 to 6 a.m., with 193,920 to the Peacock's 180,068. But NBC5 won the hour with 25-to-54-year-olds, averaging 127,375 viewers in this age range to Fox4's 114,948.

Ratings further heated up from 6 to 7 a.m. Here's how they finished in total viewers.

Fox4 -- 242,400
NBC5 -- 235,474
WFAA8 -- 173,143
CBS11 -- 124,663

NBC5 again took the gold, though, with 25-to-54-year-olds before dominating in both ratings measurements during the extended 7 to 9 a.m. weather coverage on all four stations. Here's the breakdown in total viewers for those two hours:

NBC5 -- 360,136
Fox4 -- 290,879
WFAA8 -- 173,143
CBS11 -- 117,737

In Tuesday's other local news derby results, WFAA8 ran the table at 10 p.m., drawing 318,582 total viewers with 127,375 in the 25-to-54 age range. And NBC5 controlled the 5 p.m. competitions, grabbing 332,434 total viewers, including 167,762 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

D-FW viewers also settled in Tuesday with a new episode of CBS' NCIS, which had more total viewers than any other single program with a very robust 588,635.

But the day belonged to the market's local newscasts, which were at it again Wednesday with more extended morning coverage. Among the reporters out in the field was CBS11's resident Marlboro Man, Bud Gillett. We'll leave you with him.

Gusher: Pilot for new TNT Dallas series will include originals Hagman, Gray and Duffy


Larry Hagman at mike with Linda Gray (left) and Patrick Duffy (right) receiving Pop Culture award at 2006 TV Land awards. TV Land photo

Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick will reprise their iconic Dallas roles in a TNT pilot for a followup series about the Ewing offspring, the network announced Tuesday night.

But it's still uncertain whether the new Dallas will be shot in Dallas. "No decision has been made yet," TNT spokeswoman Karen Cassell told unclebarky.com.

Hagman, Gray and Duffy played oily J.R. Ewing, his tormented wife, Sue Ellen and his do-good brother, Bobby, on the landmark CBS series, which ran from 1978 until 1991. For much of that run, the cast spent sweltering summers filming in Dallas.

There's no definite series commitment for the Dallas re-do, in which Josh Henderson (Desperate Housewives) will play J.R.'s son, John Ross. An actor hasn't yet been announced for the role of Christopher, adopted son of Bobby and Pam Ewing. But they'll both be enamored of Elena (Jordana Brewster from The Fast & the Furious).

The executive producer and writer of the new pilot is Cynthia Cidre, who scripted the feature film The Mambo Kings and also produced the failed 2007 CBS serial drama Cane. Warner Horizon Television is the production company, with Michael M. Robin of TNT's The Closer directing the pilot episode.

It's sex for sale as D-FW's top two 10 p.m. ratings-getters get into "sweeps" mode


CBS11's Ginger Allen reports on Super Bowl sex trade. Photos: Ed Bark

Never mind that irksome arctic blast. Whether by plane, train, automobile or snowmobile, the hookers are coming, the hookers are coming to sully D-FW's big Super Bowl week.

Actually it depended on which station you watched Monday night. The February "sweeps" don't start until Thursday, but 10 p.m. ratings kingpins WFAA8 and CBS11 already have warmed up with a time-worn audience lure.

Both stations had heavily promoted reports on underage sex trafficking, Super Bowl style, with WFAA8's Jason Whitely questioning whether it's a reality while CBS11's Ginger Allen pretty much assumed that it is.

"Well, it's called the seedy side of the Super Bowl," WFAA8 anchor-reporter Shelly Slater told viewers from her live perch at Fort Worth's Sundance Square. "We've been hearing for weeks now that there is a wave of prostitutes coming to North Texas for the big game. So is any of this really true?"

Then came Whitely, who noted that "predictions are dire" when it comes to minors being enslaved by pimps for the purpose of playing for pay at mega-sporting events.

Deena Graves of Traffick 911 said that the infestation of Super Bowl XLV "will be like nothing we've ever experienced before." She forecast "an alarming increase in underage girls sold for sex."

Whitely then went against the grain, researching whether the previous three Super Bowls in fact had become hooker havens. Police Sgt. Tommy Thompson of Phoenix, which hosted the 2008 game, said via telephone that "we did not notice an increase (in prostitution) or anything out of the ordinary." And for the last two Super Bowls, in Tampa and Miami, only 11 and 14 prostitution arrests respectively were made in the week leading up to the game, Whitely said.

Organizers of the most recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver likewise found no discernible increase in sex trafficking, said Whitely, whose story was slugged "Super Bowl Myths."

"Critics blame some women's groups for these rumors, trying to raise awareness without the facts," he then said, lowering the hammer.

Maybe police and event organizers were looking the other way? Or maybe Whitely was a little too intent on proving his thesis -- and thereby knocking down a competing station's plan of attack?

He did say at story's end that "no one disputes that trafficking is a serious and a sickening problem." But whether a Super Bowl "intensifies it is a prediction that no one can yet prove."

CBS11's Allen went the conventional route, never questioning predictions that Super Bowl XLV will be a magnet for rampant prostitution.

"One organization says that thousands of under-age girls will be brought here as sex slaves," Allen said, referring to New Friends, New Life. Its executive director, Katie Pedigo, contended that "every two minutes a child is sold into (the) sex life."

Allen also interviewed a silhouetted woman named Amanda, whose previous life as a teenage sex slave has put her on "a mission" as Super Bowl week intensifies.

Amanda specified some telltale signs that an underage girl is being held against her will. They include "inappropriate clothing" tattoos and bleach blonde hair, none of which in reality would narrow it down all that much.

Depending on which station you believe, teen sex trafficking will be either a flood or a bare trickle this week. Whitely seemed to have more basic facts in his corner, though, while Allen interviewed a couple of women without raising any further, bigger questions.

Show 'n' tell: Fox4's Clarice Tinsley wore an "Acrylic cowboy hat."

Earlier Monday, Fox4 launched its week-long XLV Live program, which will be supplanting the syndicated rag mag Access Hollywood at 6:30 p.m.

"You are looking l-i-i-ve at Cowboys Stadium," anchor Steve Eagar said for starters, channeling Brent Musburger's scene-setting tagline while he shared the stage with his usual on-air partner, Heather Hays.

They sat outside Jerry's Palace in chilly but comparatively balmy weather while warning viewers of a frigid cool-down that in fact came to pass on Tuesday morning.

The program included trusty Richard Ray's solid piece on Tom Landry's place in Super Bowl history and longtime anchor Clarice Tinsley's silly display of the "swag" being given to each member of the visiting media. This amounted to a couple of magazines, a map, a miniature squeezable football and a "coveted media pin" that Tinsley cooed about before Hays carped that she hadn't been given one during her earlier check-in at the Super Bowl "Media Center."

Tinsley also donned an "Acrylic cowboy hat" -- and looked kinda goofy doing so. She said that celebrities would be signing it as part of the Super Bowl festivities.

Veteran sports anchor Mike Doocy, his hair looking newly dyed (but tastefully) and definitely spikier, nonetheless was portrayed as "The Old Man" during a taped football-tossing competition at the NFL Experience in downtown Dallas. Doocy lost 3-2 to a 10-year-old boy, prompting a big dose of ribbing from his colleagues and a printed on-screen jab that read, "You are TOAST, old man."

Obviously it's going to be a long week of Super Bowl nonsense on the part of all four major D-FW television news providers. Fox has the game, so Fox4 is intent on "owning" this story. But at least WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, who will have his own special on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., can always be relied on to puncture various over-inflated balloons.

Noting the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers arrivals in Dallas Monday, Hansen said during Monday's 10 p.m. newscast: "If they wake up early tomorrow, see (weatherman Pete) Delkus in shirtsleeves and no coat, acting like the world is about to end, they're bound to be asking themselves, 'What's wrong with these people?' Of course it's their fans who wave towels and wear cheese on their heads. So it's not like they can make fun of us -- too much anyway."

Delkus and co-anchor Gloria Campos could be heard chortling at that one before Hansen signed off with, "If there is a tomorrow, I will talk to you then."

Tomorrow's here -- cold, windy, icy snowy and temperate in the eyes of all those prostitute-prone visitors from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Storm troopers: D-FW's TV news grunts out in force in early morning elements


Traffic crept gingerly through early morning snow/ice. Photos: Ed Bark

Well, they weren't exaggerating.

Monday's dire forecasts of an "arctic blast" garnished with a "wintery mix" and heavy winds proved all too true Tuesday morning. D-FW's early morning news programs responded with team coverage and an array of winter wardrobes for reporters pulling crack 'o' dawn duty on a day when area schools shut down en masse, DART's rail system stopped running and DFW Airport was temporarily closed.

It's easy to criticize. But given the elements and the circumstances, Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all provided a valuable service by giving viewers an overall big picture of what was going on. NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all preempted their networks' morning shows in favor of continuous coverage while Fox4 proceeded as usual with the 7 to 9 a.m. portion of its homegrown Good Day.

Ratings will end up being double or triple their usual size for all four stations. Anticipating as much, none of them waylaid their usual commercial breaks.

There were some notable excesses amid the live blow-by-blow reporting, none more ridiculous than WFAA8 anchor Cynthia Izaguirre touting the station's live, "exclusive front seat" coverage from a sand truck leading the Green Bay Packers' toward Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV's mid-morning "media day."

"You are actually watching the Green Bay Packer team within four buses," she enthused. Imagine that.

Over on NBC5, reporter Julie Tam noted that "the cars are also behaving pretty well." She meant the motorists behind their wheels.

Tam also marveled at a lone icicle sprouting from the front bumper of an NBC5 news truck. Back at the station's Fort Worth studios, co-anchor Scott Friedman riffed, "First icicle sighting of the morning right there."

"And she was so impressed by it," added co-anchor Deborah Ferguson. "It sounded so cute. 'Look, an icicle.' "

As noted, though, everyone tried hard. Here's our unclebarky.com picture book of the morning's cold weather warriors.

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Props department: CBS11 reporters Andrea Lucia and Joel Thomas.


All aglow: Fox4's Krystle Gutierrez let a smile be her umbrella.

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Old dogs: WFAA8's Jim Douglas, Brad Watson are still in harness.

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NBC5's intrepid Julie Tam points out her amazing discovery.

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CBS11's Jeff Ray and WFAA8's Colleen Coyle were the only weathercasters to actually get out in the stuff. Good for them.


Frosty her snow hand: NBC5's demonstrative Amanda Fitzpatrick

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Fox4's seasoned early morn duo of Adrian Arambulo, Saul Garza.

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Mix 'n' match: Clockwise from upper left are CBS11's Jane Slater, NBC5's Grant Stinchfield, CBS11's Sana Syed and WFAA8's in-studio traffic reporter Alexa Conomos, who looks as though she'd dressed for a nice 'n' balmy spring day on a morn tailor made for sweaters.


Last impression: the snow-encased feet of WFAA8's Jim Douglas.

Former WFAA8 giants Tracy Rowlett, Troy Dungan will re-emerge for one-night retirement profiles on rival CBS11 during upcoming February "sweeps"

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Tracy Rowlett, Troy Dungan in photos from their Facebook pages.

CBS11 is planning an unusual bit of ratings "sweeps" gamesmanship on its 10 p.m. newscasts this month by featuring two former mainstays of arch rival WFAA8.

Anchor Tracy Rowlett and weathercaster Troy Dungan, longtime members of WFAA8's juggernaut 10 p.m. news team, will be profiled in their retirement years by CBS11 anchor Karen Borta.

Dungan, who retired as WFAA8's full-time forecaster on July 18, 2007, said that CBS11 tentatively has scheduled his piece on Feb. 17th, with Rowlett's set for the following night.

Rowlett retired from CBS11 on July 11, 2008 after eight-and-a-half years at the station. He previously spent 25 years at WFAA8 before making what still ranks as the biggest anchor station shift in D-FW history.

"I really know very little about 11's plans for these pieces," Rowlett said, confirming that Borta recently had interviewed him at his lake house near Mount Vernon, Texas. "Troy seems to know more than I do about air dates."

The Dallas Observer's "Unfair Park" blog reported Monday that Dungan would make a "one-time only" appearance on CBS11 this month, but had no further details on what the station planned to do with him. No mention was made of Rowlett. CBS11 director of communications Lori Conrad told the Observer that Dungan would pop up "tentatively, the week of February 14th," but declined to specify further.

CBS11 and WFAA8 have been in air tight races for 10 p.m. ratings supremacy, with WFAA8 inching past CBS11 in the November sweeps after CBS11 beat WFAA8 by a hair in the May sweeps. The four-week February ratings period begins on Thursday, with both stations again likely to be fighting down to the wire.

Rowlett was air-brushed out of WFAA8's history after jumping to CBS11. The station's extensive lobby pictorial is without any images of the anchor who teamed with Iola Johnson in the 1970s to lead WFAA8 to ratings dominance during the reign of Peabody Award-winning news director Marty Haag.

Dungan's bow ties and participation in WFAA8's annual Santa's Helpers toy drives were also staples of his 31-year career at the station. His commercials for home improvement companies continue to air on stations throughout the market.