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Heralding Harold Taft anew -- in video of a 1982 weathercast


The May "sweeps" ratings period at long last is over. So let's cleanse the palate with this look at former D-FW weather giant Harold Taft, who began at Fort Worth-based WBAP-TV (later to become KXAS/NBC5) on Oct. 31, 1949 and endured all the way until his last forecast on Aug. 30, 1991. He died less than a month later -- of cancer -- on Sept. 28, 1991.

The above photo is from the 1970s, when Taft teamed with (left to right) Boyd Matson (still wanted in these parts for killing a tablecloth), Chip Moody, Ward Andrews and Russ Bloxom.

The below video, the best I've seen of a full Taft forecast, is from 1982. His deskmates are Jane Jayroe and Dave Layman.

Taft's famed hand-drawn weather maps are still in play here. Watch for them at the 2:25 mark after he first grudgingly uses an electronic map and some black-and-white satellite pictures.

"I will not guarantee you that you will not have some rain at your house tomorrow. Or wherever you might be," Taft says earlier. You could take it to the bank.

Current NBC5 chief meteorologist David Finfrock was hand-picked by Taft and learned at the feet of the master. He's been at the station since 1975. But as Finfrock would readily agree, there was only one Harold Taft.

And here he is:

The 33 makes nice to one and all in latest Web site addition (updated again)


Lens crafter: Anchor Walt Maciborski advertises his skills as a photographer on "The 33's" Web site, which also is taking content-sharing to a new realm by linking to rival TV stations' news stories.

Independence Day is coming soon. But D-FW's co-dependents daze continues apace in TV news and newspaper circles.

Still, it's a bit surprising to see Dallas-based KDAF-TV (Ch. 33) now voluminously linking to stories by all of its TV rivals at the bottom of "The 33 News" page on the station's recently remodeled Web site.

Represented in their own sections are KDFW-TV (Ch. 4), KXAS-TV (Ch. 5), WFAA-TV (Ch. 8) and KTVT-TV (Ch. 11). There also are two links to The Dallas Morning News, for stories from Dallas and Fort Worth.

The 33 already has a content-sharing agreement in place with KDFW and KXAS. And it's also in partnership with the weekly Quick newspaper, which is published by the DMN.

This is the first time, though, that any D-FW station basically has invited its Web site users to shop at rival TV news outlets. So what's in it for The 33? News director David Duitch said via email that "great journalism is being committed in the Dallas-Fort Worth market in print, over-the-air and on line. Why should the Googles and Yahoos of the world be an aggregator for this content?"

Duitch said that The 33's Web site "can offer stories you won't find everywhere else. But the consumer experience with news on the Web is different than over the air . . . The Web user wants what they want when they want it, and they know how to find it. We want to help them if their interest is Dallas-Fort Worth news and information. I won't be surprised when the other media outlets in D-FW follow our lead and post links to their competitors' sites."

CBS11 news director Scott Diener said he was surprised by The 33's linkage to his station and others.

"But if 33 feels they want to do that, they're more than welcome to," he said.

Diener said that CBS11's Web site has no plans to reciprocate, but possibly might link to a rival station's story on a case-by-case basis.

"If there's something that is so compelling, I wouldn't rule it out," he said. "But I can't see it happening right now."

The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram have an ongoing content sharing pact that went into effect last year. Belo cousins WFAA-TV and the DMN also cross-promote each other's stories. That leaves CBS11 as the only non-sharer in the D-FW marketplace, although sources say the station also was approached to be part of the Fox4/NBC5/33 LNS (Local News Service).

"Look, our staff does a great job of breaking stories first," Diener said. "We feel like we can compete on our own. And that's what we want to do. We don't want to share our stuff."

Unclebarky.com also remains an independent agent. Thought I'd share that with you.

***Also at The 33, news anchor Walt Maciborski's shutterbug skills are newly advertised via a blog headlined "Meet 33 News Photographer: Anchor Walt Maciborski."

"This weekend he's going to take pictures at the Cowboys Cheerleading try-outs," readers were informed via a late Thursday night post by staffer Larissa Hall.

Can't wait to see the results.

Irvin's 4th and Long spikes Spike's ratings


Michael Irvin kept up with the Joneses at recent party. Photo: Ed Bark

Monday's premiere of Michael Irvin's 4th and Long series delivered 1.2 million viewers nationally for Spike TV, with 76,000 of them from the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

Spike says that D-FW out-performed the national ratings average by 95 percent and did 82 percent better than the national average for the network's target audience, 18-to-34-year-old men.

4th and Long, which continues for nine more episodes on Mondays at 9 p.m. (central), improved its time slot rating nationally (compared to a year ago) by 224 percent in men 18-34 and 131 percent in men 18-to-49, Spike says.

The series will end with one of 12 hopefuls winning a spot on the Dallas Cowboys' 80-man training camp roster.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., May 20) -- sweeps end with Idol on top


Who, me?! Kris Allen hears he's won American Idol. Fox photo

Kris Allen's American Idol triumph over season-long favorite Adam Lambert of course dominated Wednesday's last official night of the 2008-09 network TV season.

Fox's two-hour extravaganza averaged 504,868 D-FW viewers, falling just short of Tuesday night's elongated Dancing with the Stars finale on ABC (518,154 viewers).

But Idol peaked at a higher plateau, amassing 704,158 viewers for the post-9 p.m. bleed-over in which Allen was anointed. Dancing peaked at 617,799 viewers for its final 15 minutes. Local ratings were helped by the presence of Dallasite Melissa Rycroft as one of Dancing's three finalists.

The Idol finale also outdrew Dancing among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds, by an overall score of 217,160 to 191,231.

Everything else played dead Wednesday night except CBS' two-hour season finale of Criminal Minds, which drew 325,507 total viewers in the 8 to 10 p.m. slot. ABC filled the night with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which barely registered with 79,716 viewers.

Everybody came up a winner in Wednesday's sweeps-closing local news derby. (Complete results for the entire May sweeps will be published when available.)

CBS11 swept the 10 p.m. field in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. NBC5 again did likewise at 6 a.m., where it will roll up May's most decisive victories in the four major newscast battlegrounds.

WFAA8 won at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but CBS11 recorded an exceedingly rare first place finish among 25-to-54-year-olds, beating Fox4 by less than a sliver (one-hundredth of a rating point). So in reality, it's tie, even though CBS11's 1.15 rating will be rounded up to a 1.2 in the official ratings "book" while Fox4's 1.14 rating will be rounded down to a 1.1.

Fox4 and WFAA8 statistically tied for first at 5 p.m. in total viewers, with Fox4 winning the 25-to-54 demographic.

WFAA8: Playing hardball with the mirror ball before dancing the corporate quick step

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WFAA8 made a decidedly abrupt switch Tuesday night. Photos: Ed Bark

It's not often these days that WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast gets a big, fat ratings lead-in from its ABC network.

But when that happens, viewers beware. You might be in for a decidedly abrupt, mood-shattering cut-away, as was the case Tuesday night.

Fans of Dancing with the Stars were watching former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson bask in the glow of her newly won mirror ball trophy while competitors group-hugged her. Host Tom Bergeron started to say something when -- whammo -- WFAA8 cut from a closeup of Johnson to a promo for a story about visiting your MD at the risk of your health.

"You go there to get better, but you could be getting sick!" anchor Gloria Campos teased at 9:59 p.m. before the newscast began. "The dirty truth about your doctor's office!"

Viewers weren't particularly served by this gamesmanship. But this was the second-to-last night of the May "sweeps" ratings period. And WFAA8 was intent on protecting a narrow lead in the total viewer Nielsens against arch rival CBS11.

"We will easily win Tuesday night," a commenter calling his/herself "WFAA Insider" said in reaction to a previous story on the closeness of the 10 p.m. ratings race. "On big ABC nights we cut out of the network credits early to keep the lead-in audience. It's a smart move and (the) ABC network doesn't care that we do it. Watch closely Tuesday night."

Which we did. We also watched WFAA8 capitalize on its corporate relationship with The Dallas Morning News. Not surprisingly it was the only station to be given audio of the newspaper's extended jailhouse phone interview with Cristal Taylor, who claims she was Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki's fiancee and is pregnant by him. She's now in a Beaumont lockup.

WFAA8 reporter Rebecca Lopez piggybacked onto the prominently played story, by the DMN's Brad Townsend.

"I am pregnant and I'm afraid and I'm alone because Dirk is nowhere to be found," Taylor said in part via audio billed as "Courtesy: DMN."

NBC5 made a brief reference to the interview and credited the DMN in a reader by anchor Mike Snyder. Fox4 did likewise, although anchor Steve Eagar said that Taylor's remarks were "for a combined story in The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram."

That's basically true, even if both newspapers continue to camouflage their content-sharing relationship, which began late last year. In the DMN, Townsend was billed as a staff reporter for the paper. In the Star-Telegram's identical story, he was a "special contributor" with no other identification. Fox4 also is a content-sharer, in a recently inked partnership with NBC5 and KDAF-TV ("The 33").

CBS11, currently not sharing with anyone, was alone in ignoring the Taylor interview entirely on its Tuesday 10 p.m. newscast. But Taylor's claims that she is both pregnant and was engaged to Nowitzki were first reported earlier this month by J.D. Miles on the CBS11 Web site.

Still, omitting any mention of the DMN interview, which has lots of new details, seemed odd at best for a station that otherwise has been all over the story.

WFAA8 of course played it to the max, dancing the synergistic quick step with its across-the-driveway corporate cousin after bailing on the Dancing finale faster than Pete Delkus can strip down to his shirtsleeves for a weather bulletin.

All's fair in ratings warfare, even if viewers sometimes get shortchanged a bit. And on Tuesday night, WFAA8 dug some high heels into CBS11's neck.

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

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Reporters Byron Harris, Sana Syed and Grant Stinchfield

This'll be a somewhat abbreviated roundup because, frankly, not a whole lot was shakin' Friday night. Save for maybe a little thunder down the road.

Ergo, WFAA8 and CBS11 topped their 10 p.m. proceedings with warnings of inclement weather, a fail-safe way to keep viewers in the tent when the cupboard's otherwise kinda bare.

There were no big rushes at Fox4 and NBC5, which waited until later to put their red/orange-blotched maps into play.

NBC5 instead led with a story meant to capitalize on its network's preceding Farrah's Story, in which actress Farrah Fawcett detailed her ongoing battle with cancer.

"NBC5's Scott Friedman has the information that every woman needs to hear," anchor Mike Snyder intoned before the reporter looked at the most recent inspection reports for North Texas mammogram centers. None were found to have any Level 1 equipment violations, which are the most serious. A total of 16 were cited for Level 2 infractions, but Friedman said that means the centers are "generally acceptable."

So was there really much of a story here, or was it more of a calculated tie-in to the NBC special preceding it? I'd side with the latter, although Friedman deserves some credit for not sounding any false alarm bells. That would have been all too easy to do.

CBS11 had a better "talker" up top. After Larry Mowry's weather bulletin, freelancer Sana Syed reported from Nevada, Texas on the "mixed messages" sent earlier this month to senior prom-goers. Among the post-prom favors distributed by the school were shot glasses, which some parents understandably found objectionable.

"Everybody knows what happens on prom night. Why add to it?" a dad asked.

Syed then brandished one of the elongated, inscripted shot glasses while telling viewers that "the school superintendent says these were meant to be memory glasses. But one student we talked to off-camera says several of them used these to get drunk."

On WFAA8, Pete Delkus' weather warning gave way to a "Good Book Battle" in Frisco, where some parents object to Bibles being brought to public schools by Gideon volunteers. At issue: Were they being "put out" for students, or "given out?"

As school "controversies" go, it didn't quite measure up to prom night shot glasses. But reporter Shelly Slater definitely made a visual impact in a sleeveless, form-fitting, bright blue top that was anything but biblical.

Fox4 had Friday's legitimately newsiest open -- stories by Brandon Todd and Emily Lopez on GM dealership and plant closings. But CBS11's Jack Fink had the best auto angle. He was the only local reporter to interview Ford CEO Alan Mulally one-on-one. While GM and Chrysler struggle, an upbeat Mulally visited a Garland Ford dealership to laud its new expansion rather than bemoan another retraction or shutdown.

WING AND A PRAYER -- WFAA8 investigator Byron Harris continued his eye-opening series on airplane mechanics whose licenses apparently were granted under highly questionable circumstances. This time he focused on mechanics who couldn't speak English, which is in violation of FAA regulations.

"If you can't read and write English, you can't read the (repair) manual and you can't make a record of what you've done," Harris said while standing in front of a bookshelf full of manuals for WFAA8's helicopter.

MR. GRANT -- NBC5 reporter Grant Stinchfield had been missing from his station's 10 newscasts throughout the May sweeps, which end on Wednesday. But on Friday, he offered a twofer.

Stinchfield's first story easily was the best. He reported on how necessary police equipment such as "stop sticks," flares and fire extinguishers inadvertently had been sold at auction, creating an acknowledged shortage. He later had a throwaway, though, on how your loose metal money could contain some rare coins.

"Get more for your money by simply sifting through a jar of change," Stinchfield enthused. Sorry, not really buying it.

HEARTWARMER -- WFAA8's Chris Hawes revisited a little girl who had half of her brain removed a year ago. Now seven years old, she's learning fast thanks to her doting, supportive parents.

STRANDED -- Ace police reporter J. D. Miles of CBS11 had an offbeat but intriguing story on how wig and hair extension thefts are "becoming nothing short of rampant in Dallas." A bull market is making the thieves both bolder and more violent, he said before showing surveillance video of robbers loading $15,000 worth of wigs onto a truck.

QUEASY 'N' CHEESY -- During Fox4's weekly extended "Viewers' Voice" segment, Tom from Haltom City said that an eight-ounce glass of pineapple is his new elixir.

"As long as I do that, I do not get gas," he said.

Fox4 added an ill-drawn animated reenactment before anchor Steve Eagar couldn't resist this postscript: "Sweet. Thanks, Tom. That's a real toot. I mean hoot."

Let me get this straight. This is a Top 5 TV market. Right?

Three more nights to go.

Sources: NBC5's Snyder on brink of losing longtime 10 p.m. anchor spot (updated)

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Veteran NBC5 news anchor Mike Snyder, who has teamed with Jane McGarry on the Fort Worth-based station's 10 p.m. newscasts since 1990, apparently has been given a couple of offers he'd rather refuse.

Reliable sources tell unclebarky.com that Snyder has been presented with two options by station management.

No. 1 would mandate a more than 50 percent cut in pay and relinquishing the 10 p.m. newscast. Snyder would still co-anchor the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

No. 2 would be a buyout/retirement package, including a lump sum payment in the low six-figures.

Snyder, who joined NBC5 in 1980, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday. Reached Monday, he declined to comment.

NBC5 management, which confirmed an unspecified number of layoffs on Friday, has declined to comment with any specificity. Asked about Snyder's situation, a station spokesman said Friday, "Today didn't involve that at all. There's no news on that."

NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years before being dethroned by WFAA8 in 2007. The Peacock is on track to finish a distant third in the May "sweeps" in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. The NBC network hasn't helped matters with another dismal prime-time performance, particularly in the 9 p.m. hour.

NBC5 is faring much better in the 5 and 6 p.m. May ratings races, which end after Wednesday's programming.

At 5 p.m., NBC5 is running a close second to WFAA8 in total viewers and is tied for the lead with WFAA8 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

The 6 p.m. Nielsens also have NBC5 running second in total viewers, again behind WFAA8. The two stations currently are tied for second in the 25-to-54 demographic, behind Fox4.

NBC5 is owned and operated by NBC Universal, which has been both cutting newsroom staffs and entering into content sharing operations with what used to be rival local stations.

Earlier this spring, KNBC in Los Angeles dealt out longtime anchor Paul Moyer while WNBC of New York's signature sports anchor, Len Berman, also recently took the gas. In a continued troubled economy, veteran anchors with top-heavy salaries are endangered species across the TV news board.

A 50 percent salary cut would still leave Snyder with a sizable six-figure salary, sources say.

The most logical 10 p.m. replacement for Snyder would be NBC5 weekend anchor Scott Friedman.

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


Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with NBC5's Ellen Goldberg. Photo: Ed Bark

Michael Irvin's past problems are well-documented and seemingly behind him. On Thursday night, he came full circle, receiving the kind of glowing coverage usually reserved in this town for the already canonized Roger Staubach.

All four major local TV news providers converged on Irvin's kickoff party for his new reality competition series 4th and Long, which premieres Monday on Spike TV.

But the event doubled as a fundraiser for the family of Cowboys scouting assistant Rich Behm, who was paralyzed from the waist down during the May 2nd collapse of the team's air-inflated practice facility. A $40,000 check was presented to Behm's wife, Michelle, from Irvin's Playmaker Charities Foundation and Spike TV. More money was donated in collection jars at the entrance to North Dallas' Sting nightclub.

"Michael Irvin put Rich Behm's needs ahead of his own," Fox4 anchor Steve Eagar said before the station led its 9 p.m. newscast with Sophia Reza's report from the scene.

"We're coming together when it's one of we that need help. One of us," Irvin told her.

NBC5 also topped its 10 p.m. newscast with the Irvin event. News anchor Jane McGarry said it was a story of "how one former Cowboy gave up what was supposed to be his night in the spotlight to benefit Behm."

The station's Ellen Goldberg had the requisite quote from Irvin, who told her, "I thought to myself, wow, what a courageous man this is. I know the feeling of laying on that carpet paralyzed." He referred to a career-ending injury against the Philadelphia Eagles, from which he's otherwise fully recovered.

WFAA8 waited until the middle of its newscast to air Gary Reaves' report from the party/fundraiser. He didn't spare the superlatives either.

"One guy said it here tonight," Reaves told viewers. "The only thing bigger than Michael's personality is his heart, and we saw that tonight, as he turned his big night into an even bigger night for the family of Rich Behm."

Actually, that "one guy" was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Your friendly content provider was standing next to him when he said it.

Reaves noted in closing that "after most of the cameras left the party, Michelle Behm did make a brief statement. She thanked everyone. And then she made a prediction -- that one day her husband will walk again."

At least one camera stuck around. And it belonged to WFAA8's arch rival at 10 p.m., CBS11. It was the only station to catch Michelle Behm's statement as part of a story that received second billing on its 10 p.m. newscast. On CBS11, she said from a makeshift stage, "We've got a long road ahead. But with all the support and prayers from everyone, we'll get through this. And he will walk again."

Irvin wasn't entirely selfless Thursday night. The first episode of 4th and Long was shown in its entirety at the party. Unclebarky.com will have a review -- plus interviews with Irvin, Jones and the show's executive producer -- posted by Monday morning.

GETTING TO THE HEART OF A STORY -- WFAA8 briefly touched on the city-forced closing of Mesquite's decrepit Classic Inn via video and several seconds of narrative from anchor Gloria Campos. In contrast, NBC5's resourceful Randy McIlwain, one of the market's better and distinctive storytellers, went to the scene of the grime to report on some of the 104 tenants who are being evicted.

McIlwain mainly focused on an elderly military veteran whom he described as "disabled, divorced and recovering from drugs." He also got the city's side, which basically amounts to the Classic Inn racking up more than 360 code violations before the hammer finally dropped.

"I don't know what I'm gonna do. I may end up just eating all my medications at once and going to sleep," the elderly evictee told McIlwain.

"You really feel that way? You feel that desperate?" he asked him.

"I have nothing else. I have absolutely nothing else," the man lamented.

It was a story that brought home the human cost of shutting down a "fire trap" that nonetheless was still home to some of the less fortunate among us.

A DIG AT AL DIA -- Shades of Briefing. Unwanted copies of the Spanish language newspaper Al Dia, published by The Dallas Morning News, also are littering some neighborhoods. In this case the Kessler Park area.

The paper is "under fire" for this, NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder told viewers. "We found several blocks with papers scattered all over the place."

Two residents complained on camera before Snyder said the DMN told NBC5 that people are free to cancel delivery of Al Dia. "The paper also told us that as a result of this story, Kessler Park will no longer be receiving Al Dia," Snyder added

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Reporters Jim Douglas, Bennett Cunningham, Debbie Denmon

NICE WORK -- NBC5's Deborah Ferguson had two earlier reports on former Decatur High School student Jackie Murphree, who has serious brain damage after being hit by a drunk driver. Her stories included video-cam footage of Jackie and her father in China, where she received five weeks of experimental treatment unavailable in the U.S. Friends of the family raised more than $30,00 to fund the trip.

Ferguson's initiatives didn't less the impact of reporter Jim Douglas's touching story on Jackie's return home Wednesday. Titled "Hope For Jackie," it detailed both the dedication of her father and the heartbreak of having a vibrant daughter's life turned upside down.

***CBS11 investigator Bennett Cunningham excelled again with a report on a North Texas company, Saxon Mortgage, that's racked up hundred of complaints from customers and a grade of F from the Fort Worth Better Business Bureau. One of the complainants, Sheila Williams, took Saxon to court for allegedly ruining her credit. She won a judgment of $4,500, with Cunningham on site to witness the judge's ruling before getting the standard "no comment" from the company's lawyers.

***WFAA8's Jason Whitely, now a frequent flyer on the station's 10 p.m. newscasts, had another winner on a Kessler Park resident who complained about growing noise pollution from the nearby I-30 freeway. Her efforts prompted TXDot to approve $500,000 worth of "quieter asphalt" for a one-mile stretch of the heavily traveled roadway.

SLIM PICKINGS -- WFAA's Debbie Denmon rhapsodized about the "Body Magic" undergarment, which "lifts the breasts, sucks in the waist, similar to a corset." It basically amounted to an infomercial for the manufacturer, with Denmon talking to gleeful users before a Body Magic spokesman contended, "It's an instant result. We're reshaping the body."

Anchor Gloria Campos then injected an ounce or two of common sense. "We're told the Body Magic shaper and products like it can be uncomfortable to wear," she said. The story was merely uncomfortable to watch.

SHOW AND TELL -- Thursday was boy's day out for CBS11 weathercaster Larry Mowry and news anchor Doug Dunbar.

Mowry threw out a pitch at that afternoon's Texas Rangers game after the station held an in-the-ballpark "Weather Day" attended by some 4,000 students, he said.

Dunbar participated in the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run during a driving rainstorm. Footage of both activities made the newscast. Whether self-aggrandizing or not, it's preferable to the spectacle of WFAA8's Pete Delkus and Dale Hansen shooting BB guns, etc. during last week's "Rumble In the Plaza."

SPEAKING OF PETE 'N' DALE -- Their nightly banter may have a mimic in NBC5, where sports anchor Matt Barrie lately has been twitting news anchor Snyder during the times he fills in for Newy Scruggs.

Earlier in the week, Barrie made an underwear joke at Snyder's expense, prompting a vigorous retort from the old hand. On Thursday night, Barrie joked that Snyder has had Rangers season tickets since 1911. He later jabbed, "Snyder updates his Facebook status -- during this commercial break."

Over on WFAA8, Hansen acknowledged "My pants are soaking wet" after Delkus primed the pump. He blamed Pete's faulty forecast for his decision to sit on wet cushions outside the studio.

"More than you wanna know," anchor John McCaa added.

Four nights to go.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., May 13)

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Fox4 reporter Lari Barager deserves a silver star or at least a sharpshooter's medal from her station's boss ladies.

As noted in Tuesday's roundup, the savvy veteran scooped rival stations with her quick reactions to a now famous AP photo of a U.S. soldier in pink skivvies and flip flops helping his fellow soldiers respond to a Taliban attack in Afghanistan.

The picture made the top of the front page in Tuesday's New York Times. But on that night's D-FW newscasts, only Barager uncovered the big local angle. The soldier, Zachery Boyd, is from Fort Worth. And Barager had the only interview with his mother on Tuesday's 9 p.m. Fox4 newscast.

"He can play golf in his boxers, and now he's shooting the Taliban in his boxers, Sheree Boyd said, laughing.

Barager's primo human interest story resonated -- a day later -- on the 10 p.m. newscasts of NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11.

WFAA8 put Chris Hawes on the scent after prominently promoting her piece during Wednesday's two-hour finale of ABC's Lost. CBS11 served its seconds via reporter Jack Fink. NBC5 made do with a Jane McGarry reader that included the picture of Boyd in his colorful "I Love NY" undies.

For Barager it was a "clean kill," to use a time-honored journalism phrase. Meanwhile, as rival stations played catch-up, she had the only in-depth story Wednesday night on the Kimbell Art Museum's big score of an exceedingly rare Michelangelo canvas that he painted as a teenager.

CRISTAL LIGHT -- Revelations of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Banks' brief hookup with Dirk Nowitzki's now infamous ex-fiancee, Cristal Taylor, made the cut on all four major TV newscast providers. But only WFAA8 and CBS11 had interviews with Banks himself. Both stations led their 10 p.m. newscasts with the Banks/Taylor angle. Gary Reaves did the honors on WFAA8 and Carol Cavazos carried the ball for CBS11.

GOOD WORK -- WFAA8 gumshoe Brett Shipp, with help from a vigilant area blogger, uncovered questionable expenditures and content tied to the Collin County Fusion Center, which gathers data on "criminal and crisis information" with 94 agencies via the Internet.

Its designer and operator, Dr. Bob Johnson, operates the center from his Santa Fe home on a $1.2 million budget. He's the son of Texas congressman Sam Johnson.

Critics say that Dr. Bob has "taken a sharp right turn away from computer science towards political science, blurring the line between public protection and propaganda," Shipp told viewers. Among other things, Dr. Bob has targeted "hip hop fashion boutiques" as possible terrorist training grounds.

The center also awarded a $100,000 grant to Dr. Bob's brother-in-law, Shipp said. It's certainly enough to raise eyebrows, which Shipp's report did.

***WFAA8's Jason Whitely also had a worthy story on the continuing financial problems of Dallas' historic downtown Majestic Theatre, which lately has had to give up the Dallas Summer Musicals, which will be returning to Fair Park.

***CBS11's Jay Gormley had a telling report on the dangerous Hampton and Perryton intersection, located near the heavily traveled Kiest Park as well as a school, hospital and library. Residents say that speeding drivers often ignore traffic signs despite the heavy presence of children in the area. A mother and her two young kids recently were injured by a hit-and-run driver.

***NBC5 reporter Scott Friedman, one of the station's best, had an interesting story on the increase in vasectomies during tough economic times. They're seen as a way to save on the monthly cost of birth control bills. A Baylor doctor said there's lately a boom market for the basically painless procedure, which often is covered by medical insurance and takes only about five minutes to perform. Friedman focused on a married man who had a vasectomy after already fathering four children. His wife was all for it.

WHEN IN DOUBT, KISS UP -- Viewers aren't particularly served by this. But station employees clearly want to please the boss during times of continued economic duress and attendant layoffs.

So on CBS11's sports segment, anchor Babe Laufenberg made sure to include footage of president and general manager Steve Mauldin sinking a birdie putt during a Dallas Cowboys golf outing after first getting a tip from quarterback Tony Romo. Mauldin then exchanged high fives and fist bumps with onlookers.

Later in the sportscast, Laufenberg noted that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was in Las Vegas getting an advertising industry Clio Award while his team was being knocked out of the playoffs in Denver.

"To add to Cuban's pain, receiving an honorary Clio tonight with him -- Barry Manilow," the Babe snarked.

Five more nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., May 13) -- Mavs' last gasp again deflates 10 p.m. newscasts

Ask D-FW station managers and they'll tell you they're just as glad that the Dallas Mavericks are over and done for this season.

Their playoff run, which ended with Game 5's loss in Denver, kept driving a stake through the 10 p.m. newscast ratings. Wednesday was no different. Mavs-Nuggets, which ran from 8:12 to 10:46 p.m. on TNT, averaged 312,221 D-FW viewers. But the haul was considerably higher between 10 and 10:30 p.m., when the outcome was still in doubt. Here's how it looked during that half-hour:

Mavs-Nuggets -- 405,223 viewers
CBS11 newscast -- 219,219 viewers
NBC5 and WFAA8 newscasts -- 166,075 viewers apiece
Fox4 newscast -- 159,432 viewers

Had the Mavericks somehow won the Denver series, they likely would have faced the Los Angeles Lakers in another batch of late-starting playoff games. And that would have further deflated the potential crowds for 10 p.m. newscasts.

In other Wednesday ratings results, Fox's American Idol swaggered with 484,939 viewers in the 8 p.m. Danny Gokey was evicted, setting up next week's final between prohibitive favorite Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, whose teenybop appeal shouldn't be underestimated even though he'd be the first married contestant to win if he pulls off an upset.

Fox's 7 p.m. season finale of Lie to Me, which has been renewed for a second season, ran a close second in total viewers to NBC's Law & Order: Criminal Intent. But it took the top spot among advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds.

The two-hour season finale of ABC's Lost, which ended with a nuclear bomb seemingly exploding on the island, drew 152,789 total viewers to run third overall from 8 to 10 p.m. Lost also had the bronze among 18-to-49-year-olds.

The other local news derby results went like this.

WFAA8 won by a sliver at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, with NBC5 part of the photo finish and Fox4 and CBS11 right behind.

The Peacock continued its winning ways at 6 a.m., where it again swept the competition and has a hammer-lock on first place with just five weekdays remaining in the May sweeps. Fox4 was second as usual while WFAA8 and CBS11 tied for third place in both ratings measurements.

NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but Fox4 had the gold to itself among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 ran the table at 5 p.m.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 12)

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Kenyon Martin got a little flip after Game 4; Fox4 blotted out his gesture Tuesday night before sports anchor Mike Doocy weighed in.

The Dallas Mavericks have made a lot of late night news this month -- and not primarily for their on-court playoff activities.

First it was star player Dirk Nowitzki's unfortunate brush with reported fiancee Cristal Taylor, whom he's now had the very good sense to brush off.

Lately it's the un-familial feud between Mavs owner Mark Cuban and Denver Nuggets bad boy Kenyon Martin. In the hyper-heated atmosphere after Game 3, Cuban informed Martin's mother that her son is either a "thug" or a "punk," depending on whose eyewitness account is more credible.

Cuban eventually wrote a post-midnight hour apology on his blog after Dallas won a pulsating Game 4 Monday night. (Note: that apology has now been all but buried by a long stream of recyled "Success & Motivation" posts that Cuban terms "classic in the sense that they are the most viewed and most personal to me.")

Fox4 made the most of the verbal fisticuffs Tuesday night, including video showing how Martin "responded in kind" by flipping off booing fans as he strode off in civilian clothes from the American Airlines Center. Reporter Matt Grubs' story also included "sports talk firebrand" Norm Hitzges of "The Ticket" gesticulating in a G-rated way as he criticized Cuban.

"Mark did nothing -- nothing! -- to diffuse that situation before the game yesterday. Nothing," Hitzges said on Tuesday's edition of his late morning radio program.

Fox4, in addition to NBC5 and CBS11, also played video of LaLa Vasquez, fiancee of Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony, angrily leaving the arena Monday night after taking a swing at a security guard who was trying to escort her out. She said that continual racial taunting by Mavericks' fans had prompted her actions.

Veteran Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy, getting bracingly more opinionated of late, then agreed with Hitzges that Cuban should have urged fans before the game to behave themselves in the interest of good sportsmanship.

Doocy said he talked with a "typically defiant Mark Cuban" at the AAC before the Game 4 tipoff.

"His tone clearly changed after the game," Doocy told news anchor Steve Eagar. "I think what happened -- or what could have happened -- even scared him a little bit."

The oft-hyperkinetic Mavericks owner should have acted sooner, Doocy said. "But Cuban waits until after a victory, and at 1:30 in the morning, to blog the apology."

CBS11 sports reporter Steve Dennis also reported on the feud. Those who expected the Mavericks to bow out quietly should "just ask Kenyon Martin's family, whose members turned into a sideshow in the stands," he said.

But his illustrative video was of LaLa, who is no relation to Martin. Fox4's Grubs, for his part, mistakenly reported that LaLa was Anthony's "wife."

NBC5 also touched on the feud during its sports segment. The station's Randy McIlwain, subbing for Newy Scruggs, saved his opinions, however, for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who failed in his efforts to qualify for both the U.S. Open golf championship and the Byron Nelson classic.

"I'm not a Romo basher," he said. "But it does seem that when the money's on the line, he seems to be coming up just a little bit short. Not just in golf either."

So what about WFAA8's loquacious Dale Hansen? He mostly holstered his mouth Tuesday night after taking Cuban apart on both his Sunday Sports Special and during Monday's 10 p.m. newscast. Instead Hansen asked rhetorically, "Has there ever been a better player criticized as much as (Dirk) Nowitzki?"

WHERE'S THE POP? -- WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast again was pretty listless Tuesday night -- and not for the first time during the ongoing May "sweeps."

News anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos spent a good deal of time narrating a string of news briefs and introducing stories that also were covered by rival news stations.

WFAA8 usually differentiates itself from the competition with distinctive reporting that's often anything but same old/same old. On Tuesday, its best punch was David Schechter's piece on GE microwave ovens that exploded in the faces of two North Texans and a Connecticut resident. One area owner was injured; the other suffered cuts and bruises, and has filed a lawsuit. That's kinda scary, but these do seem like very isolated cases. GE has blamed customer misuse, but supposedly is investigating further.

ENTERPRISING WORK -- Fox4's Lari Barager easily had Tuesday's best human interest story. She interviewed the Fort Worth mother of Army Specialist Zachery Boyd, who was pictured in his colorful boxers on the front page of that day's New York Times.

Boyd wasn't posing. He was helping fellow platoon members defend their firebase in Afghanistan after having to scramble from his sleeping quarters during a Taliban attack.

Barager showed Sheree Boyd the picture for the first time. His pink "I Love New York" boxers came from New York City and his red shirt from a North Texas ice cream shop, she said. He also wore flip flops, but otherwise wisely sported a helmet, a flak jacket and a rifle.

"He can play golf in his boxers, and now he's shootin' the Taliban in his boxers," Mrs. Boyd said, laughing.

Six more nights to go. Until the next time, here's Barager's story:

Two Dallas Morning News layoff casualties rebound as backpack journalists for "The 33" news

Two experienced reporters let go by The Dallas Morning News during April's layoffs have transitioned to the TV world as backpack journalists for "The 33's" 9 p.m. newscast and its companion Web site.

Holly Yan and Dan X. McGraw will start at the Dallas-based station on Thursday, news director David Duitch announced in a memo to staffers.

Yan, a graduate of the University of Missouri, joined the DMN in 2004 as a metro reporter whose beats included criminal justice and education.

McGraw, who graduated from Texas Christian University, covered a variety of breaking news stories for the DMN. He also has freelanced for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and covered county government for the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Backpack journalists basically are one-person news crews who shoot, interview and then edit their stories. In a down economy, their numbers are growing.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 11)

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NBC5's Ellen Goldberg and "Beer Babe" photo from station's Web site

"Beer babes at work."

Well, at least it livened up an otherwise pretty dull news night when saucy NBC5 news anchor Jane McGarry greeted viewers with those words at the start of Monday's 10 p.m. presentation.

McGarry further primed the pump -- "Parents say the sexy dancing and skimpy clothes are just too much" -- before handing it off to reporter Ellen Goldberg, stationed live in Cockrell Hill.

Only one parent pointedly objected, but that's all it takes when a station resorts to selling sex in a ratings sweeps period by doing a story on selling sex. Basically, the so-called "beer babes" are human billboards for watering holes along Jefferson Blvd.

"I mean, this is something you would see in a strip bar," said the indignant, plus-sized parent, who wants owners of the businesses to "clean the girls up."

The beer barns are located near C.M. Soto Jr. Elementary, but aren't violating any city ordinances, said Cockrell Hill mayor Luis Carrera. Goldberg noted that when NBC5 arrived, the beer babe pictured above ducked inside and "returned in more conservative fare."

So much so that Goldberg showed almost as much skin during her opening and closing standups. But the "beer babe" gambit so far has generated more than 50 comments to nbcdfw.com. So there.

CBS11 topped its 10 p.m. newscast with a far more useful -- but decidedly less promotable -- story by Jay Gormley. He reported on the latest batch of high-tech surveillance cams being installed with an eye to protecting the Dallas citizenry. Eleven are going up in the high-traffic Uptown district, bringing the citywide total to 98, Gormley told viewers.

Police say they significantly increase the potential for nabbing wrongdoers. So far this year, cops have responded to 1,889 camera-involved calls and made 561 arrests, Gormley said. When not caught on camera, the arrest rate drops to 10 percent.

Maybe surveillance cams should be deployed in Cockrell Hill's "Beer Babes" district. That way Goldberg and NBC5 would have their pick of titillating footage rather than having to watch their prey duck, run and emerge in veritable nun's garb.

GOOD WORK -- WFAA8's Jason Whitely, who sounds an awful lot like the station's Brett Shipp, took the 10 p.m. newscast into battle with a lead story on a mass auction of homes in Dallas' struggling Hacienda del Sol neighborhood. Bidding will start at $1,000 apiece on eight homes once valued at up to $200 grand each.

***NBC5's always intrepid Randy McIlwain reported on a Frisco subdivision whose contaminated water discolors clothing and ruins air-conditioning units besides tasting bad. Its residents would like some relief.

The Peacock's Meredith Land had a local business story of import that rival stations ignored on Monday's late nighters. Plano-based Dr. Pepper has just signed a deal with McDonald's. It now will be included on the drink menu in all 14,000 restaurants instead of the current 8,500.

"It's the Holy Grail for us," said a Pepper exec. Bounced is Coke's Powerade.

***Ken Kalthoff, also of NBC5, had an interesting report on the city of Dallas' antiquated, 25-year-old mainframe computer system. Members of the City Council want it replaced post haste, but have yet to approve funding "in this very tough budget year," Kalthoff said.

***On Fox4, reporter Peter Daut told of a woman whose twins are the product of two different fathers. There are only a handful of such documented cases in the world, he said. The mother's fiance says he's forgiven her infidelity. The other man in the picture isn't being told he's a dad, although this story just might wise him up.

HAD A FEW, HAVE WE? -- NBC5 sportscaster Matt Barrie again got all revved up Monday night while reporting live from outside the American Airlines Center, where it was halftime of Game 4 between the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets.

After finishing up, Barrie informed "beautiful people" McGarry and co-anchor Mike Snyder that he'd be heading back inside to watch the second half. Snyder wondered if he really wanted to do that, since the Mavs seemed overmatched by the Nugs.

"I'm gonna call it, Mavs are win it!" Barrie blurted, forgetting to insert another "gonna" or something between "are" and "win."

"Ooh, go out on that limb. We'll give you the saw to cut it off with," said Snyder, who tangled with Barrie Friday night during an exchange on a new line of underwear named after Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow.

Frankly, Barrie looked a bit buzzed Monday, although it's kind of hard to tell with him. Some anchors and reporters can be over the top, but Barrie's in a league of his own. He might want to try bottling his sweat and selling it as Jolt Cola.

DRUM SHTICK -- WFAA8 news anchor John McCaa sat in with The Pit Pops during some of his down time between the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts. The station showed footage of him drumming along with the group in Victory Plaza, storied site of last week's five-night "Rumble" between sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus.

"Gloria, by the way, will be singing over in Deep Ellum," Hansen later jabbed, referring to news anchor Gloria Campos.

HAMMERING CUBAN -- When it's not Jerry Jones, Hansen's favorite target is Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. On Sunday night, his Sports Special analyzed Cuban's alleged on-court shove of a TV cameraman as though it were the Zapruder film. On Monday, Hansen had a different angle.

"It was after Game 3 Saturday that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a fool of himself again," he told viewers. "Tells the mom of Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin her son's a punk. Say it to Martin if you want, and I doubt that he does. But you don't say it to the mom. Unless you're Cuban."

Cuban since has apologized on his blog. He declined to respond to Hansen, though, saying there was "no point" in doing so via an email to unclebarky.com.

So as usual, Hansen gets the last word. And he likes it like that.

Seven more nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., May 11) -- Mavs fall to CSI: Miami before running up ratings score

The Mavericks' gut-check win against Denver Monday meant dynamite ratings for TNT.

The late-starting Game 4 thriller -- 8:56 to 11:49 p.m. -- averaged 318,864 D-FW viewers overall with a peak of 358,722 between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m.

That outpaced all competing programming except CBS' CSI: Miami, which had 325,507 viewers in the 9 p.m. hour to edge the early stages of Mavs-Nuggets (312,221 viewers).

Elsewhere Monday, Fox's season finale of House, in which the not-so-good doctor checked into a psychiatric hospital, drew a nice-sized 245,791 viewers in running second to the first hour of ABC's Dancing with the Stars (372,008 viewers). Fox's penultimate episode of 24 then fell to 146,146 viewers to run third behind Dancing and CBS' comedy combo of Two and a Half Men and Rules of Engagement.

In local news derby results, CBS11 had a big night at 10 p.m., edging WFAA8 in total viewers and winning comfortably among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5, sprinting away from the field at 6 a.m., again crunched all competitors in both ratings measurements. WFAA8 drooped to fourth behind bronze medalist CBS11.

WFAA8 ran the table at 6 p.m. and NBC5 did likewise at 5 p.m. Seven weeknights remain in the ongoing May sweeps ratings period.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 8)

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NBC5's Matt Barrie, Mike Snyder and "The Teebow"

Most of the wacky anchor banter resides at WFAA8, where weathercaster Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen ridicule each other on an almost nightly basis.

Occasionally, though, a rival station's personalities go a little pea-nutty. On a mostly uneventful Friday, caffeinated NBC5 sports guy Matt Barrie, pinchhitting for Newy Scruggs, injected news anchor Mike Snyder's name into a discussion of a new underwear line, "The Teebow," tied to Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow. They're billed as being "perfect for that Gator gal in your life."

Barrie branded the "obsession" with Tebow "disgusting" before showing a pair. This prompted a startled "Ooh" from co-anchor Jane McGarry before Barrie rear-ended Snyder.

"It just goes to show you that college football can inspire all kinds of tushies, even Mr. Snyder's," he said rather puzzlingly.

"Inspire!?" said Snyder, all aghast.

"Do you wear that kind?" McGarry wondered.

That got Snyder's undie-divided attention, launching him into an over-the-top brief on his behalf.

"That's not my stuff, folks," he protested. "Mm mmmmmm boy! That's not my stuff for sure. I'll leave that to you and Matt. OK? OK."

"Boxers," McGarry then deduced.

"Yes," said Snyder before a commercial break stepped in.

DIRK'S THE EASY PART -- Friday also is the night for Fox4's extended "Viewers' Voice" segment. Otherwise known as "Holy crap, these are our viewers!!!???"

A caller named Terry tried to get in the grill of anchor Steve Eagar on the proper pronunciation of Dirk Nowitzki's surname.

"I got news for you, Mr. Steve Eagar," he opined. "The guy's name is Now-inski. No-winski. Ain't got a v in it."

"Really? Quite a fan, are ya?" Eagar retorted before jokingly resorting to a film clip from the "Bridge of Death" sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"Sorry, Terry, it's Na-VIT-ski, " Eagar then concluded.

Actually, commentators and reporters are all over the place on this. Fox4's own Sophia Reza pronounced it "No-WIT-ski" in her initial reporting on the Dallas Maverick star's woman woes. So did WFAA8's Jason Whitely.

On Saturday's ESPN telecast of the Mavs' Game 3 against Denver, play-by-play guy Dan Shulman pronounced it "Na-VIT-ski," as did the halftime analysts. But Shulman's teammate, commentator Doris Burke, went with No-WIT-ski, as did floor reporter Nancy Lieberman.

NBA.com's "International Players Pronunciation Guide" says it's Na-VIT-ski.

The path of least resistance is to just say Dirk. Which also can be pronounced Derk. Or Durk.

GOING APE -- As noted previously, it was a largely uneventful Friday, save for the "tornado watch" warnings topping all four late nighters. NBC5 even resorted to a Scott Gordon story about a construction site plumber who found a primate skull about five feet underground. He plans to keep it, but is open to bids "if the price is right," Gordon told viewers.

NBC5's Snyder later cited unnamed sources telling the station "that Nowitzki is the one who hired the private investigator to check out Cristal Taylor." Maybe its source is CBS11, which broke that aspect of the story earlier in the week.

TOUGH CALLS -- A DeSoto High School football player remains partially paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury on the practice field. Obviously everyone wishes the very best for him. But Fox4 reporter Emily Lopez became almost histrionic in telling viewers of the 16-year-old's fighting spirit.

"Those close to him say he is a soldier, a warrior, a person who refuses to give up in the face of adversity," Lopez said, adding extra enunciation to the words "warrior" and "refuses." You really don't have to over-sell a story like this. A calmer approach would be far preferable.

Later in the newscast, Fox4's James Rose reported in depth on the Garland father who murdered his 10-year-old son in the woods before also killing himself.

"Neighbors say (Matthew) Knapp was a dedicated and loving father," Rose said.

It's not Rose's fault if that's really the way they feel. But how many viewers had a polar opposite reaction? From this perspective, the guy wasn't a loving father at all, but rather a spineless coward who snuffed out a 10-year-old boy's life. It's too bad Rose couldn't have found someone to say that in so many words.

BRAIN GAIN -- "You asked for good news. We deliver tonight," CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar said by way of introducing an upbeat story by reporter Jay Gormley.

He reported on a Seagoville High School senior "with a keen eye for science" that paid off at a "boot camp" for like-minded students. In this case, Candace Turner examined the DNA of children with congenital heart disease and found four mutations among 100 samples. If they prove to have medical relevance, they could help lead to early detection of the disease, Gormley said. Sounds good to me.

END GAME -- WFAA8's Hansen and Delkus "thankfully" -- as anchor Gloria Campos put it -- wound up their five-night "Rumble In the Plaza" by playing Guitar Hero to the tune of The Eagles' "Hotel California."

It's unclear who "won" this climactic faceoff, but Delkus said that more than $10,000 was raised on behalf of Children's Medical Center and the downtown Dallas YMCA. Those who want to donate $20 or more can still get an official "Rumble" T-shirt.

"We've got plenty of 'em," Campos noted.

Eight nights to go. Until next time, here's the closing night's Guitar Hero clash:

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., May 8-10) -- Mavs ratings build to heart-crushing climax

ESPN's Game 3 of the Mavs-Denver playoff series gathered ratings steam from late afternoon to early evening Saturday, peaking at 478,296 D-FW viewers for the horror show finish.

As we all know by now, that's when the refs stopped whistling while they worked. Bang-o. Carmelo Anthony nails a fatal three-pointer after Antoine Wright's intentional hack isn't called.

Overall the game averaged 279,006 viewers, a sharp dropoff from the 431,795 who watched Game 1 on ABC and the 385,294 for Game 2 on TNT. Sports bar audiences aren't in this mix, though, and those crowds no doubt were significant on a Saturday.

NBC's Saturday Night Live, with Justin Timberlake hosting, had a nice-sized 172,718 viewers to control the 10:30 to midnight slot.

On Sunday afternoon, the first-place Texas Rangers scraped up a little love on MY27, drawing 99,645 viewers for their road win in Chicago. Sunday's biggest overall draw, WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast, had 265,720 viewers before Dale Hansen's Sports Special (159,432 viewers) thumped competition from Newy Scruggs' Out of Bounds on NBC5 (59,787 viewers) and Babe Laufenberg's The Score on CBS11 (53,144 viewers).

Mike Doocy's earlier starting 10 p.m. Sports Sunday show on Fox4 had 86,359 viewers.

Friday night's season -- and most likely series -- finale of Fox's Dollhouse did virtually no business in the 8 p.m. hour. It had just 33,215 viewers while also faring poorly among advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds. Even "The 33's" ratings-challenged 9 p.m. local newscast had more viewers in both measurements.

In Friday's four-way local news derbies, CBS11 edged WFAA8 at 10 p.m. in total viewers while the ABC station and NBC5 tied for first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

The Peacock continued its winning ways at 6 a.m. with comfortable margins in both ratings measurements. Meanwhile, CBS11 perked up to tie WFAA8 for third in total viewers and claim the bronze for itself in the 25-to-54 demographic.

Fox4 swept the 6 p.m. ratings and also had the total viewers gold at 5 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds. NBC5 and WFAA8 tied for first at 5 p.m. in total viewers.

We Get You Ready! -- CBS11's early morning show yearns to make your day

Barring a cataclysmic shift in the ratings, CBS11's early morning newscast again will come up fourth in the latest sweeps period, which runs through May 20th.

They're more competitive than ever, though, prompting the station to launch a new promo touting its rise-and-shine foursome of Scott Sams, Ginger Allen, Jeff Jamison and Teresa Frosini. Are you yawning? Is it a stretch? Or does this "We Get You Ready!" spot perk you up? Take a look.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., May 7)

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Like it or not, it's a legitimate news story and not merely a matter of privacy between a very prominent local athlete and an apparent fiancee with a previous rap sheet.

So let's lay those cards on the table before noting that CBS11's J.D. Miles so far has kicked everyone's butt in breaking new, eye-popping details about the relationship. Caveat: he'd better be right. But so far others are following his lead. And Miles has proven himself to be an accurate and resourceful reporter since joining CBS11 in 1996.

On Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast, he said it's "looking more and more like Dirk Nowitzki himself is behind exposing this."

The exposed, Cristal Taylor, was arrested at the Dallas Maverick star's home Wednesday on fraud charges. Miles said sources have told him that Nowitzki had been "in the process at least of drafting a pre-nuptial agreement when his team of three attorneys and a private investigator uncovered Taylor's criminal record."

In that context, Wednesday's bust of Taylor was also intended to be "an eviction," Miles reported.

All four of D-FW's major TV news providers had phone conversations Thursday with Taylor's mother, Shirley, who remains in St. Louis. So far she's playing dumb, save for her insistence that her daughter and Nowitzki were much more than passing acquaintances.

On Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast, reporter Sophia Reza had audio of Shirley Taylor complaining, "People have been calling me, saying that they have painted her like Dirk didn't even know her. I'm like 'What?' Or she's just any old body. No, no, that's not true."

Reporter Ellen Goldberg fronted NBC5's story, but obviously didn't do the talking with Shirley Taylor. Instead the station had a closeup of a telephone while an unidentified male voice asked, "Are you going to try and post her bond?"

"No, I don't know anything yet. I really don't," Shirley Taylor replied. "I'm going to wait for her to get in touch with me."

Shirley Taylor also said she didn't know if her daughter is pregnant, which Miles first reported late Wednesday morning on CBS11's Web site.

(Note: in a subsequent email, Goldberg said it "was actually me" interviewing Shirley Taylor. "I guess my voice gets even deeper after a long day." Well, she could've fooled me -- and obviously did.)

Both Goldberg and Reza said they had been promised a one-on-one interview with Cristal Taylor.

In Reza's words, she "decided against it after Nowitzki's attorney told her not to talk."

Goldberg's account went like this: "She'd agreed to do a jailhouse interview. But just before that interview was set to take place, jailhouse officials told us that she had gotten an attorney and changed her mind."

On WFAA8, news anchor Gloria Campos teased the station's "Drama in Dallas" story by saying, "Tonight we're seeing the different faces of his (Nowitzki's) fiancee, most of them mug shots."

Reporter Jason Whitely then did the honors, reporting among among other things that Cristal Taylor "once worked at a gentlemen's club."

Miles didn't go quite that far, telling viewers that Beaumont police say Taylor "sought a license to work as a stripper in the city." The station used a revolving basketball graphic to illustrate the eight aliases she's used to date.

One can feel sorry for Nowitzki in all of this, as I do. But to say that this is nobody's business but his is ludicrous. Or as WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen put it Thursday night, "You make your living at the public trough, you give up a great deal of your private life."

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Reporters Melissa Cutler, Omar Villafranca and Craig Civale

AND IN OTHER NEWS . . . -- We're going to highlight the standout enterprise reporting from Thursday's late nighters. And there actually was plenty of it.

WFAA8's David Schechter has become D-FW's premier transportation watchdog -- at least among TV reporters. He had another terrific story on unsafe HOV lanes, noting the major increase in accidents -- including six fatalities -- since they were put into use on the 635 and 35E freeways.

Schechter was blunt in accusing TXDot officials of basically looking the other way despite studies that should have caught their undivided attention.

"What should have been a call to action for TXDot was simply disregarded," he said before interviewing stumbling agency director Bill Hale, who couldn't have looked much more ineffectual on camera in trying to explain how "we haven't had a whole lot of changes on the thing."

This was advocacy reporting at its best, and Schechter was well-armed with facts and figures to back him up.

***WFAA8's Craig Civale reported exclusively on an 18-year-old Chico High School football player arrested for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old freshman girl. The other side of the story is that some freshman girls allegedly were part of a "sex ring" that mainly targeted and tempted athletes.

The station's Shelly Slater had an interesting story from Rowlett on a prayer rally for the jobless during Thursday's National Day of Prayer. And WFAA8's Chris Hawes reported on a woman with terminal lung cancer whose expensive, pain-relieving drugs were in a U-Haul van that was stolen during a trip back to her Oklahoma home town.

***On Fox4, Matt Grubs tellingly looked at how small, community-oriented banks have been much more resilient than those big monoliths during the economic downturn. And the station's Melissa Cutler reported on a law enforcement-sanctioned Dallas program that treats prostitutes as victims rather than criminals in an effort to turn their lives around. Merely locking them up doesn't address either their addictions or mental health problems, a spokeswoman for the program said.

***NBC5's Omar Villafranca so far is the only local TV reporter following the unfolding Texas governor's race with a close eye. He reported Thursday on a new video from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that appears to all but announce her expected candidacy against incumbent Rick Perry. A statement from the governor's office sniffed, "The video was boring, just like her campaign."

DOOCY UNPLUGGED -- Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy lately is getting a little more time to express his opinions to news anchors Steve Eagar and Heather Hays. On Thursday he riffed a bit on Dodgers' slugger Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for using a banned substance.

"Am I the only one who's clean?" Doocy wondered. "I mean, seriously. Unbelievable. It gets so you don't believe that anybody's playing it straight. You look at every player with a suspicious eye."

Ramirez is a "goofball," Doocy added. Still, he didn't anticipate this development.

WFAA8's Hansen long has had the sports commentary concession virtually to himself. Fox4 would be wise to unleash Doocy on occasion, too. He's fully capable of throwing a few good punches of his own.

CASEY AT THE BAT -- Yes, that was a familiar face, Casey Stegall, reporting from the scene of California wildfires during Thursday's Fox4 newscast. But no, he's not "Fox4's Casey Stegall," as news anchor Heather Hays called him. Nor is he "Casey Stegall, Fox4 news," as Stegall himself signed off.

In reality, Stegall hasn't been with Fox4 since 2007, when he left to become a Los Angeles-based reporter for Fox News Channel. And no, he's not coming back, even if viewers were led to believe otherwise.

Nine more nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon.-Wed., May 4-6) -- They're alive!!!

Nielsen Media Research resolved an unprecedented wave of technical problems Thursday, showering local stations and networks with three days' ratings at once.

We begin our Monday-Wednesday rundown with Tuesday's late-starting Dallas Mavericks playoff game against Denver. Shown only on TNT, the Nuggets' eventual rout of the Mavs started at 9:54 p.m. and finally ground to a halt at 12:33 a.m. Wednesday. But the numbers were still pretty strong.

During the game's actual running time, Mavs-Nugs averaged 385,294 D-FW viewers. That's a dip -- but not a huge one -- from the 431,795 viewers for Sunday's Game 1 on ABC, in which Denver similarly ran Dallas off the floor in the fourth quarter.

The last 15 minutes of Tuesday's TNT presentation understandably drew the fewest viewers -- 259,077. Still, it more than quadrupled the audience for any single competing program in Wednesday's 12:15 to 12:30 a.m. slot. The concluding 15 minutes of Fox4's Law & Order: Criminal Intent repeat ran second with 53,144 viewers.

From 10: to 10:30 p.m., the Mavs also easily outdrew the most-watched local newscast -- on WFAA8.

Tuesday's biggest prime-time attraction, Fox's American Idol performance show, had 431,795 viewers to out-pace the Mavs for the night's overall top spot.

Wednesday's Idol performance show then ballooned to 524,797 viewers, with my personal fave, Allison Iraheta, getting shafted, er, voted off.

Here's how the local news derbies went:


WFAA8 ran first in total viewers at 10 p.m. by a slim margin over CBS11. But Fox4 barely nipped runnerup WFAA8 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

It otherwise was a big day for NBC5, which ran the table at 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m. But its total viewers margin at 6 p.m. was a statistically insignificant one-hundredth of a rating point (664 viewers) over WFAA8. So chalk it up as a draw.


NBC5 ran wild again at 6 a.m. and 5 and 6 p.m., sweeping the competitions in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. This time it wasn't close in any of these three time slots. WFAA8 took the 10 p.m. golds, with CBS11 a close second in total viewers and Fox4 just a bit behind among 25-to-54-year-olds.


The Peacock made it three for three with comfy twin wins at 6 a.m. The 10 p.m. golds were split between CBS11 in total viewers and Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

WFAA8 ran first at 5 and 6 p.m. in total viewers, and also notched a win at the later hour among 25-to-54-year-olds. NBC5 took first at 5 p.m. in the 25-to-54 demo.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., May 6)

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Cristal Taylor, Dirk Nowitzki and CBS11 reporter J. D. Miles

We'll have an abbreviated edition today, in large part because breaking news in the unseemly Dirk Nowitzki-Cristal Taylor situation kept your dutiful content provider otherwise occupied for part of the day.

Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all led their Wednesday late night newscasts with reports on that day's arrest of Taylor on fraud charges. But CBS11's J.D. Miles, who first broke this news earlier in the day, had the only significant advance on the story.

Miles quoted unnamed sources saying that "a private investigator, possibly working for Nowitzki, was involved" in uncovering information that led to Taylor's arrest and incarceration.

Nowitzki's relationship with Taylor remained "unclear" Wednesday night, Miles said. On NBC5, reporter Ellen Goldberg ventured further, telling viewers that Taylor "indeed was his girlfriend."

Over on WFAA8, Jason Whitely described Taylor as a "female friend" of Nowitzki's. Fox4's Sophia Reza ventured no characterization during her live standup outside the Dallas Maverick star's North Dallas home. Instead she interviewed sports agent Scott Casterline, who said, "It's very easy to associate with the wrong people and not know it."

Reza and Whitely repeatedly pronounced the "w" in Nowitzki's name, although any self-respecting sports fan knows it's supposed to be "Na-VIT-ski." Both are relative newcomers to D-FW -- at least compared to Miles and, to a lesser extent, Goldberg.

Miles got another big jump on the story late Thursday morning, when he first reported on CBS11's Web site that Taylor was both engaged to Nowitzki and apparently is pregnant. His source is "the best friend" of Taylor, who otherwise insisted on anonymity. WFAA8 soon after reported the same information, crediting its own unnamed sources.

CBS11 lately has beaten the usually dominant WFAA8 to the punch on two major breaking stories, both with big-time sports angles. Its live, almost instantaneous coverage of Saturday's Dallas Cowboys practice stadium collapse gave the station a big ratings boost that afternoon while rival stations were much slower off the mark. A new promotion capitalizes on that fact. Airing during Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast, it touts CBS11 as:

"First to break the story"
"First with video"
"First with live reports"
"First from the air."

The kicker: "When the big story breaks -- Count on us first."

Those are fighting words. And you can bet that WFAA8 is rededicated to fighting back with occasional assists from The Dallas Morning News, with whom it retains a synergistic relationship.

ENTERPRISING EFFORTS -- WFAA8 had three interesting and unduplicated stories on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Jim Douglas detailed a move to remove the alcohol license of a sports bar that kept serving a man with a long DWI rap sheet. The man later caused a well-publicized accident that left a two-year-old boy alive but permanently brain-dead.

The station's Gary Reaves had an interesting story on Carrollton residents who want the city to pay the costs of repairing a storm-damaged retaining wall that has left their backyards literally losing ground. And WFAA8's Shelly Slater brought viewers in touch with homeowners making ambitious use of solar paneling.

On CBS11, Stephanie Lucero reported on an increase in eating disorders among young boys in particular. She used a recovering pre-teen as the story's focus, noting that his parents' divorce and a perfectionist mindset might have been contributing factors.

None of these stories were "dynamic" on the face of it. But all had useful, relatable information, which is a nice respite from a lot of the stuff that passes for "news" these days.

RIM SHOT -- Round 3 of WFAA8's weeklong "Rumble in the Plaza" went to sports anchor Dale Hansen, who out-shot weatherman Pete Delkus in a game of H.O.R.S.E. Hansen, as is his wont, then strove to make a horse's ass of himself.

Four upper crust married women were in Victory Park to cheer him on, he bragged. "Then we were celebrating the rest of the night, and there are four housewives from Highland Village who don't have a happy marriage now."

"A-w-w-w-w, you homewrecker you!" news anchor Gloria Campos riposted.

Thursday night's sport will be ping-pong, and Hansen said he's "very good" at that, too.

"You're good at B.S. as well. Good night, everyone," Campos added.

I'm tellin' ya, that Gloria's growin' on me.

Halfway there. Ten nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Sun., May 3) -- Mavs roll

Nielsen ratings are slowly arriving via covered wagon after major technical problems waylaid their delivery to local stations during the heart of the May "sweeps" ratings period.

Sunday's results are now available as part of an ongoing slow rollout. And although it already seems like ancient history, the Dallas Mavericks' first-game playoff loss to Denver was a big hit in D-FW.

ABC's afternoon telecast of the game averaged 431,795 total viewers, more than half of them (226,884) in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 age range.

No other program came close Sunday. CBS had the second biggest draw with Cold Case (312,221 total viewers) while Fox's Family Guy was runnerup among 18-to-49-year-olds (136,130).

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., May 5)

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Commercials get the best of NBC5's David Finfrock, Newy Scruggs.

Replicating the home stretches of NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts, we pause now for these commercial messages.

I've been meaning to take a stopwatch to this, because no rival D-FW station comes close to matching the Peacock's crushing load of commercials following the nightly weather segment. Fans of paid ads can rejoice. But viewers looking for actual programming content will find the next best thing to zilch after meteorologist David Finfrock or a pinch-hitter put down their weather maps.

Tuesday's late nighter was typical. Here's how it looked after Finfrock finished:

Commercial time -- 3 minutes, 15 seconds
Part 1 of Newy Scruggs' sports segment -- 1 minute, 25 seconds
Commercial time -- 3 minutes, 35 seconds
Part 2 of Scruggs' sports segment, including anchor cross-talk -- 1 minute, 3 seconds
Tease of concluding story -- 7 seconds
Commercial time -- 2 minutes, 40 seconds
Concluding story and anchor sign-off -- 44 seconds

It all adds up to 9 minutes, 30 seconds of commercials, 7 seconds of teases and 3 minutes, 12 seconds of actual content.

As previously noted on unclebarky.com, Scruggs already is saddled with D-FW's briefest sports segments. In fact, the commercial "halftime" between Parts 1 and 2 is considerably longer than the game itself.

Remarkably, though, NBC5 is alone among its 10 p.m. competitors in not suffering an audience falloff during the closing half of its newscast.

In the one time only March "sweeps" ratings competition, the third-place Peacock drew 179,361 total viewers for both the 10 to 10:15 and 10:15 to 10:35 segments, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Frontrunning WFAA8 dipped just a bit -- from 298,935 to 292,292 viewers. CBS11 drooped from 285,649 to 252,434 viewers while Fox4 (which ends at 10:30 p.m) slipped from 152,789 to 132,860 viewers.

It played out identically among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. NBC5 had the same audience for both newscast segments while its three rivals all slipped in the second half.

Maybe people would just as soon watch commercials than what passes for news on NBC5, which has no investigative unit and usually less depth than a kiddie wading pool. Tuesday night's presentation came and went without anything noteworthy -- save for the station again having to credit footage of Saturday's Dallas Cowboys practice field collapse to rival "KDAF-The 33." That's because NBC5 was alone in having no one on the scene during the team's rookie mini-camp.

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WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos and former First Lady Laura Bush

GLO ALL AGLOW WITH LAURA -- WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos had the only one-on-one interview with Laura Bush, whom she first very charitably described as "one of the most beloved First Ladies in modern history."

Mrs. Bush, who also spoke Tuesday at a Mothers Day-themed luncheon, revealed that she and George W. "actually get to have date nights almost every night" now that daughters Jenna and Barbara are on their own. "Of course what we mainly do is eat together."

Both kids have visited once since the Bushes left the White House and moved to Dallas.

"Grandchildren?" Campos wondered.

"We hope soon," Mrs. Bush said. "But no plans yet. Right now we have a grand-cat. Jenna and (husband) Henry have gotten a kitten."

No one expected a hard-hitting interview here, although Campos could have been a bit less deferential. Meanwhile, rival stations subsisted on brief sound bites from Mrs. Bush's speech.

SPEED RACERS -- Fox4's James Rose had the night's most visually arresting story during his weekly "Street Squad" segment. He interviewed two thrill-seeking motorcyclists who were lucky to emerge alive from recent freeway crashes.

"There's a certain freedom you get from it," said one of the survivors, who severely broke his leg.

The story also included police video of several other high-speed crashes, one of which left a motorcyclist dead. Footage from his fatal accident showed him lying motionless on the freeway.

Both motorcyclists interviewed by Rose said they'll definitely be riding again. But the one who rear-ended an auto while speeding in excess of 100 mph said he'll rethink his routes. "On the freeway, it's not worth it," he conceded.

Rose should have pressed them more about their blatant disregard for the safety of other motorists. It was still an interesting story, though, showing the consequences of high-speed racing if not the remorse of those who engage in it.

STADIUM COLLAPSE AFTERMATH -- Fox4's Matt Grubs and WFAA8's Jason Whitely both had stories on adjoining neighborhood worries about the Cowboys nearby training camp site.

Whitely focused on concerns that any new structure be both stronger and more permanent than the air-supported practice field that was reduced to rubble during Saturday's stormy weather.

Grubs interviewed nearby residents who worried that the remaining debris could blow into their neighborhood during any future storms.

CBS11's comparatively brief followup had nothing on the neighborhood angle.

NBC5 sent reporter Scott Gordon to Thackerville, Okla., whose WinStar Casino is partially built by the same company that constructed the Cowboys practice field. A spokeswoman for the casino assured him that WinStar will "inspect every inch of the facility to make sure it's safe." The station then aired a WinStar commercial near the end of the newscast.

BB KING -- Weathercaster Pete Delkus won Round 2 of WFAA8's weeklong, heavily promoted "Rumble in the Plaza." He burst all nine of his balloons with a BB gun while sports anchor Dale Hansen hit only three. They're now tied one-to-one after Hansen won Monday's putting competition.

During brief taped highlights, only one person -- besides a cameraman -- could be seen watching Tuesday's festivities outside WFAA8's Victory Park studios. Two designated charities will benefit. But otherwise this thing is bombing.

Hansen later managed to work in a shot at the Texas Rangers despite the team's fourth consecutive win and a 14-12 record that puts them just a half-game out of first place. Noting that soccer games in Mexico are being played in empty houses due to swine flu fears, Hansen said, "It's kind of like a Rangers game in September."

That may prove to be the case again this season. But finding a way to rip the Rangers during a winning streak is something only Hansen would do.

Eleven nights to go. Until next time, here's the James Rose "Street Squad" story:

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., May 4)

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D-FW reporters Jason Whitely, Sophia Reza and Jack Fink

Saturday's collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility continued to prompt questions about why it happened and who might be at fault.

Meanwhile, NBC5 embarrassingly continued to rely on footage from "The 33" after having no reporter or photographer on the scene when the structure came down during inclement weather. The li'l station's contribution again was acknowledged on-screen during Monday's 10 p.m. newscast.

WFAA8's Jason Whitely and CBS11's Jack Fink both reported that the facility had passed all inspections with one exception since being built in 2003. A new roof installed last spring by Pennsylvania-based Summit Structures was not inspected by the City of Irving, which is "not required to," said Fink. But the jury's still out as the blame game proceeds.

Fox4's Sophia Reza had a comparatively incomplete report at the top of her station's 9 p.m. newscast. She noted that a new roof had been affixed last year, but said nothing about the lack of an inspection. Instead Reza interviewed a pair of wide-eyed Cowboys fans, one of whom noted it was "whoa, kinda weird" not to see the "white tent with the big blue star" while driving by and gawking.

NBC5 had no reporter-driven story at all, but did offer anchor Mike Snyder's proclamation that "the legal ramifications of the collapse could be far-reaching." Pitiful.

Fox4's Richard Ray later offered the best explanation of how a "microburst" of wind had been pinpointed by the National Weather Service just before the structure collapsed around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

BILL COLLECTOR -- Fox4 launched its "Free Money Monday" gambit, which will run through May with consumer reporter Steve Noviello at the throttle.

"This is no spare change we're talking about," he noted. "We're talking folding money here."

Basically, Noviello is tracking some of the state's $1.6 billion in unclaimed funds. He surprised a recently laid off teacher with $2,000 that was rightfully hers and later dropped a $10,368.57 check on the widow of a husband who was owed the money by a Wall Street investment firm.

Never shy about promoting himself, Noviello distributed the cash in oversized sealed envelopes emblazoned with "Free Money" and a picture of him on a big fake bill. But some people clearly are benefiting in a major way from his legwork, so I guess it's all right for Noviello to cash in, too.

SOLID WORK -- CBS11 gumshoe Bennett Cunningham dug into "stingy" health care reimbursements by some insurers, using aggrieved patient Michael Bailey as his point man.

"You are constantly paying more, more, more," Bailey complained. "They are paying less, less and less."

The report appeared to be on solid ground during the course of looking at the innards of the health insurance industry.

***NBC5's Scott Friedman probed into possible "Hidden Danger" at North Texas swimming pools, some of whose older, high-suction drains can be lethal. He demonstrated how newer, safer versions can prevent both injury and death. Friedman is virtually the only NBC5 reporter who's occasionally allowed to extend his pieces beyond the station's usual one minute, 30 second allotment.

***Veteran WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp followed up on the recent mysterious explosion of an Irving home that imploded when a resident lit a cigarette. Shipp has won major national awards for his reporting on defective gas compression couplings. He raised that issue anew while Atmos energy continues to do its own investigation.

***WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James had an interesting and informative look at a resurgence in liquid diets as a way to avoid gastric surgery. She responsibly pointed out the pitfalls, too, of "all fluids, all the time" regimens that should be closely monitored by doctors.

PASTY-FACED GEEK -- Yes, that was your friendly content provider on CBS11 Monday night, captured in a fleeting sound bite for a story on the cable network-only presentations of the Dallas Mavericks-Denver Nuggets second round playoff series.

The Mavs' win over the San Antonio Spurs was shown on both TXA21 and a mix of cable networks. But TNT and ESPN have exclusive rights to the upcoming games, with local stations shut out.

"This is only going to get worse," yours truly opined, predicting that more and more marquee sports events will eventually be available only on pay TV. Stunning insight.

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DALE HAS A STROKE, OUT-PUTTS PETE -- WFAA8's heavily hyped, weeklong "Rumble in the Plaza" commenced Monday night with sports anchor Dale Hansen besting weathercaster Pete Delkus during what looked to be a very sparsely attended putting competition outside the station's Victory Park studios.

WFAA8 showed 36 seconds of the pre-taped clash, in which Hansen became the first combatant to sink the required three short putts on a carpeted field of play. Delkus managed to make one.

"That's really exciting television like you wouldn't believe," news anchor Gloria Campos artfully jabbed.

Meanwhile on CBS11, sports anchor Babe Laufenberg (above, right) could be seen chipping to the green while playing on a real golf course during the "Legends Pro-Am" preceding the upcoming Byron Nelson golf tournament.

Delkus and Hansen are raising money for their respective charities, and Hansen says that more than $4,000 has been pledged so far.

"I'm shocked, because I donated $3,800 myself," Hansen added, presumably joking.

They'll be shooting BB guns during Tuesday's 10 p.m. news.

"He kills deer for a living, so what chance do I really have?" Hansen wondered.

Twelve nights to go.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sat., May 1-2 -- CBS11's timely collapse coverage pumps up Sat. afternoon ratings

Nielsen Media research continued to struggle with "server issues" Tuesday, delaying reports on Sunday and Monday ratings until at least Wednesday.

The Friday-Saturday D-FW numbers are in, though, so let's look at some highlights.

CBS11's coverage of Saturday afternoon's collapse of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility yielded a sharp jump in the station's audience from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. It dominated coverage of the tragedy during this period while rival stations were comparatively slow to react.

The collapse happened around 3:30 p.m., with CBS11 carrying the PGA's Quail Hollow Championship at that time. From 3:30 to 3:45 p.m., CBS11 had 93,002 D-FW viewers. That spiked to 205,933 viewers from 3:45 to 4 p.m., when the station left the golf tournament and went to continuous live coverage of the tragedy.

CBS11's audience grew to 252,434 viewers from 4 to 4:15 p.m., and peaked at 272,363 viewers in the next quarter-hour. Viewers then began turning to NBC's preliminary coverage of the Kentucky Derby, with the audience skying to 471,653 viewers for the race itself.

CBS11's overall average of 245,791 viewers from 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. easily bettered rival stations, who were comparatively slow in bailing out of ongoing programming.

NBC5, which stayed almost exclusively with its network's Kentucky Derby buildup, averaged 199,290 viewers during that 45-minute period.

WFAA8 stuck with a St. Jude's Hospital infomercial and portions of ABC's Wipeout before belatedly switching to the practice field disaster. It averaged 66,430 viewers.

"The 33", which had some coverage while otherwise deferring to the movie Mission to Mars, had 59,787 viewers.

Fox4, which eventually bailed out of a Mets-Phillies baseball game, lagged with only 33,215 viewers.

Saturday's regularly scheduled 10 p.m. newscasts, dominated by coverage of the training facility collapse, had a notably different order of finish.

NBC5, which had to borrow footage from The 33, led with 265,720 total viewers, followed by WFAA8 (252,434), CBS11 (225,862) and Fox4 (186,004).

In Friday ratings results, CBS swept the prime-time Nielsens with its regular lineup of Ghost Whisperer, Flashpoint and Numb3rs.

CBS11's 10 p.m. newscast then won in total viewers while WFAA8 took the gold among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 scored twin wins at 6 a.m., where it's emerged as the station to beat after the first seven weekdays of the 20-day May "sweeps."

WFAA8 won at 6 p.m. in total viewers, but Fox4 ran first with 25-to-54-year-olds.

At 5 p.m., Fox4 and WFAA8 tied for the top spot in total viewers and NBC5 prevailed among 25-to-54-year-olds.

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., May 1)

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D-FW newsies John McCaa, Randy McIlwain and Doug Dunbar

WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen regularly shoots his mouth off, but he's only talking about the games people play.

D-FW's major television news providers otherwise don't do editorials within their newscasts anymore. Venturing anything resembling a strong opinion could offend someone, after all. And we sure wouldn't want that.

WFAA8 anchor John McCaa came pretty close, though, in his pointed Friday night discourse on swine flu -- as three of the four stations are still calling it. His riff came after reporter Jonathan Betz's story on the inconsistencies of school and public event closings throughout North Texas.

"At this point, some worry that fear is spreading faster than the actual virus," Betz said from Frisco's Dr. Pepper Park, where the Double A Roughriders were playing as usual Friday night.

McCaa then took the baton, telling viewers, "It turns out you have a better chance of being struck by lightning this year than dying with swine flu."

He was only warming up. Odds of catching swine flu in Mexico alone are one in 29,000, McCaa said. And of dying -- one in 736,000.

The chances of being injured by a drunk driver are 80 times greater than the chances of contracting swine flu, he added. "You're more likely to fall off a tall building this year, or win a medal at the next Olympic games than die of swine flu. Either way, it's a good idea to wash your hands -- or stay away from lightening."

The final graphic -- lightning striking a pair of hands under running sink water -- underscored McCaa's telling recitation of statistical probabilities. It was an agile way to make his opinion obvious without flatly commentating.

NBC5 reporter Randy McIlwain's stories have been bracingly skeptical throughout, even while his station blankets viewers with swine flu odds and ends.

Anchor Mike Snyder did concede Friday night, though, that "some experts are now saying the swine flu does not seem as bad as first feared." McIlwain then reported on the cancelation of Plano Senior High's annual band trip.

"Hours of preparation and precision killed by fears of swine flu," he told viewers. "Count these kids among those sick of hearing about the pandemic."

One kid said it was more dangerous to cross the street. Another wondered why band members couldn't have signed individual waivers that would have allowed them to take their trip to Corpus Christi.

Fox4's Brandon Todd reported from outside Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, where the team's series with the White Sox went on as scheduled. Six Flags Over Texas and the Fort Worth Zoo also are open for business, he noted. A Dad accompanying his kid to the zoo said that too many people have over-reacted. "The flu's the flu as far as I'm concerned," he said.

CBS11 was alone in substituting the more politically correct "H1N1" for swine flu. So much so that anchor Doug Dunbar said, "Pardon me from a moment ago" after he inadvertently said swine. On Friday night at least, the station's H1N1 coverage was by far the least skeptical.

STILL SYNERGISTIC -- WFAA8 and The Dallas Morning News remain on the same team despite the fact that they're now owned by "separate" companies after last year's split.

Specifically, Belo owns the TV stations and A.H. Belo the newspaper properties. But a Chris Hawes story still played by the tired, old rules. She reported on a Mansfield woman who found that her outdoor sports equipment, including a basketball hoop, was being offered free of charge on craigslist.

The culprit turned out to be a neighboring police officer who also was a member of the homeowners' association until resigning. After Hawes' report, anchor Gloria Campos urged viewers to read about "the racial overtones of this event" in Saturday's Dallas Morning News. WFAA8's story made no mention at all of this aspect, leaving Hawes' story with a big hole in it. Viewers had every right to feel cheated in what amounted to a game of bait-and-switch.

WELL-TOLD, FEEL GOOD STORIES -- NBC5's Deborah Ferguson had a touching followup to her report on a high school student who suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a drunk driver in 2007. Her father is now with her in Beijing, China for six weeks of treatment. The $40,000 cost of the trip and treatment is being paid by church donations.

WFAA8's Monika Diaz had a nice story on a mentally impaired Midlothian student who's pumped about attending his high school's senior prom and also has been nominated for prom king by his classmates. And the station's Shelly Slater reported on a heavily attended career connection seminar for jobless North Texans who pay what seems to be a very reasonable $10 a month to network with one another.

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NBC5's Ellen Goldberg and CBS11's Ginger Allen

DOUBLE UGH -- NBC5's Ellen Goldberg generally prowls the nighttime streets as an able replacement for former "Mistress of the Dark" Susan Risdon, who left the station in 2007 to form her own media consulting firm.

On Friday, though, Goldberg got stuck with a throwaway story on "some easy ways to cut your cleaning costs."

The white male owner of Park Cities-based Molly Maid discoursed on downsizing arrays of home cleaning products while a Latina laborer did the on-camera dirty work. Basically used as a prop, the woman was shown on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor, and later scrubbing a toilet while the company's owner chirped away.

"Really, all you need are two or three basic cleaners to clean your whole house," he counseled.

Goldberg in turn talked of a "dizzy maze of disinfectants" under kitchen sinks.

The "story" ended with the maid silently and dutifully cleaning a window while Goldberg trilled, "Might as well let the sun shine through your windows to show off all of your hard work."

Does NBC5 have any idea how bad this looked? Probably not.

Over on CBS11, Ginger Allen segued from having her hair straightened with embalming fluid last week to showing women "how to get that tinseltown glow without breaking the bank," as anchor Karen Borta put it in her tease.

It all amounted to an infomercial for a Hollywood purveyor of de-wrinkling goop who's now gifting North Texas with his products. This time a middle-aged woman -- not Allen -- experienced the thrill of alleged rejuvenation.

"I definitely love his products," she said. Prices range from $18 to $60 for a 90-day supply, Allen told viewers.

Poor Allen already does enough work as co-anchor of her station's early morning newscast. But she's still listed as a member of CBS11's "The Investigators" duo along with Bennett Cunningham.

No. 1, Allen in reality hasn't investigated anything in years. No. 2, they really need to stop saddling her with this drivel. Her early morning colleague, Scott Sams, isn't required to do anything other than sit there and anchor. It'd be more equitable, for Allen at least, if they'd also give him a few embarrassing stories to front on 10 p.m. newscasts.

With summer coming soon, how about a timely story on unsightly tan lines and how to rub them out? Or maybe Sams could try to get through a piece on where to find the hottest new decorative handbags.

Fair is fair.

Thirteen nights to go.

Share and share alike: Fox4, NBC5 and The 33 partner up

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All for one and one for all -- content sharing coming soon.

Fox4, NBC5 and -- surprise -- "The 33" -- will be D-FW partners in a content-sharing agreement officially set to take effect Wednesday.

Sources say that for now the arrangement will only involve photographers and assignment desk personnel. But of course it could mushroom in time to include on-camera reporters as well.

The 33, which carries CW Network programming, appears to benefit the most from this arrangement. It has a comparatively tiny news staff compared to Fox4 and NBC5.

Still, Saturday's collapse of the Dallas Cowboys "air bubble" practice facility shows that The 33 occasionally can be a player, too. NBC5, without anyone on site during the disaster, ended up using The 33's footage of the early chaos. The 33 also has upgraded its Web site and, as previously reported, plans to add two inexpensive "backback journalists" to its news gathering team.

Content sharing is very much in vogue in an ongoing dismal economy. And it's not just television news departments. The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram for several months have been sharing each other's reporters and reviewers. In other words, some content is identical in both newspapers, such as The Dallas Morning News' recurring use of Star-Telegram entertainment critics Christopher Kelly, Preston Jones and Cary Darling as "special contributors."

The three-way arrangement among Fox4, NBC5 and The 33 provides WFAA8 and CBS11 with opportunities to further differentiate themselves as self-standing, independent news gatherers. But it remains to be seen whether enough viewers will notice the differences -- and similarities.

The Pete 'n' Dale sideshow -- had enough or lovin' it?


Maybe you've heard by now. WFAA8 is the official station of "Rumble in the Plaza," pitting sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus in a series of five competitions to be shown in part on next week's 10 p.m. newscasts.

Let's just say that station management doesn't much like TV critics popping off about how this might run the risk of cheapening the station's award-winning news brand. But that's a private matter. Hansen always speaks his mind, though. And he has some comments on the impending games of putting, ping-pong, BB-gun shooting, H.O.R.S.E. and a fifth sport to be named later, most likely Guitar Hero.

"Edward R. Murrow is dead," Hansen says via email in response to previous remarks in these spaces. "I do think making people laugh a little at the end of a dreary day in news harms no one. I'm not sold on next week's charity event either. But if and when we don't cover a news story because of Delkus and Hansen messing around, I'll be the first one to scream the loudest."

As previously noted, Hansen's playing for the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas and Delkus for Childen's Medical Center. Sponsor either of them for $20 or more and you'll get a T-shirt with the images pictured above. The competitions are scheduled to be taped at 7 p.m. nightly in Victory Plaza, beginning Monday.

Delkus and Hansen have been sparring on the air for quite some time now, and there's nothing wrong with a little banter on any self-respecting newscast. Sometimes they go a little nuts, though, leaving news anchor John McCaa looking like he'd rather be hosting a Tupperware party.

What do you think, though? I'm going to throw out a few talking points about "Rumble in the Plaza" and the Hansen-Delkus sideshow in general. Your comments are welcome.

A. Ease up. They're doing it for charity and it'll be fun. We could use a break from swine flu, the recession and other assorted gloom/doom. Who says a newscast has to be done in a chapel? Besides it's only a few minutes near the end of the show.

B. No one minds a little fun, but since when did a newscast have to include a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer in your pants? WFAA8 has a long history of winning major awards and carrying itself with dignity. Stuff like this should be reserved for Good Morning Texas.

C. I look forward to the nightly Pete 'n' Dale byplay. It's a welcome alternative to the stiffs on those other stations.

D. The Pete 'n' Dale show within a show has grown tired, redundant and childish. It's an invitation to look elsewhere.

Whaddya think?

This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., April 30)

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Reporters Jay Gormley, Scott Gordon and David Schechter

Sick of all the swine flu coverage?

If so, you could have been one and done Thursday by watching WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast.

All four of D-FW's major TV news providers topped their late nighters with the latest flu-related news, including cancelation of Fort Worth's annual, economy-priming Mayfest.

But WFAA8 didn't tarry, restricting its coverage to a lone lead story by reporter Chris Hawes, who mostly contrasted the different approaches to the situation by officials in Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington. Life goes on in the latter two cities while Cowtown basically cancels all mass human gatherings despite having fewer confirmed swine flu cases than Dallas.

"Who's right?" Hawes asked Dr. Robert Adams of the University of North Texas health department. He wasn't much help, telling her, "I think it goes to show that we don't really know the right answer."

Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all devoted far more time to the flu bug, with the latter station finding the happiest medium. Veteran CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley took the best stab at the disparities in reactions from Dallas and Fort Worth health officials. Still, he ended up asking an open-ended question: "So are we over-reacting or is this a legitimate threat. Does anyone in North Texas really know?

Both Gormley and NBC5's Ellen Goldberg stationed themselves outside Dallas' American Airlines Center, where a Fleetwood Mac concert proceeded as scheduled Thursday night.

On Fox4, reporter Brandon Todd had the best quote from a miffed Mayfest vendor. "It was just a panic. To me an unnecessary panic," said Patricia Odom.

Meanwhile, NBC5 reporter Scott Gordon went to rather ridiculous lengths by putting "his own hands to the test" under a black light. Germs were still detected, even after heavy scrubbing with a "special cream." Gordon then again advised viewers to sneeze into their sleeve or a hanky rather than just letting it all hang out.

Near the end of Fox4's newscast, a respondent to the station's nightly "Viewers' Voice" segment opined in part: "Shame on the media and their irresponsible tabloid journalism" in regards to flu coverage.

Anchor Steve Eagar noted that it wasn't the media that closed down the entire Fort Worth public school system or canceled Mayfest.

He's got that right. Overall the D-FW television coverage has been notably responsible and restrained. Maybe WFAA8 is doing too little flu coverage and the others a bit too much. That's debatable. But no one has done anything truly egregious.

From a mere TV critic's perspective, though, Tarrant County public officials have grossly over-reacted, making Dallas look good in comparison. Dallas County Medical Director Dr. John Carlo may have said this a bit inelegantly. But he was a breath of fresh air on CBS11, warning residents to attend mass gatherings at their own risk before adding, "Right now, I'm not recommending suspension of any of the social norms we do as people."

TRAFFIC STOPPER -- WFAA8's David Schechter had Thursday's most valuable story. He dug into the faulty design of I-75 (Central Expressway) HOV lanes, whose narrowness has caused a 30 percent increase in major crashes.

Schechter noted that the federal government "greenlighted" the design despite what seem to be inherent flaws. The feds wouldn't talk to him on-camera, but dug a hole for themselves in a prepared statement from an Office of Public Affairs spokeswoman.

"Design exceptions are not too uncommon," the statement said in part. "It is considered an interim measure because the state does intend to reconstruct the road."

Schechter, who specializes in transportation reporting, has repeatedly shown that he knows this turf. So he sounded convincing in concluding: "In the construction business, 'interim' means another 15 or 20 years for the 250,000 people that drive on Central every day. That's another 15 to 20 years of substandard conditions."

DASH CAM CHRONICLES -- Three of the four stations gave significant play to newly released, dramatic police video of a chase that ended with officers rescuing an accused shooter from his badly damaged SUV shortly before it burst into flames. The man wrecked the vehicle while trying to escape from police.

NBC5, which loves this stuff, somehow missed it all together. The video showed police work at its finest. In a small way at least, it offset the exhaustive national attention paid to the Ofc. David Powell/Ryan Moats emergency room incident earlier this year.

NICE RING TO IT -- "Could it be any pea soupier outside?" anchor Karen Borta asked meteorologist Larry Mowry, referring to the day's muggy weather. Nice.

Fourteen nights to go.