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Former charter KDAF-TV news director Anthony Maisel finds new news home in Texoma


Anthony Maisel, who launched Dallas-based KDAF-TV's (Ch. 33) inaugural prime-time newscast in 1998, has been named the first full-time news director at CBS/Fox's Texoma area station, KXII-TV.

"Sometimes things work out when you least expect it to happen," Maisel said in an email Tuesday to unclebarky.com. "I wanted to say in Texas, near family, and now I get the opportunity."

KXII services both Texas and Oklahoma, reaching Ada, Ardmore, Durant, Sherman, Denison and Gainesville.

Maisel resigned from KDAF in September 2007 after it became known as CW33.

"Never bury the lead," he said in a memo to staffers. "I'm leaving because it is time, and there are no other reasons."

As news director, Maisel hired the entire WB33 News At Nine startup staff.

"I still have 15 people here from then," he said when announcing his resignation. Most of them since have resigned or been let go by current CW33 news director David Duitch, who succeeded Maisel's replacement, Mark Shepherd, in the summer of 2008.

After leaving CW33, Maisel battled serious "back issues" that kept him on the shelf for a while, he said.

He also tried to keep his hand in the TV news business. "I have turned down jobs and didn't get some I applied for," Maisel said. "And now I'm so pleased to be working for a very good general manager and a company like Gray Broadcasting (the Atlanta-based company that owns 35 TV stations besides KXII). It's going to be a great experience and maybe I can pass on what I know about news."

TXII vice president and general manager Rick Dean noted in a news release that the station's news director also used to double as its primary news anchor.

"It was time to go to the next level," he said, "and Maisel has a great deal of experience in news."

Maisel's first day at KXII will be Dec. 6th. He and his wife, Robin, are the parents of five children.

WFAA8 regains 10 p.m. top spots while CBS11 breaks through for first-ever 6 p.m. win in November "sweeps" newscast ratings races


WFAA8 anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos Photo: Ed Bark

WFAA8 very narrowly retained the D-FW 10 p.m. ratings "sweeps" crowns it lost to CBS11 in May while at the same time losing at 6 p.m. to CBS11, which won in total viewers for the first time ever.

Fox4 also made considerable noise in November with a pair of first place finishes at 6 a.m. and golds among advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds at both 5 and 6 p.m.

In the dumper was NBC5, which ran second at 6 a.m., third at 10 p.m. and fourth at both 5 and 6 p.m.

The 10 p.m. races again were exceedingly close between WFAA8 and CBS11, which have been knocking heads at that hour since the November 2009 sweeps. That was when CBS11 broke through for its first-ever win in total viewers, beating WFAA8 by a paper-thin margin of 228,291 to 225,916 viewers in the final "Live Same Day" ratings. WFAA8 retained the 25-to-54 trophy, with CBS11 close behind. But CBS11 then broke through in May with unprecedented twin wins at 10 p.m.

The November 2010 sweeps ran from Oct. 28th through the day before Thanksgiving. And CBS11 still led in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds after the Monday, Nov. 22nd results. Still, its 10 p.m. newscast on that night failed to fully capitalize on a substantial lead-in advantage from CBS' Hawaii Five-0, which drew more than twice as many viewers as ABC's competing premiere of Skating with the Stars. WFAA8 nonetheless won narrowly at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds to remain within a catchable distance of CBS11 with two weeknights to go.

Then came the hammer -- Tuesday's two-hour season finale of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. The second hour of DWTS demolished CBS' competing The Good Wife in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, giving WFAA8 the biggest single night lead-in advantage of the sweeps. And WFAA8's 10 p.m. news capitalized, bludgeoning CBS11 in total viewers by a score of 415,542 to 159,291. WFAA8 also routed CBS11 among 25-to-54-year-olds while catapulting into first place in both ratings measurements.

Both stations then took a knee on Thanksgiving eve, opting for "H" for holiday travel designations that dealt the final night's ratings out of the November sweeps averages. For the record, WFAA8 won in both measurements anyway Wednesday night. So it wouldn't have mattered. Also, CBS11 had an overall lead-in advantage from CBS during the entire course of the sweeps, with WFAA8 benefiting at the eleventh hour from the mega-audience for Dancing's Tuesday night climax.

The 10 p.,m. final verdicts in total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds again were narrow enough to be broken down to three decimal points. By that measurement, WFAA8 won in total viewers by a less than paper-thin margin of 222,523 to 221,969.

In November 2009, WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin told unclebarky.com that CBS11's narrow win in total viewers was "so far within the margin of (statistical) error that it's absolutely ludicrous to talk about a winner or loser. It's a tie. I don't think it's accurate reporting to say somebody won or lost."

This time around, a CBS11 publicity release conceded the 10 p.m. win to WFAA8 while also noting the station's "extremely close second place (finish)" in total viewers. The station instead trumpeted its first-ever 6 p.m. victory, noting its newscast's impressive 81 percent year-to-year growth in that time period.

One bit of gamesmanship during the sweeps may have been key to the final 10 p.m. results. As previously reported on unclebarky.com, WFAA8 weathercaster Pete Delkus used his Monday, Nov. 15th prime-time promotional segments to repeatedly tease viewers with the question, "Did Hansen finally get suspended? The answer tonight, at 10."

The reference was to WFAA8's ever-opinionated sports anchor Dale Hansen, who has been known to mouth off on a regular basis. Hansen's joke "suspension," for about three seconds of that night's newscast, was tied to his commentary on Cowboys' running back Marion Barber's violation of new coach Jason Garrett's coat-and-tie dress code. Coincidentally or not, WFAA8's 10 p.m. ratings ballooned on that night while CBS11's sagged in both ratings measurements.

Did the Delkus/Hansen gambit lure substantially more curious eyeballs to WFAA8? WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine and CBS11 news director Adrienne Roark have both declined to comment on the record. One thing is certain. Many prospective late night news watchers saw those Delkus promotions during the penultimate performance edition of Dancing with the Stars, which averaged 491,725 viewers on that night.

Here are the final results of the November 2010 sweeps in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds. Last November's totals are in parentheses. Also of note: Ratings inflation means that each point is now worth 69,257 total viewers and 31,067 viewers in the 25-to-54 age range. In November 2009, those totals were 67,863 and 30,690.

10 P.M.

Total Viewers
WFAA8 -- 222,523 (down from 225,915)
CBS11 -- 221,969 (down from 228,291)
NBC5 -- 145,370 (up from 138,848)
Fox4 -- 117,737 (up from 75,464) *Some newscasts were aided by Texas Rangers-infused World Series lead-ins.

WFAA8 -- 95,780 (down from 101,093)
CBS11 -- 91,306 (up from 91,027)
NBC5 -- 70,677 (up from 69,114)
Fox4 -- 63,967 (up from 44,623)

6 A.M.

Total Viewers
Fox4 -- 98,137 (down from 102,541)
NBC5 -- 93,289 (down from 123,239)
WFAA8 -- 76,806 (down from 83,947)
CBS11 -- 47,303 (up from 45,265)

Fox4 -- 55,175 (down from 66,321)
NBC5 -- 39,393 (down from 70,648)
WFAA8 -- 35,913 (down from 49,350)
CBS11 -- 22,275 (down from 27,437)

6 P.M.

Total Viewers
CBS11 -- 169,472 (up from 93,719)
WFAA8 -- 159,430 (down from 161,921)
Fox4 -- 122,516 (up from 89,104)
NBC5 -- 118,637 (up from 111,770)

25-to-54 year olds
Fox4 -- 58,126 (up from 46,096)
WFAA8 -- 53,777 (down from 61,503)
CBS11 -- 53,404 (up from 32,071)
NBC5 -- 37,964 (down from 43,580)

5 P.M.

Total Viewers
WFAA8 -- 145,786 (up from 113,399)
CBS11 -- 111,642 (up from 71,595)
Fox4 -- 100,492 (up from 95,823)
NBC5 -- 94,744 (down from 101,591)

25-to-54 year olds
Fox4 -- 47,657 (down from 53,984)
WFAA8 -- 46,383 (up from 42,751)
CBS11 -- 34,484 (up from 22,741)
NBC5 -- 30,601 (down from 39,222)

It should be noted that the Spanish language Noticias local newscasts on Univision23 ran first at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, beating all four English language editions in this key demographic. It was the same story at 5 p.m., with Noticias again topping the field in the 25-to-54 demographic.

In total viewers, Noticias ran third at 10 p.m. and second at 5 p.m.

In the two-way 9 p.m. battle, Fox4's hour-long local newscast bludgeoned CW33's in both ratings measurements.

Fox4 averaged 133,527 total viewers to CW33's 42,801. Among 25-to-54-year-olds, Fox4 won by a score of 53,528 to 19,852.

NBC5's weather team finds Shade


Fort Worth-based NBC5 is adding a fifth meteorologist with a weather-ready surname.

Remeisha Shade will be joining the station from WAFF-TV in Huntsville, Ala., where she's been the weekend forecaster since August 2006. That's a mega market jump, from No. 81 to No. 5.

Shade also is a former Miss Florida State University (circa 2003) who worked at KBMT-TV in Beaumont, TX for three years before heading to Alabama. Before that she was a meteorology intern at The Weather Channel.

NBC5's other temperature takers are chief meteorologist David Finfrock, Jennifer Lopez, Samantha Davies and Grant Johnston. No word yet on when Shade starts and what shifts she'll work. She is leaving WAFF at the end of November.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night local newscasts (Thurs., Nov. 18)

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NBC5 anchor Brian Curtis reported on puppy mills while CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar looked at a mystery gravestone next to Lee Harvey Oswald's during Thursday's 10 p.m. newscasts. Photos: Ed Bark

It used to be standard operating procedure, in this market and many others throughout the country.

A TV station's most prominent anchors -- the ones entrusted to do the marquee late night newscasts -- also would make it a point to get out of the studio and do some actual reporting, particularly during ratings "sweeps" periods. No one wanted to be dismissed as a pure and simple "news reader."

Those days have made a comeback in D-FW at both NBC5 and CBS11. And on Fox4's featured 9 p.m. newscasts, the anchors lately are at least required to think on their feet by conducting lengthy live in-studio interviews on most nights.

That leaves WFAA8's standardbearers, John McCaa and Gloria Campos, conspicuously clinging to their anchor desks during the ABC station's 10 p.m. newscasts. They haven't been doing any reporting or interviewing despite a latter day WFAA8 promotional campaign that pictures them in the field during spots proclaiming, "We're heading out. Crossing state lines. Seeing new places. Exploring new views. Meeting new faces. Bringing home the kinds of stories no other local station can."

McCaa and Campos may be heading out to dinner, but others at WFAA8 are left to hit the streets of both North Texas and more distant venues. Let's also emphasize that both of them know how to report after amassing years of experience before taking their desk jobs. But while contemporaries at rival stations reacquaint themselves with reporting skills, McCaa and Campos remain in close vicinity to their in-studio TelePrompTers.

This was glaringly evident during Thursday's late night newscasts.

Both of CBS11's star anchors, Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta, had reports that took them out of the studio. On NBC5, anchor Brian Curtis likewise ventured into the field, as he did on the previous night as well. His anchoring colleague, Meredith Land also regularly leaves the studio to bank stories for future use. And on Fox4, anchors Steve Eagar and Heather Hays almost always conduct lengthy question-and-answer segments with various newsmakers and experts.

Hays had the night off Thursday, leaving Eagar in charge of an elongated discourse on the marked decrease in marriage rates, according to a new national survey. For instance, in Leave It to Beaver days, 70 percent of all adults in their 20s were married, according to the latest data. Now only 26 percent of twentysomething adults are hitched, due in part to increases in divorce rates and the inclination to wait until later in life. For many others, marriage just isn't an end-all, be-all anymore.

Eagar was joined in-studio by "relationship expert" Nina Atwood and Fox4 reporter Matt Grubs, who introduced excerpts of his street interviewing on the subject. One of the interviewees was his wife, the station noted. For the record she's art gallery director Bonnie McClung.

On CBS11, Dunbar had an intriguing story on a gravestone emblazoned with "Nick Beef." In recent years it popped up right next to the marker for Lee Harvey Oswald at Shannon Rose Hill cemetery in Fort Worth. Who is Oswald's grave mate? That remains something of a mystery, but some say it's the stage name of a comedian who had the headstone placed there so that visitors could more easily find Oswald's burial spot. Rose Hill cemetery officials long have refused to give directions to Oswald's grave, but for awhile were willing to say where Nick Beef is buried. Now they won't say where the Beef is either.

Dunbar by no means is the first to report on the Nick Beef headstone. But he did get out there and interview people, including an elderly couple who live near the cemetery and witnessed Oswald's burial. Monday will mark the 47th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, and Dunbar also has done an interview with former motorcade Secret Service agent Clint Hill. It's scheduled to air on Friday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Borta's contribution Thursday night was an "exclusive" interview with former Cowboys coach Tom Landry's widow, Alicia Landry. It was tied to a just-announced reopening of a "Remembering Tom Landry" exhibit that proved to be a major attraction at the State Fair. The exhibit, which has a nominal adult admission fee of $2, will be back in view on the day after Thanksgiving and remain open until Super Bowl XLV in Arlington.

Borta did a nice job on the Landry interview while also touring the exhibit with her.

On NBC5, Curtis reported on worries that Texas could become the "Puppy Mill capital of the country" after neighboring states passed laws regulating their sizes and operations.

The Texas Humane Legislation Network is lobbying for a Texas law, but the Responsible Pet Owners Alliance helped to defeat a proposed bill the last time around. According to its statement to NBC5, "If breeding is regulated out of existence there'll be no animals left. We call it the 'pet elimination bill.' "

Supporters told Curtis they only want to end inhumane and overcrowded conditions for the puppies. Accompanying footage from a previous police raid showed what Curtis described as "deplorable conditions" at some mills.

Critics at WFAA8 might say that none of the above stories require any heavy lifting by the anchors involved. In that case, McCaa and Campos might want to be anchors away themselves. So far they're still not in the game while rivals continue to practice the old time religion that WFAA8 in particular used to embrace.


Thursday brought some heavy-duty courtroom drama with the case of a former Fort Worth police officer who recanted an earlier "Not Guilty" plea in the case of a young wife and mother who was killed when his vehicle smashed into hers. He had been drinking heavily at the time.

The outwardly remorseful defendant, Jesus Cisneros, broke down in court before the mother of the deceased told of the never-ending pain he had inflicted on her family. He then was given a 20-year prison sentence. Fox4 and NBC5 both led their newscasts with the dramatic testimony while CBS11 offered an extended excerpt midway through the newscast. WFAA8 curiously had no coverage at all on its 10 p.m. newscast. And the station's website has only a brief AP story on the verdict after reporter Chris Hawes' detailed story a year ago on the tragically fatal crash.

***Hawes was otherwise occupied Thursday night with a compelling story on an Arizona family that had adopted four Texas children before learning that all of them had been "severely sexually abused." The Texas Dept. of Human Services failed to notify them of this. And the emotionally scarred adopted children soon were molesting the couple's three youngest biological children.

The family involved had their names changed for Hawes' story, with their youngest children's faces digitally obscured. The adopted children eventually all were returned to the state after the couple was warned that they could lose their own children after unwittingly putting them in danger. They're now suing a Tarrant County caseworker and her supervisor.

***WFAA8 also had a good story by Monika Diaz, who reported that some businesses that balk at paying fees to join the Better Business Bureau in turn are getting failing grades from the BBB despite few if any complaints against them.

***On Fox4, Emily Lopez had an interesting story on a parent-student program designed to dent the 50 percent Hispanic dropout rate in a DISD whose "vast majority" of students are Hispanic. That makes for an especially alarming situation. The station also had a solid package on General Motors' post-bailout resurgence, with both Eagar and reporter Shaun Rabb contributing.

NOTE TO READERS: This is the closing installment in our latest "Night in the Lives" looks at what the late night newscasts are up to in ratings "sweeps" periods. I hope you found it to be worthwhile, readable and possibly even thought-provoking. Whatever the case, it's more satisfying to point out good work than to single out bad. That said, it's also important to be pointed.

Thanks for your readership.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night local newscasts (Wed., Nov. 17)

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A retired high school football coach's happiness brightened WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast Wednesday. And Rangers star Josh Hamilton talked about striving to conquer his demons on CBS11. Photos; Ed Bark

Solid gold human interest stories are hard to come by, but WFAA8 definitely had one on Wednesday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Reporter Gary Reaves charted the journey of a 1976 state high school championship ring that found its way back from a river bottom to the finger of a revered, retired Victoria football coach.

Steve Tibiletti never thought he'd see the ring again. But Brad Bieler of Forney dug it up while searching for salable metal in the Blanco River. His metal detector put him in touch with a "big gray lump" that coated a gold ring inscribed with the names of Coach Tibiletti name and the undefeated St. Joseph High School team he helmed 34 years ago. He had lost the ring in 1977, and of course had long given up on ever wearing it again.

But Bieler was determined to return it, and the 70-year-old Tibiletti got the surprise of his life during a half time ceremony at a St. Joseph's football game. You might say he was thrilled, and WFAA8 captured it all.

"Yessir, boy! That's it, brother!" Tibiletti exclaimed. And a bit later: "You made my life!"

It was a terrific story all around.

CBS11 also scored, although not as resoundingly, with anchor/reporter Tracy Kornet's interview of Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton, whose nearly fatal addictions to drugs and alcohol have been well-documented both locally and nationally.

Hamilton is "opening up to CBS11 and sharing stories you've not heard before," anchor Doug Dunbar told viewers.

That's debatable. But Hamilton did show Kornet some of his more fearsome tattoos while telling her, "When you become a child of God, the devil attacks you a lot harder."

Hamilton also spoke of recurrently seeing a "demon face" and of his determination to remain clean and sober.

"The guy just speaks from the heart all the time, you two," Kornet later told Dunbar and co-anchor Karen Borta.

Hamilton did likewise in his much-viewed "I Am Second" video. Still, his triumph over adversity remains a story worth re-telling -- even if CBS11 over-sold it as a full-blown "exclusive."

In contrast, CBS11 was the only station to show some restraint in its play of a science teacher's alleged sexual affair with a 16-year-old student at Fort Worth's Carter-Riverside High School.

The teacher, Jennifer Riojas, resigned three weeks ago and has been jailed. But there are some lurid details in newly available documents. So Fox4 and WFAA8 couldn't resist leading their newscasts with some of the juicier aspects while NBC5 played the story second after Scott Gordon's "Breaking News" report on a pilot who crashed into a tree in Roanoke but emerged unhurt. CBS11 waited until the nine-minute mark of its Wednesday 10 p.m. newscast to downplay matters via a brief anchor "reader" by Dunbar.

WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely, no piker when it comes to on-camera theatrics, sold the Riojas story with over-stated hand gestures and over-cooked rhetoric. The "accusations against Jennifer Riojas are as salacious as they are sickening," he declared before telling viewers that the documents say she had sex with the student in a hospital bed while he recovered from a football injury.

Rival stations also had that particular detail. But their reporters, Fox4's Brandon Todd and NBC5's Ellen Goldberg, didn't act as though they needed a sedative.

Fox4 took at least a one-night break from its latter day spate of elongated, live in-studio interviews to present something of a throwback, nuts and bolts 9 p.m. newscast that was heavily stocked with video sniglets. Coincidentally or not, it won its time period Wednesday night among 18-to-49-year-olds while running a close second to CBS' The Defenders in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds.

NBC5 had two interesting enterprise stories. Scott Friedman reported on the ongoing, dead-of-the-night construction of the DFW Connector in Grapevine. Comprised of 37 new bridges and a highway that will broaden to 20 lanes at some point, it's currently the largest project in the U.S. funded with federal stimulus money.

Later in the newscast, anchor Brian Curtis had an "Only on 5" piece about the Goss-Michael Foundation, which will open Friday in the Dallas Design district. Stocked with oft-provocative art work, it's helmed by Kenny Goss and his live-in partner, singer George Michael. Goss talked to Curtis about both the Foundation and Michael's repeated problems with drug and alcohol abuse. He recently served 27 days in jail for driving under the influence of drugs, but lately professes to be clean and sober again.

Meanwhile, your friendly content provider is feeling a bit punchy after watching eight consecutive weeknights worth of November "sweeps" newscasts on Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11. But the week is almost over, and some of the quality stories I've seen still make this an overall worthwhile endeavor. As evidence, here's the video of Reaves' aforementioned piece, which is well worth your time, too:

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night local newscasts (Tues., Nov. 16)


Ex-president George W. Bush with NBC5's Jane McGarry Photos: Ed Bark

Groundbreaking ceremonies for George W. Bush's presidential library on the SMU campus provided one of the better photo ops of the year Tuesday.

Fox4 easily had the most extensive after-dark coverage on its one-hour 9 p.m. newscast while WFAA8 and CBS11 condensed their reports after heavier play on early evening editions. But NBC5 was the only station to make the groundbreaking its lead late night story after anchors touted Bush's "exclusive" backstage interview with Jane McGarry.

Her access should hardly be surprising. She's not only a veteran anchor but a veteran Republican whose Facebook Fan page has posed pictures of McGarry with Condoleezza Rice, James Baker and earlier in the White House with Bush. There's now a new one up of McGarry and Bush grinning side by side. Might as well flaunt it.

Excerpts from McGarry's time with Bush were presented in two parts Tuesday. She first showed pictures of him posing with NBC5 staffer Cynthia Garcia, whose son was killed in Iraq. McGarry also brought his picture.

"You don't know what you mean to Cynthia, who lost her own son," McGarry told Bush. He replied in part, "It was the voices of the moms that kept echoing in my head" in times when he steeled his resolve to stay the course in Iraq.

In the second segment, Bush told McGarry that he's much happier back in Texas after the often "hostile and polarized and noisy" atmosphere in Washington.

She in turn wondered how he spends his day. "Do you make yourself a bowl of cereal in the morning," McGarry asked.

"I do," he said. "I'm a bran man at the age of 64. This prompted McGarry to pat Bush affectionately on his left arm while he added the now well-worn anecdote of how he also brings coffee in the morning to wife Laura. McGarry hung on every word.

Respect for the office of the presidency should still be paramount in this increasingly polarized land of ours. But I'm still old-school enough to add that reporters and anchors working for at least outwardly objective news organizations should find a way to cool it on the coziness. Asking Bush about his daily post-presidential routine is fine. Giving him a little love tap is not. It was reminiscent of the time that WFAA8 anchor/reporter Debbie Denmon asked former Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens for an on-camera hug, which he gave her. Journalism 101 isn't quite dead and buried yet. Is it?

Fox4's groundbreaking coverage in contrast was copious but balanced, with reporters Natalie Solis and Peter Daut both working the event. Solis ably handed the public speaking portions while Daut talked offstage to former high level Bush staffers Andrew Card, Ari Fleischer, Karen Hughes and Josh Bolten.

WFAA8 in contrast sent reporter Jim Douglas from Dallas to Washington, D.C. to cover the awarding of a Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta.

The local angle was a bit thin. Giunta is a native Iowan who has aunts, uncles and cousins living in Arlington. But Douglas did his usual thorough job, and had separate access to Giunta for an interview in which he said, "By no means am I special."

WFAA8 also had a nice human interest story by Steve Stoler, who reported on a Hurst-based missionary who was shot in the face during an ambush in Africa but recently returned to a hero's welcome. Stoler didn't journey to Africa, but did have video of Joey Starling's return.


Fox4's Clarice Tinsley interviewed Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes.

Over on CBS11, anchor Karen Borta broke away from the desk to do an intriguing story titled "Serial Killer Pen Pal."

She interviewed a North Texas woman named Norma (her last name wasn't given), who for years had corresponded with a woman prisoner who unbeknownst to her had murdered seven residents of her Sacramento boarding house. Dotty never discussed her crimes and until recently Norma never asked, Borta told viewers. Now she's feeling a little vexed.

CBS11 freelancer Jane Slater also had an interesting report on a man who was bullied as a kid after being born without arms or legs. Now 27, Nick Vujicic is an inspirational speaker who packed a church during a recent engagement in North Texas.

"When the world says you're not good enough, get a second opinion," he told Slater.

Finally, longtime Fox4 anchor Clarice Tinsley made a rare appearance as an interviewer on the station's Tuesday 9 p.m. newscast. She talked live in-studio to Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes, who thinks the once prosperous company is ready for another comeback.

Tinsley didn't exactly grill him. But she did deposit four pennies on a glass-topped table while telling him that Blockbuster's stock had dropped from $30 to 4 cents a share in the last eight years.

Keyes acknowledged the downspiral, but said that Blockbuster hopes to be prosperously back in the movie rental game via a new "early release" deal that will give the company a 28-day head start on some of its major competitors, including Netflix. As you can see in the above picture, the two grinned broadly together at interview's end. No need for that, really.

Nice guys finish third -- on prominent website's all-time worst list

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Babe Laufenberg in CBS11 photo and with San Diego Chargers.

A new deadspin.com list of the NFL's all-time 100 worst players is at first gentle to CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg, former backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints.

"On the bright side, Laufenberg was beloved as one of football's true nice guys" the website says before ranking him as the third worst NFL player ever.

Highlighted is Laufenberg's well-documented, dismal close-out of the 1990 season as a replacement for injured Cowboys QB Troy Aikman. Dallas needed just one win in the last two games to make the playoffs. But Laufenberg completed a grand total of just 23 of 60 passes, with one touchdown and six interceptions. The Cowboys lost both games.

Laufenberg, who's had a pretty good sense of humor about these things over the years, was edged out by former Bears/Cardinals QB Rusty Lisch (No. 1 on the list) and Giants kicker Bob Timberlake, the runnerup.

But the Babe was rated worse than even former Cowboys QB Ryan Leaf, a former No. 2 overall draft pick who threw two touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his rookie season with the Chargers. Leaf ranked No. 5.

Other former Cowboys in the top 100 are Shante Carver (No. 11); Paul Palmer (No. 32); Elvis Patterson (No. 33); Golden Richards (No. 34); Johnny Mitchell (No. 43); Drew Henson (No. 61); Everett McIver (No. 68); Quincy Carter (No. 70); Bobby Carpenter (No. 98) and oddly enough, Larry Brown (No. 100).

Deadspin say that Brown had "no speed, no hands, no confidence -- and he lucked into the Super Bowl XXX MVP trophy (as a Cowboy) when Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell threw him two softies."

Laufenberg perhaps can take some comfort in the fact that he at least played the game at its highest level while his D-FW sports anchor competitors -- Dale Hansen, Newy Scruggs, Mike Doocy -- did not.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night local newscasts (Mon., Nov. 15)


Making news on WFAA8 Monday night: Sports anchor Dale Hansen's "violation" of the station's dress code, for which he received a fake suspension during the course of the newscast. Photos: Ed Bark

Beware: children at play.

For starters Monday night, WFAA8's Pete Delkus leaned into the camera for one of his prime-time weather teases, but then threw a curveball during a break from ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

"Did Hansen finally get suspended?" he asked with a completely serious face. "The answer tonight, at 10." The same tease popped up later during respites from the night's other ABC programming.

The reference, to WFAA8's ever voluble and opinionated sports anchor, Dale Hansen, might well have puzzled a good number of the 491,725 D-FW viewers that Nielsen Media Research says were watching ABC's most popular program.

Whatever the impact, WFAA8's "suspension"-fused 10 p.m. newscast just happened to handily beat arch rival CBS11 in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. The two stations remain locked in another airtight race for late night news ratings supremacy after CBS11 narrowly won the May ratings "sweeps" in both measurements for the first time in its history. A total of seven weeknights now remain in the November sweeps.

Delkus returned to the Hansen festivities after Monday night's weathercast, priming the pump by saying, "This guy right over here, after all of these years of just totally looking the other way at anything that management says -- it's finally caught up with you, hasn't it?"

It should be noted that Hansen's latest foot-in-mouth ad lib came Friday night, after Delkus reminded him that it was wife Chris Hansen's birthday. Hansen joked that she had just turned 21. "Now she's legal, and I don't have to lie to the bartenders anymore."

But no, an unfortunate joke about under-age drinking didn't get him in any trouble -- at least on the WFAA8 homefront. Instead the Monday night gambit was tied to Hansen's ragging on interim Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, whose new rules require players and coaches to wear coats and ties on flights to and from games.

But for the victorious trip home from New York, running back and co-team captain Marion Barber wore a shirt that was not tucked in, no tie, jeans and sneakers with no socks. He reportedly was fined, but Garrett told reporters Monday that such matters will be kept in-house. Hansen apparently still wants his pound of flesh anyway.

"Cell phone cameras," he told Delkus and news anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos. "When you tend to violate the rules like I do from time to time, I mean you get caught."

Viewers were treated to the above picture of Hansen, dressed semi-Marion Barber-style, while he continued to carry on in rather discombobulated fashion at the anchor desk. Verbatim, here's what he said: "You see what happens here?" I might be in a little trouble. I violated the Channel 8 dress code yesterday. And just like Cowboys running back Marion Barber did this week -- now just like the Cowboys -- management won't confirm or deny that. It's handled in-house, like all good organizations do. But there's a price to pay. And I'll pay it next in sports."

After a commercial break, reporter and substitute anchor Joe Trahan manned Hansen's spot for a few seconds before he returned and said, "OK, I had to sit out the first line (of the sports segment intro.) But I'm in for the second. This discipline thing is really hard. But I've learned my lesson."

That's a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng way to go for a really lame joke. And the infraction was compounded Monday night by management allowing Delkus to raise the question of Hansen's suspension as a viewer fake-out during a closely contested sweeps ratings race.

WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine declined to comment in any way on the record Tuesday. But really, does a station that's been much-honored for its news reporting -- and very willing to put itself above its rivals in an ongoing promotional campaign -- really need to resort to this kind of stuff in hopes of eking out a ratings sweeps win?

As noted many times here, Hansen is one of a kind -- and far more often than not that's a good thing in this market. His candor is a breath of hot air, with Hansen's occasional "Unplugged" commentaries regularly serving as collectors' items. WFAA8 went too far this time, though. And in so doing, at least briefly forfeited the right to be so sanctimonious -- if not outright arrogant -- about how superior its content is compared to that of Fox4, NBC5 or CBS11.

Yeah, it's OK to have a little fun during a newscast. Anyone who calls his website unclebarky.com fully realizes that. But WFAA8's Monday 10 p.m. newscast, preceded by those phony, bait-and-switch prime-time teases, was just too much of a three-ring circus. You've got to know when to send out the clowns.


CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen was over-charged for a pack of Oreos during the course of her story on how unwarranted sales taxes on snack items can add up to real money over time.

On the surface it sounded kind of penny ante. But CBS11 investigator Ginger Allen's look at unwarranted sales taxes on certain snacks and drinks added up to an interesting report.

"It may be only a few cents here and there," she told viewers. "But those nickels and dimes add up."

The impetus for her extended report was an aggrieved man who seems to have made it his life's work lately to document some of the extra charges people are paying at convenience stores for cookies, chips, drinks and the like. His cause celebre was a pack of cookies that should cost just 79 cents. But many merchants unknowingly tack on a bogus sales tax, raising the price to 86 cents.

Allen visited a number of stores herself, and was repeatedly over-charged. She didn't go in with a sledge-hammer to demand justice. Instead she revisited some of the stores to politely inform them of their over-charges. Many clerks were confused as to what items are taxed by the state and which ones aren't. Allen noted as much by later displaying an array of drinks in the CBS11 studio before walking co-anchor Doug Dunbar through the minefield of state sales tax variations. It can be very "confusing," both acknowledged. And for that reason and more, her report was quite informative.

***WFAA8 gumshoe Brett Shipp had bigger bucks to fry in connection with a long-planned Las Colinas Entertainment Center set to open next year as the brainchild of Billy Bob Barnett of Billy Bob's Texas fame.

The city of Irving has heavily invested in the project, but taxpayer money is only supposed to be used for items "directly related to the construction costs" of the multi-million dollar complex. WFAA8's examination of expense records instead showed city money being spent on the likes of Barnett's chauffeur ($2,000), and pricey meals and hotel stays.

Irving Mayor Herb Gears talked on-camera to Shipp, as did project manager Brenda McDonald. But he said that Barnett and his partner were no-shows for an agreed-upon interview.

Shipp is nothing if not aggressive, but he could have used a lighter touch with McDonald, who seemed to be pretty candid in answering his questions as best she could.

"He's a driver for Billy Bob," Shipp told McDonald after he threw out the man's name and she couldn't identify him. "The city's paying his salary. You OK with that?"

"It would, honestly," she began before he cut her off.

"Are you OK with that?" Shipp demanded.

"As a general statement, that's probably not an appropriate expense," she acknowledged when allowed to finish.

Shipp's voice inflections were borderline sarcastic during this particular inquisition. Sometimes you just have to temper this stuff a bit in the interests of getting the information without seeming to be insufferable about it.

***On Fox4, investigator Becky Oliver led the 9 p.m. newscast with an up-close look at a solicitor who appeared to be violating state law by offering $100 to $150 payments to patients who signed up to pay for Medicare-funded home health care.

The woman, Ollie Futrell, kept walking away from Oliver when asked to explain herself. It made for "good television," but it was a tough story to sell in terms of why it should matter all that much one way or the other. In a subsequent live interview with anchor Heather Hays, a former special counsel for health care fraud said that kickbacks of this sort can raise health care costs for everyone. Oliver is a tough cookie who's done some eye-opening investigations in recent months. This one really didn't resonate, though.

***Later on Fox4, news anchor Steve Eagar again played sports reporter by sitting down with former Cowboys special teams coach Joe Avezzano (who used to be a regular on Hansen's Sunday night sports specials) and Fox4 reporter/substitute anchor Max Morgan. The subject, of course, was the Dallas Cowboys and the impact of new coach Garrett. It went on for a mighty long time, with Eagar orchestrating and Morgan largely a silent partner.

We'll say this again. Nielsen Media Research data says that women of the ages 25 to 54 are far bigger newscast watchers than men of that vintage. And they represent a prized demographic. So why devote another lengthy, mid-newscast segment to sports (on Friday it was the TCU football team) when research at any TV station says it's a topic that's largely a turnoff to women? Your friendly content provider doesn't mind the extra big helpings of sports blah-blah-blah. But I'm both outside the prime demographic and of a less desirable gender. Or to put it another way, most TV advertisers don't butter their bread with 62-year-old males. Even frisky ones.

***NBC5 co-anchor Meredith Land had an OK report on how the GPS devices on cell phones can help stalkers track you down. As evidence, Land showed viewers "how easy it is to track me." Let's hope that doesn't backfire on her.

***WFAA8 led its newscast with a story on a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan and state lottery player who was told he had won both admission to a "draft day party" with owner Jerry Jones and season tickets for next year. But the state lottery commission later said it had made an "unfortunate clerical error" in rewarding the season tickets. He'll still get to go to the party, though.

The problem with this story? Reporter Jason Whitely seemed far more aggrieved than the man who thought he had scored doubly big. He seemed more than happy enough with what he'd won, and remains a big Cowboys fan.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Nov. 12-14) -- no more Wade-ing in; Cowboys ride Garrett's new wave to big win, big numbers


Smiley faces Sunday for DeMarcus Ware, Jason Garrett. Photo: Ed Bark

Wow, that's all it took? The Dallas Cowboys regained their giddyup against the Giants Sunday, with their D-FW ratings also re-flexing.

Interrupted by a major power outage, Sunday's game on Fox ran all the way to 6:39 p.m., averaging 1,288,180 viewers with a peak crowd of 1,482,100 in the closing minutes. The Cowboys' 33-20 victory, under new head coach Jason Garrett, went down a lot easier in North Texas than the previous Sunday's prime-time swoon at Green Bay, which cost Wade Phillips his job and averaged 1,031,929 viewers on NBC.

The Peacock had a marquee game between the Patriots and Steelers this time around. It averaged 415,542 D-FW viewers, falling a bit short of the afternoon crowd for Fox's Bears-Vikings game (422,468 viewers). CBS' competing Texans-Jaguars game had 214,697 viewers.

Saturday's biggest football attraction, Oklahoma State's manhandling of the now hapless Texas Longhorns on ABC, likewise drew a prime-time crowd of 214,697 viewers.

In Friday's Nielsens, another 8 p.m. episode of Fox's made-in-Dallas The Good Guys again went largely unwatched. It tied for fourth with The CW's Supernatural in total viewers and fell to fifth in its time slot among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds.

Friday's local news derby results put CBS11 atop the 10 p.m. total viewer ratings while NBC5 claimed a rare first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 swept the 6 a.m. competitions and WFAA8 did likewise at 5 p.m. The 6 p.m. laurels were split between CBS11 in total viewers and Fox4 in the 25-to-54 demographic.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night local newscasts (Fri., Nov. 12)


CBS11's Jack Fink leads his station's Friday 10 p.m. newscast with a live report from a storm-damaged Greenville Braum's. Photo: Ed Bark

A Greenville Braum's ice cream store that had parts of its roof blown off by wind gusts became the center of the late night TV news universe Friday.

Fox4 opened its 9 p.m. newscast with overhead video of the damage while NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all had reporters stationed in the dark at the scene. No one was injured but pictures of jagged debris always make for a good picture story.

CBS11 got a little carried away, though, boasting that its man on the scene, Jack Fink, was the only reporter to talk to a man whose truck suffered a big dent when a sign blew onto it.

On NBC5, co-anchor Kevin Cokely ramped up the excitement with his declaration that "falling temperatures are the talk of North Texas tonight." One woman reported an eight degree drop in her truck temperature gauge after a cold front passed over. Imagine that.

All four stations also had prominent coverage of a man charged with child abandonment after he smashed his vehicle late Thursday night while allegedly driving drunk. He eventually fled, leaving his four children, one of them nine months old, to fend for themselves. Fox4 and WFAA8 both named the man and showed his picture. He's supposedly in the country illegally again after earlier being deported.

NBC5's comparatively brief report didn't name the fugitive, who's charged with child abandonment. CBS11 also withheld the man's identity, with reporter Jay Gormley telling viewers that "police are asking that we not release his name because they don't want him to skip town."

That's an odd rationale, and Fox4 and WFAA8 were right to ignore it if in fact they received the same request from police. Miguel Torres, who already had two previous warrants out for his arrest, doesn't seem like the type to spend a lot of time reading or watching TV news coverage. And it already had been almost 24 hours since he crashed his vehicle. At that point, the public had the right to know that a potentially very dangerous man is still out there. Naming him -- and showing what he looks like -- was the right thing to do.

Fox4 reporter Peter Daut even knocked on Torres' apartment door Friday night in a failed effort to find him. Neighbors said he regularly was drunk.

Fox4 later brought its newscast to a screeching halt with another of its extended in-studio interview segments. Some have worked very well, but this one definitely didn't.

Anchor Steve Eagar and ESPN radio's Kelly Webster talked at length about college football's lack of a playoff system in determining its national champion. The focus was on TCU, currently ranked third in the Bowl Championship Series as an "at large" contender for the national championship. In other words, the Mountain West Conference, in which TCU plays, is not deemed strong enough to have its champion automatically included in the post-season mix of BCS games. And so on.

Let's assume that this particular segment was of scant if any interest to a key newscast target audience, women of the ages 25-to-54. So even on a relatively slow news night, it made little sense to devote this much time to a segment that was spiced only by Webster informing Eagar near the start, "I want you to let me talk now." Eagar, seldom less than cocksure of himself, took it like a man and later appeared to be flirting a bit with Webster. Whatever the case, the segment bombed.

Fox4 also had a rather boring taped interview with re-elected Democratic congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who earlier had been embroiled in a student scholarship scandal. Johnson told reporter Shaun Rabb that she plans to write a book and "the entire story will be in it." Right. What else is new?

Worse yet, Rabb eventually told viewers to go to the station's website for "extended" un-aired excerpts of the interview, including what Johnson thinks of prominent Republicans Sarah Palin and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Don't play us that way. Those comments should have been part of the Fox4 broadcast.


CBS11 reporters Arezow Doost and J.D. Miles both made interesting contributions Friday night.

Doost had a story on the lasting impact of a former high school football player's decision to get drunk with his buddies. A subsequent car wreck eight years ago, in which he was a passenger, left Kenny Bollier a quadriplegic. Massive medical expenses in the years since have left his family facing foreclosure on their home.

Miles reported on a home repair scam in which gypsy con artists prey on seniors. An 88-year-old woman paid more than $2,000 for shoddy work that left her home looking worse than before.

"I guess I'm just gullible," she told Miles. "I trust people too much."

***WFAA8 investigator Brett Shipp had an extended report on unmarked or poorly marked gas lines. This isn't a "sexy" news topic, but Shipp rightly has been dogging the Texas Railroad Commission on potentially lethal gas lines and gas couplings. In some cases, major action has been taken as the result of his reports. Both the station and Shipp should be commended for staying on the case.

***Finally, WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen wound up the week with a childish comment on his wife's birthday after comedy partner/weathercaster Pete Delkus reminded him of it.

Hansen cracked that his wife, Chris, had just turned 21. "Now she's legal and I don't have to lie to the bartenders anymore," he said to laughter all around.

Dale is Dale. And he's long made it clear that he'll say whatever he wants. But this was poor judgment on his part. Jokes about under-age drinking just don't cut it anymore.

WFAA8's David Schechter is looking more and more like North Texas' best TV storyteller

Dallas-based WFAA8 reporter David Schechter is a Clark Kent-ish looking guy who oftentimes has super powers when it comes to telling a good story.

They can be hard or soft. Schechter's recent reports on speeding packs of life-endangering motorcyclists have gotten the attention of various regulatory bodies. But he's lately had another pet project -- pets. And butterflies, too.

On Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast, Schechter had a story on the Rio Grande Valley's National Butterfly Center, which is dedicated to protecting the hundreds of species unique to Texas.

He also recently told of the reunion of a man and his bulldog, Impala, after an armed robbery had separated them. A $5,000 reward was offered, but the kindly Oak Cliff family that found Impala refused to take a cent.

Both stories were uplifting. But for a true short-form classic, look no further than Schechter's earlier story on a Hunt County dog named Spot. His master was killed by a drunk driver five months ago. But Spot still keeps the faith, and you might well be hard-pressed to hold back a tear after watching the below video.

Its pictures make the story, but Schechter knows just how to use them. His style, and the story's substance, are a perfect combination.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., Nov. 11)

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WFAA8 and Fox4 both had innovative lead stories. Photos: Ed Bark

Temperatures will be dipping a bit over the weekend and some intermittent rain is expected, too.

Ooh, scary. Not really. Still, NBC5 and CBS11 went the all-too-easy routes by leading their 10 p.m. newscasts with weather updates Thursday.

"We'll be going from short sleeves and sunglasses to jackets and umbrellas," CBS11 co-anchor Karen Borta warned before tossing it to meteorologist Larry Mowry.

This is hardly cataclysmic, and none of the stations' weathercasters portrayed it as such. But whether the weather is frightful is often beside the point. Newscast consultants say it's hard to go wrong by leading with it. So NBC5 and CBS11 succumbed while Fox4 and WFAA8 resisted in favor of topping their newscasts with distinctive stories that no one else had.

Fox4 wasn't alone in reporting on Wednesday's early afternoon I-30 pileup that left traffic in place for hours on end. But it was the only station to interview the driver whose recently purchased red Ford Focus was caught right in the middle of it when a cement mixer truck plowed into him.

"It was like a really bad horror movie," survivor Xeaver Dupree told co-anchor Heather Hays during a live in-studio interview.

He had been driving to a job interview, Dupree said, when the truck crossed over into opposite direction traffic and leveled his car while he was heading to a job interview. Soft-spoken and still clearly shaken, Dupree said he squeezed his way out of his car and helped another lady out of hers before he passed out. He didn't know if he'd be able to sleep Thursday night.

This was a prime grade human interest story, made all the more immediate in a live interview setting. Fox4 sometimes sinks with its latter day turn toward oft-lengthy in-studio segments tied to current issues or events. But this one was a keeper.

WFAA8 also had an eye-opener, leading its late nighter with Gary Reaves' "Dangerous Crossing" story on Union Pacific trains that regularly violate city ordinances by blocking an intersection in Pleasant Grove for more than an hour at a time. The station had video of Skyline High School students climbing over the train between car couplings rather than wait for it to start moving again.

This obviously is a dangerous gambit. And Reaves' story underscored this by telling viewers that "exactly 27 second later, another train roared through on the neighborhood track." WFAA8 had the accompanying video to prove it.

Trains make these lengthy stops to unload automobiles at a close-by rail yard, Union Pacific told WFAA8. But in a statement, the train company said it is "very concerned about the safety of the students and will explore how we can alleviate this situation for them."

The whistleblower in this case, interviewed by Reaves, was a neighborhood man who said he had been complaining about the situation for years. Oftentimes it takes a companion TV story to vividly illustrate the problem and force action. This apparently will be one of those times.

All four major late night TV news providers devoted time to Veterans' Day, with WFAA8 offering comparatively scant coverage while Fox4 had story after story.

The standouts were Fox4 reporter Brandon Todd's piece on an impressive start-from-scratch World War II museum in Fort Worth and Fil Alvarado's piece on a 73-year-old veteran who journeys to DFW Airport almost every day to greet arriving troops.

On CBS11, co-anchor Doug Dunbar had an affecting story on a non-profit "Honor Flight" program that takes North Texas WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to see various war memorials for the first time.

The station also had a second intended heart-tugger by freelancer Jane Slater, who interviewed the widow of a North Texas man (Kerry James) who perished four years ago in a mountain-climbing tragedy that received heavy national coverage. The story went on way too long, though, with Slater needlessly asking at its end, "Do you think he'd be proud of you right now?"

"Yeah," said Karen James, fighting back tears.

One can empathize with anyone who has lost a loved one. And I'm not trying to diminish anyone's long-held grief. But perhaps it's time for something of a moratorium on stories of this sort. They've almost reached the epidemic -- if not the exploitive -- stage, with WFAA8's Rebecca Lopez doing an "exclusive" interview Thursday night with the parents of a deceased 10-year-old boy. They had decided to talk on TV "for the first time" about their son's death two years ago. While riding his bike in the night he was struck by a police officer who allegedly was driving 30 miles per hour over the speed limit while responding to a non-emergency situation.

NBC5 reporter Scott Gordon had a story of far more immediate import. He interviewed the widow of a man who was shot and killed on Oct. 26th while walking his dog. The couple had been married for just two months when the murder occurred. And police still have no leads or witnesses.


Fun with audio -- or lack thereof. Sports anchor Mike Doocy partly vanishes behind a Cowboys logo while trying to be heard.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS . . . Fox4's 9 p.m. news stopped being a talkie for several very long seconds when sports anchor Mike Doocy's mike went dead.

He eventually borrowed anchor Hays' mini-mouthpiece and held it to his own mouth while doing what comes naturally -- another Dallas Cowboys story.

***WFAA8 had a nice change of pace from sports reporter Ted Madden. He had a story on the largely overlooked FC Dallas pro soccer team, which had a 19-game winning streak this season and now is vying for a conference championship against a Los Angeles Galaxy team fortified by soccer superstars David Beckham and Landon Donovan.

***CBS11 reporter Jack Fink usually does his own reporting, and has proven to be quite capable at it. But on Thursday the station had him narrating a prominently played interview with two North Texas survivors of the now infamous Carnival Splendor cruise ship breakdown.

The interviews were done in a Los Angeles hotel room, obviously by someone other than Fink. He said as much by signing off with "In Dallas, Jack Fink. CBS11 news." Memo to station management: Don't make him do this stuff.

***Fox4 reporter Shaun Rabb had an "exclusive" sit-down with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas County, a key Republican player who said at one point, "The poor have a president in Barack Obama that they overwhelmingly elected. And the president has unemployment numbers that have never been seen by this country. The African-American unemployment is as high as it's ever been."

Rabb later followed up, telling a notably clammy-looking Sessions, "A minute ago you referred to him as the president of the poor. Is he the president of the rich as well?"

"I did not refer to him as the president of the poor," Sessions replied. "I referred to him as an African-American president. And African-Americans have very high unemployment."

Make of this what you will.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., Nov. 10)

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CBS11's Andrea Lucia and NBC5's Scott Friedman Photos: Ed Bark

Ample worthwhile reporting broke out during Wednesday's late night newsers, which also featured gang coverage of Sarah Palin's appearance at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas.

Let's first get to some of the good stuff.

NBC5 really isn't into lengthy investigative reporting, but makes occasional exceptions for Scott Friedman.

His principal venue is the station's early morning newscasts, which he co-anchors with Deborah Ferguson. Friedman sometimes gets a chance to stretch, though, and remains one of D-FW's more capable enterprise reporters when he does.

Friedman took an in-depth look at whether neighborhood police "storefronts" really are much of a crime deterrent. Some small business owners think not. A convenience store located in close proximity to a miniature cop shop has put up concertina wire after repeated robberies. In another instance, a man was stabbed right behind one of the police storefronts.

Police records examined by Friedman showed that "dozens" of recent crimes have occurred in the very near vicinity of these neighborhood police centers. One clear reason is that "in Dallas, most storefronts shut down at 5 p.m.," Friedman told viewers.

He also interviewed a police spokesman who said "storefront approaches do work" in limiting crime. And Friedman cited an example of an apartment complex where break-ins were epidemic until a neighborhood police presence was established. His overall conclusion: "Simply living across the street from the law is no guarantee that crime won't live on your block." It was a sturdy, informative story, with Friedman given ample time to air it out.

***The major vandalism of Plummer Elementary School in Cedar Hill by knuckle-dragging dunces got the attention of several stations. But CBS11 brought it all home by leading its newscast with the quick turnaround clean-up by Plummer's teachers and students. Their efforts and teamwork enabled the school to be re-opened Thursday after just a one-day shutdown.

Recently hired freelance reporter Andrea Lucia, who previously worked at KHOU-TV in Houston, reported live from the school's sparkling hallways after her taped story showed both the extent of the damage and the determination to clean it up. Mission accomplished, with Lucia offering vivid proof to viewers by staying in place Wednesday night.

***On WFAA8, reporter Gary Reaves was the latest to embody the station's "Crossing State Lines" promotional campaign. He journeyed to Utah to look at a new device that shuts down a cell phone's texting capabilities when a vehicle is in motion. The local angle was a University of Texas business school grad whose Salt Lake City-based company is marketing the gadget.

WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos set the table for Reaves' story by noting that more than 16,141 deaths in the years 2001-07 have been attributed to texting behind the wheel. Many of the fatalities have been teenagers. So Reaves' trip can be judged worthwhile under the circumstances.

***In contrast, Fox4 stayed close to home -- and in the studio again -- for co-anchor Heather Hays' show-and-tell of graphic, government-funded anti-smoking labels that must appear on cancer stick packages by June of next year. An adman named Wayne Walker joined Hays to walk through four of the labels. One shows a rotting smoker's lung next to a healthy one; another is an up-close look at badly stained teeth and an accompanying lip sore caused by smoking.

"Who would want to kiss this mouth?" Hays asked rhetorically. She also noted that she'd been a smoker herself until quitting when the price per pack got too high. As noted previously in these spaces, Fox4 increasingly is using its anchors as in-studio interviewers. The cigarette segment proved to be a joltingly good example of how this can work quite well.

All four stations had reporter-driven stories on Palin's Wednesday night appearance at the Majestic on behalf of the pro-life group Heroic Media. Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Dallas mayor Tom Leppert also were along for her ride, with Palin of course declining to take any questions from the "mainstream" media because, well, they're all the equivalent of Commie pinkos.

CBS11's Jay Gormley tried to make the most of the situation anyway after co-anchor Karen Borta said that "Palin seems to like Perry and Perry seems to like Palin. And both are rumored to have presidential aspirations."

Gormley showed Palin extolling Perry during her speech as "a man that I dearly love and respect." And Perry, who also signed copies of his new book at the event, acknowledged on camera that he once considered running for president but now wants to stay put in Texas after again being reelected as governor.

CBS11 political analyst John Weekly said that Palin "has a lot of baggage, and I think that baggage would be there to exploit." Gormley took it from there, telling viewers in his closing standup: "Weekly agreed that a Palin-Perry political pairing would generate tremendous interest, but says it would likely be the type of interest the Republican Party would rather avoid."

***Also on CBS11, investigator Jack Fink looked into questionable claims-dodging by the United Automobile Insurance agency. Two motorists hit by drivers with United policies said they were stiffed when the agency said it couldn't locate its own customers. They then had to file claims with their personal insurance companies, even though neither driver was at fault.

Fink visited the agency and encountered a pair of standard-issue pot-bellied spokesmen who claimed that everything was above-board. Shortly after his visit, one of the aggrieved motorists said she'd been contacted by United and offered a refund after the company located the customer it somehow couldn't find before. Fink, who had found one of the United customers on his own, spiked his voice inflection with a sprinkle of sarcasm in relating this turn of events to viewers. But in this case he was entitled.

***Fox4 co-anchor Steve Eagar handled a newscast-closing "Viewers' Voice" query from someone who was sick of reporter Shaun Rabb's trademark signoff -- "Shaun Rabb. Fox4 -- pause, one, two -- news." The viewer wondered why he keeps doing that.

"Why is the sky blue?" Eagar retorted. "Why can't we all just get along? Why does Shaun pause? All powerful generational questions that I can't answer. I really think it's just his thing, ya know."

It made him sound like one of those aforementioned United Automobile Insurance guys.

*** Finally, WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen took another two swings at his favorite pinata -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

With Jason Garrett the team's new head coach, "Jerry Jones thinks they're a Super Bowl team now," Hansen said. "Well, I made that last part up."

After reporter Joe Trahan's dispatch from Valley Ranch, Hansen said that Jones was "so upset" by the firing of Wade Phillips that he jetted off to Las Vegas.

WFAA8 news director Michael Valentine had no comment :) :) :)

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., Nov. 9)


WFAA8 gumshoe Byron Harris stood out Tues. night. Photos: Ed Bark

Longtime WFAA8 investigator Byron Harris doesn't mess around. When he has you in his crosshairs, he pulls the trigger. In the bullseye Tuesday night was a seemingly hapless spokeswoman dispatched in place of her bosses. She didn't fare all that well as the lengthy report's designated deer-in-the-headlights.

Harris probed a Dallas-based ATI "career college" and the Texas Workforce Commission that supposedly regulates both how it operates and the taxpayer money coming its way.

Detractors of ATI claimed it's a sham operation whose students pay big tuition money in return for promised high-paying technical jobs that often never materialize. They're then supposedly left with dashed dreams and big debts.

One former student, named Randy Mathis, told Harris that the school basically is an "irresponsible" dump with decrepit facilities, a disinterested faculty and students who regularly show up drunk or high.

ATI officials declined to be interviewed, as did Texas Workforce Commission higher-ups. Harris instead was stuck with TWC spokeswoman Ann Hatchitt. He feasted on her evasive answers, including "I'll have to look into that, Byron."

"What you're telling me," he snapped back, "is you don't know the answer and you won't let me speak to the people who do."

"No, I was saying the exact opposite," she said rather weakly.

The Texas Workforce Commission also refused to release job placement records for ATI, saying that graduates' names are protected under federal law.

Harris had a spicy comeback. "Using that logic, every high school yearbook in history would be illegal," he told viewers while thumbing through one.

WFAA8 news anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos added their editorial comments after Harris summed up his findings.

"Pretty pathetic," McCaa opined after Harris said, "The big schools appear to be immune to unilateral action by the Texas Workforce Commission."

"That's bad news. That's right," Campos added.

There seems to be more of this going around lately.

On Fox4's Tuesday 9 p.m. newscast, news anchor Steve Eagar commented on the firing of a Connecticut woman after she complained about her boss on Facebook.

"What she did was dumb," he said as a way to break the ice with a job recruiter he interviewed live in the station's studios.

Eagar also appreciated a trick play that led to a tying touchdown in a middle school championship football game. Basically, the quarterback took a sideways snap from the center and strolled into the opponent team's off-guard defenders before suddenly breaking into a run.

"I think it was great," he told co-anchor Heather Hays after reporter Sophia Reza raised the sportsmanship aspect of the play by showing video to football fans outside Clark Stadium in Plano.


Fox4 reporters Shaun Rabb and Matt Grubs bat around the plusses and minuses of George W. Bush's new book and attendant tour.

Fox4 reporters also were encouraged to make their feelings felt in an exceedingly odd little taped segment from the station's lunchroom.

Sitting in front of a pair of vending machines, Shaun Rabb and Matt Grubs discoursed on George W. Bush's book tour in support of his new memoir Decision Points.

Rabb said he didn't know Bush all that well, but was on a plane with him during his 2000 campaign for president. Bush sat down next to him while "I was reading my little bible," Rabb recollected. The two ended up discussing the value of religious faith.

Grubs said of Bush: "I think he does want to be seen at the very least as a guy who did his job." He then blurted, "Well, let's hit it."

Grubs presumably meant that they should return to the streets to have more action-reporter adventures. But slaps alongside their heads also would have been welcome. What the hell's going on here? And whose idea was this? Anchor-reporter "involvement" is spreading like wildfire among Fox owned-and-operated stations, of which Fox4 is one. But they really need to towel off and cool it a bit.

It should be noted that Fox4 also had a really good story about a 12-minute Glee-inspired music video produced by Martin High School of Arlington. It incorporated the entire 3,500-member student and faculty body as a means of instilling unity and school pride. Reporter Natalie Solis energetically reported the story, had some fun with it and was aided by some very inventive editing. A fine job all around.

Fox4's James Rose also first reported Monday night on a prosecutor in the Dallas County District Attorney's office who claimed he was fired by DA Craig Watkins after being spotted attending an election night rally for Republican opponent Danny Clancy. NBC5 and CBS11 both piggybacked on that story Tuesday night.

Neither of those two stations had any standout stories Tuesday night. But NBC5 Night Ranger Scott Gordon just couldn't resist saying "some people are crying foul" while reporting on a proposed Fort Worth ordinance that would limit the number of roosters a resident can own.

It's a good thing that Robert Cluck is the mayor of Arlington -- not Fort Worth.

This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Mon., Nov. 8)


Three guys standin' around talkin': Fox4 sports anchor Mike Doocy with analysts and former NFL players Daryl Johnston and Sean Salisbury in opening segment that ran for 13 minutes. Photos: Ed Bark

The elections and the World Series are over, leaving D-FW's four major late night newscasts on relatively even playing fields as we near the mid-point of the 20-weekday November "sweeps" ratings period.

So if stamina and stomach permit, we're going to resume this feature with two full weeks of up-close looks at the 10 p.m. newscasts on NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11, plus Fox4's featured 9 p.m. news. Why? Because it helps to get reacquainted with the principal players and any notable changes in their approaches. TV critics ideally are supposed to point out both the good and the bad in local TV anchoring and reporting. And you can't do that without zooming in on content.

Not at all surprisingly, all four stations led Monday's late nighters with the firing of Wade Phillips and hiring of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett as head coach of the inept 1-7 Dallas Cowboys. Owner/puppet master Jerry Jones announced both decisions Monday afternoon.

Under Fox4's still relatively new extended story/interview stratagem, sports anchor Mike Doocy spent the first 13 minutes of the 9 p.m. newscast talking turkey in the studio with analysts Daryl Johnston and Sean Salisbury, both of whom are also former NFL players. The remainder of the first half-hour then went to investigator Becky Oliver's look into verbal abuse at a federally funded day care home, followed by co-anchor Heather Hays' live split-screen interview with a United Way of Dallas childcare expert.

This is risky business, with potential plusses and perils. It's nice to see the station air it out with lengthy looks at newsworthy topics. But if those topics are a turn-off, it's just as easy for a viewer to change channels rather than sit through a long discourse of little interest to him/her.

During the opening Cowboys segment, both Johnston and Salisbury agreed that the team likely was over-rated from the start while also under added pressure to christen February's Super Bowl XLV in Jerry's Palace with the first-ever appearance of a home team. Things gradually started getting redundant, though. Even another Cowboys soap opera can be a yawner after a while.

Hays later injected her own feelings at the start of her interview with United Way's Susan Hoff, telling her that "as a mom, I mean, it makes me sick to hear the audio that we just heard in Becky's story."

Fox's owned-and-operated stations, of which Fox4 is one, lately have been ramping up screen time and story "involvement" on the part of their anchors.

In the third segment on Monday's newscast, co-anchor Steve Eagar and reporter Matt Grubs sat beside each other live in the studio while analyzing former president George W. Bush's earlier book-promoting appearance on an NBC prime-time special.

"That was one area where he started to own it a little bit," Grubs said of Bush acknowledging that he had badly handled the initial response to Hurricane Katrina. Grubs also noted that Bush would be "on with Rush" Tuesday afternoon, an overly familiar reference to radio's Rush Limbaugh. He'll likely be more encouraged to criticize President Obama in that forum, Eagar and Grubs agreed.

Left unmentioned, obviously by choice, was Bush's scheduled appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, which is carried at 4 p.m. weekdays by a competing station, WFAA8. That station of course plugged the Oprah/Bush program while leaving Limbaugh unmentioned.

All told, Fox4 used just two reporters on camera during Monday's 9 p.m. news -- Grubs and James Rose. Both appeared live in the station's downtown Dallas studios rather than venturing out into the dark for a typical standup. All of this saves on staffing and conserves money. It also draws a sharp dividing line between Fox4 and WFAA8, whose ongoing promotional campaign touts its "crossing of state lines" in pursuit of stories with local angles.

On Monday's 10 p.m. newscast, WFAA8 ran a lengthy piece that had reporter Gary Reaves journeying to Arizona for the first meeting between a middle-aged woman and the North Texas parents of a 13-year-old daughter who died in a Colorado skiing accident. Taylor Storch's heart is still beating strongly inside the woman after Todd and Tara Storch authorized the donation of Taylor's organs.

The story also has made its way to several national venues, including ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today.

"It is helping us heal," said Todd Storch.

Now back to the Cowboys, who easily ate up the most late night news real estate. CBS11 co-anchor Doug Dunbar told viewers that his station "broke this (coaching) change earlier today for you."

CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg, currently the Cowboys' team-paid radio analyst, later bucked up Garrett's chances during his regular newscast segment.

"I've known Jason Garrett for nearly two decades," he said. "There is no sharper individual or person with more integrity. Will that translate into wins? Who knows?" But Laufenberg, an ex-Cowboys quarterback, noted that he had the privilege of playing for legendary San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh while Walsh was running the Stanford University football program. Walsh and Garrett have similar traits and approaches, Laufenberg contended.

WFAA8 anchor Dale Hansen, formerly the Cowboys' team-paid radio analyst, again skewered owner Jones in an "Unplugged" segment after earlier saying that Garrett's promotion won't be nearly enough to fix much of anything.

"The Cowboys' problem is owner Jerry Jones is dumb enough to think he's smarter than Einstein," Hansen said to a mild off-camera chortle from co-anchor Gloria Campos.

Einsten oddly came into play via Hansen quoting him as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over -- and expecting different results. The seven head coaches hired by Cowboys general manager Jones are evidence he's learned nothing, Hansen said.

Over on NBC5, sports anchor Newy Scruggs said Phillips should have been fired after telling the media he had no answer to why the Cowboys were thumped at home by the mediocre Jacksonville Jaguars before getting buried Sunday night by the Green Bay Packers.

"Is there a chance that he (Jones) would ever give up the general manager's post?" co-anchor Meredith Land asked.

"No," said Scruggs, who added that Jones likely won't be able to sell Garrett to fans either.

DSCN2225 DSCN2226

NBC5 co-anchor Brian Curtis touts a homemade, industrial-sized margarita machine before reporter Omar Villafranca takes a sip and deems it "pretty good" as part of a heavily promoted dispatch.

In other non-Cowboys action, NBC5 used a good deal of its prime-time promotional window to tout a story on a margarita machine getting a "MacGyver-style makeover."

"All you need is a garbage disposal -- and an open mind," co-anchor Brian Curtis told viewers before throwing it to reporter Omar Villafranca.

He didn't need to cross state lines for a story on a guy who put together a party-sized machine by hooking a five-gallon cooler to a garbage disposal before attaching an over-sized spigot. Villafranca sipped the finished product and pronounced it "pretty good."

In news with more nutritive value, CBS11's Tracy Kornet reported on a new cell phone app, SecuraTrac, that allows parents to keep tabs on their little kids' whereabouts. The station also had a little heart-thumper, by Arezow Doost, on an unemployed, disabled man who saved his cancer-ridden bulldog by getting a free chemotherapy treatment from the privately bankrolled Magic Bullet Fund.

Curing what ails the Cowboys won't be nearly so easy -- in Hansen's mind at least. He views Jones as the team's, bull-headed incurable cancer.

"I've said it to his face, and I'm saying it again," Hansen said before noting in no uncertain terms that no other NFL team would ever hire Jones as general manager.

"The Cowboys really are America's team," he added. "They're just like America, broken and divided and arguing about the future, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

For good measure, he then lobbed a smaller grenade at the Mavericks' defenseless Dirk Nowitzki, who hit a decisive jump shot to beat the Boston Celtics in Dallas Monday night.

"And Dirk Nowitzki gets the game-winner despite a really bad haircut," Hansen said of his newly shaved head.

And Hansen still has a lotta guts in addition to his really big gut. So there.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri., Nov. 5 -Sun., Nov. 7) -- buttery Cowboys spread thin in Dairyland


A li'l Packers fan and his cheese hat. Inseparable. Photo: Ed Bark

The North Dallas Forty went Deep South on the scoreboard Sunday night, taking a 45-7 pasting from the Packers while NBC's play-by-play guys rubbed it in.

"It has been an across-the-board collapse," opined analyst Cris Collinsworth, who beheaded the Cowboys a bit later in the telecast.

"The Cowboys went back to basics this week," he told a national TV audience on the NFL's weekly showcase game. "And they're basically awful."

"This is an embarrassment," added play-by-play guy Al Michaels. "Now what?"

Regular readers of unclebarky.com likely know that its writer in residence is a Badger state native and graduate of the UW-Madison. So the weekend was doubly sweet when the University of Wisconsin Badgers took care of Purdue on the road Saturday to remain amid college football's Top 10 before the Packers glided over the Cowboys like a snowmobile in heat. Green Bay, whose entire population could squeeze into Jerry's Palace, is now super-jubilant heading into the injury-ravaged Packers' bye week. OK, I'll stop.

The game, which ran from 7:30 to 10:27 p.m. barely crept past the one million viewers mark at D-FW, averaging 1,031,929. In the final minutes, that audience dipped all the way down to 671,793 viewers. That was just a snippet more than the 664,867 viewers who watched the 6:30 to 6:45 p.m. segment of Sunday's Eagles-Colts game on CBS.

Over on ESPN Sunday, the Texas Motor Speedway's AAA Texas 500 drew a decidedly smallish crowd of 96,960 viewers. And Saturday on ESPN, the down-to-the-wire final race of the Breeders' Cup, in which Blame ended Zenyatta's perfect 19-race winning streak by less than a head, had a surprisingly dinky 48,480 viewers from 5:45 to 6 p.m.

In Friday's local news derby results, WFAA8 broke through to win at 10 p.m. in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations. The margin over the November "sweeps" frontrunner, CBS11, was especially huge with 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 had 108,735 viewers in this key demographic while CBS11 fell to a very distant fourth with just 24,854.

CBS11 fared much better at 6 a.m., tying Fox4 and NBC5 for first in total viewers and running second behind Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds. CBS11 long has been an out-of-the-money fourth in the early morning mix, but its numbers have been eye-opening on two of the last three weekday morns.

WFAA8 swept the 6 p.m. competitions in both ratings measurements and added a 5 p.m. win in total viewers. CBS11 had the 5 p.m. gold with 25-to-54-year-olds.

Bearded ladies, laddy at CBS11 (and a heavy-duty graphics gaffe at CW33)

Well, they finally paid up after the Texas Rangers lost the World Series in five games to the San Francisco Giants.

On Friday's CBS11 early morning newscast, anchors Scott Sams and Lisa Pineiro and traffic reporter Teresa Frosini donned stick-on beards and tried to sing their way through "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." It was the end result of a wager made with a San Francisco TV station, whose dawning-of-a-new-day anchors would have been required to sing "Deep in the Heart of Texas" while wearing cowboy hats had the Rangers won.

Pineiro, completing her first full week on the job after her Thursday, Oct. 28th debut, seems to be settling in pretty seamlessly at CBS11. Long No. 4 in the early mornings, the station actually rose to the top of Wednesday's 6 a.m. ratings among advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds. But Thursday's Nielsens knocked CBS11 back down to fourth place. And a distant fourth at that.

Here's video of the worst rendition of "Left My Heart" in recorded history. Sorry it's so small, but you can blow it up by clicking the symbol in the lower right hand corner.

***Thursday's 9 p.m. newscast on CW33 included a classic graphics gaffe tied to reporter Barry Carpenter's story on how anorexic women are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies because they often don't have regular menstrual cycles.

Carpenter interviewed a pregnant 98-pound woman who is not anorexic, he told viewers. Given that information, check out the caption that accompanied the story's video of Amber Knowlton.


New set for CW33 news -- which just might be improved, too


Anchors Walt Maciborski, Amanda Salinas in new digs. Photo: Ed Bark

Mostly denuded of sex stories -- on this night at least -- and sporting a spanking new blue-hued set, Wednesday's CW33 9 p.m. newscast actually could be watched in polite company.

That's progress, although a caution flag is still advisable. The Dallas-based, Tribune-owned station could just as easily revert to the bad form it's flaunted so gleefully in recent months. But perhaps the recent dismissals of two infantile bozos who'd been running the corporate ship will allow CW33 the freedom to do the news without soiling itself. We'll see.

Meanwhile, the new set looks good, with anchors Walt Maciborski and Amanda Salinas now standing throughout the entire one-hour newscast. Gone is the time-tested but perhaps shopworn anchor desk. In place is a little glass-top table topped with a laptop and a few throwback pieces of paper. Sitting down while reading the news is so -- February 2010. Today's anchors have to look more like pro-active action figures, walking their studio beats with pride and purpose. Helps keep off the pounds, too.

"The Rant" still rears its ugly head, with an aggressive-sounding pitchwoman barking, "You got somethin' to say? Bring it on."

But on Wednesday night, no one apparently cared enough to rant. So although it was teased, the segment never aired. Just as well. Why not just bury the damned thing?

CW33's newscasts also still have a "Want to Hear More" Playlist that viewers are encouraged to patronize on the station's oft-touted website. Wednesday's music was from Katy Perry ("I Kissed a Girl"); Madonna ("Express Yourself"); Ke$ha ("We R Who We R") and Survivor ("Eye of the Tiger"). Clicking on a title takes you to a music video on youtube. It's harmless, and really not a terrible idea in the grand scheme of things.

Wednesday's CW33 newscast led with Giselle Phelps' live report on a controversial police shooting that left a 25-year-old man dead in South Dallas and his family demanding justice. WFAA8's Chris Hawes, for one, had this story on Monday. And Phelps, a relative newcomer to CW33, failed to provide essential details in her one-sided story. Such as the fact that police were responding to complaints of drugs, prostitution and gang violence at the Cedar Garden apartments. And that the deceased, although unarmed at the time of the Friday night shooting, had previously been arrested for assault. He also was under a criminal trespass warning from the apartment complex. A police investigation is underway.

CW33 fared better with reports by a pair of veteran holdovers from the days when the station's newscasts appeared to be originating from a converted garage.

Barry Carpenter's story, titled "Miracle Wear," highlighted an Arlington store that specializes in clothes for women who have had mastectomies. And the station's erstwhile sex specialist, Shana Franklin, branched out a bit by hitting the old reliable Botox beat for a report on a survey that said injections may block feedback to the brain and stifle expressions.

Giggly Botox patient Joni Landau had no trouble expressing herself, telling Franklin that "in today's society, you want to look young and youthful and not old and haggard."

Preceding Franklin's report, CW33 did manage to work in a little woman-on-woman kissing video tied to Maciborski's brief reader about a survey in which 17 percent of "heterosexual adults" admit being attracted to the same gender, with 36 percent of them taking measures further in a "sexual way." Hoo-hah. But that was it for the night.

Entertainment reporter Roni Porter contributed a decent enough "Refresh for Fall" fashion story that accented affordable fashions at Marshall's. Newcomer Amber Fisher likewise had an OK piece on increased use of police surveillance cameras in Dallas' trendy Uptown area. Erin Harris, successor to Pelpina Trip, presented the nightly "Plugged In" segment leading to the nightly "Viral Video" presentation. Harris would do well ease up a bit by curbing her caffeinated voice inflections and hand-talking. But she's just a kid, and she's capable of learning.

Veteran meteorologist Rebecca Miller's segments remain solid and easily understood. So far she's withstood all of the other monkey business at CW33. Sports anchor Dave Crome, another survivor, continues to do a capable job of packaging and presenting stories and highlights.

So maybe the new look also can bring about something of a new day at CW33. Wednesday's newscast was watchable at best, stopping well short of being an eyesore. But with a full hour to fill, the station easily could air out some of its stories rather than condensing them to the point of leaving out basic information.

In that regard, we'll end with videos of the aforementioned police shooting stories by Phelps and Hawes. I think you'll notice an appreciable difference, underscoring the fact that CW33 still has miles to go before it can be taken very seriously.

Still, Wednesday's newscast at least showed some signs that the station is interested in becoming more than a junk peddler. The excrement rolling downhill from the top of the Tribune company has been slowed by the oustings of two $#!T-heads. Which could mean that the days of anchor Maciborski touting "The $#!T We Report" might well be behind him.


Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., Nov. 2) -- election returns favor GOP, FNC


Big night for Palins: Sarah celebrates from her perch as a paid Fox News Channel analyst while weepy homesick daughter Bristol again evades eviction on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Photo: Ed Bark

Fox News Channel decimated its two cable news rivals in prime-time election coverage Tuesday while also outdrawing ABC, CBS and NBC in head-to-head competition.

Its celebration of the Republicans' return to a House majority clashed with MSNBC's pro-Democratic Party spins while CNN's "unfiltered" presentation again found few takers in D-FW. But the original all-news network did borrow the majestic music from HBO's John Adams miniseries during bridges in and out of commercial breaks. So that was nice.

The three cable news nets had the mid-term election coverage to themselves in the 7 p.m. hour. FNC's 166,217 viewers towered over MSNBC's 48,480 and CNN's 27,703.

FNC and the Fox broadcasting network's separate coverage both whipped the first hour of NBC's election special from 8 to 9 p.m. Here are those results:

FNC -- 186,994 viewers
Fox -- 152,365
NBC -- 90,034
MSNBC -- 41,554
CNN -- 20,777

Everyone joined in from 9 to 10 p.m., with the Fox/Fox4 combo of national and local returns handily topping the field. Here's how it went:

Fox/Fox4 -- 242,400
FNC -- 173,143
CBS -- 166,217
ABC -- 138,514
NBC -- 96,960
MSNBC/CNN -- 34,629 each

ABC's Dancing with the Stars results show again emerged as Tuesday's overall big winner. Five celebrities remain, including Bristol Palin, after Rick Fox's somewhat surprising eviction. A big crowd of 464,022 took it all in.

In local news derby results, Day 4 of the November "sweeps" brought an end to CBS11's three-day winning streak. WFAA8 instead nipped Fox4 for the top spot in total viewers, but those finishes were reversed among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 and WFAA8 tied for first at 6 a.m. in total viewers, with Fox4 alone at the top among 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11 entered the winner's circle with total viewer golds at both 5 and 6 p.m. But Fox4 won at those hours in the 25-to-54 age range.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri. Oct. 29 - Mon., Nov. 1) -- Buried Rangers bury buried Cowboys


Giants starter Tim Lincecum revels after Game 5. Photo: Ed Bark

The Texas Rangers' World Series run and the Dallas Cowboys' already slim post-season hopes came to crashing ends during the biggest three-day pro sports extravaganza in North Texas history.

And in unprecedented ratings verdicts, all three Rangers games on Fox had far bigger audiences than the Cowboys' high noon march to boot hill Sunday on CBS. Let's look at the scoreboard as unclebarky.com returns to the living following an Internet router flameout Saturday that left your friendly content provider waiting at length for a replacement from a communications company that shall not be named (except that it rhymes with horizon).

Monday's climactic Game 5 of the Series drew the biggest TV audience. The 3-1 Giants' clincher, with Nelson Cruz striking out at 9:30 p.m. to end the baseball season, drew a mega-sized 1,433,620 D-FW viewers. That nipped the 1,419,769 viewers for Game 1 to rank as the most-watched game in Rangers history. ABC's competing 200th episode celebration on Dancing with the Stars had a respectable 401,691 viewers opposite Monday's Series swan song.

Game 4 on Sunday night averaged 1,288,180 viewers, routing NBC's competing marquee Sunday Night Football matchup between the Saints and Steelers (228,548 viewers). Nationally, however, Sunday Night Football beat a World Series game for the first time ever.

Saturday night's Rangers win, the only one of the Series, also had the smallest TV crowd of the three home games with 1,205,072 D-FW viewers. That may have been in part due to the early 6 p.m. start time.

Oh yeah, the Cowboys. Their record slipped to 1-6 -- worse even than the Detroit Lions at this point of the season -- with a lifeless 35-17 home loss to the less than imposing Jacksonville Jaguars. Viewers turned away, although not that many tuned in at the start.

Overall, the Cowboys averaged fewer than one million viewers for the first time in at least two years. The final count of 907,276 viewers is the smallest Cowboys crowd since unclebarky.com converted from total homes to total viewer ratings in November 2008. A 35-14 drubbing by the Giants on Nov. 2 of that year barely got past the one million mark with 1.03 million viewers.

Sunday's other big pro football matchup, the Vikings and Patriots on Fox, had 519,428 viewers as a warmup for the World Series.

In local news derby results, a World Series-less Friday put all four major competitors in play during the four principal time slots.

CBS11 ran the table at 10 p.m. for the second straight weekday of the November "sweeps," winning in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming on most stations.

Fox4 likewise swept the 6 a.m. competitions while also taking the 5 and 6 p.m. golds among 25-to-54-year-olds. WFAA8 won at 5 p.m. in total viewers and tied with Fox 4 for first place at 6 p.m. in that measurement.

On Monday, CBS11 stretched its 10 p.m. sweeps streak to three days with another doubleheader win.

Fox remained solid at 6 a.m. with two golds while CBS11 swept the 6 p.m. Nielsens. The 5 p.m. spoils were divided between WFAA8 in total viewers and Fox4 with 25-to-54-year-olds.