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Newsroom additions, subtractions in progress at Fox4, CBS11


Fox4 is adding reporter Matt Grubs to its full-time newsroom staff, which has been rocked by a wave of voluntary and involuntary departures in the past year.

Grubs has been the Santa Fe bureau correspondent for Albuquerque-based KOAT-TV since 2002, according to its website. He joined the ABC station from WOFL-TV in Orlando, FL, where his assignments included the protracted, chad-infested 2000 presidential election.

KOAT lately has been a free-flowing pipeline for D-FW stations. WFAA8's Daybreak co-anchor, Cynthia Izaguirre, came directly from that station. So did NBC5 nightbeat reporter Ellen Goldberg.

***Hoping to at least slightly improve its overall yearly revenue picture, CBS11 is dropping its weekend morning newscasts for at least the rest of 2008.

Station sources say they'll vanish by the start of this year's "fourth quarter" (October-December) and be replaced by a combination of informercials, CBS kids' programming preempted during extended weather coverage and Babe Laufenberg sports specials tied to Dallas Cowboys games.

No job cuts are anticipated, but unfilled vacancies will be left that way. For the time being at least, competitors Fox4, NBC5 and WFAA8 still have weekend morning newscasts during what's been a dismal year for everyone's bottom line.

***Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen has a fresh story on new arrival Julie Bolgona, who recently rejoined the city's WPXI-TV after a four-year stint as CBS11's weekday morning weathercaster.

She started anew at WPXI this week, and is happily posed in the station's "Severe Weather Center."

Reel people at WFAA8

In prehistoric times, local TV stations went on movie-buying excursions to fill in the blanks on their schedules. Behold this catch-all 1985 spot for WFAA's Summertime Movie. It still looks and feels pretty contemporary, even though regularly scheduled movie blocs are more dated than candid, on-the-record responses from any station's management.
Ed Bark

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., Sept. 15)

In bad times and worse, at the least the Cowboys' stock keeps rising.

Monday night's insanely entertaining 41-37 win over Philadelphia likewise went off the local ratings charts with a joint appearance on both ESPN and TXA21, which had the local broadcast simulcast rights.

Kicking off at 7:40 p.m. and ending at 10:55, the final home opener at old, reasonably affordable Texas Stadium drew 484,684 D-FW homes on ESPN and 445,715 homes for the TXA21 telecast. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, that's a grand total of 930,399 homes.

Last year, just one regular season game -- the heavyweight Nov. 29 Texas Stadium matchup between Dallas and Green Bay -- had a bigger TV audience locally. It also was the only game to top the million home mark, with 1,088,901 of 'em on a combination of MY27 and the NFL Network.

That record is made to be broken this Sunday night, when the Cowboys invade Uncle Barky's Badger State homeland and Lambeau Field to play the likewise unbeaten Pack on NBC's prime-time showcase. Pity the poor Emmy awards. They'll be directly in this line of fire.

Meanwhile, your friendly content provider of course must root for the team that twice broke Dallas' heart while he was a formative, Vince Lombardi acolyte in snowshoes. Gotta stick with the state that Dairy-ized ya, right, Bob Sturm?

In other Monday developments, everything else got slaughtered by Cowboys-Eagles, including the four local 10 p.m. newscasts fed into its wood chipper.

WFAA8 "led" in total homes with a puny 92,553, followed by NBC5 (85,246), CBS11 (63,326) and Fox4 (41,405). WFAA8 alone averaged 226,511 homes during its victorious march through the last ratings "sweeps" period in May.

WFAA8 also topped the 10 p.m. Nielsens among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 won the 6 a.m. wars in total homes, with NBC5 taking the top spot in the 25-to-54 demo. The 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Fox4's Good Day then rolled over the three network morning shows in both ratings measurements.

WFAA8 ran the table at 6 p.m.; NBC5 had a 5 p.m. win in total homes while tying for first with Fox4 among 25-to-54-year-olds.

CBS11's newest news-ic video

CBS11's latest image campaign, still outfitted with the old "Count On Us" slogan, is brimming with shiny, happy people from the station's newsroom.

There's a band, too, plus a vocal track produced by North Texas-based Small Guy Music and performed by Matthew JC and the All-Stars. Sample lyric: "Do any think, do any see, do any understand the world in front of me?"

Count on CBS11 to fill you in, even though none of the station's street reporters are seen smiling, waving or truth-seeking. Instead it's all anchors again, starting of course with show horses Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta.

The jingle's catchy enough and the production values are eye-catching. But does this spot really sing to you or communicate much of anything?

Good news for WFAA8 photographer

WFAA8 photographer Doug Burgess, seriously injured Tuesday when a dump truck skidded into his car, was released from Parkland hospital Friday night after initially spending time in the intensive care unit.

His wife, CBS11 assistant news director Sarah Garza, said that Burgess is "thrilled to be home with the kids and ESPN and his pain killers."

She also thanks all who sent their well-wishes.
Ed Bark

Weather they're right, or weather they're wrong


In a nutshell: FoxNews Channel's website quickly simplified matters.

First of all, this is a Twitter-free zone, as is the entirety of unclebarky.com for that matter.

Otherwise I'd be starting out with something like this: "Woke up, almost got out of bed, turned on TV to see whazzup with Ike. Looks like, oops, nearly at word limit. Damn!"

Instead, your friendly content provider went back and forth through four hours of virtually continuous local station weather coverage -- 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday-- before even thinking about putting something in print. But it was still a fluid situation.

Hurricane Ike had slammed into Galveston about four hours earlier, threatening to later deposit heavy rain and winds in D-FW while simultaneously petering out and curving east. So although 6 to 10 a.m. is the focus, we're adding some of the day's later developments as time sprints away and morning morphs to night.

Yeah, it's been raining and blowing a bit hard here in Garland, where unclebarky.com central has its outpost. But by 6 p.m. Saturday, no ark will be needed.

D-FW's major TV news providers finally went into a semblance of weather remission, too. But only after the two longest-distance runners, WFAA8 and CBS11, simultaneously yielded to college football game kickoffs at 2:30 p.m. Otherwise many viewers had to miss their cartoons and other appointment viewing.

"The 33," which has a nightly 9 p.m. local newscast and a weather-holic in meteorologist Bob Goosmann, decided to sleep in for this one and stay in bed all day. Maybe they knew something? No, they've never been a player in times like these.

That made the full-blown morning monitoring a bit easier, with Fox4, NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 as usual putting themselves on the map.

I obviously didn't see or hear everything, but there was ample repetition on all four stations. That's to be expected. Many people weren't even up yet as this dispatch started to take shape and kept bloating. Stations can't assume that anyone knows anything about what Ike's been dispensing in big chunks of Texas. At some point, though, the redundancy gets old as uncertainty fizzles out.

There's one truism. Many people have strong opinions about weather coverage, which rivals or exceeds religion and politics as a hot-button topic. Let's take a shot anyway.

These wind-aided impressions start with the initial 6 to 10 a.m. Saturday starting lineups, including a handful of hardy local reporters shown covering Hurricane Ike from outside North Texas.

Some of the local long distance travelers made it on the air later, most strikingly Fox4's Steve Eagar live in a white undershirt around 1 p.m. in a newly becalmed Houston. The early-to-mid-morning point people listed below do not include any of the many eyewitness reporters borrowed from networks or other Texas stations. But we will briefly get to Geraldo Rivera and a few others.)

Fox4 -- Anchors Tim Ryan, Megan Henderson, weathercaster Evan Andrews and traffic guy Chip Waggoner, who was used very sparingly. Reporters Natalie Solis in Houston, Brandon Todd in Freeport area.

NBC5 -- Anchors Deborah Ferguson, Scott Friedman, weathercasters Jennifer Lopez, James Aydelott. Reporter Ken Kalthoff in Houston.

WFAA8 -- Anchors Debbie Denmon, Brad Hawkins, weathercasters Pete Delkus, Greg Fields. Reporters Jim Douglas in Galveston, Jason Whitely in Houston.

CBS11 -- Anchors Scott Sams, Ginger Allen, weathercasters Larry Mowry, Kristine Kahanek. Reporters Jack Fink and Marianne Martinez, both in Clear Lake.

NBC5, save for a few cut-ins, ceded Ike coverage to the network's weekend Today special until 8 a.m. That's a debatable decision, and may have made the station seem asleep at the wheel in the early going.

On the other hand, the Peacock network had more reporters in place for first-hand accounts from Ike's hot spots. D-FW had yet to experience more than a drizzle -- if that -- before the NBC5 locals started weighing in.

Fox4 stayed the course from 6 to 9:30 a.m. before startlingly cutting away to a loud-shouting, half-hour infomercial from a local KIA dealership. At first I thought it was yet another wind-blown, rain-soaked correspondent -- Geraldo perhaps? -- trying to be heard while staggering around in a windbreaker before losing picture and sound.

But instead, a foghorn car peddler made his pitch as an overjoyed female purchaser blared, "I can drive to N'awlins on one tank of gas!" Let that sink in while pondering whether anyone actually watched the whole thing. What great timing.

Fox4 came back on the air at 10 a.m. with more weather coverage before later yielding to Beakman's World.

WFAA8 and CBS11 went the 6 to 10 a.m. distance with Ike. Pound for pound as the day wore on, they had considerably more weather coverage than their rivals, particularly NBC5. But were you riveted, bored or totally tuned out?

It takes guts to lower expectations during foul weather drama. Fox4's Andrews consistently did that -- and usually does -- while being the only on-air D-FW forecaster to carry the ball alone from 6 to 10 a.m., minus the KIA fender bender.

"It's just not going to be devastating or really dangerous," Andrews said shortly after 9 a.m. He was speaking of Ike's impact in the immediate D-FW area while also telling viewers that weather coverage nonetheless hadn't been "overblown."

Was Andrews the only bonafide truth-teller in the formative stages of coverage? From this perspective, yes. But Hurricane Ike was about much more than just Dallas-Fort Worth. So let's not damn them all while at the same time also lauding Andrews for again "erring" on the side of restraint.

Even while doing so, he's daringly rolling the dice and risks throwing snake eyes. It can give management the shakes because worst-case scenarios are the preferred approach if you're going to bring in the troops. But if the market has an under-appreciated meteorologist, then look no further than Andrews.

WFAA8's Delkus, earnest as they come and aggravating to some, raised more D-FW danger flags before slowly easing off the throttle. He means well. So did WFAA8's Gary Reaves, who repeatedly stood live in substantial North Texas rain later Saturday morning and afternoon. He easily survived. Douglas did, too, in far more perilous Galveston. Have you ever seen him when he hasn't been solid? Me neither.

CBS11's Mowry seemed to be somewhere in the middle with his weathercasting, and may have found a happy medium with Ike. Kahanek in turn was mostly an afterthought.

Mowry's the anointed guy now, as his station recently announced. He began in a suitcoat, later stripped down to shirtsleeves and persevered competently. There's something to be said for that.

Then there's NBC5's even newer Lopez, who barely registered during her bad weather baptism Saturday. Aydelott didn't seem to do a lot either -- at least on-camera .

Far more than its competitors, the local Peacock lateraled to NBC and/or MSNBC. CBS11 never misses a chance to showcase Mowry, and Delkus doesn't have to be asked. Both work their weather pants off when the sky threatens to fall.

But what does Lopez do? On Saturday she didn't pass any tests that I could see. Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, she's got spunk. Lopez just went clunk, not that she got a fighting chance from NBC5. Chief meteorologist David Finfrock, absent Saturday, isn't exactly brimming with charisma. But he's a presence. So if you're not going to have a "Finfrock Forecast" in play Saturday, then at least give D-FW's Jennifer Lopez a chance to act. Compared to her peers, though, she at best did cameos.


Viewers are directed, if not commanded, to supplement their TV watching with frequent visits to stations' websites. This graphic has been on CBS11's Internet arm all day Saturday. It'll probably be fixed by the time many if any try to take a look. But aren't the Friday and Saturday forecasts a little out of sorts? Busy day, not a big priority. And Mowry's almost assuredly not at fault. Still . . .

Late Friday, Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera again braved a hurricane's wrath because he just can't help himself -- even at age 65. He clung to some greenery on the Galveston beach, got knocked down, got back up and later asked, "Why do we do this?"

It's a rhetorical question for which he had the usual answer during a long discourse on serving the public: "You folks at home, you want to know what the power of the storm could do to you, your home and your stuff."

On Saturday morning's Today, anchor Lester Holt popped roughly the same question to storm-challenged correspondent Amy Roebach, also being whipped around in Galveston. Actually he supposedly spoke on behalf of viewers who he says keep asking, "Wait, these are the people who are telling everyone else to leave. And there there they are in the teeth of the storm."

Roebach said the remaining journalists in Galveston were "fairly protected here" and wouldn't do anything stupid.

Holt added, "It's part of our job."

As part of his job, NBC's Jay Gray, formerly a featured nightbeat reporter for NBC5, also could be seen fighting the elements on tape shown time and again. Sometimes NBC5 and NBC just put up live shots of already battered reporters whose audio had cut out and whose video was at best a blur. Ah, silent comedy. Charlie Chaplin lives on.

WFAA8 went first and then CBS11 got around to repeatedly airing a spooky report from an intriguingly named KHOU-TV correspondent named Rucks Russell. They had dual dibs because Belo Corp. owns both WFAA8 and Houston's CBS affiliate, while CBS11 is owned by -- take a guess -- CBS. So WFAA8 had squatter's rights. And CBS11 I guess was in its rights.

Russell used a flashlight-- first capturing himself in an orange glow -- while working his way through Galveston's dark and powerless San Luis Resort.

He then found a survivor -- or perhaps you prefer another description -- who stuck around while his family blew town. He eventually busted out of his flooded home through a window, got into a boat with six friends and made it about two miles to the resort, by his account.

"Everybody fled," said the outwardly intelligent, relatively young man while Russell lit his mug with the flashlight. "But we wanted to stay and we wanted to see something powerful."

The unidentified man also told Russell that 80 percent of Galveston was underwater . "I've never done so much prayin' in my life, and the Lord really walked us through it."

"Well, you're here, you're alive and your safe," Russell added.

This may be one of those Hurricane Ike stories that transcends most others. Seriously. It definitely didn't look like any other Saturday, and Russell managed to get it through a combination of luck, ingenuity, determination and some excusable showmanship.

Those who actually have read this far -- man, it took and ran a lot longer than anticipated -- get both a look at the video and some final grades for D-FW television's Saturday storm centers. They'll be given without further comment. Because in the end all four invested to varying degrees in something that is no laughing matter or trivial pursuit for the many, many Texans affected firsthand.

WFAA8 -- B-plus
Fox4 and CBS11 -- C-plus
NBC5 -- C-minus

Here's a link to the KHOU story, which otherwise isn't on youtube yet and couldn't be found on KHOU's Web site.

KERA's Nowhere But Texas 2 should be seen everywhere

#4 WASP (Woman Airforce Service Pilot) leaning out of cockpit SunshineRuby-RCA'53Color

Unidentified flyer from Women's Airforce Service Pilots and Big D Jamboree star Sunshine Ruby. Pilot photo courtesy of the WASP collection at Texas Women's University. Ruby is pictured in an uncredited publicity photo.

Pressing events -- too many TV premieres at once plus other stuff -- can sometimes leave worthy programs on unclebarky.com's cutting room floor.

So I'm fortunate to get a do-over on KERA's (Channel 13) brilliantly made Nowhere But Texas 2 which will be repeated at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13th. (Note: this is a last-minute KERA change, made Friday afternoon, from the time previously posted in this review.)

It's likely to be a really lousy day weather-wise, so why not cozy up with this exceptional one-hour look at three timeless swatches of Texas history. Seriously, this is Peabody-caliber material. And as a former member of the national judging committe, it'll be a pleasure to bring this program to their attention.

Director Linda Stogner and producers Therese Powell and Rick Thompson blend archival footage and firsthand accounts from a dwindling number of "authentic Texans" who lived these stories firsthand.

The opening appetizer, easily the shortest of the three retrospectives, returns to the yesteryears of the Dallas Sportatorium, foolishly torn down in 2003.

Before the days and nights of professional wrestling -- yours truly once interviewed Kerry, Kevin and David Von Erich in their upstairs Sportatorium hangout -- the 4,000-seat Industrial Blvd. showplace was home to the Big D Jamboree. The likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl and George Jones played the place, as did child star Sunshine Ruby.

Long-retired as a singer, she's still talking a good game. Her reminiscences are vivid, funny, touching -- the works.

The second piece -- "High Hopes -- revisits the days of the pioneering Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, established at the outset of World War II. Their training ground was in Sweetwater, TX, where thousands of women from across the country sought to earn their wings.

Out of 25,000 applicants, 1,073 eventually made the final cut. Nowhere But Texas 2 has revealing interviews with several survivors, all of whom proudly wear their uniforms even though they at first weren't recognized as members of the military.

One survivor still wears the wedding ring of a deceased woman pilot who made the cover of Life magazine. You can see that same ring in her vintage picture.

This segment has a happy ending that won't be spoiled here. Let's just say that the Women's Airforce Service Pilots finally got their due from the government, but not until they rose in anger during the 1970s.

#5 Ray Coulter, Coach Rusty Russell and Dewitt Coulter

Mighty Mites players Ray and DeWitt Coulter, with coach Rusty Russell in the middle. University of Texas at Arlington library

Those long-ago airborne exploits could make a helluva feature film, as would the concluding tale of Fort Worth's "Mighty Mites" high school football team. All of the players were sons of deceased "Master Masons." Their parental unit then became the Masonic Home and School on Fort Worth's southeast side.

The team's coach, Rusty Russell, loved to go up against North Texas' powerhouse schools. He specialized in trick plays and speedy practitioners after taking over the team in 1927. The Mighty Mites became a statewide sensation, consistently outpointing schools five or 10 times their size. They were regularly in the hunt for state championships and played Corsicana for the title in 1932.

The Masonic Home and School was co-ed, so women are included in these reminiscences. One can still tick off her classmates' nicknames in alphabetical order. Just about every student had one.

Esteemed sportswriter Dan Jenkins, who watched the Mighty Mites play as a kid, testifies to the greatness of both the team and its late coach. It's an enormously rich story, and it's retold with considerable compassion and humor.

Maybe it's not considered cool to watch a collection of well-advanced senior citizens reminisce about what once was and can no longer be. But Nowhere But Texas 2 should be a must-see classroom tool. It's a history lesson that bears repeating until every Texas kid old enough to be in school has seen and no doubt savored it.

Get busy, teachers. And teach your children well.

Grade: A+

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 11)

This likely hasn't happened in D-FW before. A dinner hour network newscast drew more homes than any prime-time program on any network Thursday. Hmm, wonder why?

Maybe it was a certain little interview -- namely ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson's exclusive sit-down with Republican vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin.

Gibson-Palin was watched in 180,234 total homes, nipping Fox4's Hurricane Ike-themed 9 p.m. local newscast (177,799 homes). Thursday's most-watched network entertainment program, a repeat of CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, drew 170,492 homes. Close behind was a following new episode of CBS' Flashpoint (165,621 homes).

Thursday's biggest crowd amassed in post-prime time. WFAA's 10 p.m. newscast had 299,579 homes, crunching runnerup CBS11 (197,836). Local newscasts sometimes don't have that many fair weather friends. But when bad weather looms or strikes, the ratings often go through the roof.

WFAA8 also won at 10 p.m. among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 otherwise controlled the other key battleground, again rolling to easy wins at 6 a.m. in both ratings measurements. The station's 7 to 9 a.m. portion of Good Day likewise dominated the competing trio of network morning shows.

Fox4 also came up a winner at 5 p.m., edging WFAA8 in the total homes Nielsens. WFAA8 otherwise took the 5 p.m. gold among 25-to-54-year-olds and swept the 6 p.m. competitions.

WFAA8 photographer recovering after serious car wreck

Veteran WFAA8 photographer Doug Burgess, husband of assistant CBS11 news director Sarah Garza, was seriously injured Tuesday when a concete-hauling dump truck lost control, slid into the opposite lane and slammed into him.

"Doug's car was crushed," Garza said in an email sent Thursday. "He had to be pulled from the car and in true Doug fashion, the first thing he did was call the assignment desk to tell them he would be late to his next interview. I think he was in shock."

Burgess was transported to Parkland hospital with a severely ruptured spleen and all six ribs on his left side broken. But Garza said that her husband since has been removed from the Intensive Care Unit.

"His red blood cell count stayed stable long enough Wednesday that the doctors felt it was safe to move him out of ICU and into his own room," Garza said. "That also means he will most likely not need to have his spleen removed. He is still in a lot of pain, but he is heavily sedated so he is able to sleep. If his blood count, heart rate and blood pressure all remain stable for the next 48 hours, he should be fine to go home."

Garza, who formerly worked in WFAA's newsroom, said she has been reading "dozens and dozens" of emails to her husband, "some from folks we worked with over 17 years ago."

"The kind words, offers to help and prayers are appreciated. Doug is extremely touched. I read him about 20 emails last night. And when I finished, he just said, 'That's so weird.' I don't think he realized how many people care about him. That's Doug. He's a very lucky man -- in more ways than one."

Jepson at last elaborates on WFAA8 dismissal


Frankly, a little behind-the-scenes backdrop is necessary before former WFAA8 newswoman Macie Jepson talks more directly about her dismissal from the station after eight years as co-anchor of the weekday 5 p.m. newscasts.

I had been trying to talk directly with her since August 21, when WFAA8 made her the only full-time on-camera casualty among 14 full- and part-time positions eliminated. WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin, in what he unequivocally said would be his only comment, told unclebarky.com that the reductions were "a reflection of very difficult economic times, and we have endeavored to minimize the impact on people."

Jepson's initial comments, on the night of September 2nd, came via an email sent to unclebarky.com and D magazine's blog, Frontburner. We both posted them.

In subsequent phone conversations and emails, Jepson said that she wanted to talk further, but first had to meet with an attorney. She also said it would be fine to have a new digital picture taken of her rather than rely on the old WFAA.com one appearing above.

I waited. But Jepson and her husband, Gary, through whom she clears all comments about WFAA8, have turned out to be agonizingly slow responders. And hard to reach, too. So I finally posed a handful of questions via email on the morning of Sept. 8th.

My introduction read like this: "I haven't heard back from you of late, so I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions via email and then not pester you anymore. Of course it's totally up to you whether you want to answer, but since I told readers that a followup interview was likely, I'd at least like to clarify things if you don't want to comment further. I'd just post something on the order of, 'Macie Jepson has decided not to comment further.' "

Late Tuesday night, an email from Gary Jepson gave his wife's answers to the questions. But he wanted me to "please hold" them until I went to their home on Wednesday to take some previously agreed-upon, but long delayed pictures. He asked if the afternoon would be good. That was fine, I said in a return email sent the same night. But I'd need a time and an address.

I sent a followup email Wednesday morning. No answer. I then left an early afternoon phone message. Still no answer as of Wednesday evening. And this isn't the first time this has happened.

I understand the sensitivity of her situation and wish her well. But enough is enough, and life goes on. As a media person herself, Macie Jepson should be fully aware that at some point you have to cut bait and go with the story. You can't give constant assurances to a reporter and then keep changing course.

So at this point, I'm going to print Macie Jepson's completely on-the-record responses and be done with it. Here's what I asked and here's how she replied:

Are you pursuing legal action against WFAA8?

I won't respond to that question, regardless of the answer. But I can certainly understand why you'd ask.

Was the "layoff" a surprise to you? Did you have any inkling of it? How were you informed?

Surprise? No. Profoundly disappointed? Yes. Management spent many months turning up the heat on my job description and responsibilities. Ironically others weren't held to the same standard. Every time I achieved a goal, the goal changed. I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish as an anchor/reporter whose reporting responsibilities often left me walking into the studio at 4:45 before the news. It took unbelievable teamwork with Jeff (co-anchor Jeff Brady) and the crew to pull it off. At the end of the day my work was very gratifying.

I was informed (of the dismissal) with two short sentences. It took about 15 seconds. Thankfully my dear friends at WFAA have been generous with their calls to check on me.

Are you restricted from working elsewhere in the market because of any non-compete clause?

No, thank goodness. According to Human Resources of course. Again, my (WFAA8) managers didn't have much to say.

Do you hope to work again in television in the D-FW market?

Absolutely. This is my home. My family is here, as well as my husband's.

I used to think that WFAA was the pinnacle of my career. I know I was wrong. I've never worked in a newsroom so full of talent. And I was a part of that. I won't let this "layoff" take away from the fact News 8 at Five never lost a (ratings sweeps) book in 8 years. Not even the darkest days of those years when all resources were put into rebuilding other newscasts and promoting other products.

And my reporting skills garnered Emmy nominations. All, thanks to the unparalleled talent of our photojournalists, editors and producers. I will take the best of the times and not look back on the bad.

And if there's a station in Dallas/Fort Worth that still honors hard work, team work, sincerity and experience, I hope to be back on the air again.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Sept. 5-7)

Re-flexing in the D-FW Nielsens after time off for bad behavior in last season's NFL playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys dominated Sunday's TV attractions in much the same way they manhandled Cleveland.

The 2008 season opener on Fox averaged 759,907 total homes from start (3:15 p.m.) to finish (6:05 p.m.). That's down from last season's higher-profile prime-time NBC kickoff, in which Dallas beat the Giants to the tune of 803,748 homes.

This time the Peacock's Sunday night matchup, with the Bears upsetting the Colts, attracted 297,143 D-FW homes. Brett Favre's debut with the Jets, who beat the Dolpins, drew 258,174 homes on CBS while the Eagles slaughtered the Rams at the same time on Fox (175,363 homes).

Also on Sunday, the last half-hour of the women's U.S. tennis open final, won by Serena Williams, managed 94,988 homes from 10 to 10:30 p.m. on CBS.

Fox's heavily promoted Sunday night sneak preview of the Japan-imported Hole in the Wall drew a nice-sized 219,204 homes from 7 to 7:30 p.m. But ratings fell sharply during the second 15 minutes of this one-note, near-hysterical answer to the summertime success of ABC's Wipeout. For full enjoyment you probably needed to have a hole in the head. Co-host Brooke Burns, a Dallas native, apparently drained at least a 12-pack of Red Bulls before taking the stage to flog an opening night competition between the taunting "Beer Belly" and Six Pack" teams.

On Friday night, the simultaneous three-way presentation of Stand Up to Cancer on ABC, CBS and NBC drew a combined 153,443 homes between 7 and 8 p.m.

The competing first hour of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, with 10-year-old Bryce Cass of Rockwall joining the new roster of "classmates," had 124,216 homes on Fox alone. The second hour improved to 172,928 homes. And 5th Grader drew more advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds from 7 to 8 p.m. than the entire audience in that demographic for the cancer fundraiser, co-hosted by network news anchors Charles Gibson, Katie Couric and Brian Williams.

In the local news derby, WFAA8 and NBC5 traded punches at 10 p.m., with the ABC station taking first in total homes and the Peacock winning with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 aced the 6 a.m. ratings in both measurements and WFAA8 did likewise at 6 p.m. The 5 p.m. competition was won by WFAA8 in total homes and NBC5 in the 25-to-54 demo.

Bypassed by briefing, but there are plenty in the street


Taking it to the street, where briefings go to die. Photo: Ed Bark

The Dallas Morning News twice has promised (threatened?) to deposit its new briefing on our "doorstep" from Wednesdays through Saturdays each week.

The exciting notifications both came in the mail before the August 27th debut of the "power-packed" product designed for "people who are on the go."

Announcement No. 2 even included a free packet of powdered Powerbar brand electrolytes to "replenish what your body needs to help you charge through your day." You see, that's what briefing's supposed to do, too. It's symbolic.

So far, though, no briefing. Not a one dropped anywhere in the vicinity of our friendly abode in Garland, home of super-charged unclebarky.com since Sept. 17, 2006.

My wife's kinda pissed because Wednesday's briefing is supposed to include the coupon-packed Neighborhood Shopper that used to come in the mail. Now we don't get that either, in addition to missing out on "what's most important. Quickly. Besides updates on local, national, and world news, you'll find helpful, color-coded sections that address your world."

Right. Thanks for working us up into a frenzy.

No, our block somehow has been bypassed by briefing. But around the block, Club Meadow hasn't. On a late Saturday afternoon run/walk, I had noticed three briefings deposited not on doorsteps but basically as litter in the street in front of three residences. They were still in their eco-unfriendly plastic bags. I picked one up, took it home and saw that it was not Saturday's, but Friday's 12-page edition. So it had been marinating and gathering tire tracks for a day-and-a-half.

On Sunday I decided to explore further with a digital camera in tow. Up and down three blocks worth of Club Meadow, a dozen briefings were still untouched. Five were in the street, none were anywhere near a doorstep and no front lawns were hit either. Two made it as far as the sidewalk, though.

I picked up the briefings in the street. None was more recent than Friday, Sept. 5th, and one dated all the way back to Friday, August 29th. All had a full-page Rooms to Go ad on back. Talk about your long shelf lives, even if no one's seeing them.

There seemed to be no pattern to the distribution. Clearly not every home on the block was getting briefing. Nor were they getting it every day, as promised in those advertisements. Maybe just on Fridays? What sense does that make?

The Sept. 5 briefing, with Republican nominee John McCain on the front page, included an ad that asked, "How about a Sunday morning No-Brainer?" To me this doesn't seem like an ideal way to promote the Sunday Dallas Morning News, which can be delivered to your doorstep -- yeah, sure -- for 50 cents less than the current $2 rate.

A.H. Belo Corp., which owns The Dallas Morning News, announced Friday that 270 of its employees had accepted a voluntary buyout offer, but that "an involuntary reduction in force will be completed by mid-to-late October to achieve the necessary remaining workforce reductions." Left unsaid is how many more bodies that'll be.

The emergence of briefing is supposed to be another brilliant way to exploit untapped revenues and help to avert more downsizing in the near future. But so far they can't even throw it in the general vicinity of doorsteps, let alone deliver it to some who were promised "the knowledge you need to power your day" -- plus valuable coupons.

So for now at least, I'll keep serving as nearby Club Meadow's unofficial garbageman whenever briefings end up in the street. As a former DMN employee it helps me to stay connected, even though there's the sneaking suspicion that briefing already is well on the way to becoming Cue Cat II instead of the heralded Second Coming.

Meanwhile, share your briefing stories with unclebarky.com. Were you promised it? Are you getting it? Do you enjoy it? Or should Belo be cited for littering your neighborhood? Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 4)

The Republican convention closed shop Thursday night on a predictable ratings downer.

Few thought that presidential nominee John McCain could match or beat the audience for the previous night's speech by running mate Sarah Palin. And in D-FW, he didn't.

McCain's acceptance address lingered a bit past prime-time to 10:04 p.m., with the Big Three broadcast networks all sticking around a little longer before signing off by 10:11 p.m. Nielsen measures audiences in 15-minute increments, so here are the seven-way convention audience averages from 9 to 10:15 p.m.

ABC -- 163,185 homes
FNC -- 153,443 homes
NBC -- 136,394 homes
PBS -- 99,860 homes
CBS -- 77,939 homes
CNN -- 73,068 homes
MSNBC -- 41,405 homes.

That totals 672,300 homes compared to the 718,501 homes for Palin. That's pretty close, but no victory cigar for the head of the GOP ticket. Has a veep speech ever outdrawn a bossman's at any national convention held by either party? Probably not, although McCain following Palin was like Buddy Ebsen trying to top Shirley Temple. It just wasn't in the cards.

Also in the cable universe, the first of Bill O'Reilly's four-part interview with Barack Obama drew 107,166 D-FW homes from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday. That was good enough to win the time period against everything except the second hour of NBC's Giants-Redskins NFL season kickoff (263,045 homes) and Univision 23's Al Diablo con Los Guapos (136,394 homes).

In the local news derby, the delayed 10 p.m. newscasts again don't count.

At 6 a.m., Fox4 notched another win in total homes, but WFAA8 took the gold among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 won at 5 p.m. in both ratings measurements and WFAA8 did likewise at 6 p.m. in a downsized three-way race in which the Peacock kicked off the NFL season at an early start time in order to carry McCain's speech at the appointed 9 p.m. hour.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Wed., Sept. 3)

Sarah Palin's much-anticipated speech Wednesday night had blockbuster ratings in D-FW -- at least for a convention. But did it outdraw Barack Obama's acceptance address at last Thursday's closing night of the Democratic gathering?

Let's first look at the 9 to 10:15 p.m. Nielsen numbers for the seven-network convention coverage (Palin's speech stretched past prime-time to 10:08 p.m. locally, with the Big Three broadcast networks all signing off by 10:15 p.m.).

ABC -- 151,007 homes
NBC -- 138,829 homes
FNC -- 121,780 homes
PBS -- 94,988 homes
CNN -- 75,504 homes
CBS -- 70,632 homes
MSNBC -- 65,761 homes

That's a seven-network total of 718,501 D-FW homes. Obama's closer wasn't even close, drawing 440,843 homes on a night opposite the closing hour of a Cowboys-Vikings pre-season game that amassed 280,094 homes from 9 to 10 p.m. on TXA21.

Give all of those homes to Obama and he nips Palin with a grand total of 720,937. But virtually every single Cowboys viewer obviously wouldn't have watched the convention were the meaningless game not in progress.

Wednesday's most-watched show on a single network, another two-hour edition of NBC's America's Got Talent, lured 158,314 homes from 7 to 9 p.m.

On cable, FX's premiere of its motorcycle gang-spiked Sons of Anarchy had 26,792 homes, roughly half the crowd for a competing Law & Order reprise on TNT (56,019 homes).

In the local news derby, three of the four 10 p.m. presentations were delayed for 15 minutes by the convention runover. So we won't count them on this night.

Fox4 won at 6 a.m. in total homes, but NBC5 ran first among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

WFAA8 had the golds at 6 p.m. in both measurements and also topped the 5 p.m. ratings with 25-to-54-year-olds. Fox4 prevailed at 5 p.m. in total homes.

Jepson's first words -- post-WFAA8

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Jepson in earlier days at WFAA8 and in latter day station photo.

Former WFAA8 anchor/reporter Macie Jepson got the news on Aug. 21st that the station had cut her loose after eight years.

Shaken by the sudden termination, she declined all comment until now. A followup interview is planned, but here are her first thoughts, sent via email, on being dropped as WFAA8's 5 p.m. co-anchor after joining the ABC station in 2000:

"I've wanted to send this for days, but it was important that I let the dust settle. As you can imagine, the final draft is tempered. But the people closest to me insist this approach is more graceful.

"I loved my job at WFAA. I loved -- truly loved my co-workers. My friends. I am thankful my WFAA career ended on the top. I am proud of the work we did and enjoyed it immensely.

"Many thanks to everyone for your kind words and prayers. I've read a few of your blogs and am grateful. Blessed really. I am pleased that I will be remembered as a 'real' person who delivered your news of the day with compassion and conviction. I believe those qualities are still important and can serve me well on the air again in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In the meantime I've already enjoyed spending extra time with my husband and daughters, who are the real blessings in my life. As always I wish everyone the best and thanks to all for making my time at WFAA so enjoyable.

"Thank you for allowing me some 'down time' to regroup and make decisions about my next career steps. Please keep me and my family in your prayers."

Jepson was the only full-time on-camera employee dropped by WFAA8 as part of an elimination of 14 positions. Ten of them had been vacant and now won't be filled. Another three were part-time positions, according to station management.

"This a reflection of very difficult economic times, and we have endeavored to minimize the impact on people," WFAA8 president and general manager Mike Devlin said in a telephone interview at the time.

Devlin and news director Mike Valentine said they will have no further comment on Jepson's situation.