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Sams' Club: Wanna join? The membership's slowly growing. So is the unrest elsewhere at CBS11

People are starting to get the picture -- at least a little bit. CBS11's early morning program, with newly installed Scott Sams, is inching up in the total homes Nielsen ratings. Numbers have improved a bit in each of his first four days on the air, providing a little sunshine at a station that otherwise is in heavy lockdown.

"They don't want us talking to you or anyone else," said one CBS11 news staffer, whose identity is being kept secret to protect his or her job.

"I'm going to lay low on this. Hope you understand," said another CBS11 news staffer, whose identity is being kept secret to protect his or her job.

Others simply don't return phone calls or emails. And no one so far will speak on the record about the apparent fear and loathing that has gripped the newsroom since new news director Regent Ducas arrived last month.

There are rumors, definitely believed to be true, that Ducas had it out with at least two reporters under contract whom he'd like to fire if he could. And there's also word that veteran reporter Mary Stewart already has resigned, but would continue at the station until July. Again, none of these reporters have talked to unclebarky.com. They are not the source of this information.

Ducas, to his credit, did do an extended interview earlier this week. In the midst of a ratings slump this past year, he's taking CBS11 into the realm of a "more topical" approach that places an emphasis on whatever breaking live news hits the fan. "A bit more urgency, a little more about now," he calls it.

A number of reporters at CBS11 feel this means a virtual end to thoughtful pieces that take time to source and prepare. Anyone who watched Thursday's 10 p.m. newscast on opening night of the May "sweeps" (see Dallas-Fort Worth TV) can readily see that CBS11 rather suddenly looks a lot like NBC5. Except that Ducas isn't pandering to women viewers.

"I don't know how to do a female-oriented newscast," he said, referring to the diet, beautifying and bargain shopping stories that pockmark the second half of NBC5's newscasts. "I know how to just do topically driven news."

In the very animated "Comments" section tied to the Ducas interview, a "former CBS11 employee" praised the reporters, photographers and anchors who have survived "the whims of multiple news directors, each with ideas more stupid than the previous . . . I too think people are growing tired of newscasts full of nothing but crime, car chases and fires."

Not enough of those people watched CBS11. Pure and simple. Even fewer viewers might stick with the station under its new format. Whatever happens, Ducas initially shows no signs of budging from his belief that snappy, freshly popped news ultimately will carry the day.

Critics such as myself can and will find fault with his "run and gun" game plan. In the end, though, you'll decide.

We'll close as we began -- with Sams. Here's one of his promotional spots. Do you see a not-so-veiled slap at Fox4's morning show? You bet you do.