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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBC5's Ellen Goldberg and CBS11's Ginger Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fair is fair.

Thirteen nights to go.