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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Wed., Nov. 8)

Belo8's Dale Hansen and Fox4's Mike Doocy played offense and defense on the Dallas Cowboys and Terrell Owens.

Terrell Owens is fair game in this town. He's seen to that. But is Belo8's Dale Hansen being even remotely fair to him?

Sports reporting took center stage on Night 5 of the November "sweeps," with all four D-FW newscasts devoting considerable time to the T.O. Cowboys. Hansen's choice words for Owens and his choice of locker room interview snippets were an out-of-bounds contrast to what the other three stations reported. Hansen is entitled to his freewheeling opinions. They're his "unplugged" trademark. What he's doing to Owens, though, seems more like a vendetta.

Viewers who watched the 10 p.m. sports reports on Fox4, NBC5 or CBS11 saw Owens take full responsibility for a big pass drop that contributed heavily to last Sunday's stomach-turning defeat in Washington.

"That's a play that I should make and I didn't make it, and, you know, I feel bad," he told a gaggle of reporters. "I honestly feel like I let the team down and this loss is really on my shoulders."

That's a side of Owens that's not shown very often. On Fox4, sports anchor Mike Doocy followed up with what he termed the "surprising" results of a station web poll. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said that signing Owens was a good idea. Doocy then said he shared that opinion, but didn't think the poll would be so overwhelmingly in favor of Owens.

NBC5 and CBS11 also played portions of Owens' apologia, with the latter station's Steve Dennis telling viewers that Owens "has become the popular scapegoat for this team's disappointment" despite his 44 catches and six touchdowns in eight games.

Belo8's Cowboys story, by Joe Trahan, was titled "CSI: Search for Identity." Hansen set it up by saying, "Cowboys need to figure out who and what they are, and a win this week won't do it."

Owens' blame-taking didn't make Trahan's story. Instead the receiver was used to reinforce its theme. "Right now we're kinda all over the board," Owens said after Coach Bill Parcells declined to talk about any team identity crisis.

Then Hansen lowered the boom.

"Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens stuns me almost every time he opens his mouth," Hansen told viewers. "Just when I think he can't possibly say anything dumber than he already has, he does."

The station next played a clip of Owens pledging to "have fun" at games. He also said he didn't know that fake-sleeping in the end zone while using a football as a pillow would be flagged for an automatic 15-yard penalty.

Hansen of course had a rejoinder: "Owens says he didn't know it was a penalty? Now he's either lying about that and daring the Cowboys to do something about it, or the Cowboys coaches are incredibly incompetent not to have told him about the rules. It's one or the other. Pick one. They bring refs to training camp for just that reason. But maybe Owens slept through that meeting."

This prompted the now prototypical, off-camera hee-haw from anchor Gloria Campos. But is this really a laughing matter? Maybe Hansen should be flagged on occasion for ignoring other elements of a story. Owens in fact blamed himself for the Cowboys loss, an admission that obviously doesn't come easily for a man with his ego. In fairness, Belo8 at least should have put those comments in play before Hansen clotheslined him. But no. You had to watch a rival station's 10 p.m. newscast to get that side of the Owens story. Hansen's agenda demanded it.

In other news, Fox4 was the only station to give any full, detailed attention to the Democrats' stunning sweep of contested Dallas County judicial races. Reporter James Rose also noted that many of the losing Republican judges didn't show up in court Wednesday morning, leaving citizens in the lurch.

Just one station -- CBS11 -- led with the Democrats' complete recapturing of Congress after the down-to-the-wire Virginia Senate race went to Democrat Jim Webb, according to the Associated Press. The station followed with the day's other stunner, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation and President Bush's decision to replace him with Texas A&M president Robert Gates.

NBC5 brushed those stories off as largely inconsequential, waiting until 10:07 p.m. to reel off two news briefs read by anchor Mike Snyder. Deemed more important in the night's pecking order were accounts of a Euless ice cream store robbery, three apartment burglaries and an array of other crime stories that have become NBC5's stock in trade.

The station made a huge deal of two would-be bank robbers who ran through a Plano neighborhood before being caught.

"And sirens and police cars everywhere, and everything was gettin' all taped," said an elderly woman, referring to one of NBC5's money shots -- yellow police tape.

Reporter Scott Gordon waited until the end of his story to tell viewers that, oh yeah, the men were carrying fake guns. On Fox4, which downplayed the story, anchor Clarice Tinsley said right up top that the weapons were fake.

Veteran reporters Fil Alvarado, Byron Harris and Robert Riggs

Wednesday night also marked the first "sweeps" appearances of three old time religion warhorses whose reports invariably are on solid ground.

Belo8 investigative reporter Byron Harris had an eye-opening story on the increased frequency with which airline pilots are dead tired enough to fall asleep in flight.

CBS11's Robert Riggs, formerly of Belo8, reported on the long road in Iraq from the perspective of Navy Admiral Patrick Walsh, a Jesuit High School graduate who had a speaking engagement in Dallas that other stations ignored on their 10 p.m. news.

And Fox4's Fil Alvarado talked to soldiers arriving at D-FW Airport for a couple of week leave before returning to combat in Iraq.

These aren't sexy, sensational or crime-infused topics. But they are stories of import and substance. Contrast all three with NBC5's breathless lead story of a Coppell teenager who had fallen off a car trunk and then was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Reporter Scott Friedman said the patient had been stabilized, but had no further information.

Anchor Jane McGarry termed it one of "three big stories we're working on tonight," the others being those would-be robbers with fake guns and the area's unseasonably warm weather.

But NBC5 still holds the top spot in the 10 p.m. Nielsen ratings. So whadda I know?