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This just in: a night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., Feb. 5)

CBS11's Tracy Rowlett and WFAA8's David Schechter excelled.

An old sodbuster and a young dirt-digger showed how it's done on a night otherwise driven by "Super Tuesday" updates and the now possibly pivotal role of the March 4th Texas presidential primary.

CBS11's Tracy Rowlett, in his newly minted role as roving reporter, mentor and 5 p.m. news anchor, had an extended piece on a latter day West Texas oil boom driven by sky-high prices per barrel.

WFAA8's David Schechter, chided in these spaces last month for using Barbie Dolls as props, had a hard-charging, grownup investigation of a North Texas memorabilia auctioneer that's now offering refunds based on his findings.

It's amazing what you can do with ample time and encouragement from management. And a little substance goes a long way toward polishing a station's news rep.

Rowlett went to Midland to document a rebirth in the oil drilling game. Companies are scrambling both to strike it rich and hire enough employees to keep things humming, he said. The president of Dowdco, Inc. recalled making payrolls by running up his credit card a decade ago. He nearly went bust, but the thrill of big finds and richer payoffs again have his company drilling like crazy for untapped Texas tea.

The report ended with Rowlett standing at a gas station while noting that higher prices for oil also will mean more crude, rude awakenings at the pump. That certainly brings it all back home.

Schechter delved deep into the sometimes shady Hollywood memorabilia business, eventually shaming Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries.

"We are mortified and embarrassed about this," Heritage president Greg Rohan told him on-camera.

Primarily at issue were pricey items supposedly obtained from the private collection of deceased actress Ann Sothern. They included an Elvis Presley travel razor, a Humphrey Bogart cigarette case and an Errol Flynn whiskey flask. The latter item was purchased for $4,200 at a Heritage auction by Dallas collector Charles Heard.

Belatedly suspicious about the flask's authenticity, Heard contacted Sothern's daughter, Tisha Sterling, who sent him a letter saying that her mother neither collected nor sold Hollywood memorabilia.

Schechter then obtained detailed records of "all the things she (Sterling) did sell when her mother died." There were no mentions of the Flynn flask or any of the other aforementioned items in a so-called "Ann Sothern Collection" that Heritage later auctioned off on behalf of a Mississippi-based company called LA Prop and Wardrobe.

Schechter also interviewed LA Prop co-owner Billie Null on camera. You might say he squirmed while trying to wriggle off the reporter's hook. The company also marketed a highly questionable Johnny Carson microphone among other celebrity finds. Heritage eventually sold it for $2,600.

Heritage's Rohan says they should have done their own investigation of LA Prop instead of waiting for WFAA8 to come knocking.

"We would have stopped doing business with them immediately," he said.

That's known in the TV news biz as a clean kill. So much so that a humbled Heritage might be willing to swallow even harder and buy some of those Barbie Dolls used by Schechter during earlier WFAA8 reports. He'll perhaps even provide an unassailable letter of authenticity. One way or another, he needs to get rid of them.

Fox4, with an extra half-hour to fill, spent lots of time on Super Tuesday results and analysis. This brought accomplished veteran reporter/anchor Richard Ray to the 9 p.m. newscast for what seemed to be the first time in forever.

Ray and his laptop computer capably crunched data after anchor Heather Hays couldn't resist likening the day's 24 state primaries to a certain top-rated Fox talent show.

"Call it 'Super Tuesday' or even 'Political Idol," she said as the show's theme song kicked in for a second or two. Double sheesh.

***Fox4 reporter Jeff Crilley stood out in the breezy weather to review the day's sudden onset of heavy rain and in some cases, hail. He capped his live dispatch by brandishing a badly broken umbrella. This could mean he owes the station's prop department $5 bucks.

***NBC5 reporter Meredith Land had an affecting story on the latest North Texas military fatality in Iraq, Spc. Christopher J. West. His family in Arlington had kept their Christmas tree up while awaiting his return.

***Her hair whipping in the wind, WFAA8's Chris Hawes had a telling story on car burglars running amuck in a Fort Worth neighborhood made vulnerable by an "invisible presence" of police patrols. A lieutenant with the department said that's because they're nearly 100 officers short due to a recent "rash of retirements."

***Forecaster Pete Delkus left himself ripe for a crisp counter-punch by sports anchor Dale Hansen after telling him that Tuesday was "national weatherman's day."

"In your household, it is every day," Hansen jabbed.

"Yes, it is," Delkus delivered.