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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Wed., May 9)

A New Mexico bear and God had prominent roles on CBS11.

They're kidding with this stuff, right?

If only.

CBS11's ever-changing 10 p.m. newscast seemed to satirize itself Wednesday with a purloined story on God's existence and the saga of a Dallas hiker chased by a New Mexico black bear.

The bear got top billing over the Supreme Being, with reporter Jay Gormley assigned the thankless task of dramatizing your basic non-story. Standing live in the dark for no good reason, Gormley introduced viewers to Steve Middleton, who got chased and scared by a bear during a hiking jaunt in New Mexico.

The station had his "exclusive" 911 call to prove it. Yes, Middleton phoned for help, but then managed to run the bear off by himself.

"The chase left Steve tired and lost," Gormley told viewers. But he was unhurt and soon found some friendly park rangers. End of "story." Huh?

It should be noted that Gormley is one of several accomplished reporters at CBS11 who now are being ordered to assume the position or else. In this case, make that grin and bear it.

Soon after came Marita Arita's report on a Tulane University physicist who claims to have "clear-cut, scientific proof of the existence of God."

Actually, it mostly wasn't her report. Arita stood in a studio, narrating footage "courtesy of" WGCL-TV, Atlanta's CBS station. Viewers saw Prof. Frank Tippler doing the math on a blackboard and then proclaiming, "God exists. God is the cosmological singularity."

Arita or somebody from CBS11 talked to a couple of area authorities, but the majority of the story came from WGCL. Wheels really must have been turning back on the homefront. Maybe the thinking went something like this: "This is the Bible belt, dammit. Put God's name in a tease and they'll come runnin' faster than that guy who ran away from the bear."

Whatever the strategy, Prof. Tippler's theorems seemed impenetrable if not totally nonsensical. But it didn't stop him from proclaiming to WGCL, "You are forced to conclude that God exists."

Anchors Doug Dunbar and Karen Borta both deserve discredited Katie Awards for keeping straight faces. Good Lord.

NBC5, rapidly becoming just the second worst newscast in town, countered with Mistress of the Dark Susan Risdon's thought-provoking piece on a since terminated exterminator who allegedly exposed himself to a customer while in her home. A neighbor woman dutifully wondered what might have happened had she bought his services.

He was a "really creepy kind of guy, ya know," the neighbor said. Risdon then sealed the deal, telling viewers that her interviewee "still can't forget how the exterminator stared at her."

Anchors Jane McGarry and Mike Snyder soon were double-teasing Grant Stinchfield's big feature report of the night.

"Wait 'til you see what's going on in the public library," said McGarry.

Snyder later told viewers that libraries are supposed to be for reading and learning, and not a place to "rest and recover from a hard night of living out on the streets."

What a high and mighty ass he can be. Sorry, but sometimes you just have to use language that hits the spot.

Stinchfield, who "exposed" the Dallas downtown library two years ago as a popular venue for the city's homeless, offered "undercover" footage of actual homeless people within the confines of the place.

He also interviewed a college student who had been "trying to focus" on her studies when a man sat beside her and starting "ranting and raving." So she moved away from him. Not a big deal, really.

"Napping is also common. So is just hanging out," Stinchfield revealed while creepy organ music set the desired mood. That's right. Drive them out with cattle prods and let 'em snatch purses so NBC5 can double-dip with a heaping helping of companion crime stories.

We're only halfway through the May sweeps ratings period, and NBC5 is fighting hard to stay atop the 10 p.m. ratings in the key 25-to-54-year-old audience measurement. So of course you're going to get plenty more where this came from.

Belo8's Shelly Slater, Fox4's Rebecca Aguilar, Belo8's Rebecca Lopez

Meanwhile, Belo8 is just a hair behind in the 25-to-54 ratings race. And the station is taking the opposite tack by de-emphasizing and sometimes altogether ignoring breaking crime in its 10 p.m. news packages.

Wednesday's newscast instead opted for solid enterprise reporting rather than unduly scaring viewers with worst-case scenarios and on-the-spot dispatches from yellow police-taped locales.

Shelly Slater reported from Frisco on the high yearly costs of a taxpayer-funded recreation center. Chris Hawes had a story on a Fort Worth neighborhood's battle to rid itself of an unwanted dumping site. Gary Reaves also reported from Fort Worth on that city's progress in building an official memorial for fallen police officers. And Rebecca Lopez looked at the city of Dallas's increased willingness to hire convicted felons to do taxpayer-funded work.

Belo8's promotions were a little hysterical on the latter story, but Lopez reported with an even hand. Victims rights advocates agree that ex-cons should get a second chance, but not on jobs in which the public writes the checks. Others say they'd rather see former crooks turning their lives around than on the streets looking to commit more crimes.

Fox4's 9 p.m. newscast offered some worthwhile stories, too, but only after a heavy dose of crime coverage at the top.

Scott Sayres had a piece on San Antonio's efforts to land a biological defense laboratory that some cities consider too dangerous. Rebecca Aguilar looked in-depth at a New Year's Eve police shooting outside Kilgore that resulted in the death of an unarmed man stopped for allegedly driving while intoxicated. Brandon Todd had a fun feature on a kangaroo that's become an area law firm's in-house mascot.

That said, the station is running on empty with its periodic "Idol Insider" segments.

American Idol already has enough in-show infomercials on its Wednesday results shows. So please spare viewers the likes of a giddy Steve Noviello's report on Idol fashion and where to buy it. His principle source, a "lifestyle guru" named "Stylin' " Steve Kemble, proofed to be more irritating than a Paula Abdul coo.

We'll close by noting that the Dallas mayoral race is still unaccounted for on D-FW's late night newscasts. That's right, not one story. And that's just not right.

Only two days remain until Saturday's election. C'mon, who's gonna be first. Anybody? Can't hear you.