powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Wed., Nov. 18)

All in one gulp: CBS11's Doug Dunbar, Karen Borta, Larry Mowry.

We pause now for this important commercial-free message: In hopes of keeping viewers tuned in during the hotly contested home stretch of the 10 p.m. news ratings race, CBS11 lately is reeling off 22 minutes of uninterrupted coverage.

In other words, the station is doubling down on an old "11 on 11" slogan from the time before CBS bought KTVT-TV in 1999.

The 22 minutes, which include Larry Mowry's weathercast, are a marathon run within a typical 35-minute 10 p.m. newscast (30 minutes in the case of Fox4). Stations typically cut away to the first commercial break after 10 to 14 minutes of news content.

CBS11, in a pitched battle with WFAA8 for the 10 p.m. lead in total viewers and advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds, is looking for any edge it can get down the homestretch of the November "sweeps," which end on the night before Thanksgiving.

The station also is using on-screen "Coming up in 4 minutes" tags to tout its most heavily promoted stories. On Wednesday night, those plugs were for Ginger Allen's walk through the Fort Worth Museum of Sciences' new "CSI Experience" exhibit and Part 3 of an ongoing "Social Experiment" series in which guinea pigs go a week without texting, the Internet, their cell phones, etc.

After this big burst, all that's left is Babe Laufenberg's nightly sports segment -- which begins around 10:24 p.m. -- and a few video shorts amid two clusters of commercial breaks. Whether long-term or not, it's an interesting strategy that CBS11 hopes might be a bit of a game-changer opposite WFAA8's more conventionally structured newscast.

Content-wise, CBS11 had two stories of note Wednesday night. Jack Fink reported on lags in flu vaccine deliveries in Collin County compared to Dallas and Tarrant Counties. And Melissa Newton had an interesting look at how child custody cases are resulting in more instances in which the husband wins out. That's because more and more mothers are working, in some cases reversing or altering traditional stay-at-home roles.

WFAA8 countered with two standout stories of its own. Crime victim coverage permeates your basic local newscast. But Jason Whitely cut through the typical yellow police tape with his story on a World War II pilot and former longtime elementary school principal who was robbed and beaten in his home after merely answering the front door. The subhuman assailant, who's still at large, then stuffed poor old A.J. Hilliard in a closet.

Whitely interviewed the plucky Hilliard, who's head was bandaged and who still considers himself a lucky man after having to abandon his aircraft during a WWII mission. It really made you feel for the guy while at the same time hoping that the flesh-coated animal who did this to him winds up being severely punished.

WFAA8's David Schechter, the station's principal transportation reporter, had a lengthy piece on TXDot's use of easily broken pylons to divide HOV lanes from the other freeway traffic.

"TXDot had no idea if they would work -- and they did not," said Schechter. His Exhibit A was a motorcyclist who may have suffered irreparable brain damage after a motorist swerved into him when the pylons gave way. Schechter reported that hundreds of tubes were broken and left missing for a year and a half until TXDot launched a $450,000 repair project. In the interim, serious accidents occurred that otherwise probably wouldn't have.

"Things take a little bit of time. It's not an instantaneous issue that's gonna be resolved," said TXDot spokeswoman Cynthia Northrop White. That didn't sound very convincing. Nor did White look terribly reassuring in Cruella De Vil makeup and a matching mega-mane of jet black hair.

Fox4 and NBC5 had little to offer of note, although the Peacock's Grant Stinchfield at least provided a little comedy relief with his semi-earnest story on how people are spreading swine flu to themselves by touching their faces too much.

"Bottom line: infected hands near your face is the quickest way to implant the flu," Stinchfield said before capping his piece with a doctor's advice. Said the sawbones: "I don't think it's time to necessarily stop shaking hands, but it may be time to stop picking your nose."

Picking two: With five weekdays left in the sweeps, we're going to put our "Night in the Lives" spotlight on just the two stations that matter right now -- WFAA8 and CBS11. They're battling down to the wire for November's 10 p.m. ratings crown while Fox4 and NBC5 have absolutely no chance to win.

Although NBC5 has improved somewhat, its content is still seldom a match for WFAA8's or CBS11's. And Fox4 basically is repeating its 9 p.m. newscast in lackluster shorter form rather than making any effort to have it stand out on its own. In short, it's just not worth the extra time it takes to watch Fox4 and NBC5. So we won't -- at least for the rest of the sweeps.