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Hansen unplugged: the sequel

WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen during his much talked about Tuesday night "Unplugged" commentary and news director Michael Valentine at the 2007 Lone Star Emmy Awards. Photos: Ed Bark

And now the rest of the story on WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen's take-no-prisoners discourse that has become the talk of the town -- at least on talk radio.

Interviewed by telephone Wednesday, Hansen said that news director Michael Valentine both solicited his "Unplugged" commentary and had no interest in reading it beforehand.

What emerged, on the Dallas-based station's Tuesday 10 p.m. newscast, was a veritable verbal assault on station management for deciding to air a secretly recorded Jerry Jones video in which the seemingly well-oiled Dallas Cowboys owner profanely ripped former coach Bill Parcells and the NFL potential of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Jones was holding court in a bar at the time.

Hansen said a late afternoon in-station debate on the newsworthiness of the grainy video left him on the losing side.

"We went round and round and round," he said of the give-and-take between Valentine and the station's assistant news director.

In the end, Hansen refused to do a story on the video. Co-anchor Gloria Campos instead stepped in after earlier emceeing the same day's retirement party for Dallas police chief David Kunkle.

Valentine then asked him if he wanted to do one of his periodic "Unplugged" commentaries, Hansen said.

"I was a little surprised, hell, a lot surprised," Hansen said. "I think he (Valentine) knew my frustrations.

Hansen said he considered not doing anything, but gradually warmed to the idea. He eventually teased the commentary on Tuesday's 6 p.m. newscast, naming Valentine and saying that his boss made a "terrible" mistake in greenlighting the Jones video for air.

In recent months, Hansen also has been doing taped Friday commentaries for WFAA8's ratings troubled Daybreak program. Valentine looks them over beforehand because "it's news content and getting outside the sports area," Hansen said. "He's never flinched on any of them. So I absolutely assumed at the very least he'd want to see this. And he said, 'No, be fair, and take your best shot."

Valentine said earlier in these spaces that "it would be hypocritical for me to ask him to take a stance but not to say anything negative about a decision I make. He has my full support."

Mike Devlin, president and general manager of WFAA8, said Wednesday of Hansen's "Unplugged" commentary, "As usual, he's incorrect." But he laughed after saying this before adding, "He's funny, engaging and he's one of a kind."

Before it aired, Hansen and sports director Sean Hamilton went over the commentary. Hamilton "had some concerns," Hansen said, mainly about the riff in which he lamented the lack of leaders in today's television news rooms. Too many people want to be followers, he said.

But those comments were left in, as were Hansen's remarks that stations love to report embarrassing stories, except when they involve prominent anchors in their own newsrooms.

"Basically, I'm trying to uphold the sanctity of the bar," said Hansen, who's no stranger to them. "Trust me, he (Jones) has done worse thing that in a bar, and I choose not to report them . . . Without question the ambush aspect of it bothered me the most, because I think it was terribly unfair to Jones. It's an invasion of privacy. Then add to it that I honestly don't see any story here.

"What I'm getting tired of," he added, "is a lot of these bloggers throw crap against the wall. And oh my gosh, sometimes it sticks. And then they hold that up as being a bastion of journalism."

Deadspin.com, where the Jones video originated, had its own salute to Hansen Wednesday. "Ehhhh . . . (f-word) off, Dale Hansen," said a headline above his "Unplugged" commentary.

"Well, there ya go," Hansen said, laughing.

Hansen overall is no purist when it comes to the necessities of today's television news. His almost nightly banter with weathercaster Pete Delkus has put some readers of unclebarky.com off their feed. It's oftentimes been ridiculed by your friendly content provider, too.

"Edward R. Murrow is dead," Hansen said. "There unfortunately may have to be room for Hansen and Delkus to do our shtick. If we were to do our newscast by the standards of Murrow (who also, it should be noted, had a celebrity interview program), we wouldn't have an audience. The reality is when it's all said and done, it's a business. I'm just trying to stop the mudslide."

NBC5 and CBS11, as previously reported, did not air the Jones video or report on it. Hansen said he was "shocked" by NBC5's decision. "If I had to pick one station that would have aired it, it would have been them," he said.

CBS11's sports anchor Babe Laufenberg remains on the Cowboys payroll as the team's radio analyst, a job that Hansen did for a number of years while also being paid by both the team and his full-time employer. It's a perception problem that he had and that Laufenberg inherited.

"Channel 11 may have made the right decision for a lot of the right reasons," Hansen said. "But I know that a lot of people think they didn't want to tamper with their relationship with Jerry Jones. But I don't know. People thought that of me, too. It's hard to maintain any autonomy anymore."

Laufenberg, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he "didn't feel comfortable" using the Jones video.

"The big thing to me is what are you going to stand for," he said. "How do you want to present Babe Laufenberg? I didn't see the news value in it, and I certainly had major problems with how they got it. Certainly Jerry is a public figure, but I think people are entitled to some sense of privacy."

CBS11's new news director, Adrienne Roark, was "in total agreement with me," he said. Had he clandestinely recorded video with Jones while drinking with him, "she'd throw me out of the office" if he then proposed airing it, Laufenberg said.

His relationship with the Cowboys will always be saddled with a perception problem, Laufenberg agreed. "But the Cowboys have never called me and said, 'Here, we've got something for you.' "

One more thing. Newsblues.com, one of many TV industry-related sites to pick up on the Hansen commentary, ended its post with "Late yesterday, Hansen tweeted: 'just to kill any rumors - i am going to be gone most of april on vacation . . . so i have not been fired . . . just so you know.' "

Hansen said he doesn't tweet and isn't going anywhere this month, save for a couple of days off to participate in a golf tournament with which he's connected. Otherwise he'll be at his regular post. And as Tuesday night proved for all time, one never knows just what he might say.