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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Tues., Nov. 7)

Hello, we must be going: These NBC5 reporters introduced themselves and then vanished from Tuesday's election coverage.

Election nights are litmus tests of technology, reporting skills and overall organization. It's a delicate juggling act from start to finish. Mistakes happen. You just don't want to make any major ones.

In that context, Belo8 made a huge, night-long gaffe while NBC5 played bait and switch with its principal reporters in the field. That left the laurels to Fox4 and CBS11, both of which were rock-solid. The edge, however, goes to Fox4, which had the night's most extensive, comprehensive coverage.

NBC5's 10 p.m. show offered the least election news, although viewers were led to expect much more at the very top of the program. Above-pictured reporters Brett Johnson, Ken Kalthoff, Susan Risdon and Grant Stinchfield introduced themselves from the "watch party" headquarters of the four principal gubernatorial candidates. Then they were neither seen nor heard from again. Nor were losing candidates Chris Bell, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman. NBC5 carried only the live victory speech of Republican governor Rick Perry before soon turning to business as usual -- a collection of crime stories.

In the station's defense, it did have a three-hour, prime-time election webcast anchored by Kevin Cokely. But in reality, how many people watched that? The big tuna in this market is still the 10 p.m. newscast. So unless you really mean it, don't tell viewers you're going to have reporters "fanning out" all over Texas. On election night at least, perhaps NBC5 could have dispensed with the "Purse Ploy" story by Scott Friedman or the "Copper crooks" piece by Nigel Wheeler. Or even reporter Meredith Land's dispatch on a Dallas sandwich shop's inconsequential "Penny Ban." Another night, another infomercial.

At least NBC5 got the gubernatorial returns right. With 38 percent of precincts reporting at 10 p.m., Perry had 39 percent of the vote, followed by Bell (30 percent), Strayhorn (18 percent) and Friedman (12 percent).

CBS11 and Fox4 also executed this elementary election night exercise. But Belo8 inexplicably screwed it up from start to finish despite using the same percentage of precincts reporting. The station's graphic gave Perry 49 percent of the vote, a level he never came close to attaining. Bell was listed at 36 percent, Strayhorn, 14 percent and Friedman, 1 percent. Belo8 never audibly or visually corrected those numbers. It also put up a graphic that had candidates for attorney-general receiving 0 percent of the vote. But anchors John McCaa and Gloria Campos quickly caught that one, noting that Republican incumbent Greg Abbott easily had won that race.

Belo8 did make an all-out effort with its election night correspondents, who capably reported live from eight locations. But the station self-destructed when it came to dispensing bottom-line factual information on the state's biggest race.

CBS11 covered most of the election night bases and had knowledgeable analysis from veteran John Weekley. The station also made good use of "sister station" (KTXA/Ch. 21) reporters Chris Salcedo and Kaushal Patel, who respectively outlined Texas congressional results and various ballot propositions.

Two victorious candidates, Perry and Abbott, were still running campaign commercials during the CBS11 newscast. That's either piling on or worth a refund. It also was the only station to make room for a sports segment, although anchor Babe Laufenberg really needn't have bothered. An old clip of a rambling Don Meredith talking about being elected governor "in my drinking days" preceded a lame CBS11 web poll on which former Dallas Cowboys QB should be the state's chief executive. Roger Staubach had 75 percent of the vote in early returns.

Fox4 stayed with election coverage for its entire newscast. It was the only station to fully capture audio and video of Perry's wife, Anita, who had a crazed Howard Dean moment while introducing her husband to a cheering crowd in Austin.

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great night to be a Republican in Texas!" she screamed while gyrating full-tilt. It belongs somewhere on YouTube.

Fox4 also had some very lively analysis from the political odd couple of Mark Davis and John Wiley Price.

The Democratic gains nationally mark "a return to sanity and some centrality," Price declared.

Davis countered that Nancy Pelosi will make a terrible Speaker of the House and that the new Democratic leadership will fail with "whatever impeachment pipe dream they might have."

Later, Fox4 landed the only live interview with Dallas County district attorney candidate Craig Watkins, who was poised to pull what turned out to be a mega-upset over incumbent Republican Toby Shook. Reporter Lynn Kawano was more than a bit too giddy in Watkins' presence, but at least she had a coup.

Minutes before the 10 p.m. newscast, Fox4 lived dangerously with a live broadcast of candidate Friedman's remarks to supporters in Austin. The Kinkster began by saying, "Allegations that I had sex with a male masseuse are entirely false."

The station then thought better of staying the course, with anchor Steve Eagar telling viewers, "I think we worried about what he was gonna do there."

We've heard considerably worse -- on various Fox entertainment shows.