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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. newscasts (Tues., Nov. 21)

Ladies of the night unite: NBC5's Susan Risdon, Belo8's Chris Hawes
A lone woman pushes a shopping card in a vacant, darkened parking lot. Its only cargo is an uncooked chicken in a clear plastic bag. You're going "LIVE" with intrepid NBC5 reporter Susan Risdon.

Simultaneously on Belo8, a lone woman shines a flashlight into the front seat of an unoccupied parked car at the Grapevine Mills Mall. Gadzooks, she spots an alluring shopping bag. Reporter Chris Hawes is on the prowl, too. Don't play chicken with her.

Night 14 of the 20-day November "sweeps" found the two stations' featured ladies of the night squaring off at the top of their respective 10 p.m. newscasts. NBC5 and Belo8 remain in a tight ratings fight for the No. 1 spot at that hour. So let's get crackin' with a couple of show-and-tellers brought to you by some of late night's prettiest faces. It's tougher to put a good face on the stories they told.

Risdon took over after anchor Jane McGarry trilled about an "emerging strain" of salmonella "that's making people sick." This cued the shopping cart gambit for a story that otherwise had no wheels. Basically, viewers were told they can get sick from eating undercooked chicken. You also need to wash your hands after handling raw poultry. And be sure to clean any surfaces that come in contact with a bird in hand. Yes, this was NBC5's lead story Tuesday night. Risdon handled it with her usual grim determination, though.

Hawes had her table set by anchor John McCaa, who trumpeted this: "It happens in a flash. And it could happen to any of us at any time. But during the holidays, what you leave in your car could be a feast for thieves."

Well, we've heard this many times before, usually on NBC5's purse-snatching, package-pilfering newscasts. But Hawes gave it a game try anyway after anchor Gloria Campos told viewers that car break-ins were on the rise in North Texas.

The reporter's other hook was grainy video of a brazen thief who had posted his crimes on the Internet after setting them to music. Hawes then got some tips from a police officer. Basically, lock your car and keep packages out of easy view. But then you already knew that.

Hawes ended her story by basically discounting its reason for being. Police statistics say the Grapevine Mills Mall had zero car break-ins last holiday season, she told viewers. So in a sense, never mind. Not that those facts got in the way of Belo8's big chill of a come-on.

Rival stations led their newscasts with actual news. CBS11 sent Sarah Dodd to the site of a Plano apartment blaze that left dozens of residents homeless. Fox4's Shaun Rabb, landed the first interview with suspended Dallas police officer Jose Cabrera, who had dodged reporters since he and his wife were charged earlier this month with falsifying their passports. They're also suspected of selling drugs out of their home.

Cabrera denied all, but said that his Colombia birthplace will be held against him anyway. People will think, "He's from Colombia. He's got to be a drug dealer," the 11-year police veteran told Raab.

Fox4 regularly out-reports rival stations on local news of import. It keeps story counts under control and picks its spots rather than racing at a NASCAR pace, as NBC5 and Belo8 increasingly do.

A notable exception is longtime Belo8 gumshoe Byron Harris, who followed up on Tuesday night with a second lengthy and telling look at fatigued airline pilots. The station's main medical reporter, Janet St. James, also had an interesting story on ear damage caused by iPods, and a new way of preventing it.

Belo8 anchor McCaa earlier stepped into a trap laid by his TelePrompTer. Noting the death of film director Robert Altman, he called him "the man behind the hit TV comedy M*A*S*H." McCaa later rebooted, telling viewers that, of course, "we know that Robert Altman took care of the movie M*A*S*H, not the TV show M*A*S*H."

Campos then took a little shot at Belo8's latter day staff makeup. "Some of our writers are a little on the young side," she said. "Let's put it that way."

Delicately put, Campos hardly dressed the part of a news anchor Tuesday night. An oversized white pearl necklace, a low-cut top and a glaringly loud red-and-black jacket instead made her look ready-made for a parade float. Sorry, don't mean to be Mr. Blackwell, but what was she thinking?

Over on CBS11, reporters Jack Fink and J.D. Miles respectively had worthwhile stories on Dallas' nascent Urban Search and Rescue Team, and a proposed law that would raise the pay of preschool teachers while also requiring more training.

CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg handed his nightly man-crush on Cowboys QB Tony Romo off to reporter Steve Dennis, who harped on "Romo-mentum." Babe instead figuratively batted his eyes at Troy Aikman, who turned 40 on Tuesday.

"Troy may be gone but he won't be forgotten by us," Babe said as CBS11 flashed a doctored illustration of Aikman sporting a disheveled Nick Nolte mug shot look.

That takes us to another unsightly story on NBC5, where reporting of genuine import is all too rare. Instead, anchor McGarry had this in mind: "Tonight, the answer that can zap the zits right off your back."

Consumer reporter Brian Curtis later set forth with another infomercial, this time for a spa that won't be named here. Dreamy music played while a client had her back treated to the tune of $200.

"It's worth the money. Spend it," she said. "You work hard for it. Treat yourself."

Six more nights to go. This is hard work.