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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Tues., Nov. 15)

NBC5 Night Ranger Scott Gordon felt some raindrops Tuesday night. Photo: Ed Bark

It's been pretty well established in these spaces that some silly things can happen during a ratings "sweeps" period.

None sillier of late than NBC5's "Team Coverage" of Tuesday night's brief rainstorm in Southlake. It led the station's 10 p.m. newscast.

Meteorologist David Finfrock first pitched in with a "Live Stormtrack Radar" update before veteran "Night Ranger" Scott Gordon stood live in Southlake's post-rain dark. It had been a clear night, he said, "but then out of almost nowhere, it came."

He was referring to brief, heavy rains that did no harm but enabled the intrepid reporter to earlier don a hood for the videotaped portion of his report. Gordon showcased his well-established chrome dome for the bookending live shots, noting that the rain had come and gone in a flash.

NBC5's rivals likewise are quick to flog the weather whenever it changes a bit. But the Peacock stood alone Tuesday night, with Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11 deducing that a brief downpour in Southlake didn't quite qualify as the night's top story. Gordon's a solid staple of NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts, but he must have drawn the short straw Tuesday. In recompense, the station owes him dinner for two at Arby's or somethin'.

WFAA8 in contrast clearly out-classed its rivals on this particular night.

The station led off with reporter Chris Hawes' trip to Long Island to take an informative look at "ShotSpotter" technology that's been considered for use in both Dallas and Fort Worth. Although there've been some glitches -- which Hawes pointed out -- ShotSpotter enables police to immediately determine where and when a gunshot has gone off -- and respond in far quicker fashion.

But the technology at present has a formidable price tag of $40,000 to $60,000 per square mile. So whether it's another wave of the future, here or elsewhere, is yet to be determined.

WFAA8 also had an interesting story by Jason Whitely on Groesbeck, TX being on the verge of completely running out of water as a result of the long drought. And Shelly Slater offered a heart-tugging followup on 17-year-old Jason Gomez, who drew up a "Bucket List" after learning he has fatal bone cancer that will soon end his life. Several of Gomez's items since have been crossed off, including meeting Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, attending an FC Dallas soccer practice and treating his mother and sister to a day at the spa.

"Every time we've asked Texans to respond, it's just amazing how people can do some wonderful things for people," said co-anchor John McCaa. This wasn't at all a gooey story; it was a feel-good one.

WFAA8's Craig Civale earlier had an interview with the new attorney for McKinney chiropractor David Allen Russell, whose alleged aggravated sexual assault of two teenage patients has received heavy play during these seven days of local newscast monitoring.

CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley talked to the attorney, Todd Shapiro, on Monday night. But Civale got more out of him, including an admission that his client used poor judgment in examining the two girls for groin injuries without another person in the room.

Still, Russell's "hands were placed in those areas solely for medical diagnosis and medical reasons," Shapiro emphasized. And he did not in any way "commit aggravated sexual assault on a child," said Shapiro, contending that the 13-year-old girl who allegedly was molested continued to receive treatments from Russell for several months afterward.

Russell's picture has been shown repeatedly on local newscasts and his clinic is now closed after police raided it in search of more evidence. "It's crushing. It's life-alerting," Shapiro said of the media scrutiny.

Among D-FW's four major TV news providers, only Fox4 has covered the story without interviewing anyone connected with the case on-camera. That includes Russell's accusers as well as his legal representatives. In one of its reports, the station blundered badly by making no mention at all of Russell's denials (which other stations had), or of any attempts to reach him or his attorney for comment.

Fox4's lengthiest story on Tuesday's 9 p.m. edition turned out to be a warmed-over one that WFAA8 first reported a near-eternity ago -- on Monday, Nov. 7th.

It detailed a lawsuit filed by owners of a runaway family dog who was mistakenly euthanized at an animal control facility before he could be picked up. The unique suit is for the "sentimental" rather than the market value of the mixed breed dog, who was named Avery. But the family says it doesn't want any money; it just wants to set a precedent.

Fox4 first ran reporter Brandon Todd's story before co-anchor Heather Hays did a live split-screen interview with one of the dog's owners and the family's attorney. WFAA8's Chris Hawes perhaps should feel flattered by all the time and attention Fox4 gave to a story she broke eight days earlier.

It all further points to a continued malaise afflicting Fox4's most prominent newscast. Strong enterprise stories have been few and far between during this monitoring period, with Hays and co-anchor Steve Eagar remaining vigorous in the face of a severe overall content drought.

For varying reasons, Fox4 has lost a number of prominent nightside reporters in recent years. And it's really starting to show, with a heavier emphasis on national stories and considerably less reporting from the field. On Tuesday night's one-hour edition, just six Fox4 reporters came into play on-camera. But two of them, Shaun Rabb and Fil Alvarado, were basically blips during the station's fast-paced "News Wrap" segment.

WFAA8 also used six reporters -- in just 35 minutes time. And they all had full-length stories, with both Hawes and Slater going considerably longer than the usual 2-minute allotment.

CBS11 didn't make much of an impression either Tuesday night. The station led its 10 p.m. news with Jason Allen's live report on Glenn Beck's decision not to buy an abandoned Southlake church to serve as headquarters for his planned Mercury Radio initiative. It was a better choice than NBC5's rainy night overkill. But it certainly wasn't exclusive information, with NBC5, WFAA8 and CBS11 all handling it in shorter form during the midsections of their newscasts.

CBS11's Jay Gormley also seemed to spend an undue amount of time on a report from two conservative think tanks that found public school teachers to be overpaid. He in turn found a former DISD teacher who branded the report ridiculous. Not exactly a bulletin.

The station also furnished a li'l blooper when co-anchor Karen Borta urged viewers to stay tuned for "the four tips to help you make sense of holiday deals."

Co-anchor Doug Dunbar didn't blink, even though he already had dispensed that information just a few minutes earlier.