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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Thurs., April 30)

Reporters Jay Gormley, Scott Gordon and David Schechter

Sick of all the swine flu coverage?

If so, you could have been one and done Thursday by watching WFAA8's 10 p.m. newscast.

All four of D-FW's major TV news providers topped their late nighters with the latest flu-related news, including cancelation of Fort Worth's annual, economy-priming Mayfest.

But WFAA8 didn't tarry, restricting its coverage to a lone lead story by reporter Chris Hawes, who mostly contrasted the different approaches to the situation by officials in Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington. Life goes on in the latter two cities while Cowtown basically cancels all mass human gatherings despite having fewer confirmed swine flu cases than Dallas.

"Who's right?" Hawes asked Dr. Robert Adams of the University of North Texas health department. He wasn't much help, telling her, "I think it goes to show that we don't really know the right answer."

Fox4, NBC5 and CBS11 all devoted far more time to the flu bug, with the latter station finding the happiest medium. Veteran CBS11 reporter Jay Gormley took the best stab at the disparities in reactions from Dallas and Fort Worth health officials. Still, he ended up asking an open-ended question: "So are we over-reacting or is this a legitimate threat. Does anyone in North Texas really know?

Both Gormley and NBC5's Ellen Goldberg stationed themselves outside Dallas' American Airlines Center, where a Fleetwood Mac concert proceeded as scheduled Thursday night.

On Fox4, reporter Brandon Todd had the best quote from a miffed Mayfest vendor. "It was just a panic. To me an unnecessary panic," said Patricia Odom.

Meanwhile, NBC5 reporter Scott Gordon went to rather ridiculous lengths by putting "his own hands to the test" under a black light. Germs were still detected, even after heavy scrubbing with a "special cream." Gordon then again advised viewers to sneeze into their sleeve or a hanky rather than just letting it all hang out.

Near the end of Fox4's newscast, a respondent to the station's nightly "Viewers' Voice" segment opined in part: "Shame on the media and their irresponsible tabloid journalism" in regards to flu coverage.

Anchor Steve Eagar noted that it wasn't the media that closed down the entire Fort Worth public school system or canceled Mayfest.

He's got that right. Overall the D-FW television coverage has been notably responsible and restrained. Maybe WFAA8 is doing too little flu coverage and the others a bit too much. That's debatable. But no one has done anything truly egregious.

From a mere TV critic's perspective, though, Tarrant County public officials have grossly over-reacted, making Dallas look good in comparison. Dallas County Medical Director Dr. John Carlo may have said this a bit inelegantly. But he was a breath of fresh air on CBS11, warning residents to attend mass gatherings at their own risk before adding, "Right now, I'm not recommending suspension of any of the social norms we do as people."

TRAFFIC STOPPER -- WFAA8's David Schechter had Thursday's most valuable story. He dug into the faulty design of I-75 (Central Expressway) HOV lanes, whose narrowness has caused a 30 percent increase in major crashes.

Schechter noted that the federal government "greenlighted" the design despite what seem to be inherent flaws. The feds wouldn't talk to him on-camera, but dug a hole for themselves in a prepared statement from an Office of Public Affairs spokeswoman.

"Design exceptions are not too uncommon," the statement said in part. "It is considered an interim measure because the state does intend to reconstruct the road."

Schechter, who specializes in transportation reporting, has repeatedly shown that he knows this turf. So he sounded convincing in concluding: "In the construction business, 'interim' means another 15 or 20 years for the 250,000 people that drive on Central every day. That's another 15 to 20 years of substandard conditions."

DASH CAM CHRONICLES -- Three of the four stations gave significant play to newly released, dramatic police video of a chase that ended with officers rescuing an accused shooter from his badly damaged SUV shortly before it burst into flames. The man wrecked the vehicle while trying to escape from police.

NBC5, which loves this stuff, somehow missed it all together. The video showed police work at its finest. In a small way at least, it offset the exhaustive national attention paid to the Ofc. David Powell/Ryan Moats emergency room incident earlier this year.

NICE RING TO IT -- "Could it be any pea soupier outside?" anchor Karen Borta asked meteorologist Larry Mowry, referring to the day's muggy weather. Nice.

Fourteen nights to go.