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"Of course I call you the Hispanic Matt Lauer"

Find out who's behind the above headline in this nicely done sendoff to NBC5 sports reporter/anchor Derek Castillo, whose official last day at the station is Friday (Aug. 1st).

The clip below, which runs 6 minutes, 20 seconds, includes an array of familiar on-camera faces and also many whose behind-the-scenes work at NBC5 helped to make Castillo shine. Hey, TV people are people, too. Here's proof:
Ed Bark

Picky Picky (Vol. 15)

Thomas Ehlmann, incoming vice president and general manager at D-FW's NBC5, will be required to make his mark when he assumes those positions on August 11th.

But what can or should he do? And how independent can he be under the watchful eye of higher power Larry Wert, the Peacock kingpin with the elongated title of president, central & western region, NBC Local Media?

Ehlmann will report to Wert, who also announced his hiring after plucking him from Chicago's WGN-TV. The new guy now works for one of 10 stations owned and operated by Peacock corporate. He left Tribune-owned WGN just as layoffs were being ordered, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.

NBC5 already has the smallest news staff in the market, so further downsizing probably isn't imminent. But there are numerous other ways that Ehlmann can make an imprint on a station that's had some significant ratings downturns in the past two years, particularly at 10 p.m. Here are four possibilities, none of which are possible without approval from on high:

A. Return long-form investigative reporting to NBC5 while also performing major surgery on a semi-tabloid newscast that mostly relies on short bursts of crime, tragedy and flimsy consumer reporting.

B. Shake up the featured news anchor team of Mike Snyder and Jane McGarry. Maybe there are other things they could do for the station. They've had a long tenure together, but the ratings meter hasn't been moving in the right direction for a while.

C. Make a major investment in a new studio that would put NBC5's newscasts in the heart of downtown Fort Worth instead of in the middle of nowhere off Barnett St. WFAA8's new glass-encased Victory Park digs have given that station a big jolt of visibility. NBC5 might be able to do the same for itself with a showy Sundance Square presence.

D. Do nothing and stay the course. The NBC network is in a ratings ditch, too. When it improves its position, NBC5 will do likewise. It's not all Snyder's and McGarry's fault. They're not the brainiacs behind NBC's prime-time schedule.

So which of these would be your highest priority? Or maybe you have other ideas.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., July 25-27)

D-FW's four major TV news providers continued to splurge on Cowboys training camp coverage Sunday night, with all four sports specials deploying their A-Team anchors at the team's Oxnard, CA training camp.

The Nielsen ratings say that NBC5's Newy Scruggs and WFAA8's Dale Hansen were the night's Big Tunas while Fox4's Mike Doocy and CBS11's Babe Laufenberg played backup. Scruggs, however, was a bigger tuna, dominating among advertiser-preferred 25-to-54-year-olds. Here are the numbers, with Doocy's Sports Sunday as usual starting a half-hour earlier at 10 p.m. while the others banged heads at 10:30 p.m.

Dale Hansen's Sports Special -- 92,553
Sports Extra with New Scruggs -- 90,117
Sports Sunday with Mike Doocy -- 73,068
The Score with Babe Laufenberg -- 51,148

Scruggs -- 94,224
Hansen -- 47,112
Laufenberg -- 35,334
Doocy -- 32,390

The Texas Rangers' late afternoon/early evening road loss in Oakland comparatively drew 73,068 D-FW homes and 29,445 viewers in the 25-to-54 demo on MY27.

Friday's local news numbers found WFAA8 nipping the Peacock in total homes at 10 p.m. But the two stations reversed those positions among 25-to-54-year-olds.

Fox4 had a gainful day at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., running the table in both audience measurements. It now has beaten the usually potent WFAA8 for three consecutive weekdays at 5 p.m. in total homes and two of the last three with 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 had no problems flexing at 6 p.m., though. It swept those number for an imposing 25th consecutive weekdays. Now that's domination.

Flocking to Oxnard 'cause you can't buck the Cowboys (updated)

New NBC5 sports guy Matt Barrie and mainstay Newy Scruggs.

Thursday marked the arrival of the Dallas Cowboys for their latest summer training camp in Oxnard, CA.

Do you know where all four of your Big Four D-FW television sports anchors were?

In Oxnard. It's one area where you just don't downsize, even if everyone pretty much had exactly the same Cowboys footage on their late night sports segments.

So much so that Fox4's Mike Doocy could be seen front and center with QB Tony Romo on two other stations besides his own. They were all following him on an airport tarmac after Air Force One, er, the Cowboys plane, made a safe touchdown. "It's exciting and fun," Romo told everybody.

NBC5's Newy Scruggs chose this bigger spotlight to introduce the station's "kinda cute" new fill-in sports anchor and reporter Matt Barrie to viewers.

"We're bringing sexy back in sports," Scruggs said of the spiky-haired Barrie, who's replacing the departing Derek Castillo. He hails from WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C., but wasted no time in making it seem as though he's been covering the Cowboys since the Tom Landry era.

Barrie talked about the "buzz" around the Cowboys before adding, "I can tell you this. Forget about the disappointment. Wade Phillips said that was last year. And the wait is over. Football is here."

Doocy, not the new guy, was visible during NBC5's Romo interview snippet. Barrie otherwise was in sync with his new station, wearing a gray windbreaker with the NBC5 logo that matched Scruggs' attire.

Fox4 is dubbing its on-site coverage "Foxnard: Cowboys Camp 2008." But unlike his rivals, "The Dooc" had no help on opening night. He braved Foxnard alone, noting that it's "kinda chilly at night here." Kinda lonely, too.

Head coach Phillips "seemed a little defensive about that Giants' loss" in the Cowboys' opening playoff game last season, Doocy noted. But the subsequent sound bites from the Cowboys' "State of the Team" news conference showed no corroborating evidence, at least not on Thursday's 9 p.m. newscast.

On WFAA8 -- where there also was a Doocy/Romo sighting -- anchor Dale Hansen showed up "lookin' ugly" in another of his traditional road trip Hawaiian shirts.

At least that was the view of weathercaster Pete Delkus, who's given Hansen more stiff arms than former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer.

Hansen was just cold. And in case you didn't get that, he said so on three separate occasions, ending with a double shot of "I'm freezing out here!"

Hansen earlier noted that first round draft picks Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins still weren't signed, with "their agents doing the usual dance that some agents like to do. Apparently it justifies their check, but those two will be here soon enough."

He also opined that "President Bush" (apparently the current one) should play Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in any movie about him because "at least he has the voice mannerisms down pat already." Sorry, don't see it.

Reporter Ted Madden accompanied Hansen to Oxnard while CBS11's Babe Laufenberg used Steve Dennis as his wingman on coverage titled "Cowboys Training Camp -- It's On!"

They wore matching, short-sleeved, dark blue CBS11 logo'd knit shirts, although Laufenberg really didn't want to roll that way. Laufenberg noted, however, that Dennis was determined to go jacket-less and he therefore couldn't be seen as "less of a man."

The two sparred a bit over whether wide receiver Terry Glenn finally would sign with the Cowboys or be cut loose.

"Terry Glenn will be a Cowboy and on the practice field tomorrow (Friday)," Dennis declared. "That's what my gut says."

"My gut says the other way, but that's OK," said the Babe.

(Laufenberg turned out to be right. That's why they pay him the big bucks.)

Laufenberg also advised the team on how it can quickly sign those two top draft picks.

"It's real easy. Just give 'em a whole lot of money," he said.

(Both draft picks were signed later in the week.)

CBS11 had both the longest Cowboys segment Thursday and the only Doocy-less one save for a split-second glimpse of half his face.

Now that's how ya do it if you're a rival station.

Internet confidential: NBC5's bloggin' brigade

NBC5's brigade of 17 bloggers includes all of the above.

NBC5's full-time news staff is D-FW's smallest at last count, with a total of 27 anchors and reporters, including weather and sports.

But the station leads the local leagues in bloggers -- 17 to be exact. Maybe "Working with a Net" should be NBC5's new slogan. Clearly it's a priority with management.

Before looking at what NBC5ers have been blogging lately, let's check the specs for Fox4, WFAA8 and CBS11. All of these numbers are based on prolonged visits to their Web sites to see who's blogging and who's not.

Fox4 currently has a full-time newsroom staff of 32, with 14 of them contributing blogs as well. That makes the station a solid second to the Peacock.

WFAA8, with the market's largest staff of 37, has eight bloggers. But the station is the only D-FW news provider with face-to-the-camera video blogs. Anchor Gloria Campos calls hers the "Glo Cam." Aaron Chimbel's is the "Mojo Blog."

CBS11 is still barely in this game. Only anchor Tracy Kornet has her own individual blog among the station's 35 news staffers. CBS11 also has a sports blog called "The Bullpen" and a weather blog. But that still doesn't add up to much compared to the others.

NBC's bloggers are all still doing it the commendable old-school way, in print. And some of them really seem to be working at it.

Early morning traffic reporter Tammy Dombeck calls hers "Totally Tammy," and begins each post with a "Hey gang" greeting. Her most recent contribution, written on July 18th, is on the "Hot Batmobile's" arrival in North Texas.

She's also written lately on Christie Brinkley's divorce proceedings and some "Wonderful Viewer Encounters," which include pictures. But Dombeck hasn't been much of a busy bee of late. Just four posts in the past month. Unlike Uncle Barky, perhaps she has a life or went on vacation.

Reporter Grant Stinchfield ("Grant's Rant") in contrast has authored nine posts in the past two weeks, most of them with pictures included.

One of his two July 14th submissions is titled "Tony Romo Not Happy With Me." Stinchfield says he asked the Dallas Cowboys QB, "nicely I may add," about Jessica Simpson during a recent NBC5 Sports Extra program.

"He seemed to get annoyed," Stinchfield wrote. "Tony needs to realize the majority of viewers, not sports fans, want to know about Jessica. And the sports fans simply want to know if she is a distraction . . . Tony needs to learn how to just deal with it. He is a 'celebrity' quarterback, whether he likes it or not. I'm sorry for asking, but when you do an interview with Tony, it is the one question that has to be asked. If you don't ask it, the reporter looks like an idiot."

This particular post drew three comments, the first one being, "Leave his private life alone, stupid reporters!!!!!" Ya gotta love this blogging biz. But at least Stinchfield puts a little bite in his rants. In another one, he began, "I have long contended that many politicians are misguided fools."

Fellow NBC5 reporter Randy McIlwain -- "Big Man Bloggin' " is his title -- mixes it up with long and sometimes very dicey observations on subjects ranging from the "N-word" (which he prints in full as you'll see) to "The Pee-Pee man Cometh," a discourse on Mavericks' forward Josh Howard facing possible drug-testing after admitting to off-season marijuana use.

His n-word commentary emphasizes that "context" is key whenever that word is dropped. "Can you ever call me a Nigger?" McIlwain writes. "Yes, depending again on context, if you walk up to me, call me a Nigger and suddenly lose consciousness, sorry, you used it in the wrong context."

McIlwain, who signs off most of his posts with "It's a big man's world, it's a big man blogging," notes that he could never have a racially charged discussion like this on TV. Even on his blog it's gone relatively unnoticed, with no comments to date.

Other NBC5 bloggers aren't exactly hellraisers.

Anchor Mike Snyder to date has had six posts devoted to his ongoing efforts to lose -- dare it be said -- a considerable amount of weight. His desk partner, Jane McGarry, recently wrote about her diet, too.

Anchor/reporter Brian Curtis' latest dispatch -- on "The Sausage Factory" -- is about the ongoing renovations to his kitchen, including a picture.

Reporter Melissa Newton apologized for calling in sick for the first time in a July 16th post titled "I Love Our Viewers!" But her most recent dispatch is about the sometimes harsh realities of covering a police manhunt.

Veteran Ken Kalthoff ("On the Fence") sticks mostly to hard news updates, including his latest post on an early morning drive-by shooting, complete with two pictures.

Reporter Omar Villafranca ("What did Omar Say?") uses lots of pictures, too. His most recent post, on July 22, jokes about a possible Elvis sighting in Aledo, TX, which he visited last week. Not exactly a keeper, Omar.

Night Ranger Scott Gordon hasn't refreshed his "Gordon Gabs" blog since July 10th. But it was a helluva long post with pictures on "How the Great Cookie Caper Crumbled." He also got 11 reader comments, which is about 11 times as many as most of NBC5's bloggers are getting.

Reporter/anchor Scott Friedman, who's really been slacking off lately, has attracted just one comment for his last 10 posts. And he hasn't blogged since July 1st.

Then again, Friedman's on-air work continues to be mostly first-rate. You've got to make time for that, too, even at the risk of getting into a blog jam.

Meanwhile, maybe this will drive some traffic to these blogs. Any comments?

Fox4 interviews decidedly different forecaster for possible spot on weather team

Weathercaster Katrina Voss as pictured on her official website.

Seemingly brainy, undeniably pretty and best known on youtube for a "yogacast" and other comedy weather spots, 37-year-old meteorologist Katrina Voss might be ready to take Dallas-Fort Worth by storm.

So far she's only been flown in for an interview at Fox4, which is still looking for a replacement for weathercaster Maria Sotolongo. Several informed sources say that Voss met with management Monday afternoon at the station's downtown Dallas offices.

Fox4, like most stations in D-FW and elsewhere, has a policy of not commenting on personnel it might hire. Voss likely would be a controversial newcomer, at least at first. But these are different times in TV news, and Voss also seems to have attributes beyond the merely physical and/or comical.

Her website says she's a native of Durham, NC with college degrees in Spanish literature, geosciences and meteorology. She lived in Spain for seven years, writing a column for women titled "The Venusisan Chronicles."

After returning to the United States, Voss worked for The Weather Channel from 1999 to 2003 before joining AccuWeather.com. Her website says she also can be seen on "numerous" English- and Spanish-speaking stations. Some of her accompanying photos might have tongues wagging in a variety of languages.

Voss's yogacast (below), which you'll have to see to believe, could be a big chill for weather purists, let alone an incumbent Fox4 weather staff headed by comparative traditionalists Dan Henry and Evan Andrews. But WFAA8 medical reporter Janet St. James joined in some on-air "tree yoga" a little while back, so there's something of a precedent.

For your edification or mortification, here's the yogacast:

Latest moves on Fox & Friends could affect future of D-FW's Megan Henderson

Changes on Fox News Channel's early morning Fox & Friends show could have some bearing on Fox4 anchor Megan Henderson's future plans.

The TV Newser web site reports that FNC has moved the show's news reader, Alisyn Camerota, from weekdays to weekends while at the same expanding the Monday-Friday edition from two hours to three.

"Where this leaves F & F weekend fill-ins Ainsley Earhardt (who was on the couch this past weekend), or Megan Henderson, of Fox's Dallas station, remains to be seen," TV Newser concluded.

For at least the short term, Camerota will co-host on weekends with incumbents Dave Briggs and Clayton Morris. Gretchen Carlson, formerly a weekend anchor and reporter for NBC5 in D-FW, will be the weekday F&F's news reader, says TV Newser.

Henderson, who co-anchors Fox4's 5 to 9 a.m. Good Day with Tim Ryan, politely declined to comment Monday after being reached by telephone. She has guest-hosted Fox & Friends Weekend twice this year, fueling speculation that FNC is grooming her for a national spot.

As previously reported, Henderson's contract with Fox4 expires at the end of February. She has been with Good Day since August 2003.

Pulling their own weight -- but who should be D-FW television's biggest loser?

Heavy-hitters Dale Hansen, Debbie Denmon and Mike Snyder

WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen regularly calls attention to his poundage, and recently dropped about 60 of 'em on a regimen of Slim-Fast shakes and bananas.

But now he seems to be ballooning back up again.

NBC5 anchor Mike Snyder, appalled at his latter day girth, keeps blogging on nbc5i.com about his ongoing efforts to slim down to 190 pounds from an all-time high of 256. So far he's dropped nine, he says.

We also live in the era of NBC's The Biggest Loser, which will be trolling for heavy-set Dallas couples on Saturday (July 19th).

So clearly this is a topic whose time has come. And Hansen and Snyder aren't the only D-FW television news people whose health and appearance might be improved by a sizable weight reduction.

Television is, after all, a cosmetic industry for the most part. Snyder, for one, admits to feeling the sting of viewer emails aimed at his increasingly fleshy countenance.

There are others in this boat.

WFAA8 anchor/reporter Debbie Denmon is definitely getting up there.

Street reporter Randy McIlwain and sports anchor Newy Scruggs, both of NBC5, are showing they have a lot to lose.

Veteran CBS11 correspondent Bud Gillett has gotten too big for his old britches. And over at Fox4, anchor dean Clarice Tinsley, reporter Shaun Rabb and weatherman Ron Jackson seem to be growing on us.

Back here at unclebarky.com central, your friendly content provider has dropped 15 pounds off of a 200-pound frame in recent months. Lots of ass-sitting at a computer can be hazardous to one's waist line and overall life span.

But unlike Snyder, Hansen et. al., I'm not up for public consumption on an unforgiving television screen. You don't have to be -- nor should you be -- a stick figure. But if the camera indeed adds 10 pounds, then it's far better to shape up than let yourself blow way out of proportion.

Who of the above, then, would benefit the most from a sensible but considerable weight loss? Or maybe you have other D-FW anchors or reporters in mind. That is, if you care one way or the other about such things.

NBC5's Snyder has drawn considerable attention to this touchy topic with his repeated, some might say obsessive, blog updates. Now it's your turn to weigh in with your comments.

Good Day sing-a-long, first chapter and verse

Return with us now to the original 2002 rendition of Fox4's Good Day theme song. Tim Ryan's co-anchor at the time, Julia Somers, left the station in 2003 and was replaced in August of that year by Megan Henderson.

By the way, Julia Somers is now Julie Summers, an anchor at South Florida's ABC affiliate, WPLG-TV, since Sept. 2004. Also of note: A big-grinning Tom Cruise played along in 2002, amiably asking Fox4 viewers, "Have you had a good day lately?" A lot's happened since then. Here's the one-minute, vintage Good Day theme song, performed by Chris Ivey:

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Tues., July 15, All-Star baseball edition)

Justin Moreau scores winning run at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday. Getty

Going, going, going and finally gone at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday, baseball's 79th annual All-Star game still managed to outscore all competing programming during its four hours and 50 minutes on Fox.

That's not even counting the elongated pre-game show. Pocket calculator technology at unclebarky.com central says that the game itself, which started at 7:47 p.m. Tuesday, averaged 199,719 D-FW homes overall from opening pitch to 15th inning slide across home plate.

Attendance peaked from 8:45 to 9 p.m., with 263,045 homes tuned in. And the game remained on in 126,652 homes when Rangers shortstop Michael Young drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.

Let's look at some of the night's other peak All-Star game audiences among viewers of varying ages, beginning with advertiser-craved 18-to-49-year-olds:

18-to-49-year-old men -- 105,190 from 9 to 9:15 p.m.
18-to-49-year-old women -- 53,428 from 9 to 9:15 p.m.
55 years and up -- 161,600 from 8:15 to 8:30 p.m., and 8:45 to 9 p.m.
12-to-17-year-olds -- 48,140 from 10 to 10:15 p.m.

The All-Star game in fact ran fourth overall in prime-time among 18-to-49-year-old women, for whom NBC's America's Got Talent (80,905 viewers) and ABC's PrimeTime: Family Secrets (74,799 viewers) were the top draws.

Us hairy beasts of the same age group knew better, making the All-Star game our runaway first choice throughout the night and into Wednesday's opening wee hour.

There was a brief lapse, though, between 7 and 8 p.m., when another edition of ABC's fall down/go boom Wipeout lured 67,353 men in the 18-to-49 demo opposite what was mostly the All-Star pre-game buildup (67,118 viewers).

Fox also squeezed in at least 11 promos for its new fall series Fringe, although I may have missed one or two. Just before the midnight hour, play-by-play dude Joe Buck dutifully told viewers, "They have built an all-new world of intrigue and adventure that will blow your mind."

He wasn't talking about the game, but of Fringe, helmed by Lost creator J. J. Abrams. By the time of its Sept. 9th premiere, you're likely to have seen a gazillion or two teases for it.

In the three-way 10 p.m. local news derby, WFAA8 took the gold with 194,848 total homes and also won among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 rose up at 6 a.m. to win in both ratings measurements, with the usually potent WFAA8 barely holding off longtime pipsqueak CBS11 to take the bronzes.

WFAA8 then controlled the 5 and 6 p.m. news competitions, running its streak at the later hour to 17 straight weekdays.

Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Mon., July 14)

Paul Bunyan drew quite a crowd Monday night.

In the person of Texas Rangers' outfielder Josh Hamilton, he hit a record-setting 28 home runs -- including 13 in a row -- during the first round of baseball's All Star Game festivities. D-FW took notice, with 168,056 homes zeroed in on ESPN. That was good enough to beat all competing programming from 8:30 to 9 p.m.

Even more homes -- 180,234 -- then watched a swing-weary Hamilton fizzle out in his final duel with the Twins' victorious Justin Morneau. Only the second half of CBS' CSI: Miami repeat did better Monday night, drawing 188,759 homes.

Monday also brought the season premieres of TNT's The Closer and Saving Grace. They respectively drew 80,375 and 70,632 homes from 8 to 10 p.m. That wasn't quite good enough to beat either Big Josh or any of the competing programming on the four major broadcast networks. Instead, a pair of Fox drama reruns led the free TV parade, with Bones luring 141,265 homes and House, 143,700.

In daytime hours, the premiere of Fox's The Wendy Williams Show (airing only in D-FW and three other markets), ran fifth in total homes at 11 a.m. with just 29,227. It fared better among advertiser-favored 18-to-49-year-olds, taking the bronze and slightly outpointing ABC's All My Children and a combination of the syndicated Jeopardy! and The Young and the Restless on CBS11.

The local news Nielsens gave CBS11 a total homes win at 10 p.m. and a first place tie with WFAA8 among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

Fox4 and NBC5 tied at 6 a.m. in total homes. But the Peacock dipped to third in the 25-to-54 demo, behind Fox4 and WFAA8.

Fox4 notched a win at 5 p.m. in total homes and tied WFAA8 for the top spot with 25-to-54-year-olds.

WFAA8 maintained its hammerlock on the 6 p.m. news ratings, running the table for the 16th straight weekday.

WFAA8 will make Brad Hawkins its early morning co-pilot for at least the near future

WFAA8 veteran Brad Hawkins has won at least the short-term competition to succeed Justin Farmer as co-anchor of the station's early morning Daybreak program.

Informed sources at the station confirmed that Hawkins, a fixture on WFAA8's weekend newscasts, will join incumbent Cynthia Izaguirre when Farmer leaves for WSB-TV in Atlanta at the end of July. The job will be his for at least the rest of this year while management gauges both his performance and the program's ratings.

News director Michael Valentine declined to comment on Hawkins' status, although sources say that WFAA8 staffers have been informed of his impending move to the weekday early morning shift. Hawkins rejoined WFAA8 in January 2000 after an earlier stint as a production assistant in the station's Austin bureau.

Farmer has been a lame duck early morning anchor since January 4th, when he informed WFAA8 of his decision to leave for WSB-TV. Earlier that same day, Izaguirre made her debut as his co-anchor, replacing the departed Jackie Hyland.

Farmer since has been dealt out of Daybreak promotions while serving out his contract with WFAA8. His father, Don Farmer, was a star anchor at WSB and also a charter member of Atlanta-based CNN's anchor corps when the all-news network signed on in 1980.

Daybreak ranked No. 1 in the May ratings "sweeps" among 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. And the program tied with Fox4's Good Day for the top spot in the total homes Nielsens.

Also of note: Former WFAA8 news director David Duitch has been named news director of Dallas-based KDAF-TV (CW 33). He's expected to start in mid-July.

Duitch replaces Mark Shepherd, who had helmed the station's 9 p.m. local newscasts on a shoestring budget compared to rival D-FW news operations. Duitch earlier had gone from Belo-owned WFAA8 to vice president of the corporation's Washington bureau in October 2004. But recent budget cuts put him on the street.

CW 33 is rumored to be expanding its local news operation, including the possible launch of a morning show by this fall. Previously owned by Tribune Corp. the station now is under the private ownership of notoriously outspoken Chicago billionaire Sam Zell.

Who, what, where, when -- WFAA8's "Why Guy" leaving D-FW

Mike Castellucci, best known as WFAA8's "Why Guy" since joining the station in spring 2003, has decided to leave Dallas-Fort Worth and move to San Diego with his wife.

News director Mike Valentine said Wednesday that Castellucci's last day at WFAA8 will be in late July.

The departure is "totally amicable," Valentine said.

Castellucci began as a roving Daybreak correspondent specializing in oddball stories spiced with his equally off-center sense of humor. He lately has been a featured correspondent on WFAA8's 5 p.m. newscasts. His most recent story, on July 8th, was on how Southfork Ranch remains a "hot property."

Castellucci previously worked at TV stations in Grand Junction, Colo., Colorado Springs, San Diego and Los Angeles before his Emmy Award-winning tenure at WFAA8.

Local vocalist: News anchor Tracy Kornet can carry tunes, too

Tracy Kornet (in white) and the Eleven21 band. Photos: Ed Bark

News anchor by night, lead singer by later night, Tracy Kornet has decided to abide by a song she regularly covers -- Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy."

"I was a little concerned about being judged really harshly," she says during a break outside Sambuca's in Addison, where Kornet and the Eleven21 band are mixing it up on a Friday night. "There are going to be those people who say, 'She's no journalist. Why is she doing that?' And I just think, 'You know what, it makes me really happy.' And it allows me to use a gift that was implanted in me as a little kid. It's a way to honor my family's legacy, and I need to do it."

Kornet's center stage occupation is co-anchoring TXA21's prime-time weeknight newscasts. Until recently she'd pushed her singing aside while polishing a TV career that began in Lexington, KY. The Chicago native had been raised in a music-driven family by parents who mastered several instruments, including the old-school accordion.

As a young adult, Kornet vocalized with the Japanese pop star Anri on two world tours. She also performed with The Pointer Sisters and Donny Osmond among others. But life on the road neither suited nor anchored her.

"I got those dreams out of my mind really early," Kornet says. "And at age 21, I knew I wasn't gonna do this as a career."

She instead hopped on the mommy track after marrying former Milwaukee Bucks forward Frank Kornet, who lasted two years in the NBA after starring from 1985 to '89 at Vanderbilt University. They've been married nearly 18 years and have three children, John, 17, Nicole, 14, and Luke, who turns 13 this month. Not surprisingly, they're all basketball players.

"I hadn't sung professionally since I started in television, really," says Kornet. "I have been the primary breadwinner of my family for the last 14 years, and my husband has been the dedicated, stay-at-home father. So TV is my bread and butter and my livelihood. And I have absolutely no intention of leaving it behind."

A window opened late last year, though. Kornet had missed her inner singer. And her co-workers at TXA21 and sister station CBS11 just happened to include an array of seasoned musicians.

Tommy Hiett, who keeps the stations' computers on track, also is an accomplished lead guitarist who's played with the likes of Elton John and Huey Lewis and the News. Gary Schneider, senior vice president and station manager for CBS11/TXA21, is a drummer and ex-member of a Rolling Stones tribute band called The Stoneleighs. Saxophonist Richard Frish, general sales manager for Cumulus Radio, has worked with Lee Ann Rimes, The Dixie Chicks and The Gatlin Brothers among others. And so on.

They decided to perform at last year's company Christmas party, with guitarists Dan Dobbs and David Chavez, keyboardist True Tidwell and vocalist Diane Chavez also joining what became the eight-member Eleven21 band.

Tuned in: guitarist Hiett and vocalists Kornet and Chavez

"It was a sheer joy to rehearse," Kornet says. "Tears were streaming down my face and my heart was beating a million miles per hour. Wow, I didn't realize how much I missed it."

The Christmas party performance led to a wedding booking. And a few private parties. And now regular engagements at both the Sambuca and Sullivan's nightclub/restaurants.

On this Friday, Kornet co-anchors TXA21's 7 to 9 p.m. newscast from the station's Forth Worth studios. Then she changes into a gold-trimmed white ensemble the way Supergirl might transfer from a business suit to leotards and cape. By 10:15 she joins Eleven21 in progress, belting "Chain of Fools" for starters.

"Every set has a different feel," says Kornet, with the band shifting from hard rock to R&B to "jazzy/mellow" and back again. They cover artists ranging from The Doors to Kool & The Gang to Carrie Underwood to Billy Idol to Santana.

"It's taken me quite a while to loosen up to where I'm comfortable in anything but a suit," Kornet says. "The hardest part has been the clothes and trying to feel comfortable in my own skin."

Drummer Schneider, the designated leader, has a game plan of "not going anywhere where we're playing to empty chairs and ashtrays," Kornet says. "I'm good with that."

There's a history in D-FW of singing TV newsies. NBC5 reporter Nigel Wheeler decided to leave the station last year to concentrate on touring full-time with his band Egress, where he performs as Kali Green. Former Fox4 anchor Ashleigh Banfield moonlighted as a lead singer for a rock band during her time in Dallas.

A black-and-white night for the Eleven21 band and singer Kornet.

"I kind of know about the Ashleigh Banfield era," Kornet says. "I think I read about her in an inflight magazine. And I thought, 'That kind of gives me permission to explore a hobby and not worry so much about what everybody thinks.'

"I don't want to take myself so darned seriously anymore. I spent so many years being so self-conscious. Guys in this industry can go out and play golf and so whatever they want (off-camera). Music is my hobby, so why can't I sing? Why can't I go out there and have fun? It feels like a team out there when you have a bunch of other musicians that you have to depend on to create a great sound. I realized it was just a little part of me that I found again. And I'm very blessed that our station allows this and supports our band."

Otherwise she wouldn't be singing anew onstage. "I can't do anything that makes me fear for my job. Period. I can't," Kornet says. "And so I pray that this never becomes that."

She'll be 40 years old in October. And it clearly thrills her to hear a young woman exclaim, "You guys rock!" while an interviewer records her spoken words.

It bears repeating, though. Kornet has no interest in re-becoming what she was nearly 20 years ago -- a full-time singer with a road map that wouldn't quit.

"I wish I could give you that story, but that is so not on my radar," she says. "This is not a mid-life crisis thing. I promise."

"We're hitting the streets everyday to find solutions"

Here's a look at CBS11's new 30-second image campaign, starring the station's four featured news personalities -- Doug Dunbar, Karen Borta, Larry Mowry and Babe Laufenberg. Your thoughts?
Ed Bark