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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's late night newscasts (Fri., April 25)

CBS11 reporters Jay Gormley, Chris Salcedo and Marianne Martinez

Comedy of errors? That's usually right out of the Texas Rangers' playbook, but CBS11 stole a page on Friday's 10 p.m. newscast.

Technical difficulties happen, but usually not to this extent. Add a mangled story introduction by reporter/anchor Chris Salcedo and this ain't no train to Happytown.

Problems began after the station sailed smoothly through reporter J.D. Miles' lead story on a cocaine-crazed mother whose five-year-old-son also ingested some of her stash. NBC5 and WFAA8 didn't report this at all on their late nighters while Fox4 relegated it to a news brief on its 9 p.m. edition. Whether the story deserved the marquee treatment CBS11 gave it is debatable.

The meltdown then began after anchor Karen Borta touted Jay Gormley as "the only television reporter allowed inside the reception" for the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who made a "surprise appearance" Friday night at the Friendship West Baptist Church before his scheduled sermon on Sunday.

But Gormley immediately got rubbed out by a transmission problem, with the scene then shifting to new reporter Marianne Martinez, who was on CBS11's runway awaiting clearance for her story on the transfer of some children from a West Texas polygamist sect to Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.

Reboot to Borta, who threw it to anchor Doug Dunbar, who re-introduced Martinez's story.

"Doug, the children . . ." she began before tape rolled for about 20 seconds on Gormley's interview with Friendship senior pastor Dr. Fredrick Haynes, Sr. Next came an abrupt transition to Martinez's story, already in progress.

After her sign-off, CBS11 started all over again with Gormley, who this time made it through the night. The station didn't have any interview with Wright, just brief video of him greeting parishioners. So this wasn't much of a story in the first place, although Gormley did have an interesting nugget on Wright's less than cost-efficient travel plans. He went back to Chicago on Friday in order to attend another event in that city on Saturday before returning to Dallas for his previously announced Sunday sermon.

Reporters can't be blamed for technical disasters, but they can be faulted for clumsily-worded standups. Enter Chris Salcedo, who still needs a lot of work out in the field. This time he was stationed live outside American Airlines Center, where the Dallas Mavericks had just defeated the New Orleans Hornets in Game 3 of their playoff series.

Salcedo's assignment was the controversy over Mavs' forward Josh Howard, who earlier Friday told ESPN radio that he smoked pot in the off-season, as did many NBA players. Howard also had disclosed his off-court drug of choice as part of a recent profile in The Dallas Morning News. Verbatim, here's how Salcedo tried to communicate this to viewers:

"In his five seasons in the NBA, Josh Howard has been pretty candid about his marijuana use. But today, on national radio, as he said, he actually all came out and admitted that he had used marijuana in the off-season." Maybe that makes some sense -- if you're high.

Dunbar then teased a story on how "you can literally melt belly flab from your body." Oh mercy.

CBS11's Mark Johnson, Fox4's Heather Hays, NBC5's Brett Johnson


PREGNANT PAUSE -- An extended "Viewers' Voice" segment on Fox4 included this out-of-the-box exchange between bluntly inquiring "Keith from Fort Worth" and anchor Heather Hays:

"When's Heather gonna drop that baby?" he wanted to know. "Boy, that baby sho gettin' big."

Hays, on tape, responded while eating a fruit salad with her feet up.

"I do wanna tell ya," she said, "the belly, it's gonna get a whole lot bigger. We've got eight weeks to go before Lilly gets here. Between now and then, baby and mama have a lot of eatin' to do." She then waved goodbye before anchor Steve Eagar chimed, "Well, that's somethin' you don't see every day."

GOOD WORK -- CBS11 vet Mark Johnson had a tongue-wagger on "Green Burial" advocate George Russell of Huntsville, who spares caskets and embalming in favor of deep-sixing the dead in the wild so that their bodies can become part of the eco-system.

Why not make death "a fun experience?" he asked before providing video of his mother being interred in a white quilt the day after she died.

"You've gotta know that some people feel a little creepy about that," Johnson told him.

But Russell noted that nearly everyone's "great, great grandaddy" was buried the same way. He's got a point.

WFAA8 investigator Byron Harris had a revealing probe into how the Texas Medical Board goes about citing doctors.

"Critics say they don't discriminate between real bad guys and petty offenders," Harris said. Board members, all unpaid, couldn't talk to WFAA8 because they're currently being sued, he added.

Also on WFAA8, reporter Craig Civale may end up saving lives or preventing serious injuries with his piece on what looks to be a very poorly marked Loop 12 at I-30 lane that has led to repeated close scrapes and run-ins with a concrete barrier. A TXDOT engineer told him they'd now take another look at it.

On Fox4, consumer reporter Steve Noviello looked closely at the often high prices of "bereavement fares" on American Airlines. It was a solid and informative piece with AA's side included.

KEY INGREDIENT MISSING -- NBC5 reporter Brett Johnson stood live in the dark to tell viewers that "a lot of the folks that we talked to" said they'd be spending their federal income tax rebate checks "on something fun" such as electronics at Best Buy.

But his story came and went without any evidence of those interviews. So just take his word for it while chalking up another NBC5 infomercial disguised as a news story.

ADVERTISEMENT FOR ITSELF -- NBC5 Night Ranger Scott Gordon stood in a Walgreen's drug store to hawk weather radios being sold at a discounted $29.95 each as part of a partnership between the merchant and the Peacock.

Anchor Meredith Land, again subbing for Jane McGarry, primed the pump by telling viewers, "Tonight we begin a bold initiative to help you get the most important storm warnings as quickly as possible."

The radios are being sold from a display affixed with a picture of NBC5 meteorologist David Finfrock and an "Are You Ready?" chill-inducer.

WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST ADD PORN -- New WFAA8 reporter Jason Whitely had a story on how police property rooms are becoming repositories for pornography, drugs, prescription drugs and weapons being confiscated from a growing number of foreclosed-on homes.

But the station's teases predictably went only skin deep, with anchor John McCaa informing the populace that the prop rooms are "filling up with porn." The story itself was titled "Property Room Porn."

CROWD CONTROL -- WFAA8 weatherman Pete Delkus stood live outside the station's Victory Park studios amid happy fans exiting American Airlines Center after the Mavericks' Friday night win over New Orleans.

Crowd noise seemed to rise and fall on cue, with the decibel level soaring as Delkus prepared to segue from weather to sports anchor Dale Hansen.

"Folks are just happy to see Dale walk in the studio," he said, "because after that scorched earth attack last night, I don't know if they were sure if he was gonna be back."

He referred to Hansen's "Unplugged" Thursday night assault on the Dallas Cowboys' signing of oft-arrested cornerback "Pacman" Jones.

"You got pretty favorable comments," anchor Gloria Campos told him before Hansen said that only three emailers officially "hate" him so far.

Eighteen nights to go.