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NBC5's glimmer twins

Brian Curtis, Meredith Land in their Friday night debut. Photo: Ed Bark

They make a very attractive couple, perhaps the prettiest in the history of D-FW television news.

NBC5's former 10 p.m. anchor duo, Jane McGarry and Mike Snyder, were dubbed "JAM" in a now somewhat infamous 1990s station promo that amazingly still hasn't made it to youtube.

Brian Curtis and Meredith Land, who officially teamed for the first time on Friday's late-starting, post-Olympics edition, would be called BAM under those circumstances. But the more fitting shorthand is GLAM.

Short on hard news reporting expertise but undeniably telegenic, Curtis and Land prepped for NBC5's showcase 10 p.m. newscasts with mostly soft focus feature reporting on "Big Fat Savings" (Curtis' specialty) and cosmetics/cosmetic procedures (Land's forte).

Their route to the top of NBC5's pecking order is decidedly different than the one Brian Williams took. Announced as Tom Brokaw's successor five years before the fact, Williams subsequently was sent abroad to bolster his international reporting resume. The idea was to make him a more serious, fully-rounded correspondent before he became the Peacock's standardbearer as anchor of the No. 1-rated NBC Nightly News.

In contrast, Curtis and Land haven't been duly marinated. Not that this likely matters all that much to the younger viewers that NBC5 and rival stations covet above all else. The new team is very much at home behind an anchor desk, where they present the news with what looks to be the greatest of ease. They're camera-ready and thensome, bringing youth and fashion model appeal to newscasts that long have been transparently thinner in content than those on WFAA8 in particular and Fox4 and CBS11 for the most part.

McGarry and Snyder, now anchoring NBC5's 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts after 17 years together at 10 o'clock, weren't exactly Edward R. Murrow and Lesley Stahl during their prolonged partnership. And other D-FW stations have put even younger and more inexperienced talent in charge of their center ring newscasts.

Fox4's Clarice Tinsley, still anchoring at 10 p.m., was just 24 when she arrived in this market from a Milwaukee station in 1978. She immediately got the 10 p.m. co-anchor slot as Ch. 4's answer to WFAA8's Iola Johnson, D-FW's first African-American news anchor.

Johnson herself had been in TV news for just five years before she joined the much more journalistically experienced Tracy Rowlett to form WFAA8's featured, No. 1-rated anchor team.

CBS11's 10 p.m. co-anchor, Doug Dunbar, who replaced Rowlett at that station in March of 2007, is a former radio deejay and longtime announcer for ESPN's X Games telecasts. He's not exactly neck-deep in previous hard news experience.

Of D-FW's current 10 p.m. anchor duos, only WFAA8's John McCaa and Gloria Campos worked their way up to those positions after years of street reporting experience. But as with Snyder and McGarry, their days could be numbered in times when many economically challenged local stations continue to trim their news department budgets. Long-standing, highly paid, aging anchors are among the most endangered species under these circumstances.

Once upon a time -- long before NBC assumed corporate control -- Ch. 5 had an anchor named Dave Layman. In the early 1980s, he teamed with former Miss America Jane Jayroe as that station's featured anchor duo. But Layman didn't last long after pointedly proclaiming himself a reporter first and an anchor by happenstance.

"My thing is traipsing through weeds, knocking on doors and covering a story," he once said. "That's what I enjoy doing. The anchoring to me is secondary, much to the disgruntlement of management sometimes. Every time I've had a run-in with them, it's been over that. Sometimes I miss the beginning of a newscast because I'm still putting the finishing touches on a story . . .

"If I don't write stories or report for a newscast, I'm a crummy anchor," he added. "I feel like I'm a parrot, an idiot. You can't call me anything worse than a 'news reader.' To me it's the worst thing in the world, because it means an anchor didn't do anything for the newscast except show up."

Unless something changes dramatically, you can't call Curtis and Land anything more than news readers. And they're quite smooth at it, too.

The future success or continued ratings failure of NBC5's 10 p.m. newscasts won't be based on whether either of the station's newly installed glimmer twins gets out and actually covers any news of real merit.

We're long past those days. Curtis and Land will solely be judged on their appeal as presenters. That's their basic skill set. And whose fault, really, is that?