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This just in: A night in the lives of D-FW's 10 p.m. news titans -- WFAA8 and CBS11 (Mon., Nov. 23)

Could my tap water cause cancer? Might I get shot on the freeway?

Fear of the unknown can be a reliable bestseller on local newscasts large and small.

On the last Monday of their down-to-the-wire November "sweeps" ratings race, arch rivals WFAA8 and CBS11 both topped their 10 p.m. newscasts with bait-and-hook, worst case scenario stories.

"At least three people shot at along one North Texas highway," CBS11 anchor Doug Dunbar teased. "The latest victim -- a college student. What you need to know before you hit the road."

"Something's in the water. It's not just one water source with radioactivity," WFAA8 anchor Gloria Campos countered. "Tonight a News 8 investigation."

Two of D-FW's better reporters, CBS11's J.D. Miles and WFAA8's Brett Shipp, then stepped in to do their duties. But was it some of their best work? Not really.

Miles stationed himself live at Walton Walker Blvd. and W. Illinois Avenue, where a 19-year-old Dallas Baptist University student was shot in the leg earlier this month while returning from a baby-sitting gig.

She didn't cut off any motorists or "aggravate anyone," the student told Miles, who showed viewers a bullet hole in the side of her car.

Less than a month ago, two people enroute to D-FW Airport also were shot at along "this same stretch of freeway," Miles told viewers. Police are looking into the "possibility" they may be related, he said. The police spokesman didn't sound all that convincing, though. It seemed more as though Miles had coaxed him into stating the obvious -- that anything is possible.

Shipp led WFAA8's newscast for the second straight weeknight with a report on "hazardous levels of radiation" in drinking water. On Friday's newscast it was Hudson Oaks. On Monday came Aledo, where "gross alpha particles" have exceeded the limit at one water well for the past four years, Shipp said.

An "environmental advocate" from Parker County again was brought in to express her concern. And an old-timer at a coffee shop declared, "I already knew it was bad."

Officials from both small cities of course have downplayed any health concerns while also taking steps to reduce whatever level of risk there might be. So is Shipp unduly milking the situation? Well, better to be safe than sorry. But no one disagrees that copious amounts of the allegedly unsafe water would have to be consumed over an extended period of time to pose any threat at all.

WFAA8 also threw an "electronic pickpocketing" scare into viewers, courtesy of reporter Jason Whitely's story.

Via an "RFID Reader," a thief supposedly can scan a wallet and get a credit card number "without ever touching you," Whitely said. But the only credit cards vulnerable are new ones that can be "tapped" rather than swiped when paying up. Whitely also interviewed a guy who sells "ID Strongholds" to stop the RFID-armed thieves. So was this more of an infomercial than a clear-and-present danger?

CBS11 reporter Nerissa Knight's piece on "Secret Black Friday Deals" also had the scent of an infomercial, although DealTaker.com in fact turns out to have a lot of good information on bargains and day-after-Thanksgiving deals. Besides that, it's free.

Knight probably didn't please old-school print-meisters, though. She touted the website as a convenient alternative to "sifting and shuffling through mounds of 'cluttery' newspapers."

23 minutes and counting -- CBS11 resumed its 23-minute, uninterrupted run of news and weather content before the first commercial break after abandoning it Friday night. WFAA8 in turn continued to copy CBS11, which started the gambit last week. Why are the stations doing this? It's an effort to keep viewers from bailing out early on the second-half of 10 p.m. newscasts. In an ongoing air-tight ratings race, even an extra one-tenth of a point could be pivotal. But after the "sweeps," look for this to end.

Worth watching -- WFAA8's Shelly Slater took a Consumer Reports approach to Reebok's heavily promoted, $99 Easy Tone sneaker, which has a "natural instability" that supposedly firms calves and hamstrings. A chunky woman looked thrilled to have them, but a skeptical spine surgeon warned that the shoes possibly could cause back problems after prolonged use.

CBS11's Ginger Allen had an interesting story on a woman who resisted chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed eight years ago with "early stage breast cancer." The woman is now cancer-free, she says, after an alternative regimen of certain vegetables (cabbage and cauliflower for instance), "high-dose Vitamin C" and yoga. Both Allen and a doctor cautioned that this isn't for everyone.

Steve Stoler of WFAA8 had an informative report on Pizza Hut's plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Frisco to Plano, which is offering big-time tax incentives.

ABCs of CSI -- CBS11 folded another pair of CSI-related blurbs into its newscast, including chances to win tickets to a new exhibit at a Fort Worth museum by hitting on the station's website. Enough. Please stop now.

Cowboys bitch about refs but profit from missed call -- CBS11 sports anchor Babe Laufenberg, who does the team's radio-casts with Brad Sham, showed he's no homer by telling viewers that the Cowboys' lone, game-winning TD against Washington Sunday should have been nullified. That's because Dallas had two illegal receivers downfield, Laufenberg pointed out, illustrating the blown call with a freeze-frame.

"The officials missed it, and (head coach) Wade Phillips should be glad they did," Laufenberg said.

R.I.P. Harry Husker -- WFAA8 sports anchor Dale Hansen said he lost one of his three Longhorns when Harry Husker passed away at age 24.

"We think he killed himself" after learning that the Nebraska Cornhuskers will have to play Texas in the Big 12 championship game, Hansen said.

Alas, it didn't stop there.

Hansen noted that any of his deceased steers always gets a special service. "Husker was Catholic, so it was an incredibly long service," he added.

"Did it end at Whataburger?" weatherman Pete Delkus inquired.

"It ended right at Whataburger," said Hansen.

Eat mor chikin.