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November 20, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: Days 16-18

If there is one story that just screams sweeps, it is the tale of woe involving a Salvation Army bell ringer named Corey Trepagnier (pictured below).

This story on Friday night had it all, and all four stations ran with it: (1) A bell-ringer gets robbed at knifepoint in front of an Albertsons in East Sac; (2) Said bell ringer is a disabled Iraq war vet; (3) Oh, did we mention he’s a native of New Orleans, rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina?; (4) And he just looked so sad, with two black eyes and bruises on his face. (The Bee ran a four-sentence regional digest item on Saturday.)

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At 5, 6, 10 and 11, the stations couldn’t get enough of Corey’s plight. Cue the B-roll footage of fire fights in Baghdad and flooded neighborhoods in Katrina. Go for an extreme close-up on Trepagnier’s face. Channel 13 led its 6 p.m. newscast with the story, Fox40 led with it at 10 p.m., while Channels 3 and 10 put it in the middle of their newscasts.

In the early reports (5 and 6 p.m.) of the story, we had a nagging problem with it. None of the stations mentioned why Trepagnier had bruises all over his face. It wasn’t from the robbery, since the perps just pulled a knife and Corey gave them the pot o' money (about $40). It made a cynic like me wonder about the veracity of Trepagnier’s story. So I did a quick Lexis database search, and the dude checked out: former New Orleans resident now living with his aunt in Sacramento.

Still, I wanted to know the nature of the bruised face. Channel 13 and Fox40 didn’t give a reason in their 10 p.m. reports but, at 11, Channels 3 and 10 both reported that Trepagnier suffered the facial wounds from a recent seizure he suffered. Seems Corey sustained a head injury in Iraq and he gets uncontrollable seizures.

Geez. A sad story just gets sadder.

The only happy ending? It’s a ratings bonanza for local TV.

On to other Friday-night sweeps highlights:

* At last, a positive story about Stockton, which is treated as the go-to place for crime-reporting by our local stations. Channel 3’s Rich Ibarra did a “heartwarming” report on an 87-year-old school crossing guard.

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* Channel 13 ended its 6 p.m. newscast with a story about an asteroid that NASA scientists think might hit earth in 2036 if the agency doesn’t take measures to redirect the big rock. Quipped anchor Sam Shane, aping the scare-people-during-sweeps routine: “Be very, very afraid...Isn’t this a bit of a stretch?”

* Most-underrated regular segment in the local TV news market: News10’s Jonathan Mumm’s “California Postcard,” a travel-history segment shot in high-definition. Learning about the history of the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley was a nice break from all-crime, all-the-time.

* Channel 3 anchor Lois Hart after wrapping up a story on the mania surrounding Sony’s PlayStation 3, introduced the next story thusly: “No coincidental segueway here... .” It was a story on childhood obesity.

* Yes, there was another deer story. No wacky antics this time, though. Fox40’s Lonnie Wong reported on the dangers of cars vs. deer. “There’s no doubt who wins when a car strikes a deer,” Wong says. Cut to video of a deer slamming into a car - or was it vice versa? - with an audible thud. (Quote from my 9-year-old: “Turn it off, Dad! Bambi’s mom's dead!”)

* Mini-scoop: Three of the four stations aired reports on the rash of burglaries in downtown Lodi, but only Channel 13 reported (and had video) of the perp on the surveillance camera later getting arrested.
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* Pallas Hupe (pictured left) on Channel 13 airs occasional commentaries, provocatively titled, “Why Should I Care?” Most times, thankfully, we do care.

* More on Hupe: It looked as if she was delivering the commentary in the station’s lobby. Channel 13 has a habit of having anchors and reporters deliver stories throughout their West Sac building – the newsroom, the set, the engineer’s quarters, the hallways. I’m still waiting for Tony Lopez to report live from the men’s room.

* And, finally, this from the weekend, when I gave myself a break from watching local news to watch ... national cable news!
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The coverage of the TomKat wedding was just out of control. All the cable channels treated it as a breaking-news story. Geez.

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