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November 30, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: The End


Day 28.

The end-of-show, feel-good story (this was on cuddly News10, of course) on school kids in Elk Grove knitting for the needy had just finished at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Anchor Dale Schornack: “You know, you can say those are handmade with a lot of love.”

Cristina Mendonsa: “Ah.”

Schornack: “Just like this newscast.”

Mendonsa: “Ah, man, that was so cheesy.”

Schornack: “It’s the end of ratings. We deserve a little cheese.”

Yes, it was nice to see that our local TV news organizations did not let November sweeps go out with a whimper. There was plenty of cheese to go around, plus some good reports.

But first, pass the cheese.

Hmmm, should I begin with Channel 13’s Kurtis Ming bullying an annoying sales clerk to the point of almost pistol-whipping the dude? Or maybe Brandi Hitt butchering a story so badly that she dissolved into a puddle of giggles? Or how about Channel 3’s Mike TeSelle, beefcake reporter, going topless? Or, well... let’s just go chronologically.

* My mind is still reeling from Channel 31’s “Good Day Sacramento's” truly pointless act of blowing up a car on the air Wednesday morning. They strapped a load of explosives to a sedan placed in the Nevada desert, had reporter Chris Burrous fire 50 rounds from a submachine gun and blow the durn thing up.

Gee, what’s next for “GDS” - blowing up the car in a crowded marketplace? Considering that the REAL news is fraught with reports of car bombs in Iraq and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, isn’t it, oh, I don't know, just a tad insensitive of “GDS” to do this?

* So Channel 3’s TeSelle, the guy who actually volunteers to go to Blue Canyon to freeze his assets off, is assigned to report on the cold weather at 5 p.m. Wednesday night. He does the usual stuff, interviewing shivering people with insights such as “brrr.” He talks to experts about covering plants during a freeze. Then, to explain how you have to run your pool pump to avoid having it crack, TeSelle himself cracked. He stripped to a swimsuit and jumped in a pool. (Nice pecs, Mike, but stop by a tanning salon next time.)

Anchor Lois Hart to TeSelle: “Boy, that’s a long way to go just for a story. I hope you got a bonus out of this.”

TeSelle: “I just have to jump into my stories.”

Dave Walker: “At least you didn’t get in over your head, Mike.”

* It wasn’t pretty watching Hitt totally melt down at 6 p.m. on Channel 13. At the end of the broadcast, she started reading from the script about Snoop Dogg's arrest. She made a lame attempt at Snoop-speak, then garbled words so badly we thought she was speaking in tongues.
Finally, she quit and said to her co-anchors, “This is a Tony Lopez-written story. He does it so well. And I just can’t deliver it.”

(There’s no shame in that, Brandi. The story was just too big for you.)

Anchor Pallas Hupe: “Oh, you did OK.”

Hitt: “I tried.”

* At 6 p.m., News10 almost pulled off the unthinkable during sweeps - an entire newscast without a crime story. Only one of 16 stories was crime-related (on robberies in Stockton, a voiceover report that lasted only 20 seconds).
* Fox40 gave us our critter fix. Late in the 10 o’clock newscast, it hit us with four straight stories: (1) Shamu the whale attacks a trainer at Sea World; (2) a naked, drug-addled man was attacked by a gator in Florida; (3) a Florida family had its puppy sold out from under them, and (4) a San Diego man takes pet ashes and turns them into artwork.

What, no deer stories?

* Boy, I don’t want to be caught in a dark alley with Channel 13’s Ming. The man is menacing. Wednesday night, the intrepid consumer reporter was trying to help a woman and her son get a refund on a cell phone from a chuckleheaded clerk. The clerk taunted the woman, holding up the check and waving it around.

Voiceover of Ming, dropped an octave: “Then, I showed up... .”

Shot of Ming knocking on the door and then asking the clerk: “Where’s the check?”

Clerk: “In my back pocket.”

Ming: "You know what? We’re going to roll this video camera the entire time and your face is going to be plastered all over television if you’re not going to give this lady her check.”

Clerk: “That’s OK.”

Ming: "You’re OK with that?”

So OK, apparently, that the clerk then locked the door on Ming, who proceeded to call the clerk’s manager.

At last, the clerk relented and deadpaned to the woman as he handed over the check: “Thank you for choosing Metro PCS. You have a wonderful day.”

*Channel 13’s Ron Jones said robbers in Stockton were “armed and dangerous.” That reminds me of the old Dennis Miller (back when he was still funny) line: “What else is he going to be, armed and gregarious?”

OK, enough cheese. The local stations actually finished strong with some good reporting.

* Channel 13: Anchor Sam Shane reported on a woman, already in prison, who’s running a surrogate-mother scam. One Bay Area couple, Shane reported, was bilked out of $40,000.

Shane played it straight - no "Minglike" theatrics where he becomes bigger than the story. We’d like to see Shane do more special reports.
* News10 spent the first 10 minutes of its 11 p.m. newscast with a special report on “The Achievement Gap” (see screen grab, at right) between rich and poor schools in Sacramento. Dana Howard did a thorough, interesting and fair report and didn’t rely on flashy graphics or scary music.

* Channel 3’s Lynsey Paulo (a consumer reporter who is seriously cheese-deficient) reported on deaths of children caused by dentists during procedures and the lack of action by the state Dental Board.

* And, finally, one last count of my newest pet peeve, alliteration: “Wiggle Woes” (Channel 3), "Plastic Present” (Channel 13), "Garden Grinch” (Channel 13) and “Surrogate Scandal” (Channel 13).

Well, that’s it, thankfully, for November sweeps. Come back soon (probably this afternoon) for the actual results of the ratings period.

As for me, I’m going a take a little break from local news and instead watch the most trusted man in fake journalism.

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