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November 9, 2006
Local TV News Sweeps: Day 7

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And you notice I’m not showing the tape again, because how many times do we have to see guys kicking each other in the groin? You know what I mean?
– Fox40 sportscaster Jim Crandell (left), on the Raiders’ Tyler Brayton being fined by the NFL for kneeing a Seattle player.

Jim, Jim, Jim. You just don’t get it.

This is sweeps month, man! Get with it! Crime sells. Sex sells. Gratuitous video of groin shots sells, in spades.

But, no, Crandell decided Wednesday night to have some integrity and not show the groin shot when talking about Brayton. And, to answer the question he asked (somewhat rhetorically) on the 10 p.m. show: You should air the groin punch four times in 20 seconds. That’s what competitor News10 did on its 11 p.m. broadcast.

Still, on Wednesday night, Crandell notwithstanding, we noticed that Fox40 is starting to loosen up and get with the sweeps-month gestalt.

Some examples:

* Its second lead story was about a child molestation arrest in Folsom.

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* It won our award for Most Bizarre Story with a report about a high school soccer team in Gastonia, N.C., that got in trouble for playing an audio tape of Adolph Hitler’s “On to Victory” speech before the team faced off against an opponent.

* It reported that bee stings are good for us. Yes, people are using bee venom to treat conditions such as back injuries.

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* And, to close the newscast, anchor Donna Cordova said: “Women everywhere are being encouraged to stuff their bras.” It was a report out of Japan about a bra that, when you turn it inside out, becomes a tote bag (see photo).

Remarked Crandell: “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Anchor Thomas Drayton: “What do we do when guys go shopping? I don’t want to know.”

Over at Channel 13 at 10 p.m., there was another scare-the-stuffing-out-of-you “special report.” This time, it was Kurtis Ming’s investigation into a plastic surgeon (Brian West, pictured below) with an alcohol problem who allegedly has disfigured patients but hasn’t been reprimanded by the state medical board.

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It was a weird feeling of deja vu. All that talk of flesh-eating infections, the gross video of women’s disfigured limbs, the righteous indignation Ming exuded.
Then it hit me: This was a Channel 13 “special report” from LAST NOVEMBER. Yup, the same story, albeit updated. Back then, they called it “Plastic Disasters.” This time, no catchy name, but Ming recycled (or “repurposed,” as the current journalism catchphrase goes) the report.

The new stuff was that the “drinking doctor,” West, had landed a job in Long Beach. Ming and a Channel 13 photographer stalked him and chased him down three flights of stairs, throwing questions at him. Cheesiest of all, we saw Ming sprint down a hallway to catch West as he was driving out of the parking garage.

Other highlights from Wednesday night:

* News10 reporting on the tallest man - at 7-feet, 9-inches - in the world. Anchor Cristina Mendonsa: “Wow, look at his hands. He could palm someone’s head.”

*Channel 13’s Rafer Weigel, charged with the task of getting public reaction to Donald Rumsfeld’s departure, breathlessly reported: “The manager of the gas station where we parked also came out and says he blames the media (for Rumsfeld’s ousting).”

No word, apparently, from the convenience store clerk.

*Kudos to News10’s Bryan May and Fox40’s Nina Melhaf for getting interviews with Kings owner Joe Maloof regarding the arena issue.

But Fox40 quoted a Kings fan, Jim Abernathy, as saying: “They don’t have a Houston franchise anymore and they may not have a franchise in Sacramento. That would be kind of sad.”

Memo to Abernathy (and to Fox40 producers): The NBA does have a team in Houston – the Rockets.

* And THIS IN TODAY: A train derailment near Baxter coincided with the start of the noon news. So channels 3 and 13 - heated rivals at that hour - naturally led the broadcast with it. Details were sketchy on both shows, but Channel 3 covered the story better for one reason: It has a helicopter and Channel 13 does not.

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So, while LiveCopter 3's Dann Shively (above) hovered over the seen, giving us live pictures, Channel 13 had Chris Burrous on the phone and a fuzzy webcam view of a fire truck traveling north on I-80, presumably to the site of the derailment. At one point, Channel 13 anchor Michelle Kane asked a Union Pacific spokesman, via phone, "What about the fire? Have we heard any news on the fire?"

No problem. Just tune into Channel 3, where Shively showed that wasn't much of a fire.

TV news is a visual medium and today's story proves once more that a helicopter is essential in breaking-news situations.

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