Other than "special reports," what really defines sweeps month for local TV news is how the stations handle their top stories - the ones that lead the newscasts.
For example, take Friday night (please, please, take it): Channels 3, 13 and 10 all led with the rain that was forecast for Saturday morning. This just in! There were a few trickles felt on Friday night, too!
Only Fox40's 10 p.m. news went a different, more newsy route, leading with an exclusive interview with Crystal Mitchell, the widow of slain Sacramento County sheriff's deputy Jeff Mitchell.
Reporter Jonathan Carlson had a good "get," as they say in the news business. Now, the scoop could have been because Fox carries "America's Most Wanted," and the "AMW" crew had been in Sac to do a segment on Mitchell. But, still, a scoop's a scoop. There wasn't a whole lot of new material, but one quote from Mitchell's widow did resonate: "I actually thought he was safer out there (in a rural area)...There are really much harder places in Sacramento. I guess I had a false sense of security."
And now, back to the weather.
TV news just looooves the weather. Channel 13 went all out, sending reporter Dennis Shanahan to Blue Canyon - where not a flake of snow was to be found. But the crew trekked up to Truckee to talk to some snowboard-repair workers. Quote of the report from one of them: "At this point, it's kind of a tossup. Some people think El Nino will kick a--. Uh, you know, really rain down."
Channel 3, meanwhile, had reporter Mike Bond standing in front of a giant pile of leaves. Then, they rolled tape from a local hardware store, where people were supposedly stocking up on tarps, rakes and insulation material.
Gee, you would've thought a torrential downpour had hit.
Rain aside, the other obligatory story on Friday night concerned the deer in Michigan that had a plastic Halloween bucket stuck on its head. Fox40 and News10 both jumped on it, but only News10 had the presence of mind to recall that, on the previous night, stations ran video of a deer caught in a Target store in Iowa. Natutrally, News10 gave us both videos - a two-fer.
* Channel 13's Serene Branson had an interesting report on an independent movie theater in Davis, and colleague Ron Jones did a fascinating (if a tad sensational) report on girl gangs in Stockton.
* Fox40: "Dirty cell phones could make you sick!"
* News10's Mark Hedlund at 6 p.m. reported on sweetheart benefits deals for Elk Grove's city manager and city attorney. Great civic journalism. You don't have to live in Elk Gove to be outraged.
* Banter of the Night Award: To Channel 3 at 11 p.m. Anchor Chris Riva, transitioning to sports, did a fist bump with sports guy Del Rodgers. Then Riva asked Rodgers why he always refers to weather guesser Mark Finan as "My Main Man Mark Finan." Said Rodgers: "We went to college at the same time (at the University of Utah). We graduated the U, hung out in the same dorm. No stories there."
* Banter of the Night, Runner-Up: After Channel 13's Kurtis Ming finished the "Buy It and Try It" segment, in which he demonstrated how a plug-in jewelry cleaner shined his watch, anchor Sam Shame took a look at the timepiece. Shane cracked up when he noticed that Ming had not reset the watch for Daylight Saving Time. "Do you realize," Shane asked, "your watch says a quarter to 12?" Ming shrugged.
* And finally: On Saturday morning, "Good Day Sacramento" had a freelance news anchor you might remember - John Alston. Yes, the former Channel 3 anchor was a last-minute sub. Considering that Alston is all about news and "GDS" is all about entertainment, Alston fit in pretty well when bantering with host Chris Burrous.
Alston: "So this is what 7 a.m. on a Saturday feels like."