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The national Amber Alert system, which highlights when children go missing, is the subject of a new original documentary streaming on Peacock TV.

Called Amber: The Girl Behind the Alert, the show recounts the history of the Amber Alert and its origins in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The Amber Alert broadcasts across 50 states when a child goes missing, with details that include the child's appearance and possible abductors. The system has led to the recovery of more than 1,000 missing children.

The show delves into the case that inspired its creation: the 1996 abduction of Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped on January 13 while riding her bike in Arlington.

She was reportedly taken by a man driving a black pickup truck, but there was little for police to do but search the surrounding area.

Her remains were found four days later by a man walking his dog, in a stream of water that was eight miles away from where she was abducted. An autopsy determined she died of stab wounds to the neck. The case remains unsolved to this day.

The documentary includes never-before-seen footage of Amber's family leading up to and after her disappearance, as well as an interview with Amber's mother.

It also interviews Fort Worth resident Diana Simone, a massage therapist who saw the story on the news and called a local radio station, urging them to air details about the child's disappearance and the suspect’s vehicle, so that those driving could take part in the search, too.

Eventually, this idea became the Amber Alert (which stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response).

The alert was used for the first time in 1998, when eight-year-old Rae-Leigh Bradbury of Arlington was abducted by her babysitter. She was missing for 13 hours.

The documentary interviews Bradbury's mother, Patricia Sokolowski, who recalls when the alert was sent out that evening and a driver called in to report that he had seen the babysitter on a local highway.

"That’s her!" the driver says in 911 audio, played in the documentary. "I can't believe it."

The next day, Patricia and baby Rae-Leigh were reunited.

There's a trailer on Oxygen.com.

Dallas-Fort Worth classical music radio station WRR releases new program lineup

Radio News

A new, permanent schedule for WRR 101.1 FM, Dallas-Fort Worth's classical music station, has been released, with what a release claims will be less interruptions and more classical music.

The schedule comes in the wake of a new management arrangement for WRR, which was previously run by the city of Dallas and will now function as an all-classical, noncommercial format under the management of KERA, effective January 3, 2023.

This gives WRR revenue opportunities such as donations, grants, membership programs, and sponsorships. Expect "sponsorship messages" similar to those heard on KERA — like ads, but executed in a calm, low-key speaking voice.

Longtime WRR advertisers who have become sponsors include Fort Worth Symphony, Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, The Trusted Lab, the City of Dallas Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, Steinway Hall of Dallas, and more, as well as one of KERA's sponsors, William Sheahan Designs and Fine Jewelry.

The new lineup includes:

  • Morning Classical with Kurt, featuring Kurt Rongey, who has returned to WRR as Assistant Program Director
  • At Work With Amy, a regular weekday show with Amy Bishop
  • The Homestretch, hosted by Nikki Velonis
  • The Dinner Concert, every weeknight with Matt Rogers
  • The Evening Concert, presenting a wide spectrum of classical music, old and new

Returning programs include Sunday Baroque, From the Top, Pipedreams, The March of the Day, Road Rage Remedy, and WRR Concert Hall (formerly known as Monday Night at the Symphony and featuring classical performances from local venues across North Texas).

New programs include With Heart and Voice, Performance Today, the bilingual English/Spanish program Concierto, and The Arts Calendar with KERA’s Nilufer Arsala, delivering an overview of upcoming arts events across the region.

The full weekly schedule can be found at wrr101.com/programs.

Founded in 1921, WRR was the state’s first licensed radio station, first as a public service for police and fire on the AM band, until it became a commercial classical music station on the FM band at 101.1 in 1964.

Photo courtesy of Gow Media

Texas entrepreneur's SPAC to merge with tech company in deal valued at $100 million

spac-tacular move

A Houston SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, has revealed the company it plans to merge with in the new year.

Houston-based SportsMap Tech Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: SMAP), a publicly traded SPAC with $117 million held in trust, and Beaumont-based Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc., a provider of thermal imaging platforms, announced their agreement for ICI to IPO via SPAC.

Originally announced in the fall of last year, the blank-check company is led by David Gow, CEO and chairman. Gow is also chairman and CEO of Gow Media, which owns digital media outlets CultureMap, InnovationMap, and SportsMap, as well as the SportsMap Radio Network, ESPN 97.5 and 92.5.

The deal will close in the first half of 2023, according to a news release, and the combined company will be renamed Infrared Cameras Holdings Inc. and will be listed on NASDAQ under a new ticker symbol.

“ICI is extremely excited to partner with David Gow and SportsMap as we continue to deliver our innovative software and hardware solutions," says Gary Strahan, founder and CEO of ICI, in the release. "We believe our software and sensor technology can change the way companies across industries perform predictive maintenance to ensure reliability, environmental integrity, and safety through AI and machine learning.”

Strahan will continue to serve as CEO of the combined company, and Gow will become chairman of the board. The transaction values the combined company at a pre-money equity valuation of $100 million, according to the release, and existing ICI shareholders will roll 100 percent of their equity into the combined company as part of the transaction.

“We believe ICI is poised for strong growth," Gow says in the release. "The company has a strong value proposition, detecting the overheating of equipment in industrial settings. ICI also has assembled a strong management team to execute on the opportunity. We are delighted to combine our SPAC with ICI.”

Founded in 1995, ICI provides infrared and imaging technology — as well as service, training, and equipment repairs — to various businesses and individuals across industries.

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This article originally appeared on our sister site InnovationMap.

Courtesy photo

Documentary digs down on Barney, the purple dinosaur created in North Texas

Purple News

Hit children's TV series Barney & Friends, which was created by a Dallas schoolteacher and filmed around North Texas in the '90s, is the subject of a new documentary airing on Peacock.

Called I Love You, You Hate Me, it's a two-part series debuting on Wednesday, October 12 that documents the mixed feelings that the lovable purple dinosaur drew.

Barney was created by Sheryl Leach as a way to keep her son, who was enchanted with dinosaurs, entertained. It started out in 1988 as a home release called Barney and the Backyard Gang. That became Barney & Friends which debuted on PBS in 1992 and aired through 2010.

The show was filmed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, first in Allen, then the Studios at Las Colinas in Irving, then to a space in Carrollton.

The Peacock documentary was produced by Scout Productions, the company behind Netflix's Queer Eye.

I Love You, You Hate Me is a limited series chronicling the rise and fall of Barney the Dinosaur’s furious backlash — and what it says about the human need to hate. From Barney-bashing to frat parties to homicidal video games, something in American society broke into a million pieces, and it’s never been put together again… or is this just who we were all along?

Scout senior VP Joel Chiodi tells TV Insider that the show traces the creation of the character and inadvertently helped sow the seeds of modern-day hate culture, stating that it "unpacks how a children’s character who stood for inclusion, understanding, and kindness birthed a movement of anger and criticism that threatened the show, its creators, and their futures."

A trailer gives a peek into how the backlash affected Leach, with quotes from luminaries such as Al Roker and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Leach's son Patrick was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2015 for shooting his neighbor in Malibu, California following an argument.

This is not the first Dallas-Fort Worth subject for director Tommy Avallone, who also produced a documentary on North Texas metal band GWAR.

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One of Dallas-Fort Worth's last rock stations KEGL The Eagle flips to sports talk radio

Radio News

In what is the worst-kept secret in the history of radio, longtime Dallas-Fort Worth rock radio station 97.1 "The Eagle" KEGL-FM has changed to a talk radio format, headed up by big radio name Mike Rhyner, effective October 3.

The station has rebranded as 97.1 The Freak, first reported by Richie Whitt on Sports Illustrated, featuring Rhyner, the former co-host of "The Hardline" afternoon show on 1310/96.7 The Ticket KTCK, from 1994 until he retired in January 2020.

"It is finally here, The Freak weekday afternoons from 3 until 7 pm; I can't tell you how happy I am to be here," Rhyner said, before welcoming what he called his "longtime soulmate," Mike Sirois.

Other programming on the channel will include personalities from SportsMap, the national sports radio network owned by Houston-based Gow Media, which also owns CultureMap. Airing on The Freak will be SportsMap Radio's Jason Page, who hosts a show called The Cash In, and Cole Thompson, who hosts a show called Just Sayin' It; they'll debut on October 3 at 10 pm.

Before unveiling The Freak, the station aired a quick history of KEGL's previous formats including rock, top 40, even Spanish oldies, since its 1981 launch, with eras featuring Kidd Kraddick, pop, grunge, and Howard Stern.

In their opening, Rhyner and Sirois discussed the weekend broadcast that led up to the switch.

"We had freak songs all weekend and then Tom Petty's 'The Waiting' all day long — this is called stunting," Rhyner said. "That's what radio stations did, to find some way to while away the hours, but not give away too much."

The new lineup is as follows:

  • 7-11 am: The Speakeasy with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT” Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather
  • 11 am-3 pm: The Ben & Skin Show with Ben Rogers, Jeff “Skin” Wade, Krystina “K-Ray” Ray, and Michael “Grubes” Gruber
  • 3-7 pm: The Downbeat featuring Rhyner, Sirois, and Gruber

While Rhyner is known for helping to co-found the concept of sports radio, KEGL owner iHeartRadio is describing the new format as “We Talk About What We Want" — so not just sports, but "Guy Talk."

"We're going to be given the latitude to talk about whatever we want," Rhyner said. "Everyone here has a substantial sports background, we are sports radio nerds. But we also have another side to our radio profile and we're going to be allowed to explore that without fear of program director retribution. They know what we're going to do and they said, 'Go get 'em, boys.'"

"Welcome back to the show that apparently never ends," Rhyner said.

Photo by Becca Wright

Fort Worth Foodies Facebook group hits milestone 100,000 members — with big plans ahead

Social media success

When Connie Bally founded the Facebook group Fort Worth Foodies in 2017, she was just looking for some dinner friends. But when the group attracted hundreds of members within its first few weeks, she realized it had potential for much more than restaurant dates.

Now, five years later, Bally has proven herself right. Fort Worth Foodies reached 100,000 members on September 22, making it the largest public Facebook group in North Texas. The group’s mission is to be the most reliable and dynamic source of where and what to eat in Fort Worth while increasing commerce in foodie-related stores and services. Members ask for restaurant recommendations, offer food advice, and share dining-related news articles.

Bally, 69, a Fort Worth resident since 2009, says the group reached the milestone through organic growth. Before starting Fort Worth Foodies, she had no experience in social media management, but she says she has a “really good business head” thanks to 32 years of working in finance. Now that she’s achieved this member milestone, she wants to take her group to the next level.

“We will always be where you go to get the best banana pudding,” Bally says of the group. “We will always be a good resource, but we could be so much more. And we’re ready for that next step.”

Bally says she has been able to fully monetize the group thanks to hands-on guidance and feedback from Facebook. So far, she only works with "brand partners" (similar to paid advertisers) and has held off from seeking out investors, admitting that she’s not ready for that step yet.

The group has six volunteer administrators, but Bally hopes to be able to pay them by next year.

For now, Bally is working to strengthen her startup business and increase revenue. She’s gunning to be selected for a Community Accelerator program started by Facebook to provide mentorship, training, and a $40,000 grant to the leader of a community Facebook group. Being chosen for the program would allow her to make significant headway in developing her business and strengthening city relations. Her dream is to work with the Black Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the city’s economic development department to host an expo or hiring fair focused on culinary arts and connecting community members with culinary resources and networking.

If she’s not selected for the program, Bally is confident her vision will still come to life. She says she’ll seek out sponsors independently and capitalize on opportunities like North Texas Giving Day next year to fund her plans for the group.

In the future, Bally wants to start a foundation that creates scholarships for those pursuing culinary arts. It takes half a million Facebook members for a group to start a foundation, but she’s already a fifth of the way there. She sees no reason why Fort Worth Foodies can’t make it the rest of the way.

“It sounds crazy, but who better than us?” Bally says of her goals. “Fort Worth is the 12th largest city in the nation, the DFW area is the fastest growing metroplex in the nation, we’ve got eight million people in 14 different municipalities. I am enormously proud of my 100,000, but it is just the beginning.”

Bally is developing an interactive map of Fort Worth’s restaurants called Steps and a digital directory of restaurants. She also publishes an online foodie magazine called Fort Worth Foodies Presents.

In the meantime, Bally hopes to see the group continue to grow and hopefully reach 150,000 members by next year.

To celebrate the current milestone, group members will have the chance to win one of three giveaway gift baskets filled with more than $500 worth of hotel packages, gift cards, and more. She hasn’t made any plans on how to celebrate her achievement personally, but her real prize, she says, is the community she has built.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Brooks & Dunn boot-scoot into this week's 5 hottest Fort Worth headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines. Looking for the best things to do this weekend? Find that list here.

1. Brooks & Dunn kick up 'Reboot Tour' with 2023 stop in Fort Worth. Brooks & Dunn, the best-selling duo of all time, are continuing their "Reboot Tour" in 2023, including a stop at Dickies Arena on Saturday, May 6. Fort Worth is the only Texas city on their list, and tickets went on sale Friday, January 27.

2. Much anticipated Italian restaurant from top Fort Worth team has a date. A new restaurant from one of Fort Worth's top food & beverage teams has an opening date: 61 Osteria, the much-anticipated restaurant from restaurateur Adam Jones and acclaimed chef Blaine Staniford, will open in downtown Fort Worth on January 31. Ta-da.

3. Wealthy Fort Worth neighbor cashes in as the richest city in Texas for 2023. North Texans wanting a glimpse into the lives of the 1 percent won't have to travel far to get a peek. Southlake has been named the richest city in Texas for 2023 in a recent study.

4. Quite the bounty of bites in this roundup of Fort Worth restaurant news. This roundup of restaurant news around Fort Worth includes restaurants newly opened, restaurants coming soon, new menus, new tacos, new pizzas, and more. So much more. Here's the latest batch of Fort Worth restaurant news.

5. The best Fort Worth restaurants to celebrate Valentine's Day 2023. For restaurants, Valentine’s Day is the Super Bowl of dining events, which is ironic this year since the actual Super Bowl takes place just two days prior, on February 12. This is not stopping some restaurateurs from hosting special Valentine’s dinners all weekend long, although some are cautiously opting out of Sunday and Monday. Here are the best options around town.

DFW-based Cinemark theater chain hosts Oscars-themed movie marathon

Awards News

The Cinemark movie chain is giving movie buffs an opportunity to brush up on the Oscars.

Plano-based Cinemark Holdings, Inc. will host its annual Oscar Movie Week festival, this year running from Monday, March 6 through Sunday, March 12, in anticipation of the 95th Oscars ceremony, which airs on March 12 on ABC.

The theater chain will air all of this year’s Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees, at more than 120 participating Cinemark theaters nationwide.

According to a release, passes are now on sale now at Cinemark.com/movieweek.

A full Digital Festival Pass is $40 and includes showings for all Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees. There's a perk! If you purchase a festival pass, you get 50 percent off any size popcorn during Oscar Movie Week.

Individual showtime tickets will be available starting January 27 at standard pricing, with showtimes beginning March 6.

All Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees are bundled into one viewing for just $10 from March 10-12.

For other brushing up, take a look back at what CultureMap’s film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nominees (listed in alphabetical order) when they were originally released.

Cinemark has been hosting other similar marathon events such its collaboration with ESPN to bring college football games to the big screen.

The event takes place at these theaters across the U.S., including the following locations in Texas:

  • Austin: Cinemark Southpark Meadows
  • Denton: Cinemark 14
  • Fort Worth: Ridgmar Mall
  • Grapevine: Cinemark Tinseltown
  • Houston: Cinemark Memorial City
  • Plano: Cinemark Legacy
  • Plano: Cinemark West Plano
  • San Antonio: Cinemark San Antonio 16
  • The Woodlands: Cinemark 17

New play about Uvalde shooting takes the stage at Fort Worth university

#UvaldeStrong

A TCU faculty member has written a new play called For the Love of Uvalde: A Play Inspired by the Robb Elementary School, and it's premiering January 28 both in-person on-campus and online via streaming.

Playwright Ayvaunn Penn, who is part of the Theatre TCU faculty, also wrote a play in 2020 inspired by the Botham Jean shooting by police officer Amber Guyger.

The premiere staged reading of For the Love of Uvalde promises a similar evening of art for social change, paired with a panel-led community discussion. This staged reading will feature select songs and monologues from the show.

The original play uses testimonies to explore the aftermath and varying viewpoints of the families, politicians, and medical professionals affected by the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last May. Nineteen children and two adults were killed in the deadliest shooting ever at a Texas public school.

Panel members for the discussion include Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, TCU Chief Inclusion Officer; James McQuillen, director of Theatre for Youth at Casa Mañana; Professor Lisa Devine, UNT Theatre for Social Change professor; and Shania Tari, M.S, LMFT-A & EMDR trained.

A collaboration between Theatre TCU, TCU School of Music, and El Progreso Memorial Library in Uvalde, the event is free to attend, though tickets are required and may be reserved here. It begins at 6:30 pm at PepsiCo Recital Hall at the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts on the TCU campus.

El Progreso Memorial Library will also stream the event on YouTube so that community members may join and participate in the discussion and reflection.