I've done some research, and it looks like the above snippet is leading me into a more undesirable complex recipe file.
Even though I get almost 100% good results with a basic news recipe, to just clip the date from one (1) undesirable line with this snippet looks to require manual rewriting all of the Calibre functions for the entire HTML fetching & rendering operations. (Similar to the New York Times recipe.)
As such, a simple regexp (ie. preprocess_regexps calibre function) should be able to clip the date from the following line of html tags: (Note, undesirable tags occur after the date and immediately following </span> tag.)
# I just need "story_item_date updated", trash the rest of the line!
# <div class="signature_line"><span title="2011-08-22T10:35:58Z" class="story_item_date updated">Aug 22, 2011</span> | 1463 views | 19 <a href="/pages/full_story/push?article........class="signature_email_message"></span></div>
(... well, I need to read into more detailed regexp later.)