OFF LIMITS

Out of the mouths of babes: Channel 9 has emerged the lucky winner with its network affiliation switch to NBC, but the good ratings news hasn't translated into more news. Unless, of course, you count the stunning comparison of lipstick shapes offered up by Adele Arakawa on last Thursday's ten o'clock broadcast, which indicated that Paula Woodward's lipstick has an aggressive slant while Arakawa's shows balance. Co-anchor Ed Sardella had the good sense to show disgust. (But then, he might have been feeling queasy over another piece on that night's news, an interview with actor George Clooney, whose only newsworthiness happened to be his new hairdo and his starring role on the episode of ER that directly preceded the newscast.) By comparison, Channel 4's infamous pantyhose expose of a few years back looks like 60 Minutes material.

Makeup reports aren't the only cosmetic changes at Channel 9. In September the station added a 4 p.m. "Cash Call" to its early news. "It's really easy to play," chirps weatherman Mike Nelson on a promo for the giveaway. And indeed it is--particularly if you've been watching Channel 4's 4 p.m. cash quiz over the past dozen years. "The other channel's promotion is exactly the same as ours," says 4's Mike Jackson. "There's nothing more flattering. They recognized a success and they had to do it."

But Cindy Velasquez, 9's broadcast veep, notes that her station has offered quizzes before. "What we want to do," she says, "is take advantage of the very strong Days of Our Lives lead-in audience. The Cash Call is one of the ways. We also changed talent and changed the length of the 4 p.m. news show."

Although the emphasis on those shows seems to be moving further and further away from news--can you say Klondike and Snow, boys and girls?--the channels increasingly refer to themselves as 9News and News4, rather than by their call letters. According to Jackson, Channel 4 started that practice more than five years ago, and the "Colorado's News Channel" nickname just grew naturally out of KCNC. Channel 9, which had angled long and hard for its KUSA call letters (they replaced the less patriotic KBTV), now refers to the entire station as 9News. "It's a better product name," says promotions coordinator David Reeve. "We want watchers to recognize it."

But will they recognize any actual news?

A tangled web: The Denver Post resurrected Empire Magazine this month, giving the Sunday publication a new (and awkward) size, as well as a technological twist--a web page, where the paper thanks electronic eyeballers for "surfin' on in." It's the Post's first official offering on the World Wide Web.

Unofficially, however, former staffers of the Houston Post--which Denver Post owner Dean Singleton folded last spring--have started their own web page, the "Houston Post Newspaper in Exile." The page offers addresses of Singleton's former employees, plus links to the Justice Department (which allowed the Houston deal to go through) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where browsers can "check out the latest contributions Deano has made to the country's unemployment statistics."

Singleton's Denver employees have their own, low-tech way of communicating: The Singleton News, a must-read via media fax machines across town. According to the Post itself, "Dean Singleton is worth an estimated $250 million, making him the 13th richest person in the state of Colorado," reads an entry in the October 20 edition. "That's pretty good for someone who makes virtually all of his money by squeezing more and more work from employees at his newspapers for the same or less pay.

 
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