Center Stage

One of Denver's least-understood media projects gets ready for its close-up.

Ground was broken at the center in July 1996, and the building was close enough to completion this summer to allow O'Brien and his nineteen-person staff to move in. But while the first major Cable Center event, a meeting of its board of directors, took place on October 22, most of the technological doodads that will distinguish the facility have not yet been installed. Some of these are mainly for show, like an oversized L.E.D. map provided by the Weather Channel that will display current weather information for any spot on the globe that a user touches. But others have more overt educational components. Computer kiosks allowing users immediate access to the center's contents will be sprinkled throughout the building (sample items can be viewed on the Web at cablecenter. org), and numerous rooms have been designed for multi-camera setups and wired for uplinking or downlinking, allowing classes held at the center to be available live to students in far-flung locales.

Similar gadgetry will be employed in a "distance learning program" co-sponsored by the public-affairs network C-SPAN. Starting next year, Dr. John Splaine, who's served as C-SPAN's programming and education consultant for over a decade, will teach two fully accredited courses to DU students from Washington, D.C., where he'll have access to nationally known speakers as well as C-SPAN's field cameras and archives.

This is hardly the only example of cooperation between the Center and a major cable network. In conjunction with DU and Encore International, another Colorado-based cable service, the center developed the Chinese Executive Media Management Program, a six-week course in which media representatives from China are taught the ins and outs of western telecommunications; the program, which incorporates "field trips" during which Chinese reps meet with muckety-mucks in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., is in its second year.

Willing and cable: Cable Center president and CEO Jim O'Brien.
Mark A. Manger
Willing and cable: Cable Center president and CEO Jim O'Brien.

Moreover, the center is in negotiation with over forty cable purveyors to acquire their archival material. Among those who've already signed up are Home Box Office, which has come through with more than 500 hours of programming, and, strangely enough, the Christian Broadcasting Network; well-known scary person Pat Robertson recently donated CBN's archives to the center's library -- which is named for Barco -- and tossed in $500,000 to boot.

Just how many people will be interested in the early days of The 700 Club is unclear, but the library component of the Center is awfully appealing anyway. The Museum of Television and Radio, created by CBS's William Paley and based in New York City and Los Angeles, is the repository of more than fifty years' worth of often rare and frequently wonderful footage that's available for screening by students and fans alike, and the two branches regularly put on public events such as reunions of original casts from classic TV shows.

If the center winds up serving the same role when it comes to cable programming, it could become a tremendous cultural magnet in the region: Imagine how Denver would react if all of the actors from The Sopranos dropped by for a visit. O'Brien doesn't want to raise hopes too high, but he points out that the Rigas Theatre, a gorgeous 200-seater that stacks up well against the finest screening rooms in L.A., would be an awfully nice place to hold a movie premiere.

Right now, though, O'Brien isn't quite sure how the Cable Center will make its debut. No lavish grand opening has been slated, and he thinks that some of the earliest gatherings will be "cable-industry events" that may not fire the public's imagination. But O'Brien is confident the Cable Center will be around for the long haul, despite those doubters who see cable as a concept whose time may already be passing.

"Technology always evolves," he says, the great hall's video tower looming over him. "But if you compare cable to satellite, cable broadband has more capacity. It's just a better pipe -- and you'll be able to learn all about it right here."

Wake me up before you Go-Go: When I first started documenting the comings and goings of higher-ups at the entertainment biweekly Go-Go, I had no idea how much work it would turn out to be. Example: Matthew Davis, whose hiring as editor following the resignation of previous overseer Chris Magyar was cited here on October 18, is already gone, having split last week -- and publisher Sean Weaver departed at the same time.

Weaver, who also edits the Metropolitan, Metro State's principal newspaper, chose not to detail his reasons for walking, saying only that he's pursuing other opportunities. But Davis, a Metro journalism student who was at Go-Go's helm for just two full issues, proves to be more forthcoming. "What I was hired to do was to try and get the magazine away from the drunken-road-trip stories it had been doing," he says. "I was going for a higher-end demographic -- but the owners wanted to keep it aimed at the 20-to-25-year-old demographic." He adds, "I discussed with Sean what I wanted to do with the magazine, and he was right in line with it."

Previously, Go-Go was having trouble paying freelancers in a timely manner ("As the Smoke Clears," September 20), but Weaver and Davis say that money wasn't an issue in their departures, and Go-Go CEO Darlene Cypser feels the publication is on solid financial footing. She's looking for a new editor and publisher, but doubts that these jobs will be filled in time for the magazine's December 6 edition, leaving the remaining staff to cobble things together as best they can. In her words, "The rest of the team is very high-spirited. They're all doing what's necessary."

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