The Message

The Joy of Sets

Fortunately for Hayek, Cushing and Brunson, the CBS eye is also simple, with elegant curves that are endlessly adaptable. Hence, eyes are now all over the place. A large version shimmies and revolves in the background of word-filled info screens, and a series of smaller eyes often run vertically along the right side of the screen in the visual equivalent of backward masking. An internal survey of Channel 4 employees conducted by DeHaven, among others, helped determine the speed of the motion. The hope is that the images move fast enough to keep the viewer engaged, but not so fast as to cause dizziness or nausea. Likewise, the station's new weather gizmo, Live Doppler 4000, is intended to pack more data into the frame without devolving into the sort of vapid meteorological laserium that's all too common in this area. If it's an improvement, it's a modest one.

In other respects, Channel 4's graphics load has been noticeably reduced. The type style used when interview subjects and the like are identified is consistent from show to show (the 4 p.m. newscast once had a font all its own), and the bottom-of-the-screen update crawl that's ubiquitous on other stations is generally absent from Channel 4 unless there's large-scale breaking news. Cushing doesn't know if limiting the crawl will become a trend, but he says, "I think people are tired of the overload of information. Viewers are smart enough to know that a lot of that stuff isn't there to inform the public. It's more like, 'Hey, can we do this? We can? Well, okay, let's go. Let's put it all on there.'"

Which brings us back to the tongue of fire, an innovation whose time Brunson hopes won't come again. "We're trying to do something different here," she says. "So from now on, the watchword is 'No tongues.'"

The 4 corps: Jim Hayek, Krista Brunson and Ed 
Cushing have designs on TV news.
Brett Amole
The 4 corps: Jim Hayek, Krista Brunson and Ed Cushing have designs on TV news.

Ted, Bob and Doug: In the marketing equivalent of Chinese water torture, United Airlines' relentless campaign to introduce Ted, its new low-cost airline, shows no sign of abating. The onslaught has dragged on for weeks, with the Rocky Mountain News's November 6 revelation of Ted's identity failing to slow the proliferation of teaser ads in the local dailies -- the Rocky included -- even though United was still trying to keep it a secret at that point. Jim Nolan, spokesman for the Denver Newspaper Agency, and Jason Schechter, a United spokesman, deny that the carrier ever considered pulling out of the News in protest of business reporter David Kesmodel's scoop -- but even if this notion crossed the minds of United honchos, doing so wouldn't have given them any satisfaction. A provision of the joint operating agreement linking the business operations of the Rocky and the Denver Post states that advertising dollars spent in either paper are shared equally. That means firms upset at the Rocky can no longer punish the publication by spending all its dollars with the Post, because the Rocky would still wind up with half the cash.

Thank you, United States Congress!

Meanwhile, over at the Post, a little piece of Canada worked its way into this month's election coverage. At www.denverpost.com, a Web page labeled "Election Central -- 4 November 2003" allowed surfers to check vote totals throughout the state by clicking on links to twenty Colorado counties or buttons pertaining to ballot initiatives or bonds. The tallies were accurate, but a couple of fine-print sentences at the page's bottom didn't add up. "This Web site was created by the Royal Canadian Institute for Computer Hosers," the item read. "Take off, eh."

Clearly, this is a reference to Bob and Doug McKenzie, a pair of beer-guzzling brothers from the Great White North whom actors Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis created for the cult sketch-comedy show SCTV; Thomas and Moranis basically reprise the bit in the Disney animated flick Brother Bear. What's less plain is what the gag was doing on the Post site. Gil Asakawa, a former Westword music editor who's now the executive producer for development and production at Denver Post Online, investigated, and he learned that the lines were a "stamp code" that one of the department's wittier staffers puts on pages he creates. The stamp is routinely removed before a page goes live, but was missed in this instance.

Guess that "Take off, eh" was meant more literally than it seemed.

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