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New Deal

For Rodriguez, being in features "will allow me to write about the kind of stuff that I talk about with my friends, except now my friends will include all these people I don't know who are sitting at their kitchen table in their underwear." She says she'll write about "pop culture, fashion, dating, trends, food, books, music, gossip, politics, and maybe even about the Westword media critic." (That last idea is a sure dud.) She anticipates the job will be a lot of fun, "but it's like anything else in this business. If I like it, I stay. If I don't, it means I've got to move."

Join the crowd.

Remake and remodel: Luck was on the side of the folks who oversaw the Post's redesign. Because the paper has looked so crappy for so long, there was nowhere to go but up. For that reason, it's no shock that the new-look Post is a significant improvement. A relief, definitely, but not a shock.

From first page to last, the Post is brighter than it was before, thanks to a cannier use of space, borders and the like, not to mention typefaces that are easier on the eyes. Also beneficial in this regard are the extra decks that appear on headlines in many parts of the paper. They may not add a lot of value for people who actually intend to read the articles, rather than skimming them, but they provide auxiliary gaps between blocks of words. As a result, many readers will comprehend for the first time that the Post is printed on white paper, not gray.

In an interview for a column that previewed the Post's makeover ("Nip/Tuck," April 22), Damon Cain, the Post's managing editor for presentation and design, noted that the redesign was flexible enough to allow each part of the paper to have its own personality. This approach means differences from section to section. At this point, Perspective may actually be too spare, whereas the Food section, which launched on May 5, suffers a bit from visual overload. Fortunately, the layout is improved across the board, thanks to a greater emphasis on photos, graphics and color, which, even when it's muted, is more vibrant than it's been of late.

Not that the redesign is especially radical. The most twisted facets are new snapshots of columnists such as Carman, Spencer, Woody Paige and Bill Husted, who, strangely enough, are all shown slump-shouldered. Apparently, the Post is reaching out to a previously ignored demographic: hunchbacks. In other ways, the approach is fairly conventional, seldom breaking with traditions that have developed at dailies over the course of the past fifteen years or so. Consider that the strip containing references to stories inside the paper that now appears above the Post's front-page flag has been a staple at other dailies around the country for years. No wonder one wag greeted the redesign with the comment "Welcome to the 1990s." But at least the paper's moving in the right direction -- visually speaking, anyway. Now if only the content would follow suit.

Channel 9's new set, which debuted the first week of May, is shooting for the future, not the past. Seen from a distance, the gleaming anchor desk looks like the deck of the starship Enterprise. The excuse for the upgrade was the station's conversion to HDTV, a development that's been ruthlessly pimped via on-air promos for months now. Another influence, albeit an unacknowledged one, was the revamped studio design introduced late last year by Channel 9's principal rival, Channel 4 ("The Joy of Sets," November 27, 2003). Channel 4 took the unexpected step of replacing the typical cityscape backdrop seen on most news programs with a simpler, more natural environment dominated by the color blue. The improvement immediately made most other local news broadcasts look stodgy by comparison.

Well, guess what? Channel 9's set supplements an array of video monitors placed behind its anchors with plenty of blue -- so much, in fact, that many of the talking-head shots used in, say, the popular morning newscast are all but indistinguishable from those on Channel 4.

I guess that's why they call them the blues.

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