No population bomb: Governor Roy Romer says he had no idea that challenger Bruce Benson would drop the bomb during their first debate last week about his two DUI arrests. If so, the shirt-sleeved Romer--whose jacket was off, if not his gloves--was sure quick with a comeback. After Benson concluded his lengthy, damage-controlling confession with the vow that he wants to "run an up-front, first-class campaign, not personal attacks," moderator Clifford May asked Romer if he had anything he wanted to reveal.

"Yes, I have a confession to make," said the guv. "I'm worried about world population and I've had seven children."

Screen achers: Considering their mission, the members of Rocky Mountain MediaWatch should be collecting hazard pay. Instead, they've been performing their deadly dull assignment--to watch and analyze the content of a full week of local TV newscasts--as volunteers. Admits watcher Jason Salzman, who works for Greenpeace when he isn't viewing bad TV, "It's excruciating."

But necessary, if the group is to fulfill its self-professed mission: to challenge the news media to better inform the community. The third monitoring project was conducted July 11-15; last week MediaWatch released results that should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly watches the ten o'clock news. "Mayhem (disaster, crime and war) continues to dominate all shows," MediaWatch pronounces. In fact, the "mayhem index" for the newscasts averages 64 percent. But there's always room for mellow, including these "fluffy" segments: a "pizza-tossing contest" on Channel 2; "suspected aliens sculpt field" on Channel 4; "pet alligator captured" on Channel 7; and Channel 9's classic "bears eat popsicles." (But did they do it while punched into the city's time clock?)

So far, the watchers have trained their efforts and eyeballs on the late-night news; if they took a gander at the earlier, happier broadcasts--such as Channel 4's 4 p.m. "good news" hour--they might be in danger of catching diabetes from all the sweetness and light. But even so, they're about to expand their viewing hours, thanks to two recent grants: one for $3,000 from Chinook, and last week's surprising $22,000 donation from Hunt Alternatives, the foundation established by Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt, who's been the inspiration for some media mayhem herself. The sudden boost to the budget allows former radio host Paul Klite to work with MediaWatch full-time, adding an "access project" to help teach nonprofits and activists how to handle the press, and also expanding the monitoring project to include radio and print. Are you listening, Lewis & Floorwax?

They All Look Alike Department: Maybe MediaWatch can explain why, when Federico Pena is all over TV these days--talking about the Cuban embargo (as Secretary of Transportation, he watches over the U.S. Coast Guard), discussing the USAir crash, attempting to explain Monday's kamikaze mission at the White House--USA Today can't keep him straight from that other Hispanic cabinet member. On Friday the national daily ran a picture of Henry Cisneros with an item quoting Pena on alleged sexual harassment at an FAA seminar that focused on sex harassment...and cultural diversity.

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