Local cable news sets example for other broadcasters


Pick an "A" word (no, not that one): Aggravated. Afraid. Anxious. Annoyed. Angry. Apprehensive. Alarmed.

Ring any Pavlovian bells?

Studies tell us (and studies studiously study these things) that such adjectives can apply to news viewers after exposure to excessive crime/accident reports, exasperating teasers, awkward anchor banter, fly-by sound bites and excitable language uttered in urgent tones, scored to thumping theme music and scented with self-importance.

Certainly, they also can rise to A-plus journalism: Channels 3, 5, 8 and 13 all grabbed regional Emmys earlier this month (go to www.nataspsw.org/emmymain.asp for a winners' list). But the sillier staples of local news have long been ripe for parody, satire and ridicule.

Then there's the dignified radicalism of Las Vegas One.

An Emmy victor as best Vegas evening newscast, its hourlong "News One at 9" is a nearly under-the-radar renegade, a newscast of substance without the swagger.

Begin with anchor Jeff Gillan. And only Jeff Gillan. No chatty co-anchor means no co-anchor chatter -- when Gillan does segue to meteorologist Darren Miller or sports chief Chris Maathuis, it's with unfussy brevity -- and no two-anchor intros to stories, each ridiculously reciting half of the setup, speaking a sentence apiece. (When reading to their kids at night, do they call their co-anchors over for help?)

Unlike some "avuncular" anchors -- their silvery helmet hair as carefully constructed as the pyramids -- chrome-domed Gillan projects an affable authority, especially effective during long-form interviews, where "News One" gets refreshingly funky with the formula (and can redirect viewers to parent station Channel 8 for more spot news). Relaxed chats Gillan conducted with ex-Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson and broadcasting pioneer Bob Bailey last week were a satisfying hybrid of talk-show casual and news-show relevance.

Structurally and tonally, "News One" is a newscast apart. On a contemporary yet uncluttered set -- unlike those that beep, buzz and bleat as if a newscast had sex with a pinball game (Channel 13, you sexy thang) or with employees scurrying in the background (probably to the restroom) -- the cablecast often is entirely local during its lengthy first block. Crime stories are largely left to the margins, a relief when other newscasts sometimes peddle panic till we feel we're in the 1970s South Bronx, with palm trees.

Relegating a school bus driver accused of sexual assault to a brief with a mug shot last week (no time-wasting, info-less interviews with outraged parents we already assume are outraged) left room for reports requiring explanatory airtime: embattled UNLV President David Ashley, prospects for Nevada's economic recovery and the John Ensign sex mess that centered more around the affair's political fallout than how it was found out. Later: Lengthy, in-depth CNN stories on health care and the volatile protests in Iran.

"News One" trades in news that matters, not news that natters.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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