Channel 3 has a Ball with new anchor

Yo, babe, how ’bout some news, dude?

Exaggerating the Dan Ball delivery? Only in words. Not in spirit.

As the 4/11 p.m. anchor newbie, recently bumped up from the reporter ranks at KVBC-TV, Channel 3, Ball is a fresh blast of anchor cool, the kind that could be the kick in the keister local news needs — even if Ball occasionally trips over his own hipness.

Ball in bloom, casual and colloquial: "Hey, check this out, folks." … "Ya gotta hear how this one ended, folks." … "The homeowner stabbed the bad guy." … "Pretty cool stuff." … "Gonna make your skin crawl." … "Uch." … "Ick."

Chicago is "Chi-Town." A plane is "fuuuumigated." Vacation is a "va-cay." Kevin Janison is "KJ." At a break: "Back in two as ‘News-3 Nightside’ rolls on."

Riffing around news is amusing until quips become slips — say, a story about the proposed "Brianna’s Law" requiring police to take DNA samples, not just for convicted felons, but those arrested. Opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union didn’t stop Ball from announcing: "Sounds like a good law to me."

Opinion isn’t news, Dan.

Or a story on maggots falling on US Airways passengers from rancid meat in an overhead bin missed by cleaning crews. Says Dan: "I don’t know how you miss it. Cutbacks, I guess, on US Airways." You guess? Or you know?

Supposition isn’t news, Dan.

Overall, though, Ball is a refreshing flavor on the main anchor menu for News-3 (which, by the way, changes from KVBC to KSNV at midnight tonight), especially given the sour taste at 11, where a third-place finish in May sweeps caused GM Lisa Howfield to "lose sleep" by trailing Channel 13.

Beyond sweeps thinking, Ball’s style might indicate a new path local news needs to trod: personality anchoring. That’s not to minimize journalism cred — Ball’s a good reporter, as he demonstrated elsewhere on the News-3 schedule. Nor does it suggest the station turn news into "Late Night with Dan Ball."

Straddling a double-edge sword, TV is still the most popular news source while bleeding young viewers, for whom a linear newscast — one story at a time, in the order news people decide — is like a telegraph in the texting age. Station websites, with local news anytime, make more sense for them. (Newspapers, for other reasons, are in the soup, too.)

Mass audiences at appointed times are no longer guaranteed. Then it was assumed most viewers chose between newscasts and anchors were among the deciding factors. Newscasts now must make a case why viewers should choose them, not instead of the others, but at all, and a strong personality is a vital draw.

We not only expect 24/7 info in 2010 America, we also demand entertainment in equal measure (to our profound detriment, say some social critics). "Trustworthy" and "pleasant" won’t fulfill the anchor job description anymore.

Over on cable, not including ideologues such as Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck, anchors such as CNN’s Don Lemon and Tony Harris already embody this loosened style.

Personality — playful, quirky, colloquial and ironic, as long as that doesn’t compromise the news — is the shiny coin of this new TV realm.

So Dan-O: Just spare us the "yo, babe," OK, dude?

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

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