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Singling out the faces that define their stations

Logos, promos, slogans, billboards — or in Las Vegas, perhaps a station ID tattooed on a stripper’s assets.

Marketing to the masses — “8 News Now,” “News-3,” “Channel 13 Action News,” “Fox-5: Local, Las Vegas” — channels bust their hype-happy heinies to slip their brand awareness under your skin and inside your head.

They could skywrite over the Vegas skyline and it wouldn’t rival the power of personality. People and faces stamp a station’s imprimatur on a city more than words and images — or even the quality of the journalism — ever could.

Whose faces define their stations — and how?

Channel 8: Elder states-anchors, so to speak, Gary Waddell and Paula Francis are this channel’s DNA — its identity down to its cellular level. Unmatched for familiarity, credibility and respect, they’re Mama and Papa Newscast — authoritative yet comforting, without the sharp edges of some younger anchors who think an urgent delivery equals effectiveness.

Behind them, George Knapp, Dave Courvoisier and Sherry Swensk register as second-tier station ambassadors, but are far outdistanced by Waddell and Francis, which points up an inevitable issue: When they no longer grace the anchor desk, their absence could rip a big hole in Channel 8’s bond with viewers, particularly their sizable older audience.

Channel 13: Sadly, scandal-stained Nina Radetich fronts this station’s damaged image that may fade but never vanish. At least she’s a perky presence, along with Lisa Remillard, generating some warmth to offset the news department’s off-putting appetite for frightening viewers.

Though long-recognizable and journalistically seasoned, Darcy Spears and Rikki Cheese exude aggression more than affability. Anchors Steve Wolford and Casey Smith are able and amiable, but lack the intangible element to engender true affection for this station. Oddly, it’s a Channel 13 ghost — unjustly fired Ron Futrell — whose upbeat personality and frank assessments of the station since departing at least leave the lingering memory of an honest, engaging anchor.

Channel 5: Refreshing to some, juvenile to others, this station’s signature is etched into its merry morning crews.

Face-of-the-station status goes to garrulous Jason Feinberg and Monica Jackson. Factor in Heidi Hayes, Dave Hall and Ted Pretty, and they are Fox-5.

Apologies to news jocks Olivia Fierro, Kevin Bolinger, John Huck and reporters, but hammering out hard news isn’t how Fox-5 staked its identity. Programming five hours of morning fare versus two and a half at night, Fox-5 molded an alternative persona out of its a.m. elves.

Channel 3: Most balanced of the four, News-3 connects with viewers through multiple levels of personality.

Newswise, vets Sue Manteris, Jim Snyder and Tom Hawley are tightly woven into News-3’s identity. Then toss in Sophia Choi, a comparative Vegas newbie whose elegant likability quickly elevated her as a prominent face of the station. The “Wake Up” Wagners have grown into a convivial, identifiable family brand. Plus, virtually unchallenged, entertainment princess Alicia Jacobs defines that beat for the entire TV market.

That’s without a “News-3” ID tattooed anywhere on her … as far as we know.

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

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