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Local ABC affiliate KRDO Channel 13's ratings are lower than ever, and its news show has responded with an interesting way of trying to draw viewers.

First on Good Friday, the station decided to do a nice little story about how people in Colorado Springs like to go to church. One of the show's anchors announced that a pastor from First Presbyterian Church had a few good things to say about Good Friday.

Then, the station switched to a video of a scruffy, foul-mouthed man who spent the next 15 to 18 seconds -- an eternity for on-air television time -- dogging the "goddamn" people of Colorado Springs.

Turns out -- surprise! -- the man was not a pastor but a character actor who had been part of a news segment that the station aired in honor of the Cemetery Crawl in Old Colorado City last Halloween.

Then last week, the station did it again. First, the anchors announced a preview for Colorado Springs' upcoming celebration of Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the battle of Puebla. But the accompanying video publicizing the fiesta showed 6-year-old Elian Gonzales being dragged out of his uncle's Miami house by federal agents.

Oops.

The two flubs were so priceless -- and the timing so coincidentally close together -- that any reasonable person might suspect sabotage. But Dave Rose, the station's news director, insists the first miscue occurred because of a computer tape glitch, and said the Elian footage was nothing but human error. "Could you have a worse piece of video run with that story?" he wondered.

Rose said he felt so bad about the Cinco de Mayo blunder that his station ended up covering the actual Mexican celebration like a blanket.

And, Rose even went so far as to say that if such a mess-up happens again, those responsible will be lynched. "We'll have a public hanging," he said.

And will they air it?

"You can bet on it," he promised.

* * * * * * * * * * During last week's informal City Council meeting, several of the city's nine elected officials got into a lengthy -- but not very absorbing -- discussion over the role of the free press. But mostly their discussion was an attempt to make each other feel better by bashing a critical press corps.

The centerpiece for the discussion was an Indy story that appeared on April 27, outlining a scandal over developers' fees involving several of the city's top managers. Some believe the city's attempt to manipulate developer-related costs could derail future efforts to force builders to pay their fair share of impact fees.

City Manager Jim "Kill the Messenger" Mullen opened the attack on the Independent, but was calmed down by City Councilman Ted Eastburn, who duly noted that, "for better or for worse, the press sometimes brings issues to our attention."

What followed was a long, defensive discussion about the evils of the free press, with Councilman Jim Null characterizing the media as being "soundbite people" who don't want to seriously delve into the issues.

Councilman Richard Skorman said that he thinks elected officials often overreact to negative coverage when, actually, most regular folk don't care at all about things like developers' impact fees.

Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace noted that she's been to plenty of conventions and has never met a public official who has good things to say about the press. Still, she said, it is important that elected officials be held accountable. So thank goodness, she and her colleagues agreed, that the city's public relations department is available to put a positive spin on information that is disseminated to the public.

Isn't it heartening that our elected representatives spend so much time debating and rationalizing how they are and should be covered in the press?

* * * * * * * * * * We're not sure which is more surprising -- that people who are concerned about the potential ill effects of genetically altered foods eat at McDonald's or that the company has responded to consumer concerns by telling french-fry suppliers not to use altered potatoes.

McDonald's Corp. is the latest fast-food company that is quietly telling french-fry suppliers to stop using genetically altered potatoes that were developed by Monsanto, a leading developer of genetically altered foods.

"Virtually all the [fast food] chains have told us they prefer to take non-genetically modified potatoes," Fred Zerza, the spokesman for a major supplier of french fries based in Boise, Idaho, told the Associated Press last week.

Concerns over the environmental and nutritional safety of altered foods have resulted in increasingly vocal criticism in recent years, particularly in Asia and Europe.

But after initial complacence, a growing number of Americans are also becoming critical over crop biotechnology and have begun stepping up demands that the food industry label groceries that contain genetically altered foods.

And that's no small fry.

-- degette@csindy.com

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