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May sweeps spawn new KATU set

You don't care and may not even notice.

And there's no reason you should.

But don't tell that to Portland's TV news chiefs, who quiver with delight at just the thought of a new studio set. After all, they figure, new sets mean new viewers and big ratings. To these folks, a new on-air desk and an accompanying backdrop are better than anchors who can talk and think at the same time. Or even do just one of the above.

But who can blame them? Custom-made sets cost tens of thousands of dollars and are usually dreamed up by Southern California designers who think that the 'Hollywood' sign has more class than a sunset in the Columbia Gorge.

And now that we're beginning the all-important May sweeps, look: KATU (2) has a spanking new set, complete with a view of Mount Hood, city panoramas and what seem to be postcard images of Northwest scenes. It sort of gives the appearance of an air traffic control tower, looking out at the wide expanse that is 'The Spirit of the Northwest.'

There also is something called Microcast Weather, which I'm not ready to even try to understand, and spiffy graphics that say '40 Years' (which represents either the age of the station or how long Paul Linnman seems to have been working there).

Truth be told, I like the new KATU look. It's bright and fresh and, despite the myriad graphics that appear and disappear, unobtrusive. But it won't mean that anyone will suddenly tune out KGW (8) or KOIN (6) to rush over to the Portland station that dares to use the running headline Ñ those cable news-style 'crawls' at the bottom of the screen.

My favorite story involving news sets goes back to my life as an anchor, when the KOIN tower appeared to be growing out of my head. The only problem was that I worked at KGW at the time. So instead of removing my head, somebody airbrushed the tower right out of the Portland skyline.

Once (and only once), the station brought in a Los Angeles lighting expert to reset the lights. By the time he was done, our faces Ñ complete with deeper-set eyes and shadows everywhere Ñ resembled something that only Dracula could love.

And then there was the time that the news director and his wife came in one weekend and painted over the existing set because he hated it and didn't have the budget for a new one.

Funny thing: The news director, the paint job and the set were all replaced less than a year later.

Pete Schulberg is the host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM

(860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..