Wake-Up Call: Don't touch that dial!

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The tipster poured her story into my ear, a long, involved tale of bureaucrats behaving badly.

"I'll talk to the writers and see if we can get that in the paper," I told her.

"Oh, I don't care about the paper," she said. "I want it on TV."

Since I was on the very first episode of Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out seventeen years ago, I've been amazed by the power of television. You can't tell a long, complicated story in a couple of minutes -- but you can certainly reach a lot of people with the shorter, less complicated version of that story.

But CIO wasn't designed to break stories. From the start, it was meant to be a place where journalists, political pundits and community activists could chew over the news of the past week. Cocktail party conversation, without the cocktails.

The cast of characters has changed over the years -- original host Ken Hamblin was replaced by Peter Boyles, who lasted more than a dozen years before he vroomed off screen to find more time for a motorcycle show. And then an actual TV journalist, Raj Chohan, took over. The faces around the table have morphed, too. We lost Sue O'Brien, first to her job at the University of Colorado, and then, after she moved to the Denver Post, to cancer. Al Knight retired up to Fairplay. Pierre Jimenez took a state job, which meant he had to leave, but now he's frequently back at the table. Last week, Tom Tancredo, who replaced Knight, was there, too, back in a slot that's been filled by David Kopel for close to a decade. And then there's Dani Newsum, who had to surrender her seat because her employer was concerned that her very distinct views might be taken as an official company position...

The game of musical chairs never stops. But one thing remains a constant: CIO's incredibly loyal, involved audience, a group that tunes in every Friday (or Thursday; the time slots haven't been a constant, either) to get in on the conversation with a group of folks who might as well be sitting in their living room -- because they're certainly not standard prime-time TV casting. And no matter how heated the conversation gets, how diverse -- and nasty -- the discussion, when the cameras stop rolling, we have to continue sharing this state we all love.

Now you have a chance to talk back to this crew in person: At 6 p.m. Thursday, May 21, KBDI is hosting a Colorado Inside Out reception at the Warwick Hotel. It's $10 -- but as on the show ever week, the speech should be very, very free. For info, call 303-296-1212.

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