CNN news Ticker is replaced by the Flipper

Crawl across bottom of screen now has static headlines

CNN’s headline Ticker, a bottom-of-the-screen fixture since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, passed away before dawn Monday at the age of 7.

The cause of death was progress.

Once seen as a cutting-edge way of conveying headlines by some and as an annoyance by others, tickers have become ubiquitous throughout television in the last decade. CNN’s was buried alive in the clutter it helped create and was a casualty of the network’s first major overhaul of its on-screen graphics since 2004.

The CNN Ticker is survived by a cousin, identified as the Flipper by CNN Senior Vice President of Current Programming Bart Feder. Cleaner, clearer and more stylish, the Flipper took over after the Ticker was taken off life support Monday at 5 a.m., Chicago time.

We wanted to get through the election and then bring [the Flipper] out,” Feder said. “Our sense is that the way people watch cable news, they’re there to get information, so we wanted to give more information without making the screen more cluttered.”

While the Ticker steadily scrolled headlines of wildly varying importance left to right in what’s known as a crawl along the bottom of the screen, the newly promoted Flipper presents information one item at a time, spilling from the lower left side and remaining static long enough to be read as an entire phrase.

Rather than deliver it in a crawl, which we found increasingly difficult to follow and read, we do it with one story at a time … so it’s a little easier,” Feder said of the Flipper’s Twitter-esque missives.

CNN’s Headline News, which has always been busier graphics-wise than big sister CNN, also has given up its ticker in favor of a relative of the Flipper, although its version flips up instead of rolling out. CNN International has been using a flipper for almost three years.

Some may eulogize the CNN Ticker, but it was never universally beloved—even in its heyday, even within CNN.

It’s a distraction for me as a viewer,” Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, told critics in 2003. “I, personally, am not a fan of the Ticker on the bottom of the screen. … [But] we commissioned a lot of research, and it was overwhelmingly positive to keep the Ticker on.”

With the death of the CNN Ticker, the network will place a small box with its logo in the lower right corner, which can include market trends, program information and other data. The horizontal banner that had been above the crawling headlines, amplifying what was going on in the video above, was retired with the Ticker’s demise in favor of a simple label.

The Flipper will switch periodically between the sort of headlines previously found in the Ticker (presented as white text on a black background) and information concerning what’s being covered on the rest of the screen (as black text on white background). Red will indicate an ongoing story. Yellow will indicate breaking news.

We didn’t do it with bright colors. We did it in black and white. It’s very clean. It’s very legible,” Feder said. “Part of the goal is to give more information specific to the story that people are watching, again without cluttering up the screen. By losing the Ticker, we gain more screen space.”

The CNN Ticker’s funeral will be private. Information on a possible memorial service will not be found crawling along the bottom of the screen.

 philrosenthal@tribune.com

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