INSTEAD OF DELIVERING the news as we have come to know it, with an anchor introducing a story and then handing it off to a reporter, an interactive newscast allows the viewers, or, better stated, the users, to pick and choose the topics that most interest them, creating a kind of news à la carte.

What the viewer sees is the typical anchor filling up the screen - but accompanied on the left, on the right, and at the bottom by visual links to items such as the day's top story, the national news, the local news, sports, the weather, stocks, and story sidebars that are filled with graphics. If you've perused the web, you have a good idea of what this looks like.

Viewers use a remote control to click on the links and buttons that are lined up alongside the video of the anchor or reporter. They also have the ability to return to the main newscast and watch more, continuing right from where they left off. Even the ticker along the bottom of the screen can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded; it can also be brought up as a series of blurbs in order to give a viewer time to see all of them at once.

Like the Internet, this sort of interactive navigation is designed to give consumers what they want, when they want it. It's also designed to develop futuristic-media students, who around Ball State are referred to as hybrids, because they are a sort of bionic student built from parts of journalism (including journalism graphics, broadcasting, and telecommunications) and computer science. They're often on the scene of a story along with the field reporters from NewsLink Indiana, the university's broadcast news service and convergence program for which students spend a semester working full-time on a daily newscast that's aired on public broadcaster WIPB.

Tanksale, who has a master's degree in computer science from Purdue University and previously worked at Microsoft, is one of the three instructors for the interactive-television course, which is filled with a kind of all-star lineup of 24 (or so) students, handpicked from various majors. Jennifer George-Palilonis, a former Detroit Free Press and Chicago Sun-Times staffer, coordinates the journalism-graphics sequence at the school and is another of the instructors. The third is telecommunications expert John Dailey, who, like Pollard, once worked for CNN. They all feel like scientists trying out a new experiment, correcting themselves as they go.