COMMENTS: Cancer Spreads

When White House spokesman Tony Snow suffered a relapse of his colon cancer, CBS used that as the hook to turn almost its entire newscast into a cancer special Cures, Costs & Controversies. Both CBS and ABC led with the grave news that the tumor had spread to Snow's liver but CBS' efforts made the generic War on Cancer into the Story of the Day. NBC chose instead to lead with the vote in the Senate to require a US troop pullout from Iraq by next year as a condition for current funding of the continuing fighting.

The decision to lead with Snow, like the one to lead with Elizabeth Edwards' recurring cancer last week, is not merited as hard news. Granted he is a highly visible face for the Bush Administration with a close working relationship with the networks' own White House correspondents: "In just ten months on the job Snow has earned the reputation as a combative and effective advocate for an embattled President," as ABC's Jonathan Karl put it, "a job he does with a sense of humor." Granted he was a high-profile TV journalist himself: "He became a commentator and program host for FOX News," CBS' Bill Plante recalled, "but he says the White House job is the best one he ever had--a Communications Disneyland." Granted it was jarring news for the former cancer patient: "extremely serious," NBC's David Gregory called it, pointing out that just this month, Snow had been honored by the Great Comebacks Foundation for his advocacy on behalf of cancer survivors.

But all in all, NBC exercised the correct judgment in deciding that Snow was not the appropriate lead story.


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