COMMENTS: Enough About Me

There has been a recent rash of first person reporting on the network news--not a problem as an occasional flavor, yet not a habit to overindulge in. Last week, NBC's Richard Engel and CBS' stable of war correspondents offered anecdotes of Iraq coverage. ABC has used the brain-damaged Bob Woodruff to report on the brain injuries of combat veterans. Yesterday, CBS' Sandra Hughes illustrated the ravages of pancreatic cancer by profiling her own news producer Dianne Ronnau.

Now two more examples. NBC's coverage of breast cancer continued with Anne Thompson's unapologetic first-person account of her past "year of living dangerously" with chemotherapy. Illustrated by movie clips from Broadcast News and Catch Me If You Can, she shared tales of the support of her family, her selection of wigs, morale boosts from work--and how "horrible" it was, not to have her scalp hair fall out, but her eyebrows and eyelashes too.

ABC's Betsy Stark revealed that her daughter is a student at a pricey private college. The $45,000-per-year tuition and board Stark pays is "$1,000 shy of what an average American household earns in a year." So she reported in the first person from Connecticut College in New London about why tuition at elite schools costs so much. It turns out that her personal back story was not necessary. Her Closer Look would have been just as informative in the third person. A low teacher-student ratio makes faculty expensive. Keeping a campus operating means pricey upkeep and maintenance. Contemporary students demand luxury sports and leisure amenities. And lastly, "as stratospheric tuitions go further out of reach," many students need financial aid, so tuition has to be raised to pay for that.


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