Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cancer: This time it's not Nitwitness News

In the good old days of broadcast journalism we didn't have nitwit reporters riding tricycles. We didn't cover a bunch of drunks yelling at the TV during a football game as a news story. While we wrote for the ear we didn't stoop to the gutter slang of, say, today's WITI-TV ("these guys" and "the cops"). We covered the hard news. We covered the city council, the police beat, the school board, the state legislature and the farm report. We didn't have all of the fancy technology that exists today (for the most part that's a good thing as some of that technology actually bogs down good reporting). We had "beats" and often knew a little something about what we were reporting about instead of being "hit and run" journalists.

There were some things we didn't cover well.

A woman was never raped -- she was criminally assaulted. We kept the details to a minimum. Same with child molesters -- they were always some seedy dudes hanging around playgrounds, not a family member or a clergyman. And we didn't talk about things like breast and prostate cancer. We were wrong.

We didn't legitimize women and children who were victims of violent crime. We hid the truth.

We didn't use the power of the microphone and camera to fight against many dreaded diseases because they were too personal to speak of.

When First Lady Betty Ford dropped the bombshells about her battles with substance addiction and breast cancer we no longer were silent.

Suddenly we began to talk about treatment. We told women about the need for things like mammograms and pap smears. Today our successors bring to the forefront their own battles to become cancer survivors. It's hard to predict how many lives have been saved because now it's OK to talk about such things.

As the American Cancer Society runs its annual Relay for Life in cities and towns across America we should take a moment to pay attention to the warning signs and also to say, "Thank you, Mrs. Ford."

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