Monday, November 2, 2009

Five O'Clock Boobs - Education Or pRon?!?

I'm all about folks taking control of their health and being proactive when it comes to their wellbeing. But recent news report by a local TV station seems to be pushing the boundaries between education and titillation.
TV news reports about breast-cancer detection and treatment are common, though usually discreet, with female breasts typically depicted only in X-rays or tastefully draped.

But in a four-part report on the disease beginning Thursday night, WJLA, Channel 7 in Washington, will break TV's unspoken taboo by showing two women fully exposed on its late-afternoon and evening newscasts.

The station says its reports are meant to encourage proper breast self-examination, and are being aired in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness month, which ends Saturday.

WJLA acknowledges, however, that the timing of its stories may raise some eyebrows: The reports will air on the first two days of TV's traditional "sweeps" month, a period in which stations air their most eye-catching stories to boost ratings that are used to set advertising rates.

WJLA general manager Bill Lord said he had no qualms about the timing of the reports, or in promoting them beforehand. "People will say we're doing it just for ratings," he said. "But we're a commercial television station -- we're trying to get people to watch us. Yes, this is an attention-getting story, but it's also an important story."

The station's first report features a 28-year-old woman from Northern Virginia, Lauren Albright, who volunteered to be led through an on-camera self-exam by an oncologist. She is shown examining her bare torso in a mirror and on an examination table, in both close-up and medium shots. Reporter Gail Pennybacker says in a voice-over that Albright took the "extraordinary step of baring herself" to teach women how to do the exam.
For obvious reasons ( is a SFW, PG-13 blog. I even sensor my curses for crissakes!) I am not running the video here, but you can catch it on the WJLA website if you'd like to.

I suppose you could read this either of two ways.

Considering how much an epidemic breast cancer is for women (and to a far lesser degree, men, who are indeed susceptible), using a graphic demonstration to show women how to correctly perform a breast exam is a daring, and laudable effort.

On the flipside, let's keep it one hunned, these folks know exactly what they're doing. ABC 7, despite paying Leon Harris a zillion dollars a year, still trails Jim Vance and NBC 4 in the ratings by a country mile. DC local news is media bloodsport, and doing this to give WJLA a leg up during sweeps week is jive suspect. There's also the reality that they had all month (how many pink bows did you see in October?) to run such a report, yet waited till the last minute to capitalize on ratings. And yeah, boobs = ratings. Do you really think this station would run a graphic prostate cancer exam? I sure as hell wouldn't tune in to that. Taking one in real life is "real and graphic" enough for me.

That said, I'm all for this report. I watched it, and trust me, there was nothing arousing about it in the least bit. If it educates even one woman about how to properly examine herself, and saves one person from dying, it was worth it.

I still wish ABC 7 would just keep it real tho'.

Question: Is ABC 7 being genuinely concerned about the welfare and health of DC area women, or do they simply see the guaranteed ratings grab that naked boobs on the 5 o'clock news can bring?

TV report on breast self-exams bares all [WashPost]

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