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Shunning bad taste
Sacramento Bee


August 29, 2005

What's news? To cable television networks, it seems to be whatever draws viewers, and competition - especially between Fox and CNN - threatens to lower that common denominator. Cable news operations have turned endless coverage of personal tragedies almost into a grotesque art form. Add to Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson the name of Natalee Holloway, a young woman missing in Aruba for nearly three months.

Bob Costas, a broadcaster best-known for his coverage of sports, has reinforced the widespread judgment that he's a class act by refusing to engage in the ghoulish practice of dwelling endlessly on a single event - so far without result.

The disappearance and possible death of anyone is grievous for loved ones, and deserves some attention by the media. But Costas drew the line when CNN scheduled an entire program on "Larry King Live," on which Costas has been sitting in for the regular host, about the missing Holloway. When the network declined his request to pick another subject, Costas politely declined to be the host. CNN said it understood, and presumably Costas will continue to fill in.

Maybe this episode will help CNN - and Fox, whose growing ratings lead over CNN is obviously a source of worry to the latter - decide to draw a line, give a missing-person report what it's due but not milk a sad story for everything it's worth and more.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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