Morning Shows High on Health

Mar 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The broadcast network morning shows have long been America’s dependable source for health news and information.
CBS’s “The Early Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” all have medical contributors, and all three programs air health segments almost every day, depending on other breaking news stories.
“Based on research, health is one of the highest-rated topics of interest to viewers on morning television,” said Michael Bass, senior executive producer of “The Early Show.” “We probably can’t do enough health.”
“The Early Show” airs a 31/2-minute “HealthWatch” segment Monday through Saturday, with medical doctors Emily Senay and Mallika Marshall, plus at least a few additional short series or special segments during the week. Last month, for instance, the show ran a weeklong series titled “Heart Score” offering advice on how to be heart-healthy.
“People really like news they can use to improve their health,” Mr. Bass said. “Like, here’s what you can do to get a better night’s sleep.” Mr. Bass said more often than not, segments are geared to appeal to women, given that women are the prime viewing audience in the mornings. “Women are more in tune with their health,” he said. “Don’t men avoid going to the doctor?”
On “Good Morning America,” the avuncular Dr. Timothy Johnson, medical editor for ABC News, has been around more than 25 years, longer than most people’s family doctors. His Thursday segment, “On Call Medical Reports With Dr. Tim Johnson,” focuses on public health issues such as the need for smallpox vaccines following 9-11, and on human interest stories such as his recent exclusive on advice columnist Abigail Van Buren’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Sisters and sex experts Drs. Jennifer and Laura Berman contribute segments related to women’s medical issues.
“We are very much on the news,” said Shelley Ross, executive producer of “Good Morning America.” “If George Bush needs a new knee and can’t run anymore, we do a baby boomer story on people over 50 who need knee operations.
“We think health is one of our strong points,” Ms. Ross said. “Health is what everyone thinks about every day.”
To enhance the show’s health coverage, Ms. Ross said, she is now putting in place a new “medical team with different areas of experience,” which will be announced soon.
At “Today,” Dr. Judith Reichman and Dr. Mark Widome are contributors, with NBC News’ Bob Bazell doing many health segments as well.
Mr. Bass of “The Early Show” said twice-monthly fitness features are enough for him. “Fitness segments tend to look the same. If we did it more often it would be redundant for us,” he said.