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No Deception Here

November 21, 1998

Your piece ("No Bravos for Theater in News," by Howard Rosenberg, Nov. 11) on UPN News 13's coverage of one woman's efforts to win her battle with cancer was insensitive and off-base. The news department was given a rare opportunity to document on tape the day-to-day struggle of Melinda Gaffney as she fought her terminal bone cancer.

We did not solicit her cooperation; she offered to have her friend, Sasha Foo, track her treatment as a living visual diary of what it was like to fight not only cancer, but her doctors and the health care establishment; and her courageous efforts to maintain some dignity and normalcy in her life.

When we began the project, we held the same hope as Melinda that some miracle of medicine or hope would reverse the outcome. That did not happen, and when we went to air the piece, we knew that.

There was no intention here, on the part of anyone, to con the viewer or pull them along through the piece. Even a casual viewer would have known that she had less than a 20% chance of survival. Our anchors dealt with each day's piece as you would expose a chapter in a history book: one day and event at a time.

In fact, not a single viewer, including her family, thought anything out of order in Sasha Foo's telling of the story. Only your two informants, with their distaste for the story, logged a complaint.

Still, we can be more aware and careful about how we set up and talk on camera about all of our pieces. But to suggest some plot to deceive the viewers is just misplaced criticism.

STEPHEN COHEN

News director

UPN News 13

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