But Howell Raines, executive editor of the New York Times, attributes NBC's decision not to use O'Connor's name to an unwillingness to focus undue attention on itself, not just to protect O'Connor's privacy.
Indeed, Raines says, news organizations have tried hard "not to thrust themselves forward just because they're part of the story." Times reporter Judith Miller was especially concerned about that, he said, before she wrote a first-person story last weekend about having received the letter that was feared to contain anthrax.
"I thought her story was journalistically justified," Raines said, in part because Miller has written a book on bioterrorism and "probably knows more about bioterrorism than any other journalist in the country."
"It wasn't the fact that it happened to her in our newsroom but that it happened to her with her particular state of knowledge and awareness," he said. "Here was this person having an experience that other Americans were having or were afraid of having, but this person knows the entire implication of what this means."
Anthrax is far more than one reporter's story, though, and Raines said he thinks the massive coverage has been warranted.
"The state of government preparedness, the fact that we have no real control of Cipro supplies and the repetition of these events, culminating in the insertion of weapons-grade anthrax into the nation's capital, closing it down, makes it a major story that you have to share with your readers," he said.
News executives said they are trying to be careful with the potentially frightening facts in the anthrax story--to be certain, for example, to distinguish between "exposure" to anthrax and having actually been infected by it.
"I have to go home and face my doctor wife and three boys and explain myself, and they are scared," said Paul Slavin, executive producer of ABC's "World News Tonight." "I'm not looking to scare them any more."
Newspapers and television news programs use their medical correspondents to lessen the fear that many readers and viewers feel, says Joe Angotti, chairman of the broadcast department at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
"They tend to be more level-headed and factual," Angotti said.
Times staff writer Elizabeth Jensen in New York contributed to this report.