Shales: ABC Taking Advantage Of Robin Roberts’ Illness

By Alex Weprin Comment

Former Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, now writing for film critic Roger Ebert‘s blog, takes aim at the morning news shows, with most of his ire directed at ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He first argues that “GMA” has been doubling down on fluff, a criticism routinely leveled by executives at competing networks CBS and NBC (though both still have plenty of fluff segments to go around).

It is when discussing Robin Roberts’ battle with MDS that he really pulls no punches, though he fails to note that ABC has generated substantial awareness to MDS, including launching a very successful bone marrow donor drive.

Now we come to Something That Must Be Said. It may have been said elsewhere already, but just in case, here goes: ABC has managed to turn the very serious illness of co-anchor Roberts into a huge promotional opportunity for “GMA.”…

Roberts was seen in a recorded message thanking viewers: “I feel the love and I thank you for it.” ABC rushed out a press release, this one headlined “Robin Roberts’ Message: I Feel the Love and I Thank You For It” and including a disclaimer: “News organizations using material from this report should credit ‘Good Morning, America.’ ”

We all wish Robin Roberts well. And we hope she is not being charged with sick days, considering the fact that her illness has practically become another character in the show’s cast.

Update: From ABC News senior VP Jeffrey Schneider “To be clear, we are keeping faith with our viewers, who are deeply interested in Robin’s journey. We are also mindful that Robin derives great strength from the overwhelming outpouring of love. That Tom wouldn’t understand is no surprise around here.”

Going into the doctor’s office is nothing new for TV news (remember Katie Couric’s colonoscopy?), but for such a serious illness, the decision to air so much material on TV was surprising. All that said, Shales and ABC News have a long and not so illustrious history.