Gupta “Chasing Life” In Print & On TV

By Brian 

CNN is trying something new this week: It’s tying a book release to a primetime documentary.
The occasion is the publishing of “Chasing Life,” CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta‘s first book.

Gupta said he’s been fascinated by the idea of immortality — “not necessarily the idea that we’ll live forever, but that medicine has advanced to the point where we’re going to push back life span greatly.”

The book and documentary explore the science behind alternative medicine and figures out “what works and what doesn’t.” It covers subjects like dietary supplements, human growth hormones, stem cell treatments and calorie-restriction diets.

In an interview with TVNewser, Gupta said he pitched the documentary to CNN as he started to write the book.

“When I started traveling around, it was clear that some things are better for the written format and some things are much more visual,” he said. “You go somewhere and think ‘that’s such a great story, but it’s not going to work for TV, it’s not going to work for the magazine.'”

Those stories fit perfectly in the book. But some of the other subjects worked well on TV and in print. For example, when Gupta traveled to Moscow to tour illegal stem cell clinics, he brought a film crew along.

There was some hesitation to the documentary project at the beginning, because of timing. “When you write a book, you’re working 15, 16 months in advance. To try to plan a 24-hour news network documentary that far in advance — could it work timing-wise?”

Clearly, it did. The television version of “Chasing Life” airs as a CNN Special Investigations Unit episode on Saturday and Sunday night.

Gupta started his book tour in New York on Monday, so he had to skip surgery. But 50 out of 52 weeks a year, he operates every Monday, along with every other Friday, and sometimes on Wednesdays. He describes it as a “45 percent practice.”

“I really never get any time off,” he says. “They say change of activity is a form of rest, so I’m banking on that.”

When he’s not performing surgery or reporting for CNN, Gupta is working on packages for CBS News. The relationship formed in December, and he’s contributed four pieces to the CBS Evening News since January.

“It’s been busy but enjoyable,” Gupta says of his CBS gig. “I love the show. Katie Couric has had a strong commitment to health stories. With her own personal story, I think she really cares about it deeply, which is nice for me and the other people who do health here.”

He said he’s content with his current media empire, but he hinted at what he thinks will be the next big thing: a broadband medical channel.

“I really think that news in general, and medical news in particular, is going to lend itself very well to using the Internet in a much more consumer-driven way,” he said.

“How can you best connect medical knowledge to the people who want it? I think the Internet’s going to be that space.”