Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams have something in common besides their jobs: Each has lost loved ones to cancer — which gives them something in common with nearly everybody.
The evening news anchors are planning to join dozens of A-list entertainers and sports figures on “Stand Up to Cancer,” a live, one-hour special being simulcast at 8 p.m. EDT Friday on ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as cable’s E! Entertainment channel.
Besides seeking contributions to finance cancer research, the program will attempt to make the subject of cancer “not fun,” said Couric, “but maybe a little bit entertaining — as well as educational and informative.”
CBS’ Couric and her news comrades will handle the information part, with each providing a 21/2-minute progress report on research efforts.
“We’re on the cusp of many exciting breakthroughs,” Couric said. “We’ll have three examples of that.”
Her segment will highlight new treatment for medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor that commonly targets children.
ABC News’ Gibson will report on breast cancer, he said, “because my wife has gone through a bout of it.” (She is now in recovery.) He added that cancer claimed the lives of his parents and sister.
“Cancer is a universal health threat,” Gibson said, “something you need to keep in the public consciousness.”
NBC News’ Williams said his mother and sister died of cancer, which has put him on notice: “Given my family history, it’s not a question of will I have cancer, but in what form and when.”
As he looked ahead to Friday’s special, Williams noted that networks had joined hands before for public-service simulcasts, but they were in response to disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This is no less of an emergency,” Williams declared.
The three anchors will be seen on “Stand Up to Cancer” not only in their taped segments, but also live from Los Angeles, where the program will originate with its throng of celebrities.
“We have an opportunity to galvanize people and make them care about an issue that affects so many, and is so devastating to families like mine,” said Couric, whose husband and sister both died of cancer.
One of the driving forces of “Stand Up to Cancer,” Couric has been an active fundraiser for cancer treatment and research since her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer in 1998.
The special, airing on the heels of back-to-back political conventions, could serve as a reminder that, so far, the presidential race has spurred little if any talk about fighting cancer.
Is it too late to bring that issue into the campaign?
“I’m not in a position to criticize other spending priorities,” Williams replied, “but in an election, Americans get a say. Maybe cancer can still become part of our national discussion.”