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Correction to This Article
A Media Notes item in the April 2 Style section misstated the circumstances under which 71 employees left the Philadelphia Inquirer, which is under new ownership. The employees were laid off; they did not take early retirement.
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The Story You Can't And Can Put Down

Elizabeth Edwards:
Elizabeth Edwards: "I can't turn on the TV without seeing me." (By John Quinn -- Bloomberg News)

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All the publicity has prompted others to come out of the cancer closet. NBC's Anne Thompson revealed last week that she received a diagnosis of breast cancer a year ago but kept it a secret because "I was afraid that people would feel sorry for me." She says she is now cancer-free after undergoing chemotherapy.

In a Newsweek cover story out today, columnist Jonathan Alter writes about his battle with cancer -- he is now free of the disease -- and the cover of U.S. News & World Report features a "Cancer and Me" piece by health editor Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health.

For Edwards, it's too bad that his moment in the media spotlight, even if it has given him a short-term political boost, turns on such tragic news. As Elizabeth Edwards put it: "I can't turn on the TV without seeing me, can't open the newspaper without seeing me, and honestly, I'm sick to death of me."

At some point, it seems that the raging argument about the couple's choice becomes less about them and more about us.

Off the Beat

The most prominent columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer is losing her column this week.

Gail Shister, who has covered television news for 25 years, has been reassigned to write mainly features about entertainment shows. She has gotten calls or e-mails of support from Matt Lauer, Judy Woodruff, Anderson Cooper, NBC News President Steve Capus, the producers of "Today," "World News" and "CBS Evening News" -- as well as hundreds of readers, some threatening to drop their subscriptions.

"Good grief -- you are kidding -- are they crazy?" wrote NBC's Andrea Mitchell. ABC's Charlie Gibson called her "one of the three print heads in the country who understands this beat."

The Inquirer's move came after 71 newsroom staffers took early retirement in a budget-cutting drive by owner Brian Tierney, who bought the former Knight Ridder paper last year.

Shister often wheedles news out of her sources. A column on Dan Rather last year got 146,574 online page requests, the year's highest total for the Inquirer's Web site.

Features editor Sandy Clark says she has had to reorganize a shrunken staff. "I just felt her column was too narrowly focused on network news, anchors and morning shows," Clark says. While Shister will occasionally cover network news, "it's not a bad thing to write stories that reflect what viewers are watching and talking about. We can't afford to be inside-baseball anymore."

Shister says the decision is "insulting" and was "made by editors who haven't been on the street or covered a story." She says writing about television is "more than just 'American Idol' and 'Lost.' It's not what the editors want, it's what the readers want. . . . That's also my main interest -- talking to real journalists as opposed to entertainment stars, for whom I have a short attention span."

War Story

A New York Times Magazine cover story last month on women at war included the saga of Amorita Randall, who said that while in the Navy "she was raped twice -- the second rape supposedly taking place just a matter of weeks before she arrived in Iraq." Randall also said her Humvee was hit by an explosive device in Iraq, leaving her with a brain injury. The Times called the Navy for comment three days before deadline, and quoted a spokesman as saying there was no record of the Humvee incident or of Randall's having been injured in Iraq.

In an editor's note last week, the paper said that after further discussions with the Navy, "it is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did." Navy officials said Randall was with the part of her unit that had not seen combat. "If The Times had learned these facts before publication," the paper said, "it would not have included Ms. Randall in the article."

Big Money

Washington Monthly founder Charlie Peters is about to announce a $50,000 annual prize for what he calls "preventive journalism." Peters's Understanding Government Foundation, which underwrites reporting on government, will honor the best articles that expose inept officials, misguided policies or bureaucratic bungling before they lead to disastrous results.

Blooper of the Week

"The model could barely right a sentence" -- Houston Chronicle caption on a photo of Anna Nicole Smith.


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