On Tuesday (6/4/13), NBC Nightly News' chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent. The report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan"). Later, the camera panned across a studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently placed in front of the others. Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone are owned/manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Merck. Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. arch support inserts. Dr. Scholl's is also owned by Merck. This is no coincidence. NBC Nightly News producers, anchors and correspondents have a history of using "news stories" to plug NBC sponsors' products. (For a detailed list of NBC Nightly News plugs and product placements, see this blog's 4/8/12 entry: http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2012/04/nbc-nightly-news-show-notes-4712.html.) And this isn't the first time Nancy Snyderman has done a product placement. On the 1/2/13 Nightly News, Snyderman's story on fructose included ad clips from Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers and the weight-loss drug Alli--which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline--a frequent NBC advertiser and Nightly News in-broadcast sponsor. It's shameful that any NBC producer, anchor or correspondent would use a news broadcast to plug their network's sponsors, but it's even more shameful when done by a medical correspondent--and a physician, no less. I don't see how viewers can trust Snyderman to report honestly and objectively when one of her primary goals seems to be promoting NBC sponsors.
But when it comes to NBC News science/medical correspondents, Nancy Snyderman has nothing on Robert Bazell. For years, Bazell has been acting as a shill for NBC sponsors such as Bayer, General Mills, General Electric, Glaxo and Pfizer. (In 2011, this blog devoted an entire post to the inimitable Mr. Bazell: http://nightly-daily.blogspot.com/2011/10/robert-bazell-is-scumbag.html.) Well, Bazell is at it again. On Saturday's Nightly News (6/1/13), Bazell reported a story titled "Cancer Breakthrough" about the successful treatment of lung cancer and several other types of cancer through a procedure known as immune therapy, which causes white blood cells to attack and destroy cancer cells. The story focused on research and treatment being done at Yale Cancer Center and featured an interview with the Center's Dr. Roy Herbst. Anyone watching this story would come away with the impression that Yale is at the forefront of cancer research, which it is. However, Bazell neglected to disclose one very important fact: Later this summer he will be leaving NBC News because he has accepted a position as an adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University. So by doing a Nightly News piece about Yale, Bazell used his current position as a news correspondent to promote his future employer. That's pretty sleazy. But for the NBC News health/science/medical team, it's just (funny) business as usual.