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NEW YORK — The three network news anchors made a marathon round of appearances on the morning news shows Wednesday to promote a September telecast to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and treatment.
Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams made what is likely their first joint appearance — times three — over the space of an hour and a half on CBS’ “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“There’s a shot you don’t see every single day,” said Couric’s former partner, Matt Lauer, as “Today” followed the three walking in Rockefeller Center on the way to the studio. Even though the three didn’t appear on the top-rated morning show until after 8 a.m. ET, “Today” cameras kept cutting to them.
Lauer, who teased the segment Tuesday morning, made the most of the occasion to jokingly tweak Couric. Gibson noted that a PSA featuring Hollywood stars including Susan Sarandon and Tobey Maguire had originally been scheduled to run after the three had appeared but that Couric had urged that it run before they spoke.
“I’m back,” Couric joked.
“Today” wasn’t the only show to make the most of the situation.
Couric, Gibson and Williams opened the 8:30 hour on ABC by saying, “Good morning, America.” Couric and Williams were then slightly coerced into saying it individually.
The anchors were promoting the September telecast of “Stand Up to Cancer,” which will run commercial free on all three networks to raise money for cancer. It’s an unprecedented entertainment industry effort to regain the momentum in the fight against cancer, and is being officially launched at a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday. A Web site, StandUp2Cancer.org, is launching Wednesday as well.
However light the banter, the topic was deadly serious. Cancer kills 1,500 Americans every day, affects many millions more and is more than an academic topic for the Big Three anchors. Couric’s husband, Jay Monahan, died in 1998 of colon cancer, Williams’ sister died of breast cancer, and Gibson’s family has been touched by the disease as well.
“It’s in every American family,” Williams said.
Gibson said the one-hour simulcast wasn’t a telethon because that gave the appearance that it would go on and on, which it won’t.
“This is one hour, and it will be fun,” Gibson said. “There will be a lot of entertainment and a lot of information as well.”
Added Couric: “We want the show to be entertaining, engaging and informative.”
The networks have collaborated before on simulcasts, most notably for benefits after the Sept. 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the South Asia tsunami. But Williams said that it’s the first time that the networks have come together to help fight a disease.
“The federally funded research dollars are drying up. The number of peer reviewed projects that are getting approved for federal dollars are fewer and fewer, now one in 10,” said Gibson. “It is a necessity really to get private dollars involved.”
Couric thanked the network bosses for their contribution.
“For them to give over an hour of primetime, that ain’t easy,” she said.
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