You’re Pulling My Lens!

The vigil finally lifted at 7:47 a.m., as NBC’s “The Today Show” broadcast its report on granite countertops and radon/radiation. The network originally indicated a Sept. 2 air date, but the force of Hurricane Gustav and the Sarah Palin whirlwind bounced the segment around (an teaser ran during the show’s third hour yesterday, but the report didn’t make it) before this morning’s appearance.

Despite some wordplay on the Marble Institute of America’s “Truth in Granite” effort with NBC’s on-air teaser (“We’ll get to the truth about …”), the report didn’t represent a home run for any side of the debate, save for radon inspectors looking to line up more business. Anyone familiar with the debate in the past few months likely recognized Dr. Bill Llope from Rice University and radon reader Stanley Liebert, but the segment also featured health-risk assessor Jack McCarthy hired by, as the narrator notes, “the granite industry.”

The “Today” report comes as the latest foray by the electronic media to tackle the issue, as reporters attempt to cram enough comprehensible information in four minutes or less to satisfy the Short-Attention-Span-Theatre requirements of standard broadcast news. It’s not a knock against the on-air folks; this is an open-ended issue where you can’t point to a particular stone or point-of-origin as the culprit, so there’s no definite conclusion.

Every one of the reports seem to have the same wrap-up: Get a radon test of your home. And getting a whole-house test – not someone just reading a countertop – is good advice.

It’s also worth noting that the broadcast reports, as the summer progressed, seem to take a more-skeptical tone and involved fairly straightforward reporting (although the swell of “doomsday” music as cameras for the “Today” report focused on a meter display was over-the-top). But, don’t take just my word about it – see for yourself.

At Stone Business Online, I’ve started Radon Theater, with links to as many broadcast reports I could find. (The one link to YouTube™ is because I couldn’t find any other reference online.) There are also a few extras, such as the Houston law-office video that goes over the same ground as the KHOU-TV report, although the narration on the former is worth noting. (And Liebert, the radon inspector who keeps popping up – he’s pictured in “What’s Lurking in Your Countertop?” from the New York Times as well – gets his own section.)

I’m sure this’ll raise the ire of those who wish all these reports would just go away. But, it’s important to see how the story’s evolved.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at, where you can also find this blog at the top of the home page under the clever title of “Editor’s Blog.

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