The November Surprise?

Granite countertops seem to be fading from local TV screens – save for some consumer advertising – but don’t think the reports on radon and radiation are gone for good. If there’s any life in the theme for getting back on the tube, it’s slightly more than a month away.

Since the beginning of the month and the long-awaited minutes on NBC’s The Today Show, the lineup at our Radon Theater remains much the same. A San Diego station gave the story another run on Sept. 19 for the latest entry.

If there’s going to be another slew of local news reports, it’ll be in four weeks or so. Think November, or at least the very end of October.

And, think ratings. Halloween is considered the usual start for one of the two “sweeps” months (May is the other) for Arbitron viewer ratings. It’s when the networks roll out all sorts of special programming, and local stations manage to uncover government corruption, tales of incredible courage and the occasional neighborhood Nazi concentration-camp guard.

Granite, radon and radiation can be a real bell-ringer, and may even spur a few investigative follow-ups from earlier in the year. Don’t be surprised when countertop shots pop up on the local news teaser halfway through Heroes or Boston Legal.

The kicker could be reports on lawsuits involving granite countertops, although one still hasn’t surfaced. It’s not from lack of trying or, to be more-descriptive, trolling for toxic torts.

One Houston law firm apparently had ideas about this, and posted an online video of the very same kitchen countertop featured in the KHOU-TV report in May. The accompanying soundtrack went through a litany of household health problems; unfortunately, the video went off the Net shortly after its debut on Radon Theater.

Other sites are attempting to prime the legal pump, most notably from Online Legal Marketing (OLM) in Santa Cruz, Calif. The company researches and publishes news from its own research department and, as the site explains, “from interviews with lawyers and victims.”

A page entitled “Granite Countertops Source of Dangerous Radon” offers two write-ups reciting personal health problems – although both use pseudonyms for the subjects, such as “Sarah S.” Go to the bottom of the page, and there’s a link to help you get your own story assessed by a lawyer.

What’s a bit curious, however, is a news item attributed to “Nebraska TV” on Aug. 18 with the following lead:

Radon testing in homes with granite countertops four counties in Nebraska have returned higher than normal readings.

However, click on the link associated with the article, and you’ll go to an Associated Press article. And, if you read carefully, you’ll notice that the AP article is about naturally occurring radon in the soil of central Nebraska – and the folks at OLM deliberately inserted “countertops” into the story for their own site.

I sent an email to OLM about this a few weeks ago. In the meantime, one of those anonymous-source articles about countertop woes found its way to an English-language stone Website in China.

And the altered clip from AP’s still there at the OLM Website.

— 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 Main Menu under the clever title of “Editor’s Blog.”

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