NBC’s obsession with baldness "breakthroughs"

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Somebody at NBC must be obsessed with baldness. About three years ago, their Nightly News devoted more than two minutes to questionable hype of a “laser hair comb breakthrough.”

Last night anchor Brian Williams whipped the worried well into a frenzy with his lead in, saying:

“Now to the relationship between humans and their hair. It ranges between frustration, obsession and desperation….We’re talking about people who would pay any price, bear any burden to keep it, grow it, put it back.”

That was his set-up for an announcement of what he called a “big development” – the discovery of what they called a “human hair control gene” that NBC said may lead to a baldness treatment.

[2017 Update: This NBC video is no longer available but the transcript is available HERE ]

Interesting science. But the piece had more comedy clips from Seinfeld and Larry David and man-on-the-street interviews than it did evidence. And in showing the full-head-of-hair researcher who once had alopecia areata but then was “cured” by doctors, the network misleads because that’s not the condition the current research addressed.

We found these headlines around the globe this morning:

• Uncovered at last, the gene that may herald a cure for baldness
• Hair Loss Gene Identified – Male Pattern Baldness Cure Around the Corner?
• Bald gene may help find cure

HealthDay was among the more calm and reasoned voices when it reported:

“The finding won’t immediately lead to a better treatment or cure… it’s just a tiny little piece of the puzzle.”

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April 15, 2010 at 10:04 am

The Chicago Trib had it right back in 2004:
Rugs, drugs, plugs: Just say no