Bobbie Battista was one of the original CNN cable news anchors, starting in 1981 and continuing to broadcast there for 20 years. She reported on:
• the fall of the Berlin Wall,
• the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster,
• the Gulf War,
• the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and
• the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
On March 2, 2020, she died at the very young age of 67 after a four-year battle with cervical cancer.
Early Years and Broadcast Career
Battista was born Barbara Ann Nusser on July 23, 1952, in Iowa City, Iowa. She spent her formative years in New Jersey, and earned a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film production from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She then found a job giving news updates and working as a disc jockey on a country music station in rural and obscure Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. She married James Battista in 1975, but the marriage ended in divorce.
At age 24, she moved up to becoming an on-air host, producer and anchor at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, and at age 25, she teamed with Charlie Gaddy to form the first male-female anchor team in the Raleigh-Durham television market. At age 29, she became the writer and assistant producer of Fed Up With Fear, a documentary on how citizens deal with juvenile crime, which won a George Foster Peabody Award. That award led her to be offered, at the very young age of 29, a position on the newly-founded CNN Headline News where she became a news anchor. During the next two decades she anchored many of their shows, including CNN WorldDay, CNN NewsDay, CNN NewsHour, CNN Daybreak, CNN PrimeNews, and CNN WorldNews. She had such a distinctive personality that the comedy show Saturday Night Live based a popular parody character on her, shown in the second video below.
She married John Brimelow, a marketing executive, in 1995. In 1998, at age 46, she began to host an hour-long talk show, TalkBack Live, on weekday afternoons. At age 50, she left CNN after its parent company, Time Warner, merged with America Online. She then joined Atamira Communications, a marketing and public relations firm founded by her husband, and served as a consultant to several Fortune 500 companies. Beginning in 2009, she appeared part-time on the Onion News Network.
In 2001, when she was 48, she gave her recommendations to aspiring broadcasters in an interview with People Magazine, saying that, “You must go to college . . . You must major in either political science or broadcast journalism . . . You’ll have to be willing to go to a small town somewhere, and do your time in the trenches . . . There’s a lot of competition, and you have to work your way up . . . Or you can start at an entry level position at a network . . . You have to love what you do. It’s probably one of the most rewarding fields you could ever choose to work in.”
At age 63, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died from it four years later, on March 3, 2020.
Cervical cancer, in the lower part of a woman’s uterus in the back of the vagina, is almost always caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted viral infection. Young women growing up in the 21st century should never die of cervical cancer because there is now an effective vaccine. It was only 34 years ago that Dr. Harald zur Hausen discovered the specific types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, and in 2008 he was rewarded with the Nobel Prize.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, of which 14 types can cause cancers of the vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, rectum, anus, mouth, head and neck. HPV-16, the most common type found in cervical cancers, is also found in more than half of all HPV-caused cancers in the mouth. More than 80 percent of sexually active men and women become infected with these viruses, and most never know they are infected. Most people eventually get rid of the virus with no treatment whatever. However, in some men and women, the virus stays on for many years to cause various cancers. The U.S. Communicable Disease Center (CDC) found that almost 31,000 new cases of cancer each year from 2008 to 2012 were attributable to HPV and that most could have been prevented with the HPV vaccine (CDC National Center for Health Statistics, April 6, 2017).
Signs that You May Be Infected with HPV
You acquire HPV from an infected person through contact of skin-to-skin, mouth-to-genitals or from body fluids such as ejaculate, vaginal secretions and saliva. These viral infections occur at the site of contact, not through the bloodstream, so generally infections are on the skin or in body orifices.
Early on, most men and women infected with HPV viruses have no symptoms whatever. However, infected women can go on to suffer vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods or after menopause, bloody vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or pain during intercourse. Men and women may have warts on their genitals.
The women who are most likely to have HPV progress to cervical cancer include those who:
• have many sexual partners
• start sexual relations at a young age
• have other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, mycoplasma, gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV
• have a weakened immune system
• smoke or have exposure to second-hand smoke
• take the hormone DES (diethylstilbestrol)
Prevention of Cervical Cancer and HPV
• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that the HPV vaccine be given to both girls and boys before they reach age 12. The vaccine can prevent infection before exposure to HPV, but once a person picks up the virus, the vaccine is ineffective.
• Every woman from age 20 onward should receive routine Pap tests. Pap tests can diagnose cervical conditions so they can be treated before they become cancers.
• Every man with genital warts should be treated and every non-healing area on his penis or scrotum should be checked by a dermatologist.
• Safe sex: Using condoms reduces exposure, but HPV can get around condoms in cervical fluids. HPV can be acquired through oral or anal sex as well as vaginal sex.
• Don’t have many partners.
• Don’t smoke.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin is a Villager. Learn more at www.drmirkin.com