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THE TALK OF THE NATION

Thirteen minutes. That's how long Channel 2 News devoted to Monday's earthshaking news at 11 p.m.
No, not the historic plunge on Wall Street. The frightening story out of Chautauqua County about a 20-year-old man with HIV, Nushawn Williams, who is accused of infecting at least 10 young women in a sex-for-drugs exchange last year and this year.

Sex. Drugs. Teens. Ethics. It was a combination made to order for the media.

The story was played prominently on the national newscasts Monday night, and CNN carried excerpts of a press conference by Chautauqua County officials. It was all over the national TV morning shows on Tuesday, too.

In the national print media, the story was given front-page display in Tuesday's editions of the Washington Post, the New York Times and USA Today.

On the Internet, the story was featured on America Online's news page and on every major news site, including CNN's. It was also noted in newsgroups such as alt.sex.prostitution.

The story undoubtedly will be a continuing one, especially if an epidemic of secondary infections arrives.

Locally, Channel 2 more than doubled the amount of time Channel 4 and Channel 7 gave to the story. (Only Channel 7 led with the stock market crash.) Two minutes is considered a lengthy local TV story.

The ethical and legal questions are part of what make this story compelling to the media. Other questions have not yet been grappled with. Among them: Will race become an issue? Will the delay in revealing Williams' identity lead to a healthy debate over a state law that protects the identity of HIV carriers because of privacy rights?

But the real story may end up being about drug use among young people and the dangers they expose themselves to in order to feed their habits.

News Staff Reporter Andrew Z. Galarneau contributed to this story.

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