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Will Komen Really Have New Leadership?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

©The New York Times

Who would have thought The New York Times would print one of my Twitter posts? I'm not an Ashton Kutcher or a Lady Gaga, whose every Twitter and Facebook message is monitored and scrutinized by the press. However, The New York Times and USAToday did see and respond to my Tweet about the controversial Nancy Brinker, soon to be ex-CEO of the organization she founded in name of her sister, Susan G. Komen. As my Tweet suggests, unlike Elvis, Ms. Brinker has not left the building. It seems as though she may just be playing musical chairs.<PREVIEWEND>

In what may be a delayed and long over due attempt to appease Komen’s critics, Ms. Brinker will be moving from CEO to a supposedly "lesser role" that focuses on strategy, global growth and fund-raising. Hasn’t she been doing that all along? It also seems as though she will be the decision maker on who becomes the new CEO. Hmm... In addition, Komen’s president, Liz Thompson, and two Komen board members announced they were leaving Komen, all moves that for many are too little, too late.

Nancy Brinker and her Komen organization have long been heated targets of breast cancer advocates worldwide, not to mention anti-abortion activists and supporters of Planned Parenthood. For anyone who doesn’t read the “pink stories,” Brinker and her organization’s decision to cut funding for breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood caused many potential donors to put their checkbooks back in their wallets. Even before the Planned Parenthood debacle, Komen’s serial failure to make good decisions (unhealthy choices of funding partners like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not to mention the dismal amount of money that actually goes toward finding “the cure”) have caused Komen to repeatedly find itself teetering on the edge of it’s own pink ribbon.

In February I wrote a blog called, “Should Komen’s Nancy Brinker Step Down?” That was the first time I took off my journalist’s hat when writing about Komen. Prior to February, I reported the facts, with no editorializing, and gave them the benefit of the doubt until: Komen decided to address the breast cancer community via my blog and then didn’t engage, as promised, in a dialog with readers. Once again, Komen has handled yet another incident poorly, or perhaps we should say, “What incident has Komen handled well?”

While many think the recent position changes are a PR move, it seems like once again, Brinker’s lofty goal of finding a cure for breast cancer has turned into a three-ringed circus with what may be ego in the center ring. In February, I suggested:
“...in order to rebuild their image, it’s crucial for Komen to have the support of breast cancer advocacy organizations and top breast cancer social media mavens. ...they must gather breast cancer bloggers into their fold, listen to our concerns and once again, gain our trust.”
If anyone doubts the power of Social Media, the millions of us out here in digital land have left organizations like Komen with no place to hide. Thank you Jennifer Preston at The New York Times and the always incredible Liz Szabo of USAToday for asking for my thoughts on the matter and for sharing them with the world.

The real story in the Komen soap opera shouldn’t be about poor choices, skepticism or ego. The real story is about the millions of breast cancer families who are devastated and shattered by this terrible disease. The ultimate story will be about the heroes who find a cure for this insidious destroyer of life and love.


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