Re: Truth in journalism? Nah...
To get two things out of the way first:
trespassers will wrote:
I can find no independent confirmation of this story. The two citations I found are simply reprints of the Gaddy piece you cited above.
I have to ask, where did you look? I've found a zillion without much effort.
the article does not actually indicate that Fox attempted to force her to air a false report (about cows; go figure).
"About cows; go figure" is a misrepresentation of what the story was about. It was about use of Bovine Growth Hormone, a product by Monsanto called PROSILAC, the possible dangers to the cows and humans who drink those cows' milk, and that Florida farmers were using it after promising in the wake of protests in 1994 that they would not use it. (It is unapproved for use in Canada, New Zealand, and most European countries.)
Secondly, as I already pointed out, the article indicated just that; that Fox attempted to force her to air a false report.
OK, now on to the rest of it...
Thanks for going into the judge's decision. I am applying equal-opportunity cynicism to this situation -- I'm suspicious of the Fox reporters, I'm suspicious of the judge, I'm suspicious of everything. Here are the things that make me feel that the judgement was wrong:
1.) The reporters won this case three times previously before it got to this point -- it wasn't a no-brainer.
2.) The emphasis in the decision on the specifics of whether there are laws about distortion of news rather than the content of the claim; details of what the station did or didn't do.
3.) The part about, "Each time the station asked Wilson and Akre to provide supporting documentation for statements in the story or to make changes in the content of the story, the reporters accused the station of attempting to distort the story to favor the manufacturer of BGH." I don't buy it. The part that leaps out at me is "to make changes to the content of the story".
The rest is he said/ she said since it evidently was not an actual factor in the decision -- it didn't matter whether they did providing supporting documentation. In their suit, Wilson and Akre say:
. After initial review of the PLAINTIFFS' reports, NEW WORLD's agents were sufficiently satisfied with the quality and truthfulness of each and all of them that NEW WORLD purchased, at great expense, commercial air time on local radio stations for the purposes of broadcasting promotional announcements produced by NEW WORLD to alert television viewers that the four-part series would be broadcast on Channel 13 beginning Monday, February 24, 1997.
It's just what they say, I know, but it's the kind of detail that rings true to me. It looks to me like the station was fine with the story, and was even heavily promoting it, until the threatening letter from Monsanto came.
4.) There is a long, ugly history of advertisers and powerful corporations having undue influence. I, personally, believe that this could happen:
According to the suit, WTVT originally reviewed the investigative reports and scheduled them to air in four parts beginning February 24, 1997 and had even launched an extensive radio ad campaign to draw attention to the series. But virtually on the eve of the broadcast, [February 21st, the last business day before it was set to air] the station pulled the reports after Monsanto hired a renowned New York attorney to complain to a top official of Channel 13's parent company, Fox television. The attorney's letter was filed with the complaint which is now posted at the web site.
Reasons I think the judgement is right:
1.) The tone of the pro- Akres and Wilson accounts tend toward hyperbole. I'd have liked to see a completely dispassionate laying out of the facts.
2.) On the narrow whistle-blower issue, it looks like the judge is right if no laws were broken.
Finally, and most importantly, the details of this case aside, the judge winds up by saying that in Florida, the FCC policy against news distortion "is not a 'law, rule or regulation'".
That means the headline of the article I posted to begin with, and the core of my distress, is accurate. It may be a "well, duh" situation for some, but it's new to me that there are no laws
against deliberate falsification of news.
The judge is saying that if the FCC policy were a law, she would be able to make a whistleblower case. It's not. That sucks.
This is evidently going to the Florida Supreme Court, and I'll be interested in what they say, there.