Fwd: GE - Milk hormone - Reporters told to lie to public (fwd)
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 13:16:15 -0700
>Date: Fri, 10 Apr 1998 12:49:18 -0700
>Reply-To: Organic Gardening Discussion List <OGL@LSV.UKY.EDU>
>Sender: Organic Gardening Discussion List <OGL@LSV.UKY.EDU>
>From: Diane Ridout <dianer@KWANTLEN.BC.CA>
>Subject: GE - Milk hormone - Reporters told to lie to public (fwd)
>To: Multiple recipients of list OGL <OGL@LSV.UKY.EDU>
>The subject line says it all, really.
>Diane Ridout, Instructor, ACP.............................................
>Kwantlen University College, "Talk
>12666-72 Avenue doesn't
>Surrey, BC, Canada V3W 2M8 cook rice," they say.
>Tel: (604) 599-2964 Voice mail 9837.......................................
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>For Thursday, April 2, 1998
>>For further information:
>> Jane Akre or Steve Wilson (813) 789-8768
>> John Chamblee, Reporters' Attorney (813) 251-4542
>> Mark Ferrulo, FL PIRG (850) 224-3321
>> M.J. Williamson, Florida Consumer Action Network (813) 286-1226
>> Full details of suit and BGH story available at
>><http://www.foxbghsuit.com/>http://www.foxBGHsuit.com in Tallahassee and
>> Reporters Blow Whistle On News Station
>> FLORIDA MILK SUPPLY RIDDLED WITH
>> ARTIFICIAL HORMONE LINKED TO
>> CANCER; REPORTERS SAY THEY WERE
>> ORDERED TO LIE ABOUT IT ON FOX-TV
>>TAMPA- Two award-winning investigative reporters at the Fox-owned
>>television station in Tampa are blowing the whistle on a story they say
>>WTVT (Ch 13) and its corporate bosses preferred to coverup rather than
>>broadcast honestly and accurately.
>>The story, documented in a lawsuit the reporters filed Thursday, reveals
>>the widespread use of a controversial bovine growth hormone Florida
>>dairymen have been secretly injecting into their cows.
>>The suit and information about use of the hormone in dairy cattle are
>>presented in full detail at a special Internet web site. The site can be
>>Though legal since approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in
>>1993, the artificial hormone commonly known as BGH has been linked to
>>cancer and is banned throughout Europe and unapproved in several other
>>countries because of human health concerns.
>>The never-broadcast report also reveals how Florida supermarkets quietly
>>reneged on promises not to sell milk from treated cows until the hormone
>>gained widespread acceptance by consumers. All major supermarkets now
>>admit BGH has found its way into virtually all the state's milk supply.
>>The husband-and-wife investigative team joined with Florida's top consumer
>>groups--the Florida Public Interest Research Group and the Consumer Action
>>Network--to reveal the BGH story at news conferences Thursday in
>>Tallahassee and Tampa.
>>The reporters also provided details of their suit which charges Fox
>>television, strongly pressured by BGH-maker Monsanto, with violating the
>>state's whistleblower act by firing the journalists for refusing to
>>broadcast false reports and threatening to report the station's conduct to
>>the FCC. Their complaint also claims the station violated the reporters'
>>contracts in dismissing them for those reasons and it seeks a ruling from
>>the court to determine to what extent the reporters' contractual
>>obligations limit their ability to speak freely about the rBGH issue.
>>The journalists filed the suit after struggling with Fox executives most
>>of last year to get the story on the air. According to court papers, they
>>were ultimately dismissed December 2, 1997.
>>"Every editor has the right to kill a story and any honest reporter will
>>tell you that happens from time to time when a news organization's self
>>interest wins out over the public interest," said Steve Wilson, the
>>station's former senior investigative reporter who helped Akre produce the
>>story and is now one of the plaintiffs.
>>"But when media managers who are not journalists have so little regard for
>>the public trust that they actually order reporters to broadcast false
>>information and slant the truth to curry the favor or avoid the wrath of
>>special interests as happened here, that is the day any responsible
>>reporter has to stand up and say, "No way!" That is what Jane and I are
>>saying with this lawsuit," Wilson said.
>>"We are parents ourselves," Akre said. "It is not right for the station to
>>withhold this important health information and solely as a matter of
>>conscience we will not aid and abet their effort to cover this up any
>>longer," she said. "Every parent and every consumer have the right to know
>>what they're pouring on their children's morning cereal."
>>"We set out to tell Florida consumers the truth a giant chemical company
>>and a powerful dairy lobby clearly doesn't want them to know," Wilson
>>said. "That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for.
>>As we've learned the hard way, it's something you can be fired for these
>>days whenever a news organization places more value on its bottom line
>>than on delivering the news to its viewers honestly.
>>"We filed this lawsuit because it's wrong to lose your job as a journalist
>>for standing up for the truth," Akre added. "We have every confidence
>>that a jury will agree. And when it does, after we're reimbursed for our
>>lost salaries and legal fees and other costs, every nickel over and above
>>that will be donated to a journalism organization that can support the
>>next journalist who has to choose between his job and telling the truth."
>>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, 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
>>Local station management again carefully reviewed the investigative
>>reports, found no errors in any of the reporting, re-scheduled them to air
>>a week later, and even offered Monsanto the opportunity to be interviewed
>>a second time, the suit says. Instead, the chemical maker responded with
>>another threatening letter to the President of Fox's network news division
>>and the WTVT reports were postponed again.
>>In supporting papers filed with the court, the journalists say WTVT
>>General Manager David Boylan refused to kill the story for fear the
>>viewing public would learn the station yielded to pressure from special
>>interests. Instead, Wilson and Akre allege, Boylan ordered the reporters
>>to broadcast a version which contained demonstrably false information and
>>he threatened to fire them both within 48 hours if they refused.
>>Instead of being fired, the complaint continues, Boylan offered to release
>>both reporters from further obligations and pay them full salary for the
>>balance of their contracts if they would only agree never to discuss the
>>BGH story or how it was handled by the station. The reporters declined the
>>What followed was nearly nine months of writing and re-writing the scripts
>>more than 70 times, none of which suited Fox management according to the
>>complaint which says Boylan then suspended both reporters but ordered them
>>to write two final versions while suspended.
>>The journalists say despite being locked out of their offices and the
>>station computer system which held some of their research material, they
>>produced both versions. One is the version written by the reporters, the
>>other a version they say station management demanded they produce. Both
>>scripts are attached to the suit with the so-called "mandated version"
>>highlighted to include the reporters' detailed objections.
>>"Nowhere in any of the dozens and dozens of versions we've written did any
>>Fox manager or lawyer ever point to even one error of fact," says reporter
>>Steve Wilson. "Also, there was never any credible claim that either of us
>>or anyone else who worked on the story ever conducted ourselves with
>>anything but the highest journalistic ethics in researching and reporting
>>The original BGH investigation was sanctioned by WTVT shortly after it
>>hired the two reporters in December 1996. Akre says she visited seven
>>Florida dairy farms at random early last year where she confirmed use of
>>the hormone at each and every one. A photographer videotaped the mass
>>injections of hundreds of cows on two of the farms. The hormone is
>>injected every two weeks to stimulate milk production and boost dairy
>>Many scientists have expressed strong concerns about a possible link
>>between cancer and the consumption of milk from cows injected with the
>>synthetic hormone. Those and other human health concerns have blocked its
>>approval in many other countries including Canada, New Zealand and every
>>member nation of the Europe Union.
>>Nonetheless, Monsanto which developed and sells the product has always
>>insisted use of the hormone poses no human health risk of any kind. The
>>FDA, whose veterinary medicine branch approved the animal drug in 1993,
>>Scientists who oppose the use of BGH argue that while the drug is said to
>>shorten the life of the cow by speeding up its metabolism and causing
>>certain infections, it also leads to changes in the cows' milk. Dr.
>>Samuel Epstein at the University of Illinois says, "There are highly
>>suggestive if not persuasive lines of evidence showing that human
>>consumption of milk from treated cows poses unnecessary risks of breast
>>and colon cancer."
>>Epstein, an acknowledged expert on the environmental causes of cancer, has
>>three medical degrees, is the author of nine books, and is frequently
>>called to testify as an expert before Congress. Other respected experts
>>share his position. Some like Dr. William von Meyer have stated further
>>concerns about whether BGH milk may cause other long-term health problems
>>in humans. All the critics and even some BGH supporters agree the
>>possibility has never been thoroughly investigated.
>>Consumers have also expressed concern about how use of the drug can lead
>>to high levels of antibiotic drugs in milk. Many farmers are forced to
>>inject their animals with powerful drugs to fight infections and other
>>side effects experienced by cows injected with the BGH.
>>No labeling law in Florida requires milk producers to tell consumers when
>>their milk or other dairy products come from cows treated with the
>>controversial hormone. In fact, Monsanto has fought efforts by dairies
>>that do not use the product from saying so on their labels. Ben and
>>Jerry's ice cream, which buys only from farmers who do not inject
>>their cows with BGH, just won a legal victory in Illinois to allow them to
>>label their products artificial-BGH-free.
>>In Wisconsin, Vermont, and elsewhere, consumers have demanded grocers stop
>>carrying BGH milk or at least give shoppers a choice at the dairy case.
>>"This is precisely what this is all about," said reporter Akre. "Yes, I'm
>>an investigative reporter but I'm also a mother. I and every other mother
>>and consumer deserve to hear all that is known about what I pour on my
>>daughter's cereal every morning. Only then can any of us decide for
>>ourselves if there is any risk and whether it rises to a level we are
>>willing to take."
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