(Video Below) June, 1998
PR WATCH– By all accounts, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson are tough, bulldog reporters–the sort of journalists you’d expect to make some enemies along the way.
That, according to Florida TV station WTVT, was why it hired the husband-and-wife team with much fanfare in November 1996 to head the station’s “news investigative unit.” Now, in the wake of their firing barely a year later, the Fox network affiliate is accusing them of theft for daring to independently publish the script of the story that they were never allowed to air.
“This is really not about a couple of disgruntled former reporters whining that their editors wouldn’t let them do a story they thought was important,” Wilson said in announcing that he and Akre are suing WTVT for breach of contract. “Jane and I have each spent more than 20 years in the news business. . . . It doesn’t take that long for every reporter to learn that every now and then–usually when the special interest of your news organization or one of its friends is more important than the public interest–stories get killed. That’s bad enough, but that’s not what happened here. . . . Fox 13 didn’t want to kill the story revealing synthetic hormones in Florida’s milk supply. Instead, as we explain in great detail in our legal complaint, we were repeatedly ordered to go forward and broadcast demonstrably inaccurate and dishonest versions of the story. We were given those instructions after some very high-level corporate lobbying by Monsanto (the powerful drug company that makes the hormone) and also, we believe, by members of Florida’s dairy and grocery industries.”
The hormone in question is genetically-engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), the flagship product in Monsanto’s campaign to take command of the ultra-high-stakes biotechnology industry. Injections of rBGH (sold under the brand name Posilac®) induce higher milk production in dairy cows, but critics warn of potential health risks to both cows and humans.
The Florida dispute offers a rare look inside the newsroom at the way stories get spun and censored. It is also cracks the facade that Monsanto has erected through a highly effective, multi-million-dollar PR offensive aimed at preventing the news media from reporting the views of rBGH critics.
Continue reading about Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Crime.
A version of this article appeared in the June 1998 issue of The Progressive magazine. Further information about the Akre-Wilson lawsuit is available on their website at http://www.foxBGHsuit.com
Clip from The Corporation: Unsettling Accounts
© COPYRIGHT PR WATCH, 1998