Fox News Wins Lawsuit To Misinform Public – Seriously

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Coincidentally, all mainstream news organizations missed a piece of information that basically changed journalism as we knew it.

Fark.com had to bring this one to our attention. On Friday, they linked to the blog page of CeaseSPIN.org, a website “dedicated to uniting voices in support of a return to more objective, truthful, fair, balanced, relevant and representative news reporting.”

The CeaseSPIN headline gets right to the point: “Fox News gets okay to misinform public, court ruling.”

Coincidentally, all mainstream news organizations missed a piece of information that basically changed journalism as we knew it.

Fark.com had to bring this one to our attention. On Friday, they linked to the blog page of CeaseSPIN.org, a website “dedicated to uniting voices in support of a return to more objective, truthful, fair, balanced, relevant and representative news reporting.”

The CeaseSPIN headline gets right to the point: “Fox News gets okay to misinform public, court ruling.”

Here’s the rundown: On August 18, 2000, journalist Jane Akre won $425,000 in a court ruling where she charged she was pressured by Fox News management and lawyers to air what she knew and documented to be false information.

The real information: she found out cows in Florida were being injected with RBGH, a drug designed to make cows produce milk – and, according to FDA-redacted studies, unintentionally designed to make human beings produce cancer.

Fox lawyers, under pressure by the Monsanto Corporation (who produced RBGH), rewrote her report over 80 times to make it compatible with the company’s requests. She and her husband, journalist Steve Wilson, refused to air the edited segment.

In February 2003, Fox appealed the decision and an appellate court and had it overturned. Fox lawyers argued it was their first amendment right to report false information. In a six-page written decision, the Court of Appeals decided the FCC’s position against news distortion is only a “policy,” not a “law, rule, or regulation.”

So, Fox and the other gladiatorical cable news channels were given the okay to legally lie right around the time of the Iraq War’s birth – when media lies coincidentally hit a peak in both frequency and severity.

I did a Google search related to this story. Here’s what I came up with.

A Google search involving the words “Court of appeals + Fox News + Jane Akre” came up with 1,050 results. The first ten results spoke of this specific story, but of those results, not one was a mainstream media organization. The results included FoxBGHsuit.com, InjuryBoard,com, ThirdWorldTraveler.org, CeaseSPIN.org, Purefood.com, Relfe.com, SourceWatch.org, OrganicConsumers.org, TheCorporation.com, and DailyKos.com.

A Google search involving the words “Fox News + Jane Akre” brings up almost the same results, the only difference being a Wikipedia page for Jane Akre. On the “External Links” section on Jane’s Wikipedia page, we find an InjuryBoard.com article, as Jane is now editor-in-chief of the website. We also find an interview with Jane and her husband, from a documentary titled “The Corporation,” in which they detail what happened during the ordeal.

A Google News search brings up one article – written by Akre for InjuryBoard.com.

The closest hit to a mainstream media news site is a Baltimore Sun reader/commenter named “gonzoliberal” who has copy-and-pasted the CeaseSPIN.org article into a comment thread. Huffington Post has mentioned the case as well in a series of articles about tainted milk.

No mainstream news organizations – not even Fox television competitors – have reported on Jane Akre’s case for suspected reasons, which won’t be elaborated on.

Putting aside the fact that studies linked the hormone to cancer, the case is likely one of many just like it – especially since Akre and her husband, according to their own accounts, were initially offered a bribe to go away and never speak of the case again.

Sort of depressing, right?

photo: www.foxbghsuit.com/victory.jpg

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1 COMMENT

  1. Not quite true, Randy – seriously.

    Randy, if you had just dug a little deeper you would have found an article by Lawrence K. Grossman, a former president of NBC News and PBS, published in the prestigious Columbia (University) Journalism Review on March 1, 2001, shortly after Akre (but not Wilson) won the original lawsuit against Fox. Why did Wilson lose the suit while Akre won? Mr. Grossman states that, “Wilson, who served as his own lawyer… came across as overly aggressive, a zealot rather than a dispassionate reporter. The jury probably figured that Wilson was eligible to be fired on grounds other than whistleblowing.” And Mr. Grossman points out that far from trying to suppress Akre and Wilson, Fox was simply trying to make the series bullet-proof against Monsanto’s aggressive legal team – with no help from Akre and Wilson: “… Rupert Murdoch’s Fox — unquestionably worried about the ‘dire consequences’ it would suffer if any part of the story were the slightest bit off.” As aptly demonstrated in the movie Food Inc., you’d better get it right if you are going to take on Monsanto in the courtroom – and Fox wasn’t taking any chances. And Mr. Grossman reveals that WTVT actually did run the series largely intact – far from your allegations that it was censored for Monsanto: “A month after Akre and Wilson filed their suit, WTVT did broadcast what seemed to this observer to be a strong and effective three-part investigative series on the subject, produced by a different reporter, Nathan Lang. His series was hardly any different in substance from the versions that Akre and Wilson and the station had been battling over the previous year.” And what about your allegations that the appeals court gave Fox the legal right to lie? Not quite true. In an article published in Broadcasting and Cable on February 24, 2003, Dan Trigoboff states that, “The appeals court said Akre failed to state a claim under federal whistleblower protections. The court found that what the FCC has referred to as its ‘news-distortion’ policy—opposing the intentional falsification of news—has not been published or put into a necessary law, rule or regulation.” Not only did the court never declare that WTVT distorted the truth but rather it definitively determined that the law on which the original decision was based did not exist and that Akre failed to establish her case. Hardly a big conspiracy between Fox and Monsanto, and absolutely no evidence of mainstream media cover-up. Sorry Randy, if you are going after Fox News you need to do better than repackaging six-year stale blog stories about a conspiracy that never existed. And maybe you should brush-up on your Google search skills as well. Seriously.

     

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