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E-M:/ FOX loses in rBGH whistleblower trial

Enviro-Mich message from Patty Cantrell <patty@mlui.org>

Good news about two FOX news reporters in Florida who were fired after
refusing to lie on the air about Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth
Hormone. See online news bit and commentary below. Also website address for
more info and to get involved.

Patty Cantrell

>----- Original Message ----- =
>From: Albert V. Krebs =
>Sent: Sunday, August 20, 2000 11:20 PM
>August 21, 2000 =
>Monitoring the activities of corporate  agribusiness from a public
>interest perspective =
>A.V. Krebs Editor\Publisher 
>Florida Jury Concludes:
>By Steve Wilson =
>TAMPA (August 18)=After listening to all the evidence for five full
>weeks and
>deliberating more than six hours, a state court jury has agreed with
>what fired journalists
>Steve Wilson and Jane Akre said long ago: FOX Television pressured them
>to broadcast a false, distorted or slanted news report. =
>The jury awarded $425,000 in damages after finding the evidence proved
>that FOX took
>retaliatory personnel action against Akre because she threatened to blow
>the whistle to the
>Federal Communications Commission. =
>The jury did not find for Wilson apparently because they concluded that
>FOX's decision
>not to renew his contract was not based solely on a threat to low the
>whistle to the FCC. =
>According to a published report in the St. Petersburg Times, FOX V-P
>News Phil Metlin
>claimed, "The jury realized that FOX never told anyone to lie, distort
>or slant the news. =
>"This is a wonderful day," Metlin told the Times and WTVT in an
>interview that was also
>aired on the station's 10 p.m. news broadcast.  He and other FOX
>executives refused
>comment to The BGH Bulletin as they left the courthouse after the
>verdict. =
>Chief defense attorney William McDaniels of the Washington firm Williams
>& Connolly
>that represents President Clinton, said the defeated defendants would
>have a statement
>later in the evening and promised to provide it but never did. =
>FOX has indicated it intends to appeal the damage award the jury gave to
>Akre. =
>"We're these guys at the same trial I was at?" Akre asked after watching
>WTVT's reporting
>of the verdict on the station's newscast Friday night. =
>"They think this jury decided FOX never told anyone to lie, distort or
>slant the news?"
>co-plaintiff Wilson asked.  "Poor Mr. Metlin must have gone somewhere to
>drown his
>sorrows before drawing a conclusion like that! "And as for FOX lawyer
>Ted Russell
>making a similar statement on the air," Wilson continued, "he's just
>doing what the jury
>saw FOX lawyers often do.  They frequently have, shall we say, a unique
>interpretation of the truth." =
>It is imperative that despite efforts by FOX Television to give a
>Florida jury's verdict
>favoring Jane Akre\Steve Wilson a spin favorable to the corporation, and
>despite the fact
>that the nation's media --- mainstream and alternative alike --- has
>shamefully and
>scandalous almost totally ignored this important suit and trial, the
>word must go forth
>exactly what the six-person Hillsborough County jury determined. =
>"Do you find that the plaintiff Jane Akre has proven, by the greater
>weight of the evidence,
>that the defendant, through its employees or agents, terminated her
>employment or took
>other retaliatory personnel action against her because she threatened to
>disclose to the
>Federal Communications Commission under oath, in writing, the broadcast
>of a false,
>distorted, or slanted news report which she reasonably believed would
>violate the
>prohibition against intentional falsification or distortion of the news
>on television, if it were aired?" =
>YES! the jury foreman announced. =
>As Jane Akre herself reminds us "whistleblower protection has to do with
>Remember, the question posed to the jurors was essentially this: did FOX
>because I `refused to participate in, AND/OR because I `threatened to
>disclose the
>broadcast of a false, distorted or slanted news report?  The jury
>verdict does not say I had
>a "reasonable belief" the story was slanted, it says clearly that the
>story WAS false and
>slanted and my `reasonable belief was that the FCC would have validated
>my claim. =
>That is the message that needs to be spread far and wide: the jury
>verdict said clearly that
>the FOX version of the rBGH story WAS false and slanted and that Jane
>"reasonable belief" was that the FCC would have validated her claim. =
>FOX stations in your own city or state now need to be confronted with
>that fact and the fact
>that as a major national and international "news organization" it has
>been shown to have
>sent reporters scripts to investigative targets so they could edit them
>before the news editors decided what to broadcast. =
>In addition, FOX Television needs to be shamefully exposed that rather
>than taking pride
>in the fact that its reporters refuse to lay aside their professional
>ethics and moral
>responsibility at the corporate threshold and report the news
>accurately, truthfully and
>fairly they instead terminate such reporters because they refuse to
>broadcast "false, distorted or slanted news."
>Editors and reporters throughout the nation should also heed the words
>of Jane Akre's
>attorneys, John Chamblee and Tom Johnson, who reminded reporters that
>the verdict was a
>landmark victory for all journalists in Florida. It is the first time
>the state whistleblower
>law has been successfully used to protect a journalist who is fired for
>refusing to slant the
>news. "This is for you," Chamblee told reporters, including a woman
>hired to report the
>story for WTVT.  "This is for everyone in this state who calls himself
>or herself a
>journalist and for any of them who may ever end up in a terrible
>situation like this." =
>To ignore Chamblee's words not only belies said editors and reporters
>rhetoric about
>protecting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but it also
>paves the way for our
>news and information media to become nothing more than a 21st century
>propaganda machine, rivaling those similar machines of the 20th
>century's infamous fascist dictatorships. =
>Those who care about the First Amendment, who believe in the public
>interest, who
>believe that individuals standing up for what is right and just can
>still make a difference in
>our corporatist culture surely can applaud the courage, heart, mettle
>and reverence for the
>truth displayed by Jane Akre and Steve Wilson. =
>But in our admiration for their achievement in the cause of truth we
>must also be willing
>now to not only proclaim their victory, but mobilize that victory into
>actions that speak
>similar truth to power. Our failure to do so will be not only a tragedy
>for democracy, but it
>will mean those many hours and days that Jane and Steve toiled on our
>behalf will have been in vain. =
>For more trial details, reactions and how you can continue to help Jane
>Akre and Steve
>Wilson in the months ahead see =
Patty Cantrell
Public Trust Alliance Project Manager
P.O. Box 228, 845 Michigan Ave.
Benzonia, MI 49616

tel: 231-882-4723 ext. 18
fax: 231-882-7350 
e-mail: patty@mlui.org
internet: www.mlui.org

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