Fox News is a cable news network in the United States that broadcasts news around the clock on the Fox News Channel as well as provide news programming services for all affiliates of the Fox television network. They take pride in putting a "human interest" into stories, going so far as to personalize its various news anchors (most notably Bill O'Reilly) and have a tagline ("We report, you decide") that accentuate this perspective. But most importantly...

Fox News actively opposes accuracy in reporting!

After doing some research on the background of some of the producers of Fox News, I stumbled upon a lawsuit filed in the state of Florida in 1998, Akre v. Florida. After reading through this case, it is clear that Fox News actively discourages accuracy in reporting.

What happened?

In late 1996, journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson began investigating rBGH, which is the genetically modified growth hormone American dairies have been injecting into their cows. The two were employed by the Fox affiliate in Tampa, Florida, as investigative reporters, meaning their job was to investigate such stories.

The pair discovered that while the hormone had been banned in Canada, Europe, and most other countries, millions of Americans were unknowingly drinking milk from rBGH-treated cows. rBGH (visit the nice writeup) is known to be harmful to cows in the long run, but boosts milk production in the short run. In addition, Jane and Steve discovered government documentation outlining the fact that the hormone was approved by the government as a veterinary drug without adequately testing its effects on children and adults who drink rBGH milk. They also uncovered studies linking its effects to cancer in humans.

The station started off doing the right thing, promoting the story heavily on the local Fox affiliate and offering the story to the national news network as well. Just before broadcast, however, the station (and Fox News) cancelled the widely promoted reports after Monsanto, the hormone manufacturer, threatened Fox News with "dire consequences" if the stories aired. The lawyers from Fox News heavily encouraged the team to re-write the report. The pair went on to rewrite the story more than 80 times, never meeting the approval of Fox News and Monsanto corporate lawyers. After threats of dismissal and offers of six-figure sums to drop their ethical objections and keep quiet, they were fired by the local Tampa Fox News affiliate in December 1997.

One might immediately wonder if their story was valid. From all accounts, the story was factually valid. They reported on the well-known facts that there is very little research into the effects of rBGH on humans, but it is known to be harmful to cattle. They questioned the ethics of both Monsanto for selling it and the government for allowing its sale without knowing side effects. In essence, that was the entire report; it was intended to be a short, five minute focus segment to educate the general public on rBGH.

This story probably would be completely unknown today if not for Jane Akre's quick thinking. In 1998, Akre went to court and won a suit against Fox News for violating Florida’s Whistleblower Law, which makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who threatens to reveal employer misconduct. They must now defend the $425,000 award to Akre through the appeals process. All documentation outlining this case is in the public domain; look for documentation on the case Akre v. Florida, 1998 for more information.

What are the implications?

Rather than report a fairly-researched news story, Fox News instead caved to the legal team of a multinational corporation. Instead of trying to deliver the truth to their viewers, they rejected more than eighty rewrites of the news story because each draft still implicated that a company may have committed some wrongdoing. Afraid of any retribution at all, instead of sticking to their guns, they folded like a house of cheap cards.

The result? Fox News isn't willing to report the truth to you if it offends any large companies. If a reporter has invested the time to uncover the truth and is about to report it, Fox News will prevent this from being reported if it doesn't agree with their corporate agenda. In essence, Fox News has demonstrated that a corporate agenda comes first when compared to the value of the truth.

Summary

This story raises a lot of interesting questions about ethics, freedom of press, and the power of corporations. As always, it's up to you to decide, but the facts are clear: once Monsanto's lawyers called, Fox News backed down from the story, regardless of whether the story was valid or important or not. To me, that is a huge ethical problem that greatly reduces my trust in Fox News. But as always...

18thCandidate reports, you decide

sorry, couldn't resist that one

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