Steve Jane

Meet the Plaintiffs


In a move that surprised even himself, Steve Wilson is now chief investigative reporter for WXYZ-TV, the Scripps-Howard flagship ABC affiliate in Detroit. After more than 28 years as an award-winning investigative reporter, he was prepared to leave the mainstream media after his long struggle and court battle with Fox TV. After more than 28 years as an award-winning investigative reporter, Steve  

Steve decided it was time for a change after Fox news managers and their lawyers pressured him to deliberately distort a news story-and then fired him after he resisted. He and his investigative reporting partner Jane Akre fought back with a landmark lawsuit against Fox Television. They charged they were fired for resisting orders to slant a story just to appease a powerful advertiser who threatened "dire consequences" if certain facts were revealed. On August 18, 2000, a jury was unanimous in its decision that the changes the journalists resisted amounted to "a false, slanted or distorted news report" and they awarded Akre $425,000.   

Even before the clash with Fox, Wilsonís reporting was characterized by a passion for telling the truth in a hard-hitting, plain-talking, no-nonsense style, regardless of who was the target of his investigations. 

Winner of four Emmys and numerous other awards, he has also been honored by the National Press Club which bestowed an award for Consumer and Investigative Reporting on Television for a series of reports about faulty rear door latches in 4.2 million Chrysler-made minivans. It was Wilsonís reports that first revealed the hazard, uncovering and documenting how, for lack of a 25Ę improvement to the latch, Americans (including many children) were dying in low-speed, side-impact crashes when the latches failed and victims were ejected through the rear door. More than 40 died before the government pressured Chrysler to address the problem.

His reporting on the faulty latch situation also characterized Steveís tenaciousness on a story. When Chrysler finally responded with a proposed solution the government accepted, independent testing arranged by Steve showed the fix was worse than the original problem. Ultimately, the government withdrew its approval and Chrysler came up with a replacement part that would work.

Other Wilson reports have revealed fire hazards in Ford ignition switches, a series which prompted the largest-ever recall of automobiles in the U.S.; U.S. Senators taking expensive gifts and favors from special interest lobbyists; and the transgressions of TV preachers Robert Tilton, W.V. Grant, and Benny Hinn.

It was Wilson who also made news for stories that exposed ABC Newsman Sam Donaldson taking federal subsidies while he used his Sunday morning ABC Network soapbox to complain about others doing the same thing.  Years earlier, Wilson also focused on Dan Rather for his questionable reporting about a Los Angeles doctor that CBS linked to insurance fraud.

Earlier in his career, Wilson syndicated his own investigative reports to television stations across the country.  He also headed investigative units at the ABC-owned station in San Francisco and the CBS-owned station in New York, and he worked at stations in Buffalo and St. Joseph, Missouri.

Most recently, Wilson accepted his new job at Detroit's WXYZ just three days before last year's September 11 terrorist attacks and despite an investment in new equipment to produce and distribute investigative reports independently. He said he postponed his plans and decided to get back into the mainstream because he was convinced Detroit's Channel 7 "is one of the few television stations still doing investigative journalism the old fashioned way-putting the public interest ahead of its own interest."

"It's a place where I can again be proud to work for people and a journalism company I respect," he added.


Jane Akre spent 20 years as a network and local television reporter and anchor before becoming the first journalist ever to win a whistleblower lawsuit against her own employer.  

She and her investigative reporting partner Steve Wilson sued Fox Television in 1998, claiming they were fired after resisting pressure from their own news managers who wanted them to slant a news story to appease an advertiser and potential litigant.  On August 18, 2000, after a five-week trial, a jury agreed the reports Akre was pressured to air amounted to "a false, distorted or slanted" news report...and they awarded her $425,000 for her wrongful termination.  

Previously, her career has included numerous assignments in the specialty reporting areas of health and medical issues, as well as investigative and consumer reporting in addition to her anchor assignments. She has won a number of awards, including a prestigious Associated Press award for investigative reporting. The birth of her daughter in 1994 heightened her interest and curiosity about all issues related to health.

Akre began her broadcasting career in Albuquerque as a radio news director.  She moved to television in 1980 when a she accepted a weekend anchor job for the ABC-affiliate in Tucson and later accepted a reporter-anchor position at KTVI in St. Louis.

For three years she anchored and reported for CNN in Atlanta before moving to a main anchor position in the San Francisco market.  Prior to anchoring positions in Tampa, Akre also anchored news broadcasts at WSVN in Miami.

Finding it difficult to regain full-time employment in the mainstream media following her widely publicized lawsuit against Fox, Akre and her husband have formed their own independent production company.  One way or another, they say, they will continue to report stories about the environment and other important issues that are being increasingly ignored and mis-reported.  

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