_____ for immediate release
April 16, 1998
For further information
Jane Akre or Steve Wilson (813) 789-8768
Full details of suit and BGH story available at http://www.foxBGHsuit.com
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Strong Support for Reporters Suing Fox Television
VISITORS INUNDATE WEB SITE FOR INFO ON MILK HORMONE STORY FOX TV REFUSED TO AIR
TAMPA—The story two award-winning investigative reporters say Fox Television fired them for trying to tell accurately and honestly is stirring a world-wide audience on the Internet.
Barely two weeks after the journalists filed suit against the broadcasting company and posted their never-told story on the World Wide Web, the site is recording more than 13,000 requests for information each day. Visitors are logging in from throughout the U.S. and 28 other countries.
The story reveals the widespread and secret use of a controversial Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) on dairy cows after major grocers promised not to sell milk from cows injected with the drug. Details are available at the websitehttp://www.foxBGHsuit.com.
As news continues to spread, the reporters are also getting a chance to provide details of the story and efforts to cover it up in interviews being aired and printed across America and beyond. They have accepted invitations to discuss the story at the 20th anniversary convention of the Canadian Association of Journalists later this month and at various conferences and meetings in Boston, St. Louis, Los Angeles and elsewhere in coming weeks.
The husband-and-wife reporting team, Jane Akre (pronounced A’-cree) and Steve Wilson, have charged they both lost their jobs at Fox-owned WTVT in Tampa for refusing to lie and distort facts they uncovered. Their original broadcasts raising questions about BGH were all set to air before the hormone maker Monsanto pressured Roger Ailes, the former Republican political operative who now heads Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network news.
As described in their suit, the story was postponed twice before reporters were threatened with firing in 48 hours if they would not broadcast a more Monsanto-friendly version. Instead of firing, the complaint details how Fox management offered them both a large, six-figure cash settlement in exchange for an agreement to go ahead with the slanted broadcast and leave the station agreeing to never again discuss the issue or how it was handled.
Once the reporters refused the settlement, they were ordered to keep re-writing the story for nearly seven more months. They were suspended and unsuspended, locked out of their offices and newsroom computers and were ultimately notified they were being dismissed December 2 for no cause during a "window" in their contract.
The reporters say at no time did anyone every discover a single misstatement of fact in their reporting, nor was there ever any evidence that they and others working on the investigative report resorted to any questionable tactics in pursuing the story.
Fox Vice-President and WTVT General Manager David Boylan has issued a statement saying in no way could the offer be considered "hush money". He claims after firing the two for refusing to be objective and accept editorial oversight, he sought to pay them to provide consulting services for future news projects at the station.
"We paid $3 billion for these television stations," Boylan was quoted in the suit as telling the reporters. "We’ll tell you what the news is. The news is what we say it is."