NEXT DEVELOPMENT:
Trial Continues 
Plaintiffs Continue To Present Testimony; Fox Officials To Be Called 

Report Archive:

ˇ July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
says no

ˇ  July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4 

ˇ July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2


ˇ July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1

ˇ July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities

ˇ July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Is Seated

Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act

ˇ July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case

ˇ June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track

ˇ June 26, 2000:
Another Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case

ˇ June 21, 2000:
Still No Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa Viewers

ˇ June 16, 2000:
Trial Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected

ˇ June 8, 2000:
Fox  Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion 
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles

ˇ June 6, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July

ˇ May 25, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled

ˇ May 18, 2000:
Fox Still Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful

ˇ May 8, 2000:
Ralph Nader Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo 

ˇ May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and Unsuccessful
Trial set to begin June 12

ˇ April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH Experts At Depositions

Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?

ˇ April 26,2000:
Walter Cronkite Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections

ˇ October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected

ˇ October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November

ˇ October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed: Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed

ˇ September 24:
MSNBC: Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well

ˇ September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon: Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit

ˇ August 4:
MSNBC: Mutable Feast:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?

ˇ June 30:
Consumers International:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH

ˇ June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely

ˇ May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups

ˇ May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime, Too
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report

ˇ April 30:
Democracy Group Award to Akre/Wilson
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"

ˇ April 29:
New Trial Date is October 11
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers

ˇ April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox Legal Team
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto

ˇ April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th

ˇ April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th

ˇ February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH, Fox Coverup:
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV (rated G -- no nudity, just the story)

ˇ January 25:
ENS Summary of BGH Developments

ˇ January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters

ˇ January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release

ˇ December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage Award
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs

ˇ December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available

ˇ November 1:
Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article

ˇ October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics Award

ˇ October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?

ˇ Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start

ˇ Sept 10:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap

ˇ Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting Monsanto?

ˇ Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet Foe

ˇ Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense

ˇ READ story FOX-TV refused to air...
or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit

ˇ July 5:
OBSERVER/London
Digger Still Plays Dirty

ˇ July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date Set

ˇ June 7:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint

ˇ May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order

ˇ May 25:
WEEKLY PLANET/Tampa:
Grazing A Stink - - -Don't Have a Cow

ˇ May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site

ˇ May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction

ˇ April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
Dismiss case and Delay depositions

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FOX NEWS DIRECTORS HAVE DIFFERENT VIEWS OF CONFLICT
By JANE AKRE
       TAMPA (July 24, 2000)—The present and former Vice Presidents of News for the  Fox-owned television station in Tampa were both on the witness stand today as the Fox/BGH trial moved into its second week. 
        Former WTVT news manager Daniel Webster told the jurors he hired Steve Wilson and Jane Akre after he and his assistant news director wined and dined the husband-and-wife reporting duo at a Tampa steakhouse in the Fall of 1996.
        Webster, who had been expected to appear at trial as a defense witness for Fox, was presented to the jury on videotape.  (He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and cannot be compelled to appear at trial in Florida.)  
       
His pre-trial testimony was recorded in California in June 1998, two months after Plaintiffs Steve Wilson and Jane Akre filed its whistleblower claim, against WTVT charging the station pressured them to deliberately distort a news story about Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone (BGH).  Webster now works for The Feedroom, an internet news organization.
        The jurors listened carefully as Webster explained how he recruited the reporters to join the Fox staff.  During the dinner, Webster said Wilson inquired whether WTVT would support the sort of tough and aggressive investigative reporting he was known for during his 26-year career.  Webster admitted he wanted to “up the profile” of the investigative reporting unit.  “Yes, I said there would be legal backing, a tolerance for risk taking and aggressive reporting,” he testified.  “And that's what you wanted?"  asked Akre attorney John Chamblee who conducted the deposition.  “Correct,” Webster replied.

Unique Arrangement?
       
The former news director, himself fired by Fox in Tampa for reasons said to be unrelated to the BGH story, said that he understood that the reporters wanted a flexible work schedule that would allow them to minimize full-time child care for their then 2-year-old daughter. 
        Webster said he had no difficulty with the notion that the couple could work from their well-equipped home office as long as there was agreement on productivity.   And what would the station get in return?  “Some notion of what would be expected, so many stories per period of time.”  
        “Did they produce the stories you envisioned?"  Chamblee asked.  Webster’s reply:  “Essentially, yes.”
        Webster said Akre and Wilson began looking into the use recombinant bovine growth hormone among Florida farmers almost immediately after being hired.  “I thought it had potential, it tells a particular truth and would be important for people to know about,” he said.
        The reporters produced a four-part series that reported Florida farmers were prolific users of the genetically engineered drug that makes cows produce more milk and despite promises from grocery stores around the state that they would not be buying treated milk, virtually all of the state’s milk supply now comes from animals injected with BGH.
        In wake of threatening letters from Monsanto and pressure from dairymen and grocers, the Wilson/Akre series never aired—not even after 83 re-writes of the story.
        The reporters also discovered and sought to report that human toxicity testing for the drug lasted no more than just 90 days, an unacceptable short time under established scientific protocols. 
        The report also investigated the University of Florida's support for the drug while taking more than $1 million dollars a year in outright gifts from Monsanto, the maker of the synthetic BGH, as well as hundreds of thousands more in research grants.
       Webster appeared before the seven-member jury projected on a six-foot screen lowered from the ceiling, as well as on various monitors throughout Courtroom 1 at the Hillsborough County Courthouse.  This is the first trial to utilize the newly wired, high-tech courtroom, complete with surround sound, computer inputs and ELMO projection capability.  Litigants must pay nearly $3,000 per day to utilize those facilities.  Fox decided to cover the entire courtroom cost after the plaintiffs complained they could not afford the cost and would be happy to move back across the street to Judge Ralph Steinberg's own low-tech courtroom.
       
Webster said he “could not recall” why the BGH story was pulled from its February 24th, 1997 scheduled trial date until attorney Chamblee showed him a letter from a Monsanto-hired attorney, John Walsh.  That correspondence arrived at the station late Friday evening on the virtual eve of the scheduled broadcast.
        “If it was this letter or other information that lead to the postponement, I don't recall,” Webster testified.  “I might have gotten calls.  I talked to a Monsanto guy who flooded the office with information.” 
        Webster was referring to two calls of complaint about the story made to the station just before the air date by dairymen, both of whom had both just returned from industry conferences sponsored by Monsanto. 
        Gary Barton, a public relations man from Monsanto, had called Webster to complain about the story on numerous occasions, according to Webster, and on February 21st Barton sent a three-pound packet to the station.  It was filled with Monsanto-sponsored data concerning BGH. 
        What did Webster do when confronted with pounds of PR material from Monsanto?  “I handed it over to Sue and Jane and Steve and let them go on with their job,” he said, referring to his hands-off style of news management.   Webster was asked, "Have you ever seen a story more thoroughly scrutinized than BGH?”  “No,” he replied without hesitation.

Phil Metlin On The Stand
       Careful scrutiny of newsroom disputes was not what topped Phil Metlin's list when he was hired by Fox to replace Webster at WTVT June 23, 1997. 
        Metlin took the stand after lunch and told jurors he did never even read the five-month paper trial of the dispute, including the two threatening letters from Monsanto which sparked the whole trouble.
       
Metlin claimed he also never reviewed any of the memos in station files regarding the reporters’ complaints about being asked to distort the story.  “ I knew there was a lot of bad blood,” he said.  “I wanted to go on with a clean slate.”
        Attorney Thomas Johnson, also representing Akre, asked Metlin how he knew “who was playing it straight with you,” referring to the contentiousness of the work environment at that time. “I used my own instincts,” said Metlin.
        Metlin told jurors his “clean slate review” of BGH begun during a July 11th meeting he referred to as a “summit.”  He said theall-day Saturday session was “marvelous and we all felt good.”  Sometime after producing and editing first a three, then a four-part BGH series, Metlin claimed the reporters just turned their backs on the story and walked away from the process.  “They turned their back after receiving notice (of termination),” he charged.
        Exactly when Fox made the decision to terminate the two is still unclear.  Although Metlin claims the journalists walked away after learning of the impending termination sometime in mid-August, the plaintiffs have shown evidence that as far back as April management had drawn up separation agreements. 
        “Mr. Metlin was either deliberately kept in the dark as to when the real decision was actually made, or he is following the company line to give them the best defense they can float to the jurors in this case,” said plaintiff Wilson.

Reporters’ Version
        The reporters have a different version of their last days at Channel 13. 
        On September 23, the reporters wrote station manager Dave Boylan to say that the latest editing orders amounted to a distortion of the Federal Communication Commission's policy against news distortion and was also a violation of their personal services contracts.  Nonetheless, by October 16, Akre and Wilson turned in two versions of the BGH script, one that included the stations' ongoing directions for change and another the reporters felt was a more fact-based version.  
        “Did either story make it on the air?” Metlin was asked.  “No,” came the reply.  “I didn't read either version.  It was obviously a paper trail for litigation.”    The reporters filed suit six months later, April 2, 1998. 
        Metlin is back on the stand Tuesday morning and is expected to be followed by former WTVT General Manager Dave Boylan.  Just before the trial began, Boylan flew off into the sunset to accept a big promotion.  He now heads Fox’s second biggest station, KTTV in Los Angeles. 

 

Stories Posted Recently:

TRIAL COVERAGE:  WEEK ONE ENDS WITH BANG

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAYS THREE AND FOUR

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY TWO

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY ONE


JUSTICE FOR SALE AT THE COURTHOUSE?

FOX AIRS ANOTHER DISTORTED STORY ON rBGH

TRIAL DELAYED; NEW JUDGE TO BE CHOSEN

FOX MGR WHO FIRED JOURNOS GETS PROMOTED TO FOX'S SECOND-BIGGEST STATION

TRIAL TO START SOON, LATE JUNE/EARLY JULY

TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN WILL NOT START 6/12

FOX STALLS ON TESTIMONY OF ITS PRESIDENT

RALPH NADER TESTIFIES RE PUBLIC INTEREST

MEDIATION IS BRIEF AND UNSUCCESSFUL

FOX CHALLENGES PLAINTIFFS' rBGH EXPERTS

CRONKITE TESTIFIES FOR AKRE & WILSON 


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