Thursday, May 21, 1998

For more information, contact:
Jane Akre or Steve Wilson (813) 789-8768
John Chamblee, Attorney (813) 251-4542
For the first time on the air last night, WTVT Channel 13 acknowledged a lawsuit by two of its former reporters and those journalists have responded with a demand for a retraction or clarification.

The station reported the suit as a postscript to a story about a controversial bovine growth hormone which is now widely used on dairy cows throughout Florida. It was that story at the heart of a year-long dispute that led WTVT to fire its investigative reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre last December.

Fox 13 anchorwoman Kelly Ring, reading a statement from station management, reported, "These employees claim they were fired because Fox 13 management refused to allow them to report about this story."

Reporter Steve Wilson responds, "We have never made such a claim in court nor anywhere else. The station is obviously desperate to put the best spin on a situation that any responsible news organization should be ashamed of.

"Itís not that the station didnít want us to report the story. We filed a lawsuit because after Fox was threatened and pressured by the hormone maker, our fair and balanced reports approved and scheduled to run were drastically edited to include information we knew to be false. We were ultimately fired for refusing to mislead the audience by broadcasting false and slanted information.

"We believe and intend to prove in court that our firing for that reason is a violation of the state whistleblower law," Wilson added.

Fox 13ís new investigative reporter Nathan Lang was assigned to report on the controversy just earlier this month, nearly two months after his predecessors filed suit and established an Internet web site about the case which reveals details of the BGH story and how it was handled by Fox.

"Just a few weeks ago, WTVTís attorney was quoted in Variety as saying the station has no intention of ever reporting the story," said co-plaintiff Akre. "Apparently they got tired of reporters asking how they could justify covering up such important news just to satisfy a powerful corporation."

"Even though they were motivated more out of self-interest than the public interest, it is something of a victory to see the station finally telling its viewers a story they have withheld for more than a year."

Akre and Wilson said it would be not be proper to comment on the Fox 13 series until they have seen the last two parts scheduled to air Thursday and Friday.

The reportersí demand for correction came in a letter from their attorney John Chamblee who wrote that the station is well aware that Wilson and Akre "contend that management directed that the scripts they authored be changed in response to Monsantoís threats so that the resulting broadcast would clearly have been misleading to the public, i.e. "slanted," a practice the FCC has described as Ďa most heinous act against the public interest.í UPDATE directory