Wednesday, July 5, 2017



The $1.9 Billion case brought by BPI against Disney's unit, ABC, trebled to $5.7 Billion, was settled last week 3.5 weeks into the trial and at the conclusion of BPI’s side of the story.

Everything is confidential, so we will never know the full terms, but I can only imagine how nervous ABC’s fancy lawyers would be in an Elk Point, South Dakota courtroom decked out in their $3,000 suits and Gucci slippers.

But this is not about the settlement. This is about the coverage of the story in 2012, the lack of coverage now and the power of words.

ABC, a subsidiary of Disney, ran a series of reports about BPI and their product, Lean, Fine Textured Beef (LFTB) in which they referred to LFTB as “pink slime” at least 137 times. The result was that BPI’s business declined by 80% and 700 people lost their jobs. LFTB is used, for one thing, to increase the lean and decrease the fat proportions in ground beef. It is beef, it is healthy. It is low cost because the 10 to 20 pounds of beef (separated from the fat) that is gained per animal (the news reports tended to call the animals "cows," the ignorant term for beef) was formerly lost and the process is efficient.

I could not find online coverage from the “usual suspects.” Where are you, CNN, CBS, NBC? Where are you, New York Times? Actually, the NYT won a Pulitzer Prize for defaming the process prior to ABC. Have we seen retractions? Most of the articles were from Drover’s magazine, Beef Magazine and the like. The Tribune article went out of its way to carry a quote from a media law professor who said it was “folly” to speculate on the motives for ABC to settle, but that she was dismayed that the trial was not concluded because the position could be “defended.” Yep, that’s why you have the high-priced lawyers, but they might have been defending the indefensible?  

I knew Eldon and Regina. They were among the very first residential and business occupants at the Dunes. Pioneers in every way. Good people, built a business, provided good jobs. Eldon was justifiably proud of his process and accomplishments and invited Jim Avila, the ABC reporter, the real “slime” into his business. DIL Amy worried, justifiably, about the 700 people who lost their jobs five years ago. Who makes restitution to them?

I’m reminded of the Scorpion and Frog. The scorpion can’t swim, asks the frog to carry him on its back across the river. The frog is hesitant, “I’m afraid you’ll sting me.” But the scorpion finally convinces him and midway across, the scorpion stings the frog and they are both doomed. The frog asks why, the scorpion says, “It is my nature.”

As consumers of news, we need to be vigilant. Scorpions will be scorpions.

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