In a huge loss for investigative journalism, Disney-owned ABC News has come to terms on a settlement with Beef Products International (BPI) over their pink slime news reports back in 2012.
BPI had initially sued ABC News over the reports in a defamation lawsuit asking for $1.9 billion for damages the business incurred as a result of ABC’s reports. The lawsuit was actually settled back in June, but we didn’t know what the total amount of damages were until Disney’s earnings were released earlier this week. The financial statements reveal that at least $177 million was paid to Beef Products International as part of the lawsuit settlement, but CNN has reports that that number could actually be a lot higher. It’s still significantly lower than the initial $1.9 billion BPI had asked for when they filed the suit.
Since the settlement, ABC has not publicly apologized for their reports on pink slime, which revealed that fast food giants and other corporations used the cheap beef product as a way to increase nutrition and lower cost in their products. It’s believed that the terms of the settlement didn’t include a forced apology as a result, nor did they include a required redaction, as ABC’s reports about the pink slime are still available online.
While it’s great that ABC won’t have to take down any of its reporting on the subject, the settlement strikes a blow into investigative journalism, sending a message that if news corporations go out and increase the transparency of our food system, it could end up costing them big time. In this day and age, where thorough and concise reporting is how many facts of our industries and society are uncovered, this sets a dangerous precedent of persecuting those who attempt to reveal the truth.