Monday, August 25, 2008

Mega-Meat Mess Up in the Press

A couple of weeks ago, a large meat processing plant nearby announced a big recall of processed meat products – mostly deli-type slices.

They claimed the meat may have been contaminated with a pretty nasty bug. Over the past few weeks, four people died because of possible contamination.

We were told by the news media to carefully check our fridges for specific products, and to throw anything which we suspected of being contaminated out.

What the news media didn’t tell us was just how big a mess up this was. Not only does the meat recall affect every meat product which came out of this plant, and is sold on grocery store shelves, but it also affects a lot of big name restaurants.

When you order a pizza from a big-name chain, you figure you’re safe. Think again – pepperoni – one of the most common pizza toppings – was part of this major recall – and a big-name pizza chain was named as one of those who uses this meat.

Of course, you wouldn’t know this from the media reports – you have to actually go to the list of products recalled directly from the vendor to learn this valuable tidbit of information.

I know, mentioning a big pizza chain – or any large corporation – in a negative capacity in the media can lead to allegations, even slander or libel suits. Though the risk is low, so long as the truth be told.

And when people’s lives are at risk, I think disclosing this information isn’t dangerous – but is a necessity.

There were other restaurants mentioned on the list, with the specific meat products which were affected. Again, none of these restaurants were mentioned in any of the media reports.

In fact, the news media failed to discuss the possibility of restaurants having any of the recalled meats, they focused on the potential for people to have it at home, from shopping.

Granted, not everyone goes out, and those that do go out probably don’t eat out for every meal. But that doesn’t make it any less important a fact to mention.

Sure, people may opt to stay home instead of going out – costing restaurants business. But a few weeks of lost business are more acceptable, than increased infections and body bags.

I worked in the news media, and I know as well as anyone else who worked in it that it is a business just like any other business.

But isn’t it bad business to kill off your customers? That’s what they are doing, to those who they failed to educate and inform properly, and who die because of this lack of information.

Yes, many businesses which are affected advertise in newspapers, on the radio and on television. So there is the potential to alienate some of the advertisers that pay the salaries of journalists covering this story.

But wouldn’t a headline about one of those advertisers, about someone dying because of consuming bad meat at that business, be a worse fate?

A good journalist would even follow-up with some of these businesses and do stories on how these restaurants and other food establishments are taking steps to ensure none of their customers gets sick, or dies. That’s good press for the advertisers, and just doing good journalism.

Sadly, good journalism isn’t very common any more.

No comments:

Post a Comment