Exhibit A: A “shocking” report from TV station WRGE NewsChannel 3, a CBS affiliate in Memphis, Tenn.
“The breakfast schools are feeding children is killing them, claims one national organization,” the report begins.“It says processed meats, like bacon and sausage, are now linked to cancer. Memphis City School servers (sic) more than 50,000 students breakfast every day.”
(I told you “broadcast journalists” didn’t bother with copyediting in college).
Now here comes the one-sided “expose” the station blithely reports as if it were gospel:
“The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine hopes to change that. They claim school breakfasts, like the ones served at Memphis City Schools, contain process meats (sic), which are linked to cancer. The group is sending out a warning about the risks of eating harmful foods, like bacon and sausage.”
Note the “local angle,” connecting this shocking revelation to the very schools where WREG viewers send their kids! That’s about as far as most broadcasters bother with attempting to drill down into a fluff piece from an activist group blatantly pushing its slanted agenda.
“Processed meat is associated with certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and specifically with some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer,” said Susan Levin, a licensed dietician who works for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
No discussion of who PCRM actually represents (and it’s not physicians!). Not a peep about its well-known vegetarian agenda. Not one second wasted on informing viewers whether its claims have any validity. The whole point is to suck people into the story with shock value, then keep ’em glued to the screen long enough to roll into the next flight of commercials.
“MCS says it’s made huge strides in the last five years, offering more fruit, whole grains, and low fat dairy products, but the group wants the processed meats gone entirely. ‘The more we serve them to children the more we put them at risk, Levin said. She says harmful meats can be replaced with whole grain cereals and bagels.”
Then the broadcasters close with the kicker: “Memphis City Schools is not the only district that received a failing grade. Desoto County Schools also fell short of PCRM’s standard of no processed meats.”
Wait one hot second. PCRM is in no position to be handing out nutritional grades, and certainly not if passing requires the complete elimination of all processed meats, and replacing them with bagels. I got a news flash for WREG: There’s not a public school district in the country that has eliminated all processed meats, just so they can get a passing grade from a bunch of vegan agitators like PCRM.
This entire report reeks of clueless reporting without a shred of perspective supplied for the viewing audience. It’s the end result of an industry that decided years ago to hire pretty faces and pleasing voices, without worrying about what sort of skills the person brought to the profession.
When a biased piece of non-news like this one gets airtime on a nightly newscast, it’s killing the credibility of broadcasting.
Which is a fatality far worse than any (alleged) mortality resulting from eating bacon for breakfast.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.