One of the best case studies for award-fishing and grandstanding is Jim Avila of ABC News for his so-called investigation of the beef industry and use of lean, fine textured beef.
The first step in award-fishing is to pick a subject. If you want to increase your chances, go with a subject that has already won an award. In ABC News’ case, they apparently looked to Michael Moss of the New York Times for ideas. In 2009, Moss won a Pulitzer for his reporting on beef processing. In the introduction to the ABC News segment, Diane Sawyer boasts that “Jim Avila set out to get answers” about beef processing. No mention that the “answers” were the same ones reached by Moss in the New York Times, in the movie “Food, Inc.” and on the ABC program, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” I can’t wait for Avila’s investigation of what happened at Watergate!
Once you’ve picked a subject that’s already garnered an award, you have to add to it. Lucky for Avila, he has the power of TV b-roll to ramp up his investigation. ABC also added the “whistleblower” dimension. Even though the former USDA bureaucrat was cited in the New York Times story for calling lean, fine textured beef “pink slime” in an inter-office memo, ABC News was the first to highlight him as a whistleblower. Generally, the criterion for being labeled a whistleblower is to show some kind of corruption or wrong doing by the company. In this case, the bureaucrat had used a term that was also used nearly a decade earlier. Yes, it wasn’t commonly used, but not because the USDA or beef producers were trying to hide something. The truth is the term “pink slime” isn’t accurate in describing what ABC News and others claim to be investigating. ABC News also didn’t acknowledge that the memo is a decade old because it would out their “investigation” as old news.
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