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REILY: Finely textured beef the fault of the media? MSU researcher cannot be serious

A story released by Mississippi State University blames the media for the shadow cast over lean, finely textured beef, which has been more commonly referred to as pink slime.

An MSU meat scientist, Byron Williams, describes recent media reports as “irresponsible journalism that casts a shadow over established practices that he contends make certain ground beef products healthier and safer.”

>> See MSU media release here …

The fact is, the phrase “pink slime” was coined by a federal microbiologist — not the media. Also, the recent uproar is not new. Stories about the product go back to at least a 2009 New York Times story, and Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has railed against it, and it made headlines after McDonald’s and other major chains discontinued their use last year.

Mississippi State and Byron Williams are disingenuous — at best — at blaming the media for this controversy.

Beef cuts from which the product known as pink slime or lean finely textured beef is made of is put on display Thursday, March 29, 2012, during a tour of the Beef Products Inc. plant in South Sioux City, Neb., where the product is made. The governors of Iowa, Texas and Kansas and lieutenant governors of Nebraska and South Dakota toured the Beef Products Inc. plant to show their support for the company and the several thousand jobs it creates in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

At worst, blaming the media is lazy.

I know the media is an easy target and sometimes rightfully so as Howard Kurtz pointed out in his book “Media Circus: The Trouble with America’s Newspapers.”

Kurtz, the long-time Washington Post media critic, who is now with the web’s “Daily Beast,” points out a what-he-believes to be a bias toward bad news, and an emphasis on scandal.

Remember, there are nearly 9,500 newspapers in America — just newspapers. And more than 95 percent of them are reporting on local issues, more than anything else. So, what is really meant with the term of “the mainstream media”.

But, by and large, the media gets it right.

In this case, a federal employee first pointed out the “pink slime.” The media reported the findings and comments more than three years ago.

While we might not like everything we read or see, the media serves a great purpose in our society, which we would miss dearly were it not available in an objective form. I only hope we at the MBJ can live up to the other great journalism being practiced in every form of the profession.


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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. Mr. Reily, I must ask, where is this “middle-of-the-road media” to which you refer? It’s certainly not evident on the country-wide level, what with national news organizations engaging in duplicitous editing practices in order to sway public opinion regarding recent events in Florida. Nor is it particularly evident in even local matters; while I generally respect and like the MBJ, I have seen your own writers delve into embarrassing and illogical political hackery against particular persons and ideas in these pages. So this publication doesn’t quite fit your “middle-of-the-road” ideal, does it?

    In this case you may have gotten your blood pressure up for a good reason; one can easily see where an attack on one’s profession would generate a strong response (eg, calling the faculty and staff of the state’s leading authority on agricultural-related matters “lazy and stupid”). However, this tome comes off as a bit thin-skinned, Mr. Reily; could it be that you’re cognizant of the failures and shortcomings of the media, but don’t want to admit it? Take heart, sir; the media has been biased for many years…it’s just that people are more aware of it these days!

    Coincidentally, would you mind explaining to me exactly what “MBJ Staff” contributed to the linked story about “pink slime” in order for it to be attributed to them in the byline? The linked piece doesn’t look substantially different from the press release I found on the MSU Extension Service site, but that one’s attributed to Linda Breazeale of MSU Ag Communications. Thanks!

  2. First, it is fair to see that the MBJ staff byline is illogical and confusing … It is to me, too … However, it is used as a catch-all for things that we didn’t necessarily write, but don’t have a drop-down menu for … When we are posting these, we should attribute the author in the text box before we have to use the mandatory-for-our-site drop-down menu … Thank you for your interest.

    However, too many times, we blame the messenger. … For an MSU professor to blame the entire media for sensationalizing a story, which has been not been sensationalized by all is ignoring and transferring the issue.

    Just remember, if you fix the blame, you ignore the problem. … Unfortunately, there is a strong predisposition to finding the sole source of fault. But, that is not how to get things done.

  3. This story has been very sensationalized, maybe not by all, but by many. The statement “blaming the media is lazy” is also irresponsible. If the media had reported both sides of the story up front, it would not have gained this kind of momentum. So let’s look at a couple of the largest driving forces here. The article refers to a “federal microbiologist” coining the phrase. His is a former USDA employee. I don’t see any question here as to why he no longer serves in that role. Another case of missing details that may have impacted the story. There is also a reference to a New York Times article, but I see no mention of the printed correction to that story. I guess that the point though, telling the whole unbiased truth wouldn’t get the ratings it has. We should all remember that, “A lie makes it half way around the world before the truth has time to get it’s pants on”.

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