Back in July, many of you saw an Associated Press story which reported that “[s]everal food writers, including a New York Times reporter, have been subpoenaed by a meat producer as part of its $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC in regards to the network’s coverage of a beef product dubbed ‘pink slime’ by critics.”
Because of my successful Change.org petition in 2012, some of you asked whether I, too, had received a subpoena from Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the plaintiff in this lawsuit and the maker of lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” aka “pink slime.”) I didn’t speak about it publicly at the time but, based on a motion filed by BPI in South Dakota state court, I knew a subpoena was likely on its way. In mid-August, BPI’s process server showed up at my door.
Although I’m not a party to or otherwise involved in BPI’s lawsuit, BPI wants all of my private communications in 2012 with the parties they’ve sued, including employees of ABC News and the two former USDA microbiologists who first expressed concern about the meat filler in private emails, some of which were later made public by the New York Times.
I do have information responsive to this request, but I’m asserting the protection of the First Amendment and Texas’s “shield law” (a statute giving journalists a qualified privilege against disclosure of their material in cases like this) so that my confidential communications, source material and work product remain private.
Here’s why I felt it was important to take this stand.
Whether the issue is GMO labeling, animal welfare practices, or the disclosure of questionable ingredients — from the yellow dye in mac-in-cheese to the LFTB hidden in ground beef — consumers clearly care about food transparency. And precisely because we’re not affiliated with traditional media outlets, food policy bloggers like me have the freedom to focus exclusively on such issues, often devoting considerable time and effort to inform readers about, and advocate for, these causes. But if bloggers and other “citizen journalists” are going to face lawyers and subpoenas whenever they gather information on potentially controversial topics, they may well think twice before they post. And that sort of chilling effect ultimately harms us all.
I’ll keep you informed of any developments with respect to the subpoena. And thanks to my attorney – better known around here as “Mr. TLT” – for taking time out of his own busy work schedule to represent me in this matter.
Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 9,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page, join over 5,000 TLT followers on Twitter, or get your “Lunch” delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing here. And be sure to check out my free video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!”