Punishing the Messenger: The Tobacco Industry and the Press Case Analysis

Journalists should demand certain standards of evidence in their investigative work from their sources and documents. In the case of Philip Morris versus ABC News, scientific data is a standard of evidence that should be required. Along with scientific evidence, medical evidence and/or records should indicate truth in the statements from the sources. Anyone can make a statement and claim it’s true, however when there is no evidence to back it up then that statement loses the truth value and becomes opinion. I believe in certain cases, such as the tobacco industry case that scientific and medical evidence is needed to make blatant accusations. I believe that journalists should work out agreements about legal liability with their editors and/or lawyers in advance of controversial broadcast or publication. Many issues that arose after the broadcast of ‘Smoke Screen’ could have been prevent by going over legalities with an editor or lawyer. The legal council could have then advised against the inclusion of information that wasn’t supported by evidence and against statements that could be considered libel. I don’t think ‘Smoke Screen’ and Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’ are very comparable aside from that fact they both ‘reveal’ facts about the inside of industries. ‘The Jungle’ is something that actually revealed pertinent information to public, for the safety of the public. The information revealed in ‘The Jungle’ was information that wasn’t widely known and it also serves as a point of historical reference in today’s society. On the other hand, ‘Smoke Screen’s’ big reveal was something that was based in fact and their smaller reveals weren’t new news. The things revealed in ‘Smoke Screen’  are things that are clearly printed on cigarette boxes. The public, smokers more specifically know the toxins they are putting into their bodies, whereas the people consuming the meat from Sinclair’s time period didn’t know the toxins that they were consuming. To conclude, I think a more thorough evidence backing and proper legal council would have made ABC’s ‘Smoke Screen’ less stressful when targeting Philip Morris. I also believe ‘The Jungle’ and ‘Smoke Screen’ are more dissimilar than similar.

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