Was the media out to get pink slime?

By: Kristen Paquet, Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

Recent news stories and public disgust over pink slime, a beef filler made from left over trimmings that is added to ground beef has caused quite a media stir in recent days. And now it has been reported that AFA Foods, a major supplier of pink slime, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy sighting poor sales due to the public outcry over the product.

This is not the first time that there have been reports about pink slime. But with greater access to news, Facebook, Twitter and blog posts, the public has more of a voice than ever before. And while some people (like the governor of Iowa) are calling this a smear campaign by the media, are reporters really the ones to blame?

What the news media did was share the facts and inform the public. From there, social media helped countless people spread the word at lightning speed and provided a platform on which to speak. As writer Andrew Leonard recently put it: “Pink slime was born for the Twitter era. When you only have 140 characters to spread the news, “pink slime” packs all the wallop you need.”

ABC News first broke the story and stayed with it, almost “pushing” the issue as some would say. But I don’t necessarily think that the media is to blame for the public’s fervent demand to rid the universe of pink slime. I don’t think anyone could have planned for the reaction that came to be.

Case in point: About a day after the USDA publicly stated that it still planned to purchase seven million pounds of pink slime for the school lunch program, well- known blogger Bettina Siegal posted an online petition on Change.org asking the U.S. Government to stop using pink slime. A week later, the petition had more than 200,000 online signatures. I don’t think the reaction here was media driven. It simply showed the voice that social media can provide to an informed public.

So, did the media lead the American public to make the decision it did? Or, did media outlets simply report on the facts and let viewers be the judge? I mean, now that you know about pink slime, would you eat it?