ABC’s Jim Avila struck ratings gold when he went after BPI.  He’s used it as a platform to go after ‘big’ food and the meat industry.  Maybe he can strike gold again or build a reputation as a modern day muckraker; a new age Upton Sinclair.

Let’s step behind the high production values of ABC World News, though, and examine Avila’s impartiality.  Is he reporting hard news and being fair and impartial?  Or should his reports be clearly labeled as op/eds?  Maybe his Tweets can answer those two questions.

First, let’s look at an exchange he had with Dan Gainor, who describes himself as VP of Business and Culture for Media Research Center, a nondenominational Christian, and a freelance columnist.

Miffed by Avial’s reporting on lean finely textured beef, an angry Gainor tweeted, “ABC's @JimAvilaABC helped kill 650 jobs with his "slimey" anti-beef coverage. Why not tell him how you feel?

To which an annoyed Avila responded “@dangainor let's be clear. No one job loss if bpi had been upfront with consumers perhaps different result. Misdirected anger”

Should BPI have been upfront with consumers?  If Avila had done his homework, he would know that BPI sells nothing to consumers.  They sell their product to meat processing companies. Misplaced comment? 

An even angrier Gainor shot back this little kiss on Avila’s cheek, “@JimAvilaABC We both know that's garbage. ABC, mostly you, said pink slime 52 times in 2 weeks. No firm can survive that. Irresponsible.”

So Avila, a man who surely knows the power of words, used the emotionally laden term ‘pink slime’ 52 times, conveniently ignoring the product’s proper name “Lean Finely Textured Beef.”  Pink Slime=ratings gold; LFTB=next assignment Peoria.  Avila now enjoys a plush Washington, DC, assignment where he can keep a close watch on those rascals at the USDA and FDA.

Avila didn’t want Gainor to get away with his ‘garbage’ comment so he responded with “@dangainor you have your opinion and are free to express. I deal in facts and our pieces were well researched and apparently well received”

Well received?  Yes.  Great ratings tell one part of the story but do little to tell the quality of the piece.  Well researched?  Factual?  Where does he go for the truth?  In response to some suggested expert resources on BSE by the American Meat Institute’s Janet Riley, Avila tweeted “@queenofwien I'm saying we don't go to lobbyists paid by meat industry to get our experts.”

They were talking about Dr. Will Hueston, Professor, GFSL Endowed Chair, University of Minnesota. His credentials include these degrees:

· B.A. University of Virginia, 1976

· D.V.M. The Ohio State University, 1980

· M.S. The Ohio State University, 1980

· Ph.D. The Ohio State University, 1985

His Board Certifications:

  • Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, 1985
  • Epidemiology Specialty, American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, 1987

His research interests include

  • Leadership training
  • Strengthening food supply systems globally
  • Epidemiology of zoonoses (diseases affecting both humans and other animals)
  • Risk analysis (hazard identification, risk assessment, risk management, risk communication)
  • Animal health monitoring and disease surveillance
  • Animal and public health policy formulation at the local, state, national, and international levels

He teaches college level course in:

  • Global Food Systems Leadership
  • Food safety
  • Risk communication including media relations
  • Epidemiology
  • Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies

So, Avila labels well respected experts as tainted because they’re recommended by the enemy.  Who does Avila idolize? Let his tweets tell the story

Michele Simon JD MPH‏@Appetite4Profit “Inspiring column. RT @bittman A Visit With 'The Greatest Living Food Writer'” 

He was talking about New York Times’ columnist Mark Bittman’s interview with renowned cook book author and long time vegetarian Colin Spencer.  Bittman travels the same twigs-and-berries dietary path and says he writes on food and all things related.  The tags he’s given himself include: ethical eating, Food, Politics, Vegetarianism

Another Tweet: “@Appetite4Profit @bittman my interview with the esteemed bittman on a diet with less meat is scheduled for tomorrow on nightline. Thrilled”

And to put more trump cards on his factual claim, here’s another tweet: “ another fine read and challenge. Stay tuned abc news is putting tiger a series of food secret stories u won't miss.”

Avila seems to think “factual” is best defined by the vegetarian/vegan cabal and ignores the credentials of Dr. Will Hueston whose years of study are somehow tainted by his association with meat. 

But all is not lost.  Avila might be a vegan camp follower but he does tend toward the carnivore side of the table.  One of his tweets reads, “@pudder22 like burgers too much. And steak. Just want them pathogen free. Rather pay more for organic grass fed cage free happy food.”

Ahhh, happy food!  I do love a smiling steak and some giggling au gratin on my plate, washed down with a witty wine and finished with a chuckling cheesecake.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.