It's Amazing How Fast False News Spreads

Kansas Viewpoint

Dairy checkoff is the latest segment to take a hit from outright false reporting

Published on: November 13, 2010
There's an axiom in journalism that says a reporter will believe the worst take on news and routinely ignore anything that refutes it.

Well, it sure is true when it comes to reporting about food and the systems that produce it.

You'd think the people who don't grow food would be grateful they still get to eat. That wouldn't be the case if Capt. John Smith still ran things.

But instead, they spend an amazing amount of time running down the people who provide them three squares and two snacks a day.

The latest salvo in that department has been directed at cheese, specifically at the efforts of the Dairy Checkoff to promote cheese in partnership with retailers, including Dominos Pizza.

By the time the story made the rounds, the checkoff had been turned into a "tax" that the USDA collects and spends on advertising cheese, which, according to your political bent is either hypocritical because cheese is a high-fat, high-calorie product and we ought to be about healthy living or totally wasteful because taxpayer dollars are being spent on advertising an unhealthy product.

Well, first of all, we all know that taxpayers don't pay the checkoff. Producers do. And we know that you can eat anything to excess, but cheese is a healthy food and totally good for you when consumed in moderation. If you double the cheese on a slice of pizza it tastes better and you can always eat one slice instead of two. That's your choice.

Not according to media outlets from the New York Times to Fox and Friends, which is pretty much the spectrum.

Dairy got hit from both sides on this one and nobody is running any corrections.

Of course, there is a grain of truth here. Dairy Management does get some USDA money to promote milk to export markets. And cheese does have more calories than skim milk. Pretty much everything else is a lie.

So what do we take away from this? Watch your media outlets, web sites and blogs. Weigh in with truth whenever and wherever you can. Don't be shy about saying "this just is not true."

Obviously, our job in education is far from done.