After Food Safety News broke the story that Taco Bell was the mysterious “Restaurant Chain A” linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 68 people in 10 states, ABC Evening News praised Food Safety News for shining light on this story and the issue of the government’s lack of transparency when businesses make people sick. Other media, such as the LA Times, Reuters, Daily Mail, The Consumerist, CBS News, Huffington Post, Fox News, and MSNBC, also hailed Food Safety News for shinning the light on the mystery taco restaurant. Most recently, Barry Estabrook wrote a piece for The Atlantic detailing Food Safety New’s muckraking skills, but praised me and not the people who did all the work.
Given the amount of attention Food Safety News received in the last week, I thought it might be time again to show how I fit into Food Safety News.
As publisher, I fund Food Safety News (although we are beginning to get big interest for advertisers – which has its own new issues) and make sure competent people run it. Frankly, that is the easy part. The core of our team Mary, Gretchen, James and Cookson in Seattle, Dan in Denver and Helena in D.C. do an amazing job of keeping up on the news and managing our many contributors.
So, other than writing checks, what do I do?
From time to time, I write Publisher’s Platform, and I will suggest a story idea or give advice on how to approach a topic – but the editors and reporters decide what ends up on the site every day. With the Taco Bell story, I suggested that they had an opportunity to uncover the name of the restaurant and they did it by putting in the time filing records requests and making phone calls that ultimately resulted in getting the name.
After nearly 20 years of concentrating on foodborne illness litigation, I have by default gained a level of knowledge and perspective that lets me spot the important stories. When big food safety stories break, I usually have mainstream journalists asking for my comments. Most of the time, Food Safety News does not quote me or get my opinion on a story, even when the mainstream guys do. It really is important to me to maintain a clear wall between my interests as a lawyer and my interest in supporting objective food safety reporting.
I created Food Safety News because a lot of food safety stories were not getting attention. It is a public service and a labor of love. It doesn’t make me – or anyone – any money, but for the last two years it has been filling a journalistic niche that no one else has the time or resources to fill. As conventional newsrooms continue trimming staff and budgets, readers will have to rely on more of their important information coming from sources operating out of genuine concern, not profitability.
Food Safety News is not a mouthpiece for my law firm, Marler Clark. But, it would not exist without it. Food Safety News editors Dan Flynn and Mary Rothschild edit and review every article that goes up on Food Safety News, including this one. Between them, they have over a half a century of experience on major newspaper staffs and television news teams. At the end of the day, they are the ones who make sure Food Safety News is a place where readers from the public, government and industry come looking for fact-based reporting on everything related to food safety.
I hope that you find their work as helpful and informative as I do. If you have any questions, please ask. If you have ideas for stories, please tell us. If you have suggestions on how we can be better, please do not hold back.