Inside CBS' News Story: Accusing The Supplement Industry - Forum Member Feedback.

I doubt anyone with a functioning brain expected CBS to do a fair piece about nutritional supplements - News station premature in character assassination. Read on as I politely shoot down the heresy that CBS calls journalism.

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CBS Evening News

Video Transcript

I think it's interesting that on the website, CBS has a transcription in text, ostensibly of the video, that reads more like inept paraphrasing. Actually, I should recant the "inept" adjective in the last sentence and replace it with another "i" word, like insidious or intentional, maybe both.

Case in point, the text reads as: "We learned that most of the products tested have not worked," from the CBS ringer Dan Hurley. What he actually said was "We've learned that most of the products that have been tested have not been proven to work," which is quite a lot different from stating flatly that they are ineffectual.

CBS also nicely mangled the comments of the few people sticking up for the supplement companies, such as David Seckman and Steve Mister, who doesn't even get his title or company noted in the text or the piece, but instead is dismissed as "working for the supplement industry."

"Fair & Balanced"

I doubt anyone with a functioning brain really expected CBS to do a fair piece -- this is the network, after all, that reamed such luminaries as Edward R. Murrow and most recently, Dan Rather -- but this is not really the fluff piece that may have been expected, despite a near-absence of facts.

Edward R. Murrow:

U.S. radio and television broadcaster. Murrow joined CBS in 1935 and two years later became head of its European Bureau. He became famous for his eyewitness reports of World War II events such as the German occupation of Austria. After the war, with Fred Friendly, he produced Hear It Now, an authoritative radio news digest, and for television the comparable See It Now. He also produced Person to Person and other television programs. In the 1950s he was an influential force for the free dissemination of information, producing a notable exposé of the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy that contributed to the demise of McCarthyism.

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This piece instead glories in vitriol and revels in ignorance. CBS, in this piece, is guilty of that which they accuse the supplement companies: a lack of research and hard evidence. This entire series is hypocrisy at its finest hour.

In one hand, CBS is accusing the supplement companies of baseless and vile peddling and pandering while on the other is carefully choosing "target" words for the greatest reaction and the least amount of actual thought from the audience.

It's a sad day when the "fair and balanced" attack of FOX News is now what passes as the pinnacle of televised journalism. CBS is overtly and shamelessly attempting to adopt this strategy in a misguided effort to gain market share and the judicious viewer will find this entire piece nothing but hollow and empty.

There is a world of difference between picking pieces out of legends and wives' tales and stuffing broken pieces of twigs and flora into satchets and conducting research and investigation into furthering human performance and building products accordingly, yet this piece sadly reaches deep into the sewer to paint all of the companies in this field with the same brush.

The most pertinent quote in this entire piece was the one from Steve Mister that read: "I think it's premature for an author like Mr. Hurley to just dismiss an industry based on a few extreme examples."

It is equally premature for CBS to castigate and assassinate the character of an entire industry based on the half-formed opinions of the author collecting those anecdotal remembrances and with zero investigation of their own or any real facts.

Motivation Of CBS

The motivation of CBS in this piece is also highly suspect. Making numerous appearances throughout the piece is the Dan Hurley book itself, with the curious (and rather wordy) title of Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry: Behind its carefully crafted image, a $20 billion business sells 'safe and natural' products that are untested, unproven and often tragically unsafe...

"Natural Causes", ironically, is also the title of a book by Kevin Trudeau, one of the book's targets. Their heavy usage of the book and author is really where CBS gets into questionable territory.

The book itself is aimed primarily at the herbal sector of the industry - The CBS piece recasts that to show images from the diet sector of the industry.

CBS & The FDA:

    Meanwhile, the voice-over savagely damns the entire thing, both insinuating that anything not FDA-Approved is hazardous and implying that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is a bad piece of legislation that the supplement companies tricked the American public into pushing Congress to pass. The actual Act itself is only referenced by name in the piece; the text is never actually in the piece.

    By now, it should be obvious that CBS is doing nothing more than trying to play strictly to emotion. The FDA is certainly no guarantee of safety, as the numerous participants in the class action suit against Merck for the FDA-Approved Vioxx will tell you.

    CBS carefully avoids that side of the argument, however, because supplements are hot right now, thanks to the Barry Bonds steroid/performance-enhancing drug hit parade and CBS is nothing if not opportunistic.

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    This is really nothing more than carefully packaged garbage, devoid of even remotest truth or relevance and says a great deal more about CBS than the supplement industry they're trying to raze to the ground.

Misleading Titles:

    In the high-speed instant gratification society we find ourselves in now, a lot of information must normally be absorbed and processed in a minimum of time. Though CBS has elected to refrain from providing any information in their attempt with these pieces to move yellow journalism off the print page and onto the television or computer screen, at least they have kindly tagged them with obviously slanted or misleading titles which bear little or no relation to what you will be subjected to, should you view them.

    "Are Herbal Supplements Hurting You?" is one such title and the other, "How Should FDA Regulate Diet Supplements?", never answers or even approaches the question it poses. Amusingly, CBS has shut off comments for the latter piece and the first post in the former points to a poll on the CBS site then makes a case that CBS' own audience does not agree with the story.

    In fact, at the time of this writing, not only could I find not one positive comment on these pieces on the CBS site, but I couldn't even find only slightly less laden with bile.


The contradictions and incoherent wandering of the segments and the complicated futility of the ignorance of the reporter attempting to mindlessly rip a global industry in 180 second pre-chewed and partially digested soundbites all adds up to a mess that completely clouds whatever point the story was trying to make. This "investigation" is a complete and total failure.