This story–fairly lengthy at more than two minutes by broadcast journalism standards–covers the story of West Michigan whose bottle of ice tea had a “gooey gunk” in it. What is the news value of this story? Does this story warrant the amount of time devoted to it? Was an investigation by two WOOD TV 8 reporters necessary?
This story is a perfect example of a “fluff” piece. “Fluff” pieces are stories aired on broadcast newscasts that cover stories that essentially have no news value, such as a cat getting stuck in a tree. The stories might be comical, but they do nothing to help inform viewers of important events and issues at the local, state, and national levels.
News Reader #1: Is it tainted tea? A West Michigan man is asking a lot of questions about what he bought at a lake shore gas station.
News Reader #2: 24 Hour News 8 Larry Neinhaus has more on what the man found inside that bottle.
Larry Neinhaus: Well, Brian, Sue, it is a bottle like this one–Gold Peak–though this is the unsweetened one that we actually got out of our vending machine here at WOOD TV 8. The customer’s name is Shane Smith. Now he describes what he sees inside his unopened bottle as “slimy… with dark spots… a gooey gunk.” And after seeing it, we couldn’t agree more. And it’s a bottle of Gold Peak sweetened ice tea that he will not be drinking.
Shane Smith: I went to open it up and I saw this thing moving in the bottle and this is what I saw.
Larry Neinhaus: A collective yuck from all of us who are now seeing it. Shane bought the ice tea at the Shell service station at Exit 41 off westbound I-196. Now he called us and since it’s a Coca-Cola product he called Coke. A customer service spokeswoman asked first for some product numbers on the bottle.
Shane Smith: She told me first not to open it and that she would probably contact me in the next couple of days and soon after that it made me nervous because is there something else? Is this something that could make somebody sick?
Larry Neinhaus: That’s one of the questions tonight, the other, what exactly is it? And we got one possible answer to that one. 24 Hour News 8’s Mark Thompson got a hold of Gold Peak’s spokesman on the phone on the scene and this is what Ray Crockett told us.
Ray Crockett: What this commonly is, is mold that will grow in the bottle, particularly if it’s heat abused or if it’s past its sell buy date.
Larry Neinhaus: That expiration date is February 25th of next year. But Ray Crockett tells us the heat exposure could happen when the bottle is stored after shipping. Health hazard? Crockett says no, but drinking it would not be a good idea.
Shane Smith: Gold Peak ice tea, yeah.
Motorist: Oh my god.
Shane Smith: Don’t know what that is.
Shane Smith: Haven’t popped the lid, so… yeah, yeah, it is gross.
Larry Neinhaus: Now at that Shell gas station we did not find any other Gold Peak bottles like it. The gas station says that it is right now going through all of its inventory to make sure there are no other bottles like that. If they find anything suspect, they’ll pull it from the shelves. And Gold Peak tonight says it’s looking into the matter and we will let you know what they find.