HomeFinding Aids#9707 Holthouser ABC/Food Lion Collection

#9707 Holthouser ABC/Food Lion Collection

Holthouser ABC/Food Lion Collection

MSS #9707

February 1997

Abstract: Press releases, transcripts of court proceedings and television programs, as well as promotional videotape relating to the lawsuit between Food Lion, a Salisbury, NC based grocery chain, and the ABC television network collected by Neil Holthouser, business reporter for the Salisbury Post.

Online catalog terms:

American Broadcasting Company

Food Lion, Inc.

Holthouser, Neil

Prime Time Live (Television Program)

Food handling

Investigative reporting

Size: Approximately one linear foot.

Provenance: Neil Holthouser
Salisbury Post
February 1997

Copyright: Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.


On November 5, 1992, PrimeTime Live, an ABC television newsmagazine, broadcast a segment concerning Food Lion, a Salisbury, North Carolina-based grocery store chain. In this segment, ABC maintained that there was widespread unsanitary conditions in Food Lion supermarkets. Food Lion vigorously denied the charges and alleged that the situtation was the result of labor disputes.

Several ABC rebroadcasts and re-statements of the situation followed. On April 18, 1995, the U.S. District Court in Greensboro, NC granted Food Lion's request to inquire into ABC's undercover reporting practices. A series of court arguments over the out-takes occured over the following months. Court proceedings in the trial between Food Lion and ABC began in Greensboro, North Carolina in December, 1996. This trial focused on the investigatory practices of ABC, not libel.

The jury found in favor of Food Lion and awarded 5.5 million dollars to the grocery store chain. In February 1997, ABC re-aired the original broadcast and then produced a Viewpoint segment focusing on the role of the media and undercover investigation. This was filmed at Wake Forest University's Wait Chapel.

Neil Holthouser, business reporter for the Salisbury Post, covered the ABC/Food Lion controversy from almost its beginning. A graduate of Duke University and a native of Sanford, NC, his articles concerning ABC and Food Lion appear with some frequency in the Fall and Winter of 1996/1997. The materials in this collection (excluding file #5, marked "Viewpoint materials," which were gathered by Rowan Public Library in its documenting efforts) constitute Holthouser's files on the story.

Series I. Videotape

January 8, 1997

Videotape created by Sitrick and Company for Food Lion. It is Food Lion's response to the PrimeTime Live broadcast. A security copy is stored in Rowan Public Library's technical services division. Another copy is stored with the collection, itself.

Folder List:

Box 1. Folder 1. Sitrick and Company's "Food Lion Vs. PrimeTime Live" [videotape]

Series II. Written materials


Press releases, court documents, etc. involving the ABC/Food Lion controversy. Most pertain to the trial, itself. The press releases and other material are stored in chronological order. Of interest is a club information sheet submitted by the Evergreen Bridge Club to the Salisbury Post. The bridge club, a Rufty/Holmes Senior Center group, was interviewed for the introduction to the Viewpoint program. The press releases marked simply "Food Lion vs. ABC Trial UPDATE" are products of the Food Lion corporate public relations.

The Food Lion "Backgrounders" attempt to summarize the Food Lion/ ABC brouhaha. One "Backgrounder" is of particular import, as it states that Food Lion was seeking 2.5 billion in restitution, a number that the company later declined having ever requested. "Fakes, Lies and Videotape," outlines Food Lion's official position on the controversy. The Viewpoint materials were acquired at the taping at Wait Chapel. They show the list of Press who covered the broadcast, the VIPs and who was sitting where on the stage area. A transcript of the judge's courtroom instructions to the jury as well as his written instructions are included.

Folder List:

Folder 2. Press Releases, etc.

Folder 3. Food Lion's "Backgrounders"

Folder 4. Food Lion vs. ABC: Fakes, Lies, and Videotapes

Folder 5. Viewpoint materials

Folder 6. Viewpoint Transcript

Folder 7. Jury List

Folder 8. Jury Instructions--court proceedings

Folder 9. Jury instructions

Folder 10. Food Lion's time line