Oregon Newspaper Retracts Story Alleging Abuse at Horse Farm

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The Wallowa County Chieftain issued an apology and a retraction for its story alleging abuse and neglect at a horse farm. (Credit: Wallowa.com)

Oregon weekly newspaper Wallowa County Chieftain retracted and apologized for its Jan. 20, 2011 story on a horse ranch, the Carpe Diem Farm.

The Chieftain, which has a circulation of 3,162 copies according to MondoTimes, also published an “open letter” by East Oregonian Publishing Co.’s COO, John S. Perry, to readers about the story, “Nightmare at Troy horse ranch,” noting that the retraction and apology was published on Page One.

The Chieftain’s ranch story “was intended to be an account of litigation surrounding the Carpe Diem Farm,” according to the Chieftain.

The story, written by Brian Addison, can be viewed via Google cache. Addison reported that Carpe Diem Farm currently has “an ongoing management disaster including problems with a series of employees at the remote ranch and a recent $328,767 civil judgment” against Carpe Diem Farm breeder Byrde Lynn Hill. The article alleged animal neglect.

But, Vincent and Pretina Shevham called for a retraction claiming that five statements in the article were “false and/or defamatory.”

The Chieftain published the five statements in its apology, two of which were captions for photos apparently picturing animal neglect.  Other retracted statements include claims that:

  • a “jury found that Hill had breached the employment agreement by firing the Shevhams without providing the required mediation and the cooling-off period”
  • Hill was disbarred from breeders association the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA) after losing a civil judgment to the Shevhams, who reportedly complained to the horse group.
  • and that the Shevhams are “under a recent court levy to settle the $328,676 judgment against Hill and the ranch”

The Chieftain explained its retraction:

“Although we could defend the factual basis for some or all of these statements individually, we have come to the conclusion that the story as a whole was not sufficiently factually supported.

“Simply stated, the headline and story should not have been published. The story contained errors of fact and errors of omission. Some statements in the story lacked proper attribution. The story did not fully report the court record in the civil case in question. We also failed to contact the principal subjects of the story for comment.”

Further, the Chieftain commented:  “The story we published failed to meet the journalistic standards we set for our company’s newspapers and the men and women who work for us. The story and headline did not reflect our core values of fairness and accuracy. For that, we apologize to our readers, the Wallowa County community and the subjects of the story.”

“We have taken steps to prevent a reoccurrence and have disciplined those responsible. Chuck Anderson, the Chieftain’s editor and publisher, has accepted responsibility.”

iMediaEthics has written to the Chieftain asking if the newspaper will leave the story in question up or unpublish it, what steps the Chieftain has taken “to prevent a re-occurrence,” and how the errors and misleading statements occurred. We also asked for elaboration on the statement that the newspaper “disciplined those responsible,” and that Chuck Anderson has “accepted responsibility.”

We will update with any response.

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Oregon Newspaper Retracts Story Alleging Abuse at Horse Farm

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