Journalism Is Never Perfect: The Politics of Story Corrections and Retractions


Horse abuse and horse slaughter – both are subjects in this article by James McWilliams on the flawed AP coverage of Valley Meat in Pacific Standard and the AP’s refusal to retract. The Associated Press turned a flawed article into misinformation that was used and reused across different media outlets. This hints of something far more sinister than journalistic incompetence. ~ HfH

From: Pacific Standard
By: James McWilliams

Do reporters and editors have an obligation to get the story right—even if not the first time?

journalism2Not once, not twice, but on 18 separate occasions over the last year and a half the Associated Press misrepresented a critical detail about slaughtering horses for human consumption in the United States. The pivotal point, which remains unchanged, makes it sound as if domestic slaughter is a more humane option for American horses than keeping them alive. This mistake, which has repeatedly been brought to the AP’s attention, offers insight into the contested issue of media retractions and corrections.

Forbes contributor Vickery Eckhoff, who previously worked for The New York Times and Dow Jones, caught the AP error early and let them know about it often. The gist of her complaint centered on the following claim, a version of which the AP included in every one of its stories on horse slaughter:

A June 2011 report from the federal Government Accountability Office shows cases of horse abuse and abandonment on a steady rise since Congress effectively banned horse slaughter by cutting funding for USDA inspection programs in 2006.

Note the implication: With the end of domestic slaughter came the rise of horse suffering. Given that meatpacking plants are now lobbying hard for the reauthorization of horse slaughter, and given that, due to the AP’s misinterpretation, they can now do so on purported humanitarian grounds, this “finding” could not have been better timed for the meatpacking plants or more consequential for consumers and animal advocates.

But the problem, as I reported in Pacific Standard earlier this year, is the fact that horse slaughter, contrary what the AP claimed, did not end in 2006, effectively or otherwise. Instead, it continued through November of 2007. This difference matters. Critically.

Continue Reading

AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • Nancy Albin

    support the moran amendment to defund the inspection of horse meat for human consumption in the house. Contact your senators to pass S 1176 and your representatives to pass HR 2966. Your tax dollars would be spent to inspect a meat not raised for food. Horses are not raised under the food safety quidelines and are given medications which are banned from use in any animal intended for human consumption. Why should our tax dollars be spent to help make foreign interests money while taking away protections from our own citizens. Horse slaughter is about food production it is not about unwanted old injured sick and neglected horses. Its about supply & demand. A supply that is filled with our young healthy horses.

    December 20, 2013
  • Penny Zielstorf

    If These Folk Who Think It Is Better To Slaughter Then Put Down A Horse Need To Be Made To Set Down And Watch The Process From Start To Finish.

    December 20, 2013