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?
Not 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.