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Tennessean Warned of Biased Reporter



Prior to the most recent erroneous and factually incorrect article by Paul Barton of Gannett, Stephanie Murray, Vice President for Content and Engagement at the Tennessean was sent a letter warning her about Barton.  The most recent article by Barton which incorrectly stated that a member of the Veterinary Advisory Committee never participated on the committee was contradicted by that member and the other members in a written statement.  Barton and Murray chose to ignore the initial warning and the statement by the VAC and stand by their story.

Below is a copy of the letter to Stephanie Murray by Celebration Chairman David Howard.

Dear Ms. Murray,

I would like to take a moment to draw your attention to a matter that is of great concern to me and many of my colleagues.

Over the course of the last several weeks, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration has been the focus of several articles in your newspaper. We have invited the coverage, reached out to members of the media, and very openly shared information that was timely and relevant.

Many media outlets have taken us up on seeing firsthand what is happening with the Celebration and reporting what they saw. These news reports also included comments from groups that are negative toward the Tennessee Walking Horse. We appreciate the efforts these media organizations took to fairly present a controversial story.

However, your articles have been giving much more credence to detractors as opposed to presenting the news in a neutral fashion.

Our concern can best be summed up by reviewing the article, "Humane Society: Article casts doubt on vet’s fairness in Walking Horse issue," by Paul C. Barton and posted on Aug. 26, 2014.

The focus of the article was a 22-year-old peer-reviewed report delivered to the world’s largest equine veterinarians association that cited studies on the Tennessee Walking Horse. The report was based on data collected from government institutions and reports from 1978 until the article was published in 1992 and paid for by a grant from the U.S.D.A.

The author of the report, Dr. Jerry Johnson,  whose integrity Mr. Barton questions has been an equine veterinarian for almost 50 years and has been a professor Iowa State University, Auburn University, Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. At no point in his long and celebrated career has Dr. Johnson's integrity come into question until he decided to apply hard science instead of subjective opinion to making sure Tennessee Walking Horses were not being mistreated.

We find it curious that Mr. Barton's article relies solely on an old document taken out of context and plucked out of history, and then applied to current arguments and vastly improved medical technology at the behest of one organization, the Humane Society of the United States, which has and continues to raise millions of dollars by attacking our industry without the support of facts. 

This organization, whose chief lobbyist is married to our chief detractor in U.S. Congress, earlier this year paid a nearly $16 million legal settlement to avoid RICO charges. The group appears to have been given free rein by Mr. Barton to pose the most sensational questions and then use the articles in fundraising drives. This organization’s most recently available IRS filing show that $44 million of $125 million total revenue in 2012 paid for the group’s salaries, other compensation and employee benefits and another $23 million was spent on marketing and fundraising, as opposed to supporting animal shelters or veterinary research.

Mr. Barton was invited to come see what is happening on the ground and he politely declined. Many of his articles are written in the Washington D.C. area and include voices from that area. We believe he should take the opportunity to sit across the table from us as he has on a regular basis with our detractors

Additionally, we have invited other members of your organization who would not have to travel from so far away to come see what is happening in Shelbyville. Unfortunately, we have received no response.

We extend that invitation again, but request more balance and fairness in your coverage of Tennessee Walking Horse issues in the future.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

David Howard

 

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