Reader Boycott p. 22

By: M.L. Stein A BOYCOTT OF the Casper, Wyo., Star-Tribune by a sheep ranchers' group is having only a "minimal" effect on the paper's circulation, its editor said.
The Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) issued a recent statement, charging the Star-Tribune with having an "anti-natural resource, anti-livestock industry agenda."
In addition to the boycott, the association said its staff will no longer take questions from Star-Tribune reporters or cooperate with the paper in any way "until assurances are received . . . that its anti-natural resource industry campaign and agenda has ceased, and all future reporting of resource issues is fair, accurate and balanced . . . ."
WWGA asked its approximately 2,000 members to cancel their subscriptions to the Star-Tribune to protest its policies.
What "campaign, what agenda?" asked a puzzled David Hipschman, editor of the Star-Tribune, Wyoming's only statewide newspaper.
Hipschman, former international editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, told E&P: "I've only been on this job since February 1, but I've read a number of back issues and
I can't see where they have a legitmate leg to stand on."
The editor said he knows of no anti-natural resource or anti-livestock industry campaign the paper has conducted. Hipschman noted the Star-Tribune has an Open Spaces section in which staff and freelance columnists write about natural resources and other environmental matters.
"But the section is clearly marked as opinion and all points of view are presented," he said. "I think what we have here is a problem common to newspapers everywhere: There are people who can't tell the difference between the news and the editorial pages."
The Billings (Mont.) Gazette quoted WWGA president Truman Julian as saying about the Star-Tribune: "They constantly blast away at us and they seem to get enjoyment out of it."
In an interview with E&P, Julian, a sheep rancher, said he and other members have attempted to resolve his organization's differences with the Star-Tribune by inviting some of its staff writers to their ranches "to tell our side of the story."
"But the next week, they'll come out and bash us again," he said. "And they find fault with any bill in the legislature introduced by anyone connected with the livestock industry. We don't want to fight with the Star-Tribune; we just want to be treated fairly. Our people don't have the journalism skills to match them in the paper, but they should realize we are important to our local communities and the state as a whole."
A Star-Tribune story on the boycott said WWGA cited a long list of "grievances" against the paper.
"I would be interested in knowing their specific charges," responded Star-Tribune publisher Rob Hurless.
Hipschman also said he had seen no list of grievances and declared that he stands behind the "accuracy, fairness and objectivity" of the newspaper's staff.
However, the editor said he will meet with WWGA representatives in mid-March.
"I don't understand their complaint, but I am concerned when any segment of our readership is upset about the paper," he said.
Meanwhile, he went on, "Despite the boycott, I fully intend to eat lamb and beef and put petrochemicals in the gasoline tanks of my various vehicles."


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