Last week, The Tennessean wrote about horse trainer Bill Bobo, who won the World Grand Championship at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, much like his late father C.A. Bobo. It was the classic tale of a son following in his adored dad’s footsteps. But there’s one little twist to this sentimental story line: The USDA, which monitors the industry, has cited both Bobos for failing to comply with the Horse Protection Act, a federal law designed to protect the animals from abuse.
Of course, that part of the story is missing from any of The Tennessean’s warm narratives about the 56-year-old horse trainer from Shelbyville. Instead, the paper focused on the happy newshow a triumphant Bobo basked before a standing ovation of nearly 30,000 fans at Celebration Stadium, where the contest was held.
In 1996, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Division found Bill Bobo guilty for entering a sored horse in an earlier competition, fined him $2,000 and suspended him for two years. That’s not a minor infraction. Soring a horse involves applying a chemical or mechanical agent to its lower leg or hoof. This cruel and, unfortunately, common practice is supposed to cause the horse pain and enhance its gait for show purposes. Some compare it to putting tacks in the racing shoes of a hurdler to help him lift his knees higher.
The USDA has also cited Bill Bobo’s late father, C.A. Bobo, for soring as well. Some things just run in the family.
The Tennessean published several stories about Bobo, not once mentioning his two-year suspension and what prompted it. If the paper wrote a slew of profiles on Sammy Sosa, you’d think that at least once it would have detailed how the player was caught using a corked bat. And corking a baseball bat is hardly on the same moral plane as abusing an animal. Ironically, The Tennessean has a proud history of shining the light on this infamous industry, detailing the practices of soring.
When asked about whether The Tennessean should have reported his past suspension, Bill Bobo replied, “Why should they?” Bobo said that he contested the USDA’s charges and that “I hadn’t, as far as I know, shown a sored horse.” Not once did Bobo ever talk about how much he loves horses and how he would never subject them to intense pain just to get them to walk differently. He chose instead to shoot the messenger. “You’re just a just a troublemaker. You’re just a trash mongerer. Don’t call me no more.”
Last week, The Tennessean ran a house ad directing readers to a feature on its Web site. “Before you dash out the door, a glance at Tennessean.com’s real-time traffic cams can help you steer clear of those pesky log-jams that can wreak havoc with your schedule, your fuel economy and your disposition,” it said. So, you wonder, the morning daily has installed its own cameras alongside local highways and interstates to monitor traffic just to benefit the paper’s Web users? Not quite. “Tennesseean.com’s real-time traffic cams” are actually the property of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). The paper’s site merely links to TDOT’s site. After an e-mail from Desperately Seeking the News to Tennessean publisher Leslie Giallombardo asking about the claim, the daily ran a new ad crediting TDOT. In any case, for all you bloggers out there, here’s an experiment: Tell your readers that you will be providing daily reports on the Tennessee Titans, and then link to the Tennessean sports page. See what happens. On second thought, don’t.
Recently, Desperately reported that City Press Publishing Inc., which is run by Scene founders Bruce Dobie and Albie Del Favero, had filed a lawsuit against Herbert Fox, the founding editor of the socialite publication Nfocus. City Press Publishing had been publishing the glossy magazine for nearly 10 years and owns a stake in it. Now Del Favero would like to exercise a contractual option to own a majority of the magazine and perhaps buy out Fox and the rest of the paper’s richer-than-rich shareholders.
Fox, however, apparently disputes that interpretation of the contract, and he’s not going to go down quietly. He has retained some pretty good counsel to represent himnone other than former Watergate prosecutor Jim Neal, along with David Bridgers, of the prestigious Neal & Harwell. In a storied legal career, Neal has defended Ford Motor Company, Exxon and, now, Nfocus.