Far-reaching issue

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One of my regular assignments is as the rodeo correspondent for the Kansas City Star. A week ago, I got a message from the assistant sports editor about a metro section story on steer roping and the American Royal rodeo. The editor asked me pointedly, “Is this a controversy you’re familiar with?”

I wasn’t familiar with any controversy because I wasn’t aware that the American Royal had ever had steer roping. So I did a little investigating, and I found a blog post from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, chastising the American Royal. Apparently, a reporter for the Star bought into PETA’s report and found information she believed was worth a story.

Unfortunately the editors bought into the reporter’s claim, too, and a story about a non-story was published earlier this week. Here are the facts: Steer roping is not and has not been part of the American Royal; the Prairie Circuit Steer Roping Finals took place in Bucyrus, Kan., from 2007-2009, at the same time the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo was taking place during the American Royal.

The last time either circuit finals event took place in the Kansas City area was two Octobers ago.

I visited with the editor in charge, who claimed the “controversy” is what made it a story, but the “controversy” is a PETA- and SHARK-induced fight that really isn’t a controversy. Not only that, but there is no timeliness in this “story.” PETA found a patsy in the reporter and got just what it wanted, a story published in a large newspaper about a non issue.

In talking to the editor in charge, I realize that he was being supportive of his reporter. That’s commendable. He suggested that since steer roping isn’t at all rodeos that the controversy exists. That might be true, but until the PRCA made it mandatory, team roping wasn’t at all rodeos either. There is no controversy in team roping; in fact, it’s one of the largest participatory sports in all rodeo-related activities.

Still, the editor allowed a non-issue to serve as a “controversial” story with the headline “American Royal rodeo gets dragged into tussle over steer roping.”

The Kansas City Star dragged the American Royal into the tussle. The newspaper should report the news not fabricate it.

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Lori OHarver / October 20, 2011

Letter to the Editor time. If all our media sources have to account for is publishing controversy, perhaps in~house offices at PETA & SHARK are in order.

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