Forbes Journalist Fired After Reporting the Truth About Cliven Bundy

Fallout from the Cliven Bundy affair continues to reverberate in a myriad of ways: Right-wing talk shows hosts have retreated; paranoid rumors appear to be tearing apart the antigovernment militia folk still hanging out at the Bundy ranch; and a well-respected reporter has been unexpectedly and inexplicably dropped by a mainstream outlet. After writing a piece titled “Federal Grazing Program in Bundy Dispute Rips Off Taxpayers, Wild Horses,” which appeared on the Forbes website, journalist Vickery Eckhoff was cut loose from her writing gig with the magazine.

In a blog entry headlined “Cliven Bundy Ended My Forbes Gig,” Eckhoff writes that while she’s “not quite sure why” she was let go, she assumes that it was no coincidence that she was dumped some 10 hours after the piece appeared on the Forbes website.

Eckhoff notes: “A few people have suggested it may be on account of Steve Forbes keeping cattle on his New Jersey estate to reduce his property taxes. Others have mentioned Forbes' partnership with Fox News.”

Why the editors at Forbes decided she was no longer wanted as a contributor is a mystery. Some of her previous articles included: “Is Your K-Y Jelly Cruelty-Free? Do You Care?”; “Racing Industry Silent About Slaughtered Thoroughbreds”; and “WSJ Serves Up Tainted Journalism On Horse Slaughter Plate.”

Eckhoff's work appears in a number of major media outlets. Some of the topics she covers are, as she describes, “the horse industry, particularly racing, breeding, responsible ownership and the political and industry forces that are working to open horse slaughterhouses again in the US.”

Eckhoff’s firing came the night before she was scheduled to speak at the American Equine Summit. (The topic of her presentation was titled “Disinformation in the Media”—it can be seen here.)

According to Eckhoff, the Forbes piece “got the largest audience in a single day of any article I’ve ever written. I think it’s now up to 22,000 views.” (As of Sunday, May 4, the piece had received over 33,000 views.) Her story “picks up on the Cliven Bundy story and it looks at the consequences to the federal grazing program for taxpayers and wild horses."

In announcing her firing to the audience at the American Equine Summit, Eckhoff said she’s had “a very great platform” at Forbes, and that she was able “to introduce animal industries as not just a human interest story, but as a political story, as an economic story, as a food safety story, as an environmental story.”

Eckhoff’s American Equine Summit presentation begins with her citing two of Mark Twain’s statements about the power and ownership of the media: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper you’re misinformed,” and “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

Among the many interesting points she makes in her presentation is that “disinformation” is driven by a set of mainstream “media values.” She points out that “everybody loves animal stories,” and unfortunately, the media believes anyone can write them, regardless of their lack of expertise, scientific background or familiarity with the subject. Fact checking is lax, “corrections and retractions are discretionary.” The desire to get the story out first is paramount. In addition, she points out that “animal advocates [are] mistrusted as sources unless [they represent] national welfare groups”; “Industry spokespeople [are] viewed as trustworthy.”

On her blog, Eckhoff explained that her Forbes piece basically “covered some of the same territory Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, and Jon Stewart addressed for millions of viewers. The only difference is that mine exposed why the grazing program was not only a bad deal for taxpayers, but [also for] wild horses. Oh, and I got the boot while they got ratings!”

She pointed out that in her two-year experience at Forbes, she had “never been challenged on a single fact.”

Why Eckhoff was fired remains a mystery.

She pledges to “continue writing on this topic, aiming for a more mainstream news audience, to reach the kinds of readers who really care about their taxes being wasted by the federal government on wild horse roundups and a grazing program that damages public lands at the public’s expense. One would think this was right up Forbes’ alley — the story appeared in its ‘Taxes’ section — but, apparently ... no.”

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