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Oregon's Wallowa County is suffering

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Dear HCN:

Had reporter Kathie Durbin been more thorough in her examination of the facts (about the hanging in effigy in Joseph, Ore., of two environmentalists (HCN, 11/14/94), she would have discovered the unemployment rate in Wallowa County is nearly twice as high as she erroneously reported in her exposé on our ugly little town. Her mistake was in not including the 68 workers who lost their jobs in October when the R-Y Timber sawmill in Joseph shut down. According to the Oregon Employment Division, the unemployment rate adjusted for the mill closure is 9.4 percent, not 5.3 percent. That gives Wallowa County the distinction of having the highest unemployment rate of any county in Oregon.

The error is compounded when it leads the reporter to the faulty assumption the local economy is "robust." That may be the view from the ivory towers of Portland or Paonia, Colo., but is a long way from reality in Joseph, Ore., population 1,000, which has lost two sawmills and 120 jobs in six months.

By the way, the name of the county commissioner quoted is Ben Boswell, not Bob. As journalists we all have our biases and sometimes they show up in print. That is to be expected. However, there is no substitute for accuracy.

Rick Swart

Enterprise, Oregon

The writer is editor of the Wallowa County Chieftain.

Dear Rick,

I resent the ivory tower crack. In the early 1980s, this town lost 600 out of 700 coal mining jobs and half the houses emptied out.

Accuracy is important. But so is a moral standard. Even a mock lynching is inexcusable.

Ed Marston, HCN publisher

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