Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer: Sheriff story missed the mark


Brent Boyer

Contact Editor Brent Boyer at 871-4221 or e-mail

— Last week I used this space to defend the importance of journalism education and how it teaches aspiring reporters and editors to, among other things, “be fair, accurate and accountable; think critically; and display good news judgment.”

Today, I am using this same space to take responsibility for a recently published article in which I believe we fell short of those journalistic standards.

In Sunday’s Pilot & Today, a front-page article titled “Sheriff works to overhaul agency” presented a one-sided account of the operation of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office under former leader Gary Wall versus that of current Sheriff Garrett Wiggins.

There were several problems with the article, including:

■ Unsubstantiated allegations of potentially criminal activity by unnamed Sheriff’s Office employees, insinuated to be a result of Wall’s lack of oversight. This occurred when we reported that some $400 in money and the contents of a bag containing a white powdery substance were missing from the Sheriff’s Office evidence room. We provided no additional information about the nature of that case or when it was filed and investigated.

■ While the story allowed Wiggins and Undersheriff Ray Birch to describe the Sheriff’s Office they inherited as having no structure, accountability or procedure, it didn’t point out, for example, that Wiggins himself was criticized by an audit of the All Crimes Enforcement Team that he used to command for a lack of proper procedures and controls, including how it oversaw money used in drug buys.

■ The wording of the caption on the front-page photo served to further the attack on Wall’s administration. The caption read: “Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and his Undersheriff Ray Birch say they have been putting in 60- to 70-hour workweeks in order to shore up the office they took charge of Jan. 11.” The implication is that Wiggins and Birch inherited a disaster, but the article provides little in the way of specifics about what, if anything, was wrong with the existing operation of the Sheriff’s Office.

■ The most glaring issue with the article was our negligence in even attempting to contact Wall, his undersheriff or anyone else to respond to some of the harsh criticisms of his tenure. Without providing Wall a chance to fairly defend his policies and actions as sheriff, the article amounted to a one-sided attack against him.

This newspaper employs a team of talented and hard-working reporters, photographers and editors who are committed to fair and accurate journalism. We failed in that regard with Sunday’s story. An article that intended to update the community on the new sheriff’s first couple of months in office instead turned into an opportunity for critics of Wall to pile on. Worse yet, it made it through our editing filters and into the newspaper. Wall deserves better from us. Our readers deserve better from us. And we expect better from ourselves. 

Brent Boyer is editor of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He can be reached at 970-871-4221 or


beverly lemons 6 years, 1 month ago

Thank You, Brent. The publication of this "retraction" displays the integrity the original article completely lacked. Gary Wall may not have been a great Sheriff, but Wiggins is a nightmare. (in my opinion)


CONative 6 years, 1 month ago

I really appreciate your comments, Brent. You have restored my faith in the integrity of the Pilot.


seeuski 6 years, 1 month ago

So, why not provide the results of your Pilot investigation into the points noted above? I am sure you have done that by now instead of just walking the whole story back and now piling on Wiggins for the pro Wall crowd. Realistically, no ones opinion of Wall or Wiggins would be changed by the original story, we lived through the Wall tenure and while I am sure he is a decent man he was a less then decent Sheriff.


Scott Wedel 6 years, 1 month ago

Brent, Good job in recognizing errors.

I suggest it would be a better procedure when correcting an online article would be for the correction notice to very specifically describe the original error. For example, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times will say something like: "Correction: The original article described Bob Boyer as the editor of the Steamboat Today. His name is Brent Boyer".

The relevance of a specific correction is then if someone says "Bob Boyer" then it is clear it was written by someone that had read the original uncorrected article.

Seesuki, The correction is not a hit job on Wiggins. It does not state that Wiggins is doing a bad job. It is simply stating that the suggestions of severe problems under Wall lacked supporting evidence in the article. Maybe there was no structure under Wall, but for an article to make that statement should require some clear examples.

The current Sheriff is highly likely to be the subject of many more future articles than the former Sheriff. A better level of journalism will probably benefit him since he would not like an article about his dept to contain the same sort of errors that were in this article.


ftpheide 6 years, 1 month ago

Is their money and a "white powdery substance" missing from the evidence room? Was Matt's source for this information an "Authority"? The Pilot always accepts the opinion of an "Authority" as printable fact. Why should this article be handled differently.


pitpoodle 6 years, 1 month ago

There have been many articles with the same sort of problem. Articles that should be intended to inform the community (some with regard to council races) instead turned into an opportunity for the Pilot to use misinformation (some from the opposing candidate no less) to damage a candidate's chances of election. I recall a recent headline that called a candidate "polarizing" with no apparent reference to this judgment in the article. Don't forget your pro-SB 700 articles that were completely misleading regarding water resources and cost to the residents in your effort to support the Council and sway voters. Editing filters? Hopefully, there are editing filters although you can't tell it from reading the articles.

Your readers do deserve better from you. And we hope you mean what you said today. I won't hold my breath.


freerider 6 years, 1 month ago

The sherriff's office is a sore subject that's for sure

We had two candidate's with bad resume's to choose from

It's too bad that Steamboat had a chance to elect Nick Bosick and we got Wiggins

Talk about missing the mark


jerry carlton 6 years, 1 month ago

The good news is that the new Undersheriff has not wrecked a county car in Utah on some questionable errand. Also the new Sheriff has not been arrested for DUI because of a conspiracy by the State Patrol. Nice to have law enforcement getting along.


Fred Duckels 6 years, 1 month ago

I felt that the story about workers not getting paid on the Irish pub might need some scrutiny too. Construction is a rough game and participants need to be wary, A conviction in the media is not a solution.


kathy foos 6 years, 1 month ago

It seems a strange thing to comb the evidence locker sorting and snooping into things, that occured a very long time ago, in many cases.The offenders have settled up with the law, paid with money or time served, for the debt to society that they owed.Paid in full , free people now, deserving of privacy.E1xcept for the current cases being tried,it shouldnt be a museum for the curious.If they are trying to find something to charge a previous offfical with,as in missing money and cocaine,couldn't it have been any number of individuals that had access to the room over these many years and not necessarily the last one.I dont think it should be law enforcement that cares for the room.Someone independent of that department should do the work.Someone uninvolved to be fair.It would be sad to think that examinations by people now, could incubate future investigations in any way. Nice retraction Pilot,except it should read ,correction: Alot of toes stepped on on your part,but just slow down I guess.Quality not quantity,Im glad you did the right thing and came clean.When I first read it it remeinded me of the feeling of reading the enquirer,like REALLY? Like Al Whites wife being appointed in his place,(nepitism),or Obama going to war in Libyia without congressional permission,or even Obama not showing his birth certificate.


dave mcirvin 6 years, 1 month ago

Gary Wall, we miss you & Mr. Bustos. Thank you and your staff for their service.

Anyone who actually discussed issues with them, face to face, comprehend how earnest and genuinely concerned they were and are.


ftpheide 6 years, 1 month ago

The article on 3/19/11 didn't state when the last know inventory, of the evidence room, was completed. Most businesses do yearly inventories. Not all of the "offenders" are convicted. Many times the evidence needs to be returned. People have complained about not having all of their personal belongings returned. It was never stated that the "white powdery substance" was cocaine. Employing an independent company, to store and over see the evidence, sounds like a good idea. It would eliminate all of that "snooping". This company would also resolve accountability issues. As Sun stated "someone uninvolved to be fair."


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