Scott Ehrisman reports that that Sioux Falls paper has axed several veteran reporters. I read the paper's own Sunday description of its newsroom changes and find a distressing absence of specifics on actual news activities. President and publisher Bill Albrecht and executive editor Maricarrol Kueter call their new senior management team "talented journalists," but the new functions they highlight seem to have less to do with journalism and more to do with marketing:

  1. Patrick Lalley is now called the "content strategist." That means he will "oversee the newsroom’s expanded content generation effort." That's not journalism; that's management. And journalists don't produce content; they write news.
  2. Cory Myers is now called the "consumer experience director." Myers "will study digital metrics and use audience feedback to assist reporters as they refine their approaches to their coverage beats," which sounds distressingly like training reporters to engineer their output with search engine optimization tricks rather than focusing on digging for good information, challenging authority, and writing great reports whose quality speaks for itself and enlightens the citizenry. And hey: we're not consumers; we are fellow citizens, for whom the Fourth Estate performs a vital function.
  3. Jodi Schwan is now an "audience analyst." Along with editing the Sioux Falls Business Journal, Schwan will "analyze audience metrics and market trends and work with marketing and advertising staffs as well as with the local news staff to identify opportunities for new products and new coverage approaches." This position is marketing, not journalism.

I know you can't walk into a meeting with corporate and say your plan for the paper is to do the best darn journalism in South Dakota. That's the kind of nutty talk you hear from some blogger who just slogs away writing one punchy, well-researched blog post after another and doesn't invest in SEO or marketing. You've got to tell corporate you've got new titles and metrics and strategies that will boost profits and Tweet-Klout X.Y%. And alas, it looks like you've got to make room for all sors of new positions and marketing strategies while spending less on real journalists practicing real journalism.

You do your business model, Bill and Maricarrol. I'll do mine. I look forward to comparing journalism-to-marketing ratios.

74 comments

I am outraged that Associated Press, that Sioux Falls paper, KSFY, CNN, NBC, and CBS have declared winners in South Dakota's mid-term election while citizens are still voting. So is Secretary of State Jason Gant:

SOS Jason Gant tweet, 2014.11.04.

SOS Jason Gant tweet, 2014.11.04.

CNN declared a winner while Shannon County voters were still voting, in violation of CNN's own election night projection policy.

Update: Secretary Gant expresses further outrage at other media, including Fox News, for breaching the public trust:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 20.49.03Another commenter mentions NPR is guilty, too... while KELO-AM's Greg Belfrage appalling decides to blame the election worker, not the media:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 20.50.37

144 comments

Larry Pressler is beating Mike Rounds 3–1 on newspaper endorsements. The Mitchell Daily Republic waits until the last minute (like how many of their readers?) to throw in with Lovable Larry. They like his commitment, moderation, and one-term promise.

What don't they like about they other three? The editors shrug off Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie with a vague wave at their "ideologies." But like the Rapid City Journal, they nuke Mike Rounds very specifically on the issue that Republicans have insisted doesn't really matter—EB-5:

But we've not been impressed with Rounds' responses -- or lack thereof, at times -- to requests for more information on things like EB-5, or even for his presence at debates [editorial board, "Pressler Best Candidate in Senate Race," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.11.04].

It seems Republicans have been working really hard to say EB-5 doesn't matter because they know it can matter. We've seen it matter explicitly in four newspaper indictments of Rounds's fitness for office (see also Mobridge Tribune and Yankton County Observer). Even Rounds's hometown paper, in endorsing him, had to acknowledge that "significant questions remain."

EB-5 matters. And no matter who wins tonight, EB-5 will continue to matter as we continue to investigate what Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Marty Jackley, and other state officials knew, when they knew it, and why they didn't act to stop the corruption that was happening under their noses.

20 comments

Mike Rounds gets one newspaper endorsement, from his hometown Pierre Capital Journal. The editorial board in our capital tepidly defaults to experience on every statewide ballot line. They excuse Rounds thus:

We are well aware of the ongoing federal investigation into the EB-5 mess, and although significant questions remain, the experience Rounds brings outweighs any negatives from that issue ["Our Endorsements," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.11.03].

They darn Rep. Kristi Noem with similar faint praise:

Republican incumbent Kristi Noem has more experience than Democrat Corinna Robinson and gets our endorsement. However, our board shares fairly broad agreement across party lines that Noem is a lackluster performer in the U.S. House, standing for non-controversial causes such as the move to stop human trafficking (as though anyone would take the other side of that issue) or predictable Midwest causes such as the farm bill – legislation from which her own family’s farm operation harvests plenty in taxpayer subsidies, as a letter elsewhere on this page observes. Noem deserves credit for taking a strong stand for conservation provisions in that bill, however [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Even tough decider Governor Dennis Daugaard gets a bit of ho-hum from his closest monitors:

While we cannot see a great many accomplishments, we don’t see very much to fault him for, either [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

The only exception to the Pierre editors' safe embrace of company-town incumbency comes in the District 24 Senate race, where they reject Republican Senator Jeff Monroe's low-achieving in favor of trying something new and Democratic:

Our recommendation: We favor the Democratic candidate, Ruth Rehn, over the incumbent Republican, Jeff Monroe. The consensus on our editorial board is that, just as Rehn is contending, Monroe has not been very effective in his latest stint in the Legislature. Ruth Rehn is not the first to draw attention to this point. It was also the point of attack for Monroe’s fellow Republican in the primary, former lawmaker Tad Perry, who emphasized his success in getting legislation passed as the main difference between him and Monroe. The point still holds. We think it is time to give someone else a try and see if another candidate is better at getting thoughtful legislation enacted for South Dakota and District 24 [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Like Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Jeff Monroe posts dangerous and dumb Glenn-Beck-karaoke bills that get in the way of practical lawmaking to do real good for all South Dakotans. The Pierre Capital Journal appears to recognize the importance of results... but only when the candidate is not a big-name statewide star. But the paper is at least showing a spark of critical thinking. Keep heading down that path, Pierre!

10 comments

Photographer and freethinker Jered Dawnne of Sioux Falls started the Thinking Unenslaved podcast in 2010. He took a break in 2011 after 22 episodes. Tomorrow night, Wednesday, October 29, he's back, relaunching what he hopes will be a fascinating series of conversations:

Thinking Unenslaved is a weekly podcast from the perspective of a secular humanist living and working among the people of the Northern Midwestern United States. The intent of the show is to foster dialogue to bring an understanding of the need and purpose of humanistic and secular concepts into the mainstream for a better world. Naturally, political and sociological concerns are the primary focus of the show, but subject matter also delves into religion, agnosticism, atheism and related topics from time to time. Frequent participants on the show come from all walks of life, so every episode is a unique experience [Jered Dawnne, personal communication, 2014.10.27].

Dialogue, understanding, secular concepts, political and sociological concerns... hey! Sounds like my kind of program! So much so that Dawnne is inviting me to join him for a segment of tomorrow night's two-hour show. Thinking Unenslaved runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Jered plans to have me on right after the big KELO Senate debate, which is supposed to wrap up at 8 p.m.

Dawnne will also chat program sponsor and Siouxland Freethinkers member Josh Tordsen, as well as high-powered Democratic consultant turned Sioux Falls kaffeemeister Steve Hildebrand.

If technology cooperates, you can listen live on http://unenslaved.com/live-show/. If you want a wilder more interactive experience, you can tune in via http://mixlr.com/thinking-unenslaved. that site will have a chat room! But if you find yourself too drowsy after playing the Mike Rounds "South Dakota Common Sense!" drinking game during the KELO debate, you'll be able to download the podcast to cure your hangover in the morning. Live or recorded, you should find Dawnne's conversations great fun!

48 comments

The Washington Post has already picked up today's big story about Mike Rounds's admission that he knew his economic development chief Richard Benda was planning to cash in on the EB-5 funded Northern Beef Packers project that he and Rounds had promoted and did not question that conflict of interest. "New Development in Scandal Dogging Mike Rounds Could Spell More Trouble," headlines WaPo for all those national readers and potential donors. Dogging... more trouble... thank you, sir, may I please have another?

But now I see why some of my readers were initially so grouchy about that Sioux Falls paper's coverage of the story. The original headline posted online overnight* and on the printed front page is "Benda 'Misled' Me, Says Rounds."

That Sioux Falls paper, clip from front page of print edition, 2014.10.22

That Sioux Falls paper, clip from front page of print edition, 2014.10.22

At some point this morning, the editorial board realized the bigger story was not Rounds's continued effort to blame the dead guy (on the first anniversary of Governor Dennis Daugaard's get-ahead-of-the-story announcement that Richard Benda had been found dead of a gunshot wound), but Rounds's admission of silent complicity in Benda's (and Bollen's!) $550,000 gambit. "Rounds knew of Benda conflict in final days of term," reads the updated headline.

Dear readers, I'm interested to hear what you think of that Sioux Falls paper's evolving editorial position on this story.

Bonus Legs: As October Surprises keep rolling, KELO's Ben Dunsmoor wakes up and offers a one-sentence scoop: the FBI is still investigating South Dakota's EB-5 program.

*Update 17:08 CDT: Mr. Montgomery tells me the web headline hasn't changed since posted the story to his blog section of the paper's website last night. But just after midnight, someone at the copy desk posted the Benda-focused headline:

Earlier online headline, screen cap of Google Cache version of Montgomery's Rounds-Benda story, 2014.10.22 00:24 CDT

Earlier online headline, screen cap of Google Cache version of Montgomery's Rounds-Benda story, 2014.10.22 00:24 CDT

That's the version folks were sending me at breakfast. That online version has gone poof, leaving only the print world thinking the main point of the story is that Benda was naughty.

77 comments

Another South Dakota newspaper editor throws the B.S. flag at Republican Senate candidate Mike Rounds on the EB-5 scandal:

Brian J. Hunhoff, editorial cartoon, Yankton County Observer, 2014.10.17

Brian J. Hunhoff, editorial cartoon, Yankton County Observer, 2014.10.17

YCO editor Brian J. Hunhoff pens the above cartoon to accompany an editorial giving South Dakota a failing grade on open government. Hunhoff says Rounds's blame-dodging exemplifies our opaque government and insults the voters:

The blame-dodging by former Gov. Mike Rounds would be entertaining if it wasn’t so troubling. Of course, Rounds wants to keep his $9 million Senate campaign afloat, but he looks foolish denying any responsibility for a scandal that occurred on his watch. Many of his excuses insult our state’s collective intelligence.

Rounds’ arrogance was apparent in his refusal to appear in person before the impotent Government Operations and Audit Committee. His defensiveness was revealed in snarky written answers to questions about EB-5. His sloppiness was evident after one key response was quickly proved untrue and he asked to change his answer [Brian J. Hunhoff, "State Still Earning Bad Grades in Open Government," Yankton County Observer, 2014.10.17].

The Yankton County Observer echoes the disdain for Rounds that the Mobridge Tribune registered last week with Katie Zerr's indictment of Mike Rounds's dishonesty. How many more South Dakota newspapers will have the courage to deem Mike Rounds unworthy of South Dakota's trust.

18 comments

Rick Weiland wins more pretty good national press. Bloomberg sends filmmaker Griffin Hammond to shoot this lovely five-and-a-half-minute snapshot of the South Dakota Senate race. The video revolves around the stirring Weiland narrative. On the side, it shows Pressler as the earnest Independent, Howie as the typical Tea Partier, and Rounds, the once frontrunner, as, well, smiley but unexceptional and uninspiring.

"From Peever to Pukwana to Pringle"—that should be the header on every Weiland ad, letter, banner, and bumper sticker.

7 comments

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