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.


Kent Alberty is one of my people. But even I have to cock an eyebrow at his characterization of the Sioux Falls School District's successful invasion and annexation of a new housing development near 12th Street and Ellis Road.

The new Cherry Lake Reserve Subdivision is in the West Central School District, but most of the homebuyers want to send their kids to Sioux Falls. Rather than just letting the kids open-enroll, Sioux Falls got West Central to agree to give up the land under a twenty-year sliding tax-share agreement. West Central gets tax money from the land for now, but by 2035, all the property taxes from the land go to Sioux Falls.

Steve Dick, West Central School Board president, said he voted for the original agreement even though it could mean taking a financial hit in the long run.

Dick guesses his district eventually might lose more than $100 million in taxable residential property because of the boundary change.

“In a perfect world, we would keep the property,” Dick said. “It’s a lot of valuation that you would hate to see go away.”

The tax-sharing plan offers a balance, appeasing families without completely cutting West Central off from the financial benefits of a growing part of the city, Alberty said.

“It’s a win-win for both school districts,” Alberty said [Patrick Anderson, "S.F. District Might Absorb West-Side Area," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.11.11].

Kent, my friend, win-win overstates the situation. Sioux Falls wins. West Central doesn't lose as much as quickly as it could have. Sioux Falls is gentler than Russia in the Crimea and Donetsk, but the Ukranians in West Central are still losing.


Dakota War College lurches toward the weekend seeing two of its favorite Republican legislators losing Republican endorsements to their Democratic counterparts. Three high-profile former Republican legislators are endorsing District 10 Senate Democratic candidate Michael Schultz over DWC pin-up Rep. Jenna Haggar. Schultz's résumé is far deeper than Haggar's, including his time as mayor of Brandon. And the three Republicans picking his experience over Haggar's conservative cheerleader act are no lightweights: they are former Sioux Falls mayor Dave Munson, former U.S. Marshall and South Dakota Highway Patrol chief Gene Abdallah, and former teacher and principal Jan Nicolay. Munson, Nicolay, and Abdallah each represented Haggar's district in Pierre, and they say Schultz represents the "Strong—Stable—Effective" choice for District 10 today.

I reported last night that District 16 Senate Democratic candidate Ann Tornberg is posting endorsements from registered Republicans and high-profile Dakota Dunes neighbors of GOP Senator Dan Lederman. And hey, this morning, here come two more!

Friebergs for Tornberg 20141031

Wow—add to those endorsements to West River Republican Pat Trask's repudiation of Mike Rounds this week, and could we be seeing a trend of Republicans trading the Powers/Wadhams-style politics for smart, qualified candidates and good government?


Mike Huether has waded into the snowplows-for-Jesus debate; I guess I have to, too.

The City of Sioux Falls let some school kids paint their snowplows. Naturally, some Lutheran kids painted happy Jesus messages (along with one improperly cited Bible verse). The Siouxland Freethinkers suggested religious messages on public equipment is inappropriate. The city lawyers said, "Ah, you may have a point" and asked the kids to repaint the plows.

Then Mayor Mike Huether comes barreling in for some wrongheaded grandstanding:

"I don't want to repaint over those snowplows," Huether said. "To me, we should repaint over all of them at the same time and that's at the end of the snow season."

Huether told me that he hoped to bring together the schools, the Siouxland Freethinkers and city officials to find a compromise.

But Huether seemed adamant that the plow blades wouldn't be removed.

"We are not going to be painting over those plow blades. We will not be painting over them unless I get some Supreme Court case that says that I have to," Huether said.

Heuther is also reluctant to suggest changes to the "Paint the Plows" program for fear of trampling on the First Amendment rights of participating schools.

"That's one of the things we're struggling with," said Huether. "How do we move forward and still allow people to have freedom of expression?" [Greg Belfrage, "Huether: 'We Are Not Painting Over Plow Blades'," KELO-AM Radio, 2014.10.28]

Mayor Huether, we are not talking about First Amendment rights of participating schools. No one has a right to paint messages on public equipment... although if that's what you're positing, don't let Ryan Gaddy and Annette Bosworth near City Hall. The city invites schools to decorate snowplows. The city has complete control of the forum and the content participants post, just as it asserts control over what people can say and when they can say it at City Council meetings. The city has an obligation (which it failed to fulfill in this case) to establish and explain clear criteria for the use of the privilege of decorating snowplows.

Imagine if some smart kids had painted "Vote for Rick Weiland" or "Hillary 2016" on the plows. The city would have shut that noise down right away. We have laws restricting the use of public resources for such politicking.

Better yet, imagine if some Muslim kids painted "Allahu Akbar!" on a plow. Let Greg Belfrage see that holy cry bearing down on him in his rearview mirror, and he'll get why some of us would prefer the city not be toting giant Jesus messages around on its equipment.

Mayor Huether, the city messed up. Instead of acting like Mike Rounds, how about 'fessing up to your error, owning the problem, and saying you'll do better at teaching kids about the First Amendment in full next time around?


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 If you want a wilder more interactive experience, you can tune in via 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!


Gun Nut Shelley Gidding is throwing an NRA fundraiser in Sioux Falls next week. No, really, she calls herself a Gun Nut.

A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League holds a launch party Thursday, October 9, 6–9 p.m., at Prairie Berry in Sioux Falls. Yes, Prairie Berry, because what goes better with firearms than alcohol? The launch party will include a raffle, proceeds of which go not to the club but to the NRA Women's Network... which doesn't seem to need much in the way of donations, since, like the entire "A Girl and a Gun" national organization, it is sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Gidding has had this project in the works since last spring, after attending the national conference of the "A Girl and a Gun Women's Shooting League (also sponsored by Smith & Wesson).

Shelley and her husband Caleb write a lot about guns on Gun Nuts Media, their shooting sports news site... also sponsored by Smith & Wesson.

Hang on, I'm having trouble telling the difference between this shooting league launch and a Pampered Chef sales meeting.

But hey! Have some wine, and help Smith & Wesson sell more product.




In a victory for private property rights and unhurried home improvement, friend of justice and blogs Bruce Danielson has beaten code violation charges brought against him by crabby neighbors and the city of Sioux Falls.

Evidently Danielson has been taking his time renovating his house and has a lot of construction material stockpiled in his yard. A neighbor climbed a ladder to take photos of Danielson's stash over his six-foot fence, and the city took the position that children playing near Danielson's property could be harmed by varmints who could take up residence in the construction materials.

Judge Joni Cutler didn't buy it: she said the city failed to show that Danielson's junk really was fostering varmints. By the city's logic, police should have arrested open-carry advocates for creating a public nuisance during their July 2013 armed march up Minnesota Avenue, because their guns could have harmed somebody.

Now let's see if Danielson can prove that he shouldn't have to pay fines for parking an RV on his own property.


Just when you thought the Libertarian brand could suffer no greater damage, police arrest Emmett Reistroffer for raising hell at Eastgate Towing:

When officers arrived they found Emmett Reistroffer, a Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State.

His car was towed to the lot because of unpaid parking tickets; police say Reistroffer insisted the company had no right to tow it.

He's charged with a misdemeanor charge of unlawful occupancy ["Candidate Charged with Misdemeanor,", 2014.09.10].

Don't worry, Emmett. I'm sure your fellow "Libertarian" Chad Haber will be happy to lend you a car. Maybe he can use his awesome political fundraising skills to guilt some gullible Christians to buy you a campaign car.

But maybe Reistroffer has done us all a favor. His arrest puts the lie to the candidate immunity theory that arose last May when Attorney General Marty Jackley said would not arrest or prosecute anyone who is on the ballot, for fear of interfering in an election. Reistroffer is on the ballot. Are Sioux Falls police interfering with an election by arresting him and subjecting him to bad press? If it's o.k. for Sioux Falls police to arrest a Secretary of State candidate for getting hot when his car gets towed, is it o.k. for the U.S. Attorney or the state Attorney General to perp walk a Senatorial candidate for aiding and abetting fraud and violations of state law?

Or maybe Reistroffer has shown us that the "standard practice though not an ironclad rule" of prosecutorial non-interference in elections only applies to the rich, big-name candidates and the candidates whom the powers that be think serve their agenda.


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