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Dunsmoor and Jorgenson Fail Own Forum Standards, Show Bias Toward Rounds

Last night's KELO Senate debate was an example of substandard political journalism by South Dakota's broadcast media. Moderators Ben Dunsmoor and Don Jorgensen failed to live up to their own promised format, to manage the debate fairly, or to ask any probing follow-up questions of the candidates.

Jorgensen and Dunsmoor opened the show by promising something different from the usual debate format. They promised a free-flowing conversation, with time limits only on the opening and closing statements. They said they would intervene if candidates got off track. They said they would jump in to move the conversation along and ask follow-up questions.

No such forum happened. We got the usual debate format: question, responses and rebuttals in pre-determined order. The conversation never flowed freely. On one occasion when Howie tried to challenge Rounds out after the usual rebuttal cycle, Dunsmoor cut him off and moved mechanically to the next question on his list. There were no follow-up questions.

Jorgensen engaged in no watchdoggery of "off-track" answers. Amidst a sea of evasion from Rounds, Dunsmoor remained silent and reserved his interruptions for Howie. Consider the EB-5 question. Rounds mentioned EB-5 specifically for maybe the first ten seconds of his response, then went off on a complete tangent about needing to review every federal program. He reverted to his standard rants about ObamaCare and Keystone XL, programs that have nothing to do with the merits of EB-5. Dunsmoor, who has been KELO's EB-5 hawk, made not one peep and let the Governor ramble unleashed away from the question.

But on the next question about Keystone XL, Dunsmoor jumped all over Howie. Our friend Gordon gave a concise answer: he believes the pipeline will be a net gain for the state. He then tried to invoke the "free-flowing" spirit of the conversation with a smart segue: he said we're having trouble passing Keystone XL because we have trouble believing our leaders on the pipeline details. Howie then tried to turn back to Rounds's dismissal of his EB-5 attacks as mere falsehoods. I believe Howie tried to invoke the stunning revelation that Rounds's campaign manager, Rob Skjonsberg, used his government position to send government to a corporation in his investment portfolio. Dunsmoor interrupted Howie and said the question was about Keystone XL.

That moment demonstrated a clear bias on the part of the moderators. Dunsmoor didn't dare interrupt the frontrunner Republican on a clear evasion, but he stopped the Independent Howie from trying to follow the stated format of the program.

In a violation of common debate protocol, KELO gave the candidates a heads-up on the hardest question of the night. As they headed into the first commercial break, Dunsmoor said they'd be asking about EB-5 next. Dunsmoor at least was fair in giving all four candidates a minute or so of prep time for the question, but the point of a debate is to see the candidates thinking on their feet, not giving them time to rehearse their talking points off-camera. Dunsmoor ignored that debate protocol and instead played standard "stay tuned!" showmanship.

Dunsmoor and Jorgensen also chose and framed their questions poorly. The EB-5 question—whether candidates would support the federal-level review called for by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley—avoided prbing for answers to questions about South Dakota's EB-5 program. KELO biased the Keystone XL question by phrasing it in terms of a poll showing 60% of South Dakotans say they support the pipeline. In the biggest journalistic error, Dunsmoor floated a question on restrictions on assault weapons and large magazine. Guns have not floated to the surface as a pressing issue in this Senate campaign. Compared to EB-5, Keystone XL, the Affordable Care Act, or the Farm Bill, gun issues have little impact on South Dakota's daily well-being or our ability to distinguish the candidates' trustworthiness. Yet Dunsmoor wasted precious minutes on this question, crowding out time for more relevant discussion. When Dunsmoor squeezed in that last question about the ACA, he cut candidates off at 30 seconds and allowed no rebuttals.

This forum was better than nothing. We should appreciate KELO for giving up this smidgeon of prime-time ad revenue (although programming against Game 7 of the World Series, how much did KELO really lose?). And Don Jorgensen is cute to look at. But KELO failed to deliver the unique format, journalistic inquiry, and fairness that they promised with this forum.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.10.30

    Didn't Jorgensen have a little black moustache at one time? I kinda remember him from Kelo-TV back before I got satellite and lost Sioux Falls stations. Oh yeah,I remember Joan Russell,too. Boy do I remember Joan. Kristie VerMulm anyone?

  2. Tim 2014.10.30

    There are many reasons why SD voters are low care, low info. The republican controlled media is just one of them.

  3. jerry 2014.10.30

    Can you just imagine how bad it would have been for rounds if the moderators would have kept their word? I thought ole
    Gordo was gonna get up and slap the smile off rounds mug. He looked pissed off for sure when rounds insinuated that Howie was not being truthful. Now that would have been entertaining.

  4. 96Tears 2014.10.30

    Watching Dunsmoor and Jorgenson perform last night, I wondered how much control Lawrence & Schiller has over Keloland corporation and its paper twin the Argus. No doubt Jorgenson is aware how much money is invested by the SDGOP's candidates during campaign season. As to Dunsmoor, is he in competition with David Montgomery for a staff job with Sen. Marion M. Rounds? Just kiddin' Ben!

    Somebody was pulling the boys' strings last night. Obviously, someone convinced them Rounds would be piled upon by the other three candidates. That was accurate. Rounds is a sleazy crook and the evidence is everywhere. He's also the front runner in a U.S. Senate race. Ethically, Jorgenson and Dunsmoor had no business being Rounds' shield.

    Rounds put himself in that situation by ducking debates, lying his ass off, withholding information on his racketeering activities and blistering his opponents with a mountain of ad money. Weiland had the best line last night pointing to Rounds, who looked like a sneering, smug Nixon on the defense, and declared the real Mike Rounds is finally coming out.

    Jorgenson and Dunsmoor were, at best, amateurish.

  5. Bill Fleming 2014.10.30

    96, was it just me, or did they also look scared sh*tless? And what's the deal with having two of them? The eye contact between them was kind of meta-creepy. Sort of like dressed up, grown up Beavis & Buttheads. Or maybe just Ole and Sven go to Washington.

  6. Bill Fleming 2014.10.30

    ...another key scene in the emerging EB-5/Fargo movie screenplay.

  7. Rich 2014.10.30

    Yes, I agree 96Tears, Jorgenson/Dunsmoor were amateurish at best and should never host a debate again.

  8. Lynn 2014.10.30

    Watching Keloland news is like watching an informercial for Sanford, Sanford Event Center, Avera and Sioux Falls. I wish they had separate commercials rather than trying to disguise it as news. Finally I stopped watching their 5,6 and 10 informercials.

  9. Erik 2014.10.30

    Lynn, I couldn't agree more. South Dakota news is infomercials and public service announcements, nothing more. Don't turn on the TV expecting hard-hitting, investigative journalism here.

  10. Les 2014.10.30

    I would say we should all fully appreciate as much as was given. Had this debate happened 2 months ago..........

  11. 96Tears 2014.10.30

    Bill, my thoughts exactly. They looked they just got chewed out by someone in power. Kind of sheepish and awkward. Something happened off screen during the debate or right before it started. Who's their boss these days at KELO?

  12. Bill Fleming 2014.10.30

    Mike Rounds. LOL

  13. 96Tears 2014.10.30

    Morning is nearly over and I haven't had my bowlful of grudz yet. Where is the curmudgeon today?

  14. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.30

    For much of the "debate", Rick was off screen when all the candidates were featured, was it just my television or was this intentional

  15. 96Tears 2014.10.30

    Poor camera placement, I think. I wondered about that too. The height and size difference between Jorgenson and Dunsmoor was distracting. Both should have been seated, or just have one host. The two of them standing made them appear untethered to the overall setup. I don't think the folks in the KELO studio had thought this out enough.

  16. Douglas Wiken 2014.10.30

    Bill's comment on the creepy eye contact was dead on. I saw that and wondered what the hell was going on. I also agree that both of them looked like scared kids. Whatever was their or their manager's intentions, Rounds took a beating.

  17. Lynn 2014.10.30

    Jorgenson/Dunsmoor perfomace last night would make good material for a SNL skit

  18. Francis Schaffer 2014.10.30

    It looked to me like Marion was looking to Jorgenson and Dunsmoor to stop Gordon Larry and Rick from presenting the facts about him!

  19. Gail Swenson 2014.10.30

    Just saw a little promo on KELO touting the fact that they are the only station with an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney as he campaigns with Marion today. I am sure the rest of you are as shocked as I am about that"breaking news"...

  20. Tom W 2014.10.30

    Cant wait to see the look on everyones faces next tuesday night when Rounds is the winner.

  21. jerry 2014.10.30

    How can you see the look on anyone's faces when you are so blind Tom W.

  22. Lynn 2014.10.30

    Tom W I wouldn't be surprised if Rounds wins. South Dakota has a history of voting for guys like Rounds. I did my part and voted a few weeks ago and hope there will be a enough voters who will wake up but we will wait and see.

    When I lived in the Twin Cities and people found out I was from SD they felt sorry for those who live here and looked at it as a redneck state, backwards and extreme with the bad press from the state's ban on abortion at the time. They held North Dakota in higher regard than South Dakota and this was before the oil boom with fracking.

  23. Bill Fleming 2014.10.30

    So, Tom W, send Cory a selfie right now.


    Because everybody can't wait to see the look on your face either!
    ( do have a face, right?)

  24. jerry 2014.10.30

    Tom W, I am thinking, if he wins or looses, it will be good to see him and his buddies arrested for fraud and other high crimes in this ongoing investigation. What did you think of the question Pressler asked your boy about the possible murder of Benda?

  25. Tom W 2014.10.30

    Dumbest question of the night!, MURDER? are you kidding me yeah right.

    ill send big CORY a selfie alright, either my middle finger or a big pile of #2

  26. JeniW 2014.10.30

    Tom, I look forward to seeing your face when you realize that Rounds is a hypocrite with a capital "H," and you voted for him.

  27. joeseph 2014.10.30

    now there is no where in the above message that states Tom W even votes.

  28. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.30

    Wow! Don't you all wish you could be as profound and literate as Tom W?

    As Larry Pressler has repeatedly stated in debates, if Mike Rounds wins this election he will be vetted by the senate and national media, Rounds maybe able to control KELO and the state's largest newspapers, but he will be able to control the New York Times and Washington Post.
    It is likely these two newspaper are looking into the Mike Rounds Eb-5 Scandal already.

  29. Tom W 2014.10.30

    i have an idea, why dont we have kathy tyler solve this case, she can "Bully" her way to the top!

  30. Bill Fleming 2014.10.30

    Pretty funny, Tom W— the guy who writes he's gonna send Cory a picture of his erect middle finger and/or the product of his recent bowel movement — brands Tyler a "bully." You can't make this stuff up.

    Hey Tom, never mind the selfie sonny, bring us all a sandwich!

    (...h/t Jana. Once again, thx for your quip... the gift that keeps on giving ;-)

  31. jerry 2014.10.30

    Tom W, no kidding at all. That was not the dumbest question of the night that is for sure, that was one that smart people tend to think about, unless, of course, you have seen the elusive autopsy. But alas, as you are not in the category described above, it is beyond your grasp.

  32. WayneF 2014.10.30

    Lynn and Bill,

    Your comments on last night's US Senate "debate" on KELO TV were right on target. Jorgenson and Dunsmoor came across as Beavis and Butthead. SNL skit material for sure.

    Would be funny if South Dakota could come up with somebody better than Thune, Noem, and Rounds to represent us in Washingtoon (not a typo).

    Wait! We do have alternatives! Rick Weiland! Corinna Robinson!

  33. JeniW 2014.11.01

    When Pressler and Round read today's Sioux Falls newspaper's Senate endorsement, were they surprised?

    The newspaper has endorsed Pressler.

    I was surprised, I thought for sure that Rounds would be endorsed. I have held all along that if the only choice we had was Rounds or Pressler, I would vote for Pressler. I, of course, voted for Rick.

    Alas, the newspaper endorsement is an opinion. The power belongs to those who vote.

Comments are closed.