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Hit the Road: My Favorite Blog Posts from 2014

It's almost Epiphany, almost time to leave the holidays behind and get on with regular business. But permit me one more brief retrospective on 2014.

I've listed the most-read and most commented stories of the year on this blog. I've also named the man of the year in terms of South Dakota political news, Richard Benda. But I'd like to take a moment to point out some of my best work on the Madville Times in 2014.

As you know, I spent much of 2014 on the road. My best blogging came from two trips around South Dakota.

In April, I crossed the state and interviewed Gordon Howie and Mike Myers and covered a speech by Joe Lowe. The Howie interview spawned a series of video conversations that I like to think exemplify the sort of spirited yet civil engagement (not to be confused with civil union) that South Dakota conservatives and liberals can and should enjoy.

Charlie in the distance, four-wheeling across the prairie, Hoffman farm, 2014.08.19
The prairie makes us all look small—photo from Charlie Hoffman's farm, northeast of Eureka, August 19, 2014 (click to enlarge).

Then in August came the tour de force... or the Tour de Blog! For eight days I toured South Dakota, talked to all sorts of people, and wrote 23 articles capturing a diverse album of South Dakota snapshots. I spoke with Lilias Jarding about the dangers of letting Powertech (now Azarga) dig for uranium in the southern Black Hills, then spent an entire afternoon with three Powertech honchos touring the proposed uranium mining area and talking about the company's plans. I visited Pine Ridge and Rosebud to learn about housing, voting rights, and Teach for America on the reservation. I attended two of the three Dakotafest debates and wrote five posts about them. I found an SDSU professor and a Republican legislator saying the same things about restoring prairie grass. And I got Republican Charlie Hoffman to say he'd like to expand Medicaid, raise teacher pay, and elect a Democratic governor.

I wrote plenty of articles that I'm proud of in 2014, but my articles from the road are my favorites. Feel free to note your favorites in the comment section below... and look forward to new favorites from around South Dakota in 2015!


  1. 96Tears 2015.01.05

    This blog took huge steps forward in reporting essential news and insights during 2014. It also showed you have great potential to develop a medium that is important and groundbreaking as it is creative. Best wishes, Cory, to setting the standard for excellence in 2015 and beyond.

  2. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.01.05

    I personally hope to see the bearded blogger taking up roots in a fortunate community in the heartland of SD, as soon as possible.

    As an avid reader, and fan, I would only suggest you temper some of your preferred political snark. David Montgomery did so and it earned him a lot of a credibility. You best showcase your intelligence and natural talent when you make your case with researched pointed facts. Going for the easy snark distracts from that and gives hypocritical journalistic posers (Powers) a tool to distract from the facts.

  3. mike from iowa 2015.01.05

    Cory ain't PP at the alternate universe blog. That is all the credibility our fearless leader needs.

    I enjoyed the EB-5,stick it to whitey wingnuts posts the most. Somebody had to hold them weasels accountable. The state of one party rule sure didn't.

  4. Charlie Hoffman 2015.01.05

    Cory I said when you add in all the money SD Counties spend on indigent care we might be even more likely to open up some Medicare expansion having those millions added into the formula. Teacher pay absolutely as we accomplish HB 1234's agenda of improving the overall standard of teaching excellence by increasing the number of teachers applying for a position in SD. And about a Democrat Governor I said that one thing I doubt will happen but would be a testing ground for Statesmanship would be to have a Republican powered Senate and House with a Dem Gov.
    Close yes but no cigar....................Cheers Cory the Quad run up to Indian Hill was a blast and anytime you get close we can do it again. Bring a friend if you wish too. God's country is pretty awesome up close!!

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.05

    96, the problem with sitting a standard for excellence is that you have to keep meeting and exceeding it. But thanks! :-)

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.05

    Charlie, you gave us good reasons to do all three of the things I listed above... but if I'm putting words in your mouth, I welcome your corrections. :-) And yes, I would love to bring a friend and go quad running again! Thank you for one of the most fun afternoons I had all year!

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.05

    Mike, I can tell you like it best when I swing the big stick. I'll keep looking for piñatas—oh wait! There they are!

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.05

    DD, if I temper my snark, I'll lose Mike from Iowa! :-)

    I do want to fill to some extent the gap left by Daivd Montgomery's departure in statehouse reporting (hey: do we have a new Argus guy in Pierre yet?). I'll give you some straight reporting, like much of what I wrote on the blog tour. Talking with newsmakers face-to-face inclines me toward such less snarky, more objective coverage.

    But I don't plan to be David Montgomery. I won't ever market myself as a disengaged observer. You will almost always know where I stand on the issues I cover.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.05

    Cory, your work on EB5 was simply outstanding. I have a great deal of respect for you and the digging you did into that fraudulent scandal.

    I appreciate your exposure of the Republican contempt towards women too.

    Perhaps one of the Times biggest benefits for me is in its optimism. I find here a good antidote for those moments when I lose sight of hope for positive change in SD. I offer the same gratitude to most of the commenters here also. (Not Sibson and one or two others.)

  10. tara volesky 2015.01.05

    That's why outstanding journalists like Cory won't get hired. He's over qualified.

  11. John Hess 2015.01.06

    As I've said many times the original content is incredible, but in my opinion the comment section severely detracts from the blog. At one time there were diverse opinions, some reasoned, some spirited, but it's been hijacked by a few angry people who insist everyone must think like they do, which pushes away moderates which are the majority of readers and voters. It's not like they only want to read oatmeal, far from it, but I think most people are really turned off from the constant outrage from the fringe which leaves the impression their ideas are also yours and those of everyone from the left side. Your audience could be so much larger and your impact that much greater. I wonder how many swing voters get pushed away and relationships damaged. This recent thread on Mork is a case in point. Sometimes it's better to dial it down and remove the distortion.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.06

    John, I appreciate your assessment of the damage you see the comment section doing. My glib response would be the same as the doctor in the old joke:

    Patient: "Doc, it hurts when I go like this."
    Doctor: "Then don't go like that."

    I rarely delve into the comment sections on other news websites. Compared to the comments I read on KELO, DWC, and elsewhere, I contend we still get a higher percentage of informative and useful comments in the Madville Times comment section. But if folks don't like the comment section, they don't have to click or scroll down that far.

    John, a serious question: should I close the comment section? Do you think shutting down the public user interaction would actually draw more readers? And how would people know those readers are here? Can a blog survive without a comment section?

    Short of deleting the comment section, what are my options? What sort of moderation scheme could I impose? What principles would a proper moderation scheme follow?

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.06

    Rather than shutting down the comment section, I think I just need to get back on the scene and hold more blog picnics and coffees. Once a month, invite commenters to meet in various corners of the state, get people talking eye to eye. I'll hold one at Madison Dairy Queen, and I'll bet DeLon will come out and shake hands with every guest.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.01.06

    John, I agree there are a couple commenters who don't contribute a lot. A couple others are hit or miss. I pay very little attention to those in the first group. In fact, there are two commenters I don't read at all.

    The rest of the commenters do a good job of addressing issues and I've learned much from them. I glance at comment sections of other blogs and do not find them up to the level here.

    Cory, if the comment section was shut down on the Times I probably wouldn't read it. I feel like I have a community here. It includes commenters I both agree with and disagree. It gave me great pleasure to meet Madizens at Rickstock last August.

  15. jerry 2015.01.06

    Exactly, censorship is always the answer to all things that bother you John Hess. Sometimes, I have heard that even people that have those kinds of thoughts, turn the lights off when they shower.

  16. John Hess 2015.01.06

    We are guests in Cory's blogosphere. Wow, we get a chance to say something. Apparently Pressler reads the blog. Mork reads the blog. Yahoo articles are from many sources (Reuters, AP, etc) but still commenters blame Yahoo for the content. Here there's a much greater identification with whatever people read to you and the Democratic party. Even as a long-time reader Joseph was ready to make those connections. In one way no comments would be entirely you. No noise or grading papers. Most of us would like to think what we have to say is pretty darn important. But if we're honest how many important things do we say in one day? If it's only one or two, then maybe that's all we should be allowed to post (also within a character limit). Guest submissions could always be welcome. That might force greater contemplation and less likelihood for an emotional response. Not sure. I've thought about it and maybe others have too, but there doesn't seem to be a Stan or an Amert any longer. With temperance I think you could take your work to greater depth and career satisfaction. We shouldn't be allowed to spoil that.

  17. larry kurtz 2015.01.06

    you hear about being exec yet, CAH?

  18. jerry 2015.01.06

    It would seem then, that you could do as you will. If you wish to limit yourself to so many words, please do, you will know John Hess, exactly what your limitations may be.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.06

    Deb, thank you. The community built by the comment section may not be large, but it is one of the greatest benefits I've found in blogging. John, if the comment section and great journalism are at odds, Deb makes an argument for me to pick the comment section. (I'm not saying it's a winning, absolute argument. I'm just saying it's an important argument.)

    You are right, John, that some voices come and go. I do miss Stan and Tony.

    Maybe the problem isn't the commenters; maybe it's me. Maybe I haven't been in the comment section enough to moderate and call out unnecessary roughness. Consider: over the last six days, I count 818 comments. Over the same six days in 2014, I count 225 comments. From March 27 to April 1, a bonkers blog time with discussion of Bosworth petitions, I count 498 comments. From November 3 through November 8, with Election Day and our subsequent conversations about what happened, I fielded 1,314 comments.

    My comment volume grew throughout the year. It has eased since the election (people do take breaks!), but I sense it will pick up as the Legislature gets going.

    I'll admit, as my comment volume as increased, I've not responded as much to commenters. I've eased off on moderation. I do not read every comment. (Poof! Balloon bursts! Dozens of readers flee! ;-) ) When I see a thread explode into Sibbypalooza, I often say, "Well, lost another one," let that one run wild, and focus my attention on other threads.

    Maybe I've just gotten lazy. And maybe that's the thing about a comment section: you can't let it go to seed. I don't want to have a house with no yard, but I've got to take care of the yard. (Hmm... who here are the flowers, and who's the manure? :-D )

    Or another way to think of it: John said y'all are my guests. I need to be a good host. A good party, like a good community, can only be so big. If I have a handful of friends over, I can pay each sufficient hostly attention. If a few hundred people come over, I'm chatting with a few and hoping everyone else just behaves. Someone won't, and then we've got Animal House. Either I need to invite fewer people (yikes!), enforce stricter rules more frequently (yikes!), hire a bouncer (yikes?), or... your suggestions?

    John, I am curious as to what extent people identify me with my commenters and this blog with the Democratic Party. Is the identification similar to what happens with Dakota War College? Remember, one big difference: the South Dakota Democratic Party has yet to send me one thin dime... and given the crap I give Powers, plus the recognition Mr. Pressler has offered for what he perceives as centrist efforts, I'm thinking funding from the SDDP would kill this blog faster than any comment section nastiness.

  20. Steve Sibson 2015.01.06

    "When I see a thread explode into Sibbypalooza, I often say, "Well, lost another one," let that one run wild, and focus my attention on other threads."

    Cory, it is very sad to se a teacher pass on an opportunity to learn.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.06

    (Larry: SDDP is taking apps for exec through January 15. I haven't heard anything because I'm not applying. Wrong job, wrong time.)

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.01.06

    (Steve: middle of math class, kid jumps up and down at his desk demanding that we talk about his pet iguana. I'm not going there. Spare me your tears. I'm doing my job. Besides... New Age Theocracy, communism, false Christians, anti-white racists, Austrian economics, and a couple of Masons... I think I've learned pretty much everything you have to offer, haven't I?)

  23. leslie 2015.01.06

    we flew to hibbing MN about when dylan was getting started and i was a kid. after burgers, fries and cokes we bet our murdo-born uncle that he couldn't eat a lalapalooza by himself (a big man).

    he did of course yet his religiosity always overwhelmed obvious over-eating (dare i say food-addiction) all of his life.

    the point: central SD spawned our sr. senator and would likely agree w/sibson; that learning comes within the confines of religious indoctrination.

    cory, perhaps you need a moderator, but your connection to readers seems essential.

  24. John Hess 2015.01.07

    Cory's mission could evolve. The blog has grown and changed. Isn't that what Pressler is saying? Opportunities exist.
    Sometimes it is the right time to drop the Mad-ness and be taken more seriously at the state level. I do think there are direct ties for many readers to the comment section, leftist ideas, and the Democratic Party.
    Cory knows his numbers. How many people come here for themselves, to post, to interact, and how many come to simply read Cory's work. Let's not flatter ourselves they come to read us.
    With irreverence you lose serious posters and future opportunities. Advertising dollars could flow but the blog as a whole is the product.
    Last names sure cut out the BS. It also dropped the comments, but what's the mission?
    Is this a coffee shop? A play school? Are you the nanny?
    Rod G. once suggested Point Counter Point which I think was a KJAM program a long time ago. Two thoughts only. Learn to express yourself.
    Or maybe a thumb up/down for likes/dislikes so those who don't post can partake and posters get a little feedback.
    I might suggest asking Larry Pressler. Why doesn't he post here? You have something that can go somewhere! He obviously sees that. A little bit more mainstream maybe. I'm trying to avoid suggesting complete respectability.
    And what would your English teacher friends from the college say? Many read the blog but rarely post. They understand the power of new communication and represent a segment that is missing from the conversation. Why these cautious people (with great ideas) not posting? Fear to affiliate?
    You're in an expanding realm you get to shape. That's pretty exciting, but there must be ways to do it responsibility and keep your community relatively happy.
    As much as I love to see my name in print it's not about me: But discourse, debate, learning something new, not attacking and alienating. A challenge but one worth overcoming that could also be career rewarding.

  25. John Hess 2015.01.07

    PS - On Yahoo after a certain number of down thumbs the comment is hidden.

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