News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, December 26, 2013

WTF journalism and the gifts of the magi

W=Who, What, When, Where, and  Why.  

Have you met Miss Feasance?   If you live in South Dakota, your acquaintance with her is inevitable.  In Aberdeen, she is treated as royalty.  Sometimes a deity. 

One can't be sure whether her personality is defined by clandestine skulduggery or plain, old down-to-earth incompetence.  However, the city and county held a vigil in her honor a week ago without the press there to serve as altar attendant.  But it was there in spirit.  

Two men from White Oak Global, the San Francisco firm that lent Northern Beef Packers $35 million and then was the high bidder for the beef plant a at NBP's bankruptcy auction. at $44 million came to Aberdeen a week ago.  Their advent was dutifully announced a couple days in advance by the local scribe service, with the point being that they would meet with the county commission but there would not be a quorum because only two commissioners would, for some reason, attend the meeting.  It turns out the mayor was also there.  It seems that no reporters were at the actual meeting, so there was no account of who brought the gold, or the frankincense, or the myrrh.  We know that some gulls from China and Korea flew in some gold over the years, but what was really needed was the frankincense and myrrh because they are supposed to make things smell nice, and even though that NBP rendering plant at the side of town never got into real operation, it left a bit of a stench hanging over the community.  And the state.

The puzzler of the coming of the magi from the west is that only two showed up, and the accounts did not specify whether it was Larry, or Curly, or Moe who was there.  But then, when it comes to supplying stooges, the state and the local community are very resourceful.  There is quite a stag line waiting to dance with Miss Feasance.   

The three magi:  two of them came and no one knows their names. 

Apparently, the lack of a quorum made the meeting an unofficial gathering.  Accounts of it were relayed to the scribe by commission members who were there.  So, the usual requirements for a news story,  such as specifying the identity of the magi involved, were not observed.  Identifying information was relayed from county board chairman Duane Sutton:  "One of the White Oak officials, a South Dakota native, specializes in operating plants, Sutton said. The other, he said, is a Minnesota native."

If legitimate officials come to a town representing a legitimate company to do legitimate business, why are their identifies kept secret?:  And in most real newspapers, such a meeting conducted under such anonymous circumstances would, given the import of the Northern Beef Packers fiasco,  be the main point of the story.

But the story went on to detail some of the non-news produced by the visit of the magi:  "In general, the company wanted to introduce itself, Sutton said."  That was quite an introduction.  No names.  No titles.  No information.

The mayor was quoted as saying, "the White Oak officials were careful not to commit to any specific plans or time lines."  The story said the men came to town to do their home work.  They lent NBP $35 million, bid $44-some million on the plant at the bankruptcy auction,  and now they come to town to get informed about the company and the plant?

And so the show goes on.
Who wants the next dance with Miss. Feasance?


caheidelberger said...

South Dakota native? Who? What's the connection?

David Newquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Newquist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Newquist said...

The connection I make is that it continues the tradition of screwing around and keeping secrets from the public that is characteristic of the relationship of South Dakota governments and corporations. The identity of the natives from South Dakota and Minnesota are kept confidential, the county commission gets news stories in the local press that contain absolutely no news, and the newspaper lets them get away with it by writing a story that violates the fundamental purpose of a news story by ignoring the 5 Ws. No connections are established, but the situation displays a symptom of what is deeply wrong with South Dakota and how a bumbling scheme like Northern Beef Packers can be escalated into a multi-million dollar fraud right before our very eyes.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States