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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Aberdeen American News endorses Trump University School of Journalism

Donald Trump made a  tweet  about a federal judge, who rendered  a decision that Donald didn't like,  infamous by making a demeaning reference to the "so-called judge."

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

Editors and reporters at the Aberdeen American News took immediate note and apparently liked the tactic and adopted it for their own use.  They must not have liked Initiated Measure 22 which was titled the South Dakota Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act.  When it came to occasions to mention the measure in Sunday's edition of the newspaper,  the editors and reporters invoked the style of editor-in-chief Trump and reduced a couple of stories to cheap expressions  in the Trump tradition.

Scott Waltman, who went to the state capitol to cover the legislature, is the paper's managing editor and managed to insert a little snark into a story about covering the state government with other reporters.  When he mentioned the repeal of IM 22, he referred to it as the "so-called anti-corruption measure passed by voters."

Then in a story covering a Cracker Barrel session held by legislators in Aberdeen, reporter Shannon Marvel chose the same pejorative when she referred to IM 22  as  a "bill that repealed a so-called anti-corruption and ethics measure approved by voters."

Exactly what about IM 22 inspires their derision is not evident, but what is evident is that they have chosen to emulate Master Trump.  The  irony in this is deadly because they cover the town in which some horrendous incidents of government corruption have taken place.  

The first of those is, of course, the EB-5 scandal which involved the attempt to start up the Northern Beef Packers plant.  The paper never did explore and explain the extent of local involvement.  It never explored the role of the city-subsidized Aberdeen Development Corporation, to where Joop Bollen took refuge when forced to leave the NSU campus.  Or the role of the County in environmental waivers and the sale of Tax Increment Financing bonds.  Much of the participation was well-meaning,  but no one has ever explained to those well-meaning folks how badly they were deceived.  

And no one has probed into a child abuse case which grew into criminal charges being filed against an assistant state's attorney and a child welfare advocate because they refused to participate in a cover-up.  Even though a judge threw the criminal charges out of court because there was no foundation for them,  there was never any investigation into the acts involved in filing those charges.  In the trial transcript there  is evidence of malfeasance,  malicious prosecution, and abuse of legal process.  But the questions raised have been untouched by government oversight agencies,  by the bar association, and certainly by the press.  

The newspaper's recent reporting of court news involving recent immigrants has raised questions about biased handling.  In one case,  the punching out of recent immigrant received front page treatment .  But the molestation of a mentally-challenged woman was never reported until a sentencing trial was announced.   As a result, the newspaper has injected itself in the ruckus raised by an anti-immigrant group.  

The deficiencies of the American News have been noted for decades.  Back in the 1980s in the early years of online databases, a journalism review cited the American News as a leader in deficient journalism.  This was at a time when there was a monthly distribution of BIA checks in town after which the Aberdeen paper would publish a lengthy list of all the Native Americans stopped for traffic offenses while other things going on in the local population were ignored.  

As an old journalist and teacher of journalism,  I have never found the paper to live up to the basic standards of competence and fair reporting.  In fact, I dropped my subscription and did not subscribe again until some work I do with justice and innocence projects made the monitoring of local coverage a necessity.  When I come across some the paper's blunders,  I think of how editors I worked with would have responded.  The main response is that the blunders would never have made it to print and some omitted events would have printed coverage.  

With the word "so-called" the Trump effect in journalism was brought to Aberdeen.
A journalism analyst has been headlined saying about Trump:

Press needs to stop acting like Trump’s ‘botoxed Riefenstahls’ and realize he’s at war with them

When the Aberdeen paper decided to reflect the attitude of the state government toward the citizens' vote to do something about the corruption it put itself in the role of sneering propagandists.  It joined the governor and the  legislature in a disparagement of the voters and its readers.  Even though the AAN did editorialize in behalf of the public's interest, that borrowing from Trump's Tweet vocabulary made clear it is not serving the public,  but its authority figures in Pierre.  And those authority figures own a huge reputation for corruption.

The AAN is obviously not at war with the legislature, but it should consider if it should be.  

1 comment:

Porter Lansing said...

The Watertown Public Opinion is also a leader in "deficient journalism". It's common for the P.O. to alter a news story to fit the opinions of the majority of their readers and to completely ignore giant nat'l news stories because they show conservatives in a "stinky situation". Both these newspapers have declined to the state of "so called" news on their way to an inevitable classification of "FAKE NEWS".

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States