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Thursday, March 23, 2023

What can people in Aberdeen do to get some news?

 The most noticeable symptom that something was wrong was that the newspaper featured a front page photo of Governor Ditz (aka Noem) almost everyday.  That seemed  to be a distraction for the fact that the paper contained no local reporting whatever.

The Aberdeen American News has been wheezing along on life support for a couple of years now.  About all that's left to do is close the lid on the casket and bury the remains somewhere.

It announced its ill health in the spring of 2020 when it shut down its press and printed the paper in Sioux Falls, where it said it would be adding production staff, and moved ts editorial operation out of its building on Second St.  into office space on Main Street.  Twenty-one employees got booted in the old wazoo with that move.

Then in November 2021, the Gannett folks, who own the paper, announced that it was closing down the press in Sioux Falls and printing the paper in Des Moines, Iowa.  It said that the rinktums* of 24 people were the boot targets in that move.

There seems to be no one in Aberdeen working on the paper, but someone in Des Moines or environs is filling the news hole with canned copy and getting Kristi Ditz's petulant pucker on the front page every day to signal who is in charge of life in the great state of South Dakota, land of the Oahe stock dam.

When I came to teach at Northern State College, I was faculty advisor to the student publications.  I found that Aberdeen was monitored by a substantial news crew.  It had the Aberdeen American News, reporters and video photographers working out of two television stations, KABY and KELO, and news departments in three radio stations.  And once a week or so, an Associated Press correspondent dropped by to see what was going on in town. Those sources have all vanished.

But there are news people, mostly from the defunct newspaper, trying to keep up some semblance of community journalism.  A local communications entrepreneur, Troy McQuillen, who publishes Aberdeen Magazine, has started an online news publication,  The Aberdeen Insider, which has announced plans to publish a weekly print version in April.  Former Aberdeen American News employees Elisa Sand and Scott Waltman are heading up the news reporting operation.  The Insider openly states that it operates behind a pay wall because bills need to be paid.

The Insider does not plan comprehensive coverage of sports, but directs attention to the online SD Sports Scene run by another former Aberdeen American News staffer Dave Vilhauer.  It contains some great photojournalism by retired American  News photographer John Davis.

All one can do, at the least, is patronize and support these efforts to keep local reporting flowing.  These folks are all we have right now to keep some version of the fourth estate alive for Aberdeen.  There are blogs which make some effort at tracking news, but they are sporadic and often a bit notional about what comprises useful news.  There are other online enterprises that cover news on the state level, such as South Dakota News Watch, South Dakota Search Lightand The South Dakota Standard. However, the Aberdeen American News is a prime example of what happens when hedge funds take over the news business.  We owe a debt of gratitude to those who survived this destruction of journalism and are at work to keep us informed.

*Rinktum: as in "rectum." "I'll skin your rinktum" (William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury, p. 70).


Jerry K. Sweeney said...

I swan, the phrase "petulant pucker" will resonate down through the ages.

Anonymous said...

Subscribed to Aberdeen Insider and an grateful to all involved including advertisers.

Miranda Gohn

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States