A quick thread about why I, as SD bureau chief for my company, OK'd coverage of the Noem/Lewandowski affair rumors. I've heard some questions, and I think it's always good to explain the process. (1/?)
I've heard those rumors for some time. Also, I hear a lot of rumors we don't report. All journalists do, with our ears to the ground. South Dakota politics is a tiny world in a small state. Everyone gossips. That doesn't automatically make gossip true, or reportable. (2/?)
My job as a journalist isn't just to publish the best, fact-checked info I have. It also means often *not* publishing something we cannot prove. Those rumors? Couldn't prove them. So -- no publish. (3/?)
We also no longer live in a closed media ecosystem. Unlike in the past, when you got most of your news from a local TV or paper, people can get info from anywhere online/social media, and a lot of it doesn't meet those "no publish" standards many journalists maintain. (4/?)
That can put journalists like me in a hard spot. If something gets posted and is "out there" - i.e. heavily circulated online - especially if another reputable journalism outfit publishes it, what's my duty to my readers? Ignore it? Tell them about what's being reported? (5/?)
Now, this is when it really, really matters who is doing the initial publishing, and what their sourcing is. I'll ask: Is it a reputable journalism outlet with a track record of reporting news? Or is it, say, an opinion website with zero track record of reporting news? (6/?)
I ran into this last year, when ProPublica (reputable journalism, long track record) posted this about T. Denny Sanford, South Dakota's richest man. Unnamed sourcing. In this case? Don't ignore, report PP reported it. Then try to match reporting. (7/?) propublica.org/article/billio…
Sourcing matters too! I'll take PP and other solid journo outlets word on unnamed sources, by reporting what they report. If a less known outlet has solid, named sources and documents, I'll report that out too. If I've never heard of you and you have no sources/docs, nope. (8/?)
So, that brings us to Noem/Lewandowski. I saw the site's post about it. No-name opinion site. Unnamed sources. That's a "hell no" re-report situation, as far as I'm concerned. So I ignored it, as did most journalism outlets. But then ... (9/?)
Unbidden, Noem tweeted out a message about the rumors. And that changed the calculus. Because now she's on the record denying something, in a public statement. Her public response is newsworthy, which means we also have to say what she's denying. So, we did. (10/?)
It's pretty straightforward. If Noem hadn't gone on the record denying those rumors, we wouldn't have reported it. Most journalism outlets wouldn't have, I'll wager, for the reasons I've explained. But once she did, they did. Some did not. (11/?)
That's their call. I'd be curious to hear their thought process. Journalism isn't a monolith, but the result of a trillion choices made each day in a newsrooms by journalists, who are all different but generally operate using variations of the same rules. So results vary. (12/?)
That's the process, the decision and the thread on it. Open to questions if you have any. (13/13)

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More from @jayfug

27 Sep
Whoa. Quite a scoop by the AP's @stephengroves on South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem calling in state employees and their bosses when they initially denied her daughter Kassidy -- who was at the meeting -- a real estate appraiser license.
@stephengroves Richard Painter (@RWPUSA), chief ethics lawyer for GW Bush: Noem should have recused herself from discussions on the agency, especially any that apply to her daughter’s application -- "It’s clearly a conflict of interest and an abuse of power for the benefit of a family member."
@stephengroves @RWPUSA And, in what I'll call an interesting perspective, Noem's spokesman frames the governor's intervention on behalf of her daughter as ... an economic development move.
Read 10 tweets
1 Sep
BREAKING: Investigators thought SD AG #Ravnsborg should get charged with 2nd degree manslaughter (he wasn't), and told prosecutors as much. Per DPS Sec. Price letter today to Speaker Gosch, just released:
INBOX: Full letter from DPS price to Speaker Gosch, indexing the entire Ravnsborg investigation file, to use for impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg. Full doc here: scribd.com/document/52274…
"In my opinion as a 24-year law enforcement officer, and the opinion of the highly trained highway patrol officers involved in this investigation, Mr. Ravnsborg should have been charged with 2nd Degree Manslaughter. The prosecution team was well aware of that position."
Read 17 tweets
27 Aug
Quite a statement here issued by the City of Sturgis regarding the motorcycle rally and COVID-19.
"The safety of the
event was best illustrated through the smiles on the faces of national press who enjoyed the
event. "
Some real factual problems here, I don't know where to start. Wrong on:
- 'Path' of delta variant surges
- Case numbers trend in SD
- claiming more tests the cause for surge numbers
I'm on deadline, supposed to be writing a story, and all I can do is stare at this statement. Like
Read 5 tweets
9 Aug
BREAKING: South Dakota officials overrode educators to strip many mentions of Native Americans out of new K-12 social studies standards, whose revamp is a signature priority of Gov. Kristi Noem. (from colleague @ChrisVondracek) THREAD 1/3: inforum.com/news/governmen…
@ChrisVondracek 2/3 Here’s the July preface, and the one updated unilaterally by state education officials this month. See if you can spot the big differences (one example - July has “Incorporation of more diverse perspectives, especially those of Indigenous Native Americans” -- August doesn’t)
@ChrisVondracek 3/3 Want a specific example of how that dramatically alters the social studies standards? Here’s the change in Grade 8 History standards (“Oceti Sakowin Oyate” references are gone, and replaced):
Read 4 tweets
26 Feb
RAVNSBORG: It's been an eventful week on the "South Dakota attorney general killed a man, what now" beat. Here is a thread to catch up, all using South Dakota sources and coverage, with direct links to evidence when possible. (1/x)
FEB. 18: 159 days after South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever with his car, he is charged with 3 misdemeanors by county prosecutors. (2/x) mitchellrepublic.com/news/governmen…
The Ravnsborg charges are remarkable because, simply put, none of them have anything to do with Boever being killed. They're Class 2 misdemeanors for 1) using a cell phone while driving, 2) not staying in lane, 3) driving carelessly. Max penalty $1500 fine, 90 days in jail. (3/x)
Read 26 tweets
30 Dec 20
Just posted: My analysis of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and her handling of the pandemic, and the national spotlight, in 2020.
"South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s hands-off pandemic approach initially appeared to be a winning gamble, and it catapulted her into the national spotlight. ... But COVID-19 wasn’t finished with South Dakota." My analysis: inforum.com/newsmd/coronav…
"Noem made 40 media appearances in the 65 days between the state's first reported COVID-19 case in March and her last regular pandemic news conference in mid-May ... Just over half of her media appearances, 22 in all, were with conservative national media outlets"
Read 6 tweets

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