Just a few moments ago, in a message to media across the state, Governor Kristi Noem’s Senior Advisor & Policy Director Maggie Seidel called out the Argus Leader for holding the Governor “to a different standard than they’d hold themselves,” and for yet another in a series of hit pieces in the form of an editorial that they posted to their website today.
If you want to read the entirety of Seidel’s criticism of the Argus:
Folks – We’ve reached a new low in journalism in South Dakota today…
Yesterday, we provided the two largest papers in the state – Rapid City Journal and Argus Leader (a USA Today paper) – the opportunity to exclusively publish an op-ed updating South Dakotans on the state’s COVID-19 situation.
Both agreed. Both also asked for some additional sourcing. Fine, no problem – we added it.
Rapid City Journal published – it’s now the #1 trending story on their site.
Argus’ editors had additional demands, including one that still has me dumbfounded: “And we won’t print anonymous messages she says she received. If those people want to use their names, we can add.”
That refers to this section of the piece:
Recently, a South Dakota doctor wrote me, thanking me “for treating your fellow citizens of South Dakota like adults…” I tell you this because there are also some South Dakota medical professionals who have written to tell me of their fears about voicing their thoughts on the situation.
One family doctor sent me this message: “I feel like I am unable to have an opinion about masking because I am employed. I think your approach has good science and is being suppressed or ignored by many… I think we are all worried if we disagree openly our license or job could be at risk.”
That’s concerning to me, because in America, everyone is free to have and express an opinion about matters of public importance. Some in our culture today have gotten into the habit of shutting down viewpoints they don’t agree with, sometimes ruining lives and careers. This is a serious mistake, deadly to public dialogue and, more importantly, public trust – especially when situations like the one we’re in are changing almost daily.
We asked why they’d hold us to a different standard than they’d hold themselves to (examples here and here, among many others…). The editor said it was because he knows the sources. I said, what about this AP story, which we explicitly, on the record, denied. He said AP has a good process. I offered to show the editor the messages, but with the names blacked out. He refused.
Reluctantly, we paraphrased the quotes to say:
Recently, a South Dakota doctor wrote me, thanking me for treating South Dakotans like adults. I tell you this because there are also some South Dakota medical professionals who have written to tell me of their fears about voicing their thoughts on the situation.
One family doctor recently messaged me to express fear about having an opinion on masking, saying that if doctors disagree openly their licenses or jobs could be at risk. This isn’t a hypothetical situation; it’s happening in Minnesota.
Then, with an updated op-ed in hand, the Argus editors went silent. That is until they published yet another (I’ve lost track of how many we’ve gotten at this point…) hit piece attacking Governor Noem’s leadership today.
Shortly after that piece went live, we got this note from them:
We’ve decided to pass on the op-ed that Gov. Noem submitted. Normally we are open to guest columns on major issues that present opposing perspectives…
In this case, however, we want to be sure that we’re providing reliable information (backed by CDC guidelines) to our readers during a public health crisis, especially with South Dakota among the states hardest hit. In the realm of science and pandemic response, “both sides” doesn’t always apply.
This leaves several questions for the people of South Dakota to ponder:
- Why don’t the Argus Leader editors want you to be informed about all the information out there, including the CDC – which Governor Noem explicitly referenced in her op-ed?
- Do the editors have so little respect for their readers that they feel comfortable telling them what to believe instead of presenting all sides of a story so readers can make their own conclusions?
- Is it fair that the Argus’ editors continue to bash Governor Noem without giving her the opportunity to share her thinking on the issue?
- Why can editors use anonymity to protect sources from retribution, but no one else can?
- How can a paper’s editors claim to love free speech, when they refuse to publish information that they don’t agree with?
- Why should readers trust the reporting of a news outlet whose editors claim objectivity while uncritically publishing transparently one-sided, partisan editorials?
In short, the state’s highest elected official wanted to share an update on the COVID-19 situation with the people of South Dakota, but the editors of our largest paper don’t want you to see it. Be sure to read it anyway.
Remember folks, democracy dies in darkness.
Senior Advisor & Policy Director
Office of Governor Kristi Noem
“Uncritically publishing transparently one-sided, partisan editorials” Ouch. But it might not sting so badly if it wasn’t something we’re used to seeing.