Argus Reporter engages in name calling with Governor’s communications staffer. Is that weed thing a Gannett job requirement, or is it specific to the Argus?

Johnathan Ellis form the Argus Leader was on a tear yesterday on twitter, but saved the “money tweet” for the end where he declared his political allegiance, at the same time he verbally attacked one of the Governor’s senior staff members:

What triggered all of this?   On Friday, Ellis filed a story where he went on the attack on Governor Kristi Noem’s administration because he claimed he wasn’t receiving some information he was seeking:

What’s in a model?

Turns out South Dakota health officials are reluctant to share that information.

The people behind the state’s coronavirus response model, which Gov. Kristi Noem unveiled one week ago, have failed to release data used to make their assumptions. Meanwhile, health officials from the state’s three large health Systems – Avera, Sanford and Monument Health – won’t elaborate on how they contributed to the process.

Read that all here.

That story kicked off an exchange that got a little testy when the Governor’s communications person Maggie Siedel sent a note back to Ellis, pushing back a bit because it’s not as if the Governor and Department of Health are ignoring questions in their near daily pressers.

In the E-mail communication provided to me, Seidel pointedly asked Ellis “if you weren’t satisfied with the answers you were getting, why didn’t you take advantage of the dozen media availabilities at your disposal (both the Governor and Secretary of Health as well as the Department of Health held daily briefings last week…)? 

From: Seidel, Maggie <[email protected]>
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 2020 10:39 AM
To: Ellis, Jonathan <[email protected]>
Cc: Myers, Cory <[email protected]>
Subject: Follow up

Jonathan – This is the headline (What’s behind South Dakota’s coronavirus model? Health officials won’t say.) and story that epitomize what the Governor is referring to when she talks about not telling both sides of the story…

The issue isn’t that we haven’t shared what is behind the projections; it’s that you aren’t satisfied with the answers we’ve provided. Those are two very different things, and the overly simplified headline and story are misleading at best.

In last Friday’s 68-minute press conference, the Governor, Secretary of Health, Dr. Clayton, and the chief medical officers of Avera, Monument, and Sanford, walked everyone through the agreed upon hospitalization projections as well as all the different models we used to inform those projections and what data served as the inputs.

If that wasn’t sufficient, why didn’t we dive into the details then? Every person on that panel was available to answer questions.

You looped me in on Monday about your request for more detailed information.  We traded emails, and then on Tuesday, we spoke and talked through your questions.

On that call, I reiterated what Dr. Clayton had already said about many of the data inputs:

  • 2018 mid-year Census estimate for SD:  882,235
  • 5% hospitalization rate
  • 26% of hospitalized patients require ventilatory support
  • Length of stay:  7 days for hospitalized and 10 days for ventilatory care

I then shared the mathematical formula we used with you, and you asked for even more information following that – none of which is enumerated in this story.

I know you were trying to write before your furlough, but if you weren’t satisfied with the answers you were getting, why didn’t you take advantage of the dozen media availabilities at your disposal (both the Governor and Secretary of Health as well as the Department of Health held daily briefings last week…)?

I don’t think it’s fair to accuse the state of not being transparent when we’ve made all of the officials associated with these projections, including Dr. Clayton and the chief medical officials at Avera, Monument, and Sanford, available for direct questions in an open forum on a dozen occasions since publicizing them.

Btw – I know you’re out/furloughed, so I’ve included Cory on here as well.


Literally, she asked him if he wanted to know, why didn’t he ask? The reply as attributed to Ellis?

From: Ellis, Jonathan <[email protected]>
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 2020 2:57 PM
To: Seidel, Maggie <[email protected]>
Cc: Myers, Cory <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: [EXT] Follow up

I had to go for a nice long run before I could deal with your bullshit. Also, this was really good for my pace. Send me more crap like this and I’ll be ready to run some races.

Questioning Jonathan as to why didn’t he ask was “bullshit?”  To which Seidel offered a fairly reasonable request if he didn’t care for the response. Publish it, and let the people decide.

From: “Seidel, Maggie” <[email protected]>
Date: April 11, 2020 at 3:06:00 PM CDT
To: “Ellis, Jonathan” <[email protected]>
Cc: “Myers, Cory” <[email protected]>
Subject: RE:  [EXT] Follow up

Publish my response. Put them side by side.  Let the people read them.

About then Ellis went on his 19 tweet rant, culminating in his name calling against Seidel for posing the question to him why he didn’t just ask.

Ellis’ unnecessary name calling didn’t escape notice from others as well, including former Rapid City Journal and current SDPB contributor Kevin Woster:

In the past I’ve found Johnathan to be pretty decent, albeit his rant about weed explains a lot about his story biases.  Ultimately, the Argus is here to sell papers. As I’ve heard, on-line stories earn the right to go to their ever-dwindling print edition based on how many clicks they receive. So, controversy is the name of the game.

But, I find it hard to find fault with “health officials from the state’s three large health Systems – Avera, Sanford and Monument Health” and it may not exactly be fair when Ellis goes on the attack saying they  “won’t elaborate on how they contributed to the process,” if Jonathan might not have been asking the question.

At the least, I don’t know that it should rise to the level of name calling and verbally beating up the Governor’s senior communications staffer.

If you take a step back, the times we are in are historically unprecedented. Literally, there is no roadmap in this country for dealing with this type of situation. And you hate to say it, but as we’re all sadly aware, not all of us are going to make it through to the other side.

The Administration’s job is exceedingly difficult.  They’re trying to manage the public’s health, as balanced against our constitutional rights, and at the same time keep a functioning society.  Because people are not going to be served well by emerging from a pandemic if we’re in the middle of “America’s second great depression,” because a majority of the country’s businesses collapsed, we’re left with widespread unemployment and we’re left bartering for crops in the Midwest while we hear stories of people eating dogs in our urban environments.

We should be concerned about everything we see every day. And we should be wary. But, we can also afford a little patience, and try to set aside our cynicism for a moment, and attempt to believe our leaders are touched by the better angels of our nature, as they try to bring us through to the other side of all of this as intact as possible.

In other words, try to be a little more patient with one another. And maybe a little less name calling.

26 thoughts on “Argus Reporter engages in name calling with Governor’s communications staffer. Is that weed thing a Gannett job requirement, or is it specific to the Argus?”

  1. Ellis sucks. He has become a tool of the left. Everyone at the Argus is on the liberal bandwagon and they work in concert to badmouth Republicans on a daily basis. They should be ashamed of themselves. Journalists they are not.

    1. I’ve never liked Ellis’ writing or cynicism. He’s not a good reporter because he is lazy. He also doesn’t go to pierre ever. He comes off as very lazy in his opinions and writing.

      What is with the gov and her out of state team without good relationships to the media?

  2. I’ll admit, I’d certainly like to know a lot more about the inputs and assumptions that are used in the model the state is using.

    That said, it looks to me like Maggie Seidel is making an good faith attempt to answer Ellis’s questions. It would ceratinaly be easier for both of them to communicate, if they could simply sit down together and discuss the issue but, unfortunately they can’t do that right now.

    That said, Ellis does himself no favors to himself, his employer or his reading audience in by this public response.

  3. ““if you weren’t satisfied with the answers you were getting, why didn’t you take advantage of the dozen media availabilities at your disposal (both the Governor and Secretary of Health as well as the Department of Health held daily briefings last week”

    Why doesn’t the governor’s office just answer the f-ing question regardless of the mode of public input?

    The “pandemic” has some very dubious and serious origins, and the decisions being made do not seem to be underpinned by valid scientific data, but fear mongering.

    There is a scientific and logical basis on which we should be asking very serious questions and demanding answers.

  4. This unprofessional behavior should have consequences as it would at any other company.

  5. Times are tough at the Argus. Why pay for news, like sportswriter Stu pretending to be an epidemiologist, and name-calling from a reporter, when you can get your news for free at KELO, SDPB or here for free?

  6. You know, I’m seeing this when I just received my latest thinner than thin Sunday paper the same weekend as my $37 bill for on-line access and the hard copy of the Sunday/Thursday paper. Kind of wondering if that’s a trimmable expense.

  7. From the start of this crisis to the current day, the Noem Administration has taken only the action necessary, dictated by facts, data and science, to minimize the effects of this virus both in the short term and the long term.
    The vast majority of South Dakotans have responded to that and the result is that we have flattened the curve of infections that appears to be sufficient for us to weather the storm of peak infection.
    Since journalism has disappeared from the media landscape it’s become the norm for reporters to write not to inform, but to sell newspapers. Sadly some have abandoned even basic decorum in communication to try to mask their lack of professionalism. This does not serve the public.
    The Governor herself and Secretary Malsam-Rysdon have been available daily and the level of transparency has been exemplary. To lash out at Maggie Seidel in this fashion out of frustration for the lack of journalistic effort is inexcusable.

    1. Hey Ed, why hasn’t the Noem administration shared these facts? Sounds to me like you are once again cheerleading under blind faith because you refuse to ask a difficult question. Noem and her administration dance around anything of importance and act like they are forthright while hiding behind who knows what.

      1. Sorry Anonymous 2:20. I do not accept requests for information from anyone who wishes to conceal their identity.

      2. Didn’t you know Ed is on the governors west river campaign team. Sounds like Ellis is doing some tough questioning. I see nothing wrong with good investigative reporting. Ed will just block you if he doesn’t like what you have to say.

  8. I sold the Argus on the street corners of Sioux Falls in the early 60’s. It was a big paper then. It was a large and respected news paper. I read it front to back each day even as a kid. Now five decades later, it is about as newsworthy as the place mat news sheets you get at the local diner. They only produce 3 original news articles per edition. Throw in 4 or five paragraph long local police log items, and two maybe 3 sports stories. Hey, they did not even carry any box scores, schedules or rankings about the Canaries!! That’s all they got, and the news stories are all about social agenda items that you need to be “woke” about! Gays, homeless, bad law enforcement, convicts, deaf folks, everything that is on the socialist agenda. But any real news? Forget about it. They don’t have any reporters anymore, just pseudo journalists writing disguised editorial “news.
    Follow local friday night high school scores? You won’t get any until Sunday, nobodies working!. Eight to 10 pages and half is Soros sponsored USA Today anti conservative garbage.
    Hold this paper up to the morning sun and it shines straight through. I cancelled my subscription last week after 6 decades. I kept thinking they would get better but they are never coming back. I had to flush them.

    1. Mr. Leuning writes rightly, here.

      The employ of the hack kids they have writing these days, with no editors, just keeps sinking the ship. Their online story from this morning still contains a glaring error that has been there since just after 10:30 when the state published today’s counting of the covids.

      Snot nosed kids pretending to be journalists. The pandemic will sort out the media as surely as it will sort out the food joints.

  9. It’s fine to call everyone names that’s not a Republican but now that they’re taking some heat in SD it’s time to put in the kid gloves and be nice cuz they’re touched by an angel.

    1. You sure say it straight ! Like him calling that lady a bozo,. . . oh, wait, that was a Republican being called a name by Ellis. Guess it goes both ways being called names. But who started it all, er . . Ellis did and he is not a Republican.

  10. I guess if Ellis’s comments upset you, then we have actual leaders of this country who speak even worse who you should be more concerned about. Please tell me why I should be so outraged. Ellis isn’t even an elected official.

  11. The issue isn’t calling names. There is “southern” nice, “Minnesota” nice, other subtle forms of insults, and doing it up-front and in their face. Happens everyday.

    What is the issue is Ellis’ question answered but Ellis didn’t pursue understanding like a professional would do and reacted immaturely.

    It could be Ellis chose to intentionally mislead the public on the matter. But, his response belies just a person who is not very smart and is too arrogant to know he isn’t very smart.

  12. Impeached low IQ loser should go back to grabbing pussies. Although he may have never stopped.

    1. Ah, a left-wing loser posts here. Thanks for your insightful post, buddy. Now go back under your rock.

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