The newspaper association position on fake news

The following email arrived Friday, Dec. 22. Dave Bordewyk, executive director for the South Dakota Newspaper Association, wrote it to the organization’s members after several days of consideration. It was a response to campaign emails that had been sent in previous days from Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem. They sought donations for their respective campaigns for the Republican nominations for U.S. House and governor. Their messages reacted to recent news reports about aspects of their candidacies.

Here’s the SDNA email:

TO: SDNA Board/First Amendment Committee

Many of you saw the campaign email from Shantel Krebs earlier this week headlined: “More Fake News from the Mainstream Media.” Shantel begins her email with: “It’s no surprise, but the mainstream media is once again pushing fake news and inaccurate reporting. Each election year their liberal agenda becomes more apparent.” She ends the email asking supporters to “take a stand against FAKE news” and make a donation to her campaign. Here is an image of the beginning of that email message:

Shantel’s campaign email came on the heels of an email from Rep. Kristi Noem concerning “malicious media attacks” about her history and comments involving the estate tax debate.

It’s apparent that Shantel was referring to a story in the South Dakota press over a period of a few days last week regarding Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach coming to Sioux Falls to endorse her campaign. The story became larger when state Sen. Neil Tapio, who has said he plans to run for Congress, put out a statement asking Shantel to clarify where she stands on a proposed “federal Muslim registry.” Kobach has been outspoken about tightening federal immigration laws and policies. Kobach’s immigration comments and stands have generated controversy.

Dana Ferguson of the Argus Leader wrote a story on Dec. 13 that focused on the Tapio statement. Dana’s story included comments from Krebs, along with others.

Kobach and Krebs held a press conference when he came to South Dakota on Dec. 14. That press conference was covered various Sioux Falls news media and it was on AP wire:

The story about Tapio/Krebs/Kobach also was in the political blogs in the state, including Dakota War College and Dakota Free Press.

It appears to me the reporting on this story by South Dakota journalists was done accurately and was straight forward. My hunch is that Shantel was caught off guard and stung by the Tapio statement and was upset that the news media reported it. Was it fair for the press to pick up on and report about a statement from someone who says he intends to run but has not yet officially declared? I think so. Tapio already is in public office as a state senator from Watertown. He was Trump’s state campaign chairman, and he has been pretty clear about his intentions to run for Congress. Plus, Kobach has been very outspoken about immigration and has attracted controversy for his statements and positions. So it is natural that if Shantel is going to accept his endorsement, people are going to ask her about Kobach’s controversies.

Some of you have expressed to me that you how upset and disappointed you were by Shantel’s fake news campaign email. I am with you. When people say that President Trump’s attack on the press corps in Washington doesn’t have anything to do with us locally, I disagree. And I would point to this campaign email by Shantel as an example.

I hope Shantel and all other statewide candidates for political office do not pursue these Trump-like attacks against South Dakota journalists in the coming months. Absolutely she and other candidates should call out and criticize any reporting that is false or intentionally misleading. But to attack the press for what has been demonstrated as accurate and fair news reporting should not be tolerated.

I worry about the direction the public discourse will take in the coming months in the high-profile, high-stakes races in our state. Specifically, for governor and for Congress. Yet, I am confident that South Dakota journalists will cover these stories accurately, fairly and aggressively. That type of reporting will serve South Dakota well and will counter-balance the campaign craziness to come.

I would encourage you to visit with Shantel and other candidates about this issue when you have the opportunity. They need to hear from us. They need to know we are sensitive to these types of outlandish accusations and that those accusations do not serve the public well. Let us hope that all political candidates and campaigns in South Dakota will understand and appreciate we have a job to do and that South Dakotans expect us to do our job to the best of our abilities.


David Bordewyk / Executive Director
South Dakota Newspaper Association