Mitchell’s watchdog journalism

The Wednesday mail brought the Tuesday edition of The Mitchell Daily Republic to my post box and stripped across the top of page 1 was this headline: “Board surprised to learn of team’s probation / Activities Association penalizes Mitchell boys’ basketball program after Munsen violates rule.” The story, reported by Travis Mester and Luke Hagen, began with a tip from someone to someone at the newspaper. The reporters did the kind of work that would make any newspaper proud. They tried to reach Gary Munsen repeatedly but without success. They contacted each of the Mitchell school board members and discovered none of the school board members had been told about the sanction, which was issued in April by the South Dakota High School Activities Association.  They contacted Mitchell school district superintendent Joe Graves, who made a statement that might give many pause for several reasons: “I hadn’t informed the board, and it’s not required to do so.” Graves also said in his defense that the information about the disciplinary action was available on the activities association web site. As the reporters pointed out “…there is nothing that points specifically to it. The only way to find it is to open the minutes for the April 19-20 (SDHSAA) board meeting and scroll down to page 13 of the 17-page document.” The reporters went on to next state: “According to those minutes, Mitchell High School violated the Out-Of-Season Section of the Athletic Handbook. A rule in that section states that from Aug. 1 until the completion of the state track meet the following school year, coaching is allowed only during the regular SDHSAA-defined sport season. That is the rule Munsen broke.” According to the story, Munsen was spotted sitting on the bench during a Dakota Schoolers traveling team game in Brandon in mid-April. Munsen was fined $200, and Mitchell’s basketball coaches won’t be allowed to have any of the four summertime activities with their team that are otherwise allowed by SDHSAA. They can still conduct open gyms. The reporters noted that Munsen’s program has been put on probation before by SDHSAA and that he’s previously been disciplined by the school district. The story (http://www.mitchellrepublic.com/event/article/id/52978/publisher_ID/4/) (www.mitchellrepublic.com) makes for important reading.