Northern Valley Beacon

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Saturday, October 28, 2006


Sen. Schoenbeck tries to keep hands off Gropegate--at first

Bob Mercer's coverage of the Gropegate business has received acknowledgement from two other blogs. And he added to this in Friday's Aberdeen American News with more evidence that suggests that Sen. Lee Schoenbeck is indulging in some political opportunism in handling the issue the way he did a few weeks before the election.

Todd Epp, who responded to one of my posts about Mercer's coverage and raised a question about whether the reporter had an agenda reprints an e-mail from Mercer that explains Mercer's decision to become Bill Janklow's press secretary. In the letter, Bob states that he is registered as an independent voter. I, too, assumed he was a Republican, because press secretaries are usually chosen for their dedication and support of a viewpoint. Not the case here, Bob explains. His decision had more to do with the quality of communications between state government and the press.

Mt. Blogmore has also lauded Mercer's coverage and "bulldog" qualities in never letting the strands of a story get out of grasp.

On Friday, Mercer's story said that Schoenbeck had been aware of the rumors whirling around Dan Sutton since last winter. [You have to get the hard copy of the newspaper to retrieve the story.] Schoenbeck, the chief officer of the State Senate, did nothing until the page's father, Dennis Wiese, wrote a formal complaint. Neither did Schoenbeck attend any meetings of the legislative executive committee, which deals with disciplinary matters involving legislators.

Although a blog broke the story, Mercer has done the most comprehensive reporting on the affair. The Argus Leader has had some informing stories, too. But the story shows the fracture line between what blogs do and what genuine journalism does. Most of the blogs wallow in Sibbyesque whining and snarking about the mainstream media and their leftist leanings and dilatoriness in reporting stuff that does not conform to their anti-rightwing agenda.

We do have media in South Dakota that have a strict agenda in manipulating commentary and letters-to-the-editor to reflect their editorial bias. It is not hard to find party-line editing in the South Dakota media. They often suppress news that does not conform to their political affections. They justify this bias by claiming that they are serving the interests of their readers.

In this case, Mercer has produced stories that get beyond the personal preferences of bloggers into the real issues. And there will be plenty more to come.

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