Northern Valley Beacon

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This is journalism: a lesson from Bob Mercer

Nobody has worked the Gropegate story with the thoroughness and enterprise and accuracy that Bob Mercer has. Plus, he has the contacts in Pierre to get questions answered.

Today he gave a lengthy account of the whole affair in the Aberdeen American News with Sen. Lee Schoenbeck's letter of ultimatum to Sen. Dan Sutton run as a sidebar.

The letter read in context with the facts stated by Bob Mercer show that Schoenbeck was clearly pushing and did not have all the facts correctly.

So, the state senate has a chance to work this out.

Bob Mercer wrote one of the best feature stories for the American News when he was its statehouse and political reporter that I have seen in a newspaper. On his way to work early one morning, he saw a bunch of hoboes gathered around a little campfire along the railroad. He bought a six pack and joined them to get a story of who they were and what the life of a hobo was like in the late 20th century.

I admire the story. Although I have been told that my own journalistic cajones would be my death, I do not have that mix of personality and enterprise that could get such a good story from tramps I happened to spot on my way to work. Bob Mercer does journalism.

Thank God for Bob Mercer and the true professionals in the South Dakota press corps. They clean and clear up the informational messes dropped along the way by bloggers.

I think we need to start a Golden Pen and Shovel Award for the journalistic professionals that can give us orderly, straight facts in the midst of web log chaos.

And the Eppilogue has another nomination in the offing in from an interview with Jonathan Ellis who explained the reasons of verfication that caused the newspaper to play the Dan Sutton story differently from the Bob Sahr story.

If we aren't careful, we might find government proceedings in South Dakota getting full and accurate coverage.

While bloggers like to form mutual admiration societies and tell each other how important they are in poltical discussion, they are really creating only more work for the real journalists. They could help. But most of them have neither ability or interest to go beyond inflicting the political environment with their little opinions.

This episode shows who does the real, heavy work.

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