Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer. July 23, 2022.

Editorial: ‘Don’t get stuck on stupid’ — good news literacy critical more than ever

“Don’t get stuck on stupid.”

That was from Lt. Gen. Russel Honore to a reporter during a Sept. 20, 2005 press conference following Hurricane Katrina. “Don’t confuse the people, please. You’re a part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don’t understand it, it may be confusing to the people.”

That was before social media – the Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagrams of the world, for the large part, gave the masses instant communication to large swaths of the country and world for that matter. It was up to professional reporters from various news outlets to disseminate accurate information to the public.

Now, with a click of a button, you can share a social media post, fact or fiction, to millions.

Let’s look at one of the more recent FALSE social media posts that has people up in arms.

A satirical website, “The Kokomo press,” posted a story and shared a screenshot of a fake email informing Kokomo High School staff about a new policy for students who identify as part animal, with the subject line ‘OtherKin Policy.’ Otherkin are people who identify as not entirely human. They may identify as animals or fictional or mythical characters.”

Along with litter boxes, the faked email also alleged that dietary consideration would be implemented in accordance with cafeteria guidelines, extra time would be allotted between classes for students traveling on all fours, and that students requiring owners would be assigned volunteers to “leash them and help.”

Kokomo School District Superintendent Mike Sargent was quoted in the article, stating that the ordeal was a non-issue among the students who knew immediately that the post was not true.

To be clear, the satirical piece was FALSE.

So then, how did do fabricated stories like this spread across the country rapidly?

While some people shared the story acknowledging it as a joke, others share it because of a lack of news literacy.

A large part of the blame comes from the deluge of information that comes into our email and social media accounts.

But the bulk of it comes from not reading or viewing the information in a thoughtful manner.

Practicing good news literacy is easy, but it does take a little effort.

• Pause. Don’t let your emotions take over.

You read the headline of the story and it got your attention. That’s what headlines are intended to do, and they are required to do so in very few words.

In those few words they need to gain your attention and give you a very brief synopsis of what the story is about.

After you read the headline, did it gain an emotional response? If you are upset by what you just read, that is a red flag that the story may be fake.

• Read more than just the first few paragraphs lower in the story.

Stories are designed to place the most important information at the top. We all have a limited amount of time in the day, and the critical material needs to be read first. However, many questions you may have after reading the first paragraph or two are likely answered later.

• Glance through the comments on the story.

Did someone reply with a fact check? Did numerous people say the information was malarkey?

• Get a different source.

Do a quick internet search. Can you find a difference news outlet publishing the same material, or are there sites out there stating the material was fake.

Getting your news from numerous sources is a good way of gaining a well-rounded picture of the story.

• Check the source.

If you got the information from the internet, go to the site’s “About us” page. Some sites, such as The Kokomo Press, which published the litter box story, is clearly a site that publishes spoofs. In fact its “About us” portion of its Facebook page states, “Where Local Comedy and Satire Converge”. Even when you do a quick Google search for The Kokomo Press, the second item on the list is “The Kokomo Press satire”. If that’s not a telltale sign that the info is not true, what is?

• Ask the source.

Go directly to the horse’s mouth. Reply to the person who shared the post asking them for the original source or other evidence supporting the claim. How many times have we heard, “lots of people are saying” but the person who is telling us the information cannot name a single person they can attribute the information to. This is another red-flag that the story isn’t accurate.

• If in doubt of a story’s accuracy, don’t share it.

We all love a good joke or a whopper of a tale, but make sure you label it as such before you send it on. And please don’t blindly share stories, especially if you are upset at the story and haven’t done your fact-checking homework.

With social media widely available to the masses, and for free, you have the responsibility to ensure the information you share is accurate, so you too, “Don’t get stuck on stupid.”

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Yankton Press & Dakotan. July 26, 2022.

Editorial: Giago’s Passing A Loss For South Dakota

South Dakotans needed Tim Giago’s voice.

The award-winning Native American journalist passed away in Rapid City Sunday at age 88. With that, an extraordinary life journey came to an end.

It was not always an easy life, and the path was sometimes contentious and combative, which was exactly the point of Giago’s journey.

He spent more than four decades as a South Dakota journalist, founding several newspapers that gave what he saw as an under-served Native American population coverage of the issues that directly impacted their lives.

He also served as a voice for Native Americans in this state and well beyond. His words and writings were born from experience.

For example, he wrote often of his time growing up in a Catholic boarding school on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It reflected a broader issue in Indian Country that remains unresolved to this day. By coincidence, at the moment Giago passed away, Pope Francis was in Canada to address that very same issue with indigenous tribes in that country and offering a formal apology. It was an issue Giago was dedicated to and was still addressing up to his death.

He also broke the mold for journalism in this state. According to a story in the Rapid City Journal, Giago wrote that he had been a reporter at the Journal when he got into the business and was frustrated by the limitations. “I was bothered by the fact that although I had been born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I was seldom given an opportunity to do news stories about the people of the reservation,” he recalled in a 2005 article.

That led to the founding of The Lakota Times in 1981, the first independent, non-tribal affiliated, Native newspaper in the country, according to the Black Hills Pioneer. The Times morphed into Indian Country Today in 1992. He later founded the Lakota Journal and Native Sun News Today.

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said Sunday, “Tim was the first to provide newspapers where Native Americans could express and share their opinions, to provide stories on important events and issues, and to feature Native traditions, culture and ideas.”

Giago was also a syndicated columnist who reached a national audience, and he was an author and poet.

In so many ways, he opened minds and opened eyes.

Besides providing a Native American voice to the generally white palette of South Dakota journalism, Giago also trained Native Americans for the journalism field. Through this, he broadened the journalistic vision in this state.

For some, Giago was not always an easy read. His views could be passionate and at times controversial, in more ways than one. Some white readers may have been put off by his frank views on race relations in this state. Meanwhile, when Giago wrote, years after the event, that the American Indian Movement was to blame for the violence during the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation, his newspaper office was vandalized and firebombed, according to The Associated Press.

During his journey, he also challenged the state to forego Columbus Day and instead celebrate Native American Day, he criticized the use of Native American imagery as team mascots, he exposed the practice by banks bordering on Native land of “redlining” — charging Native Americans much higher interest rates than non-Natives were charged — and on and on.

A crusader to the last, Giago brought a perspective to South Dakota journalism that will never be forgotten. Neither will his impact on the Native American population he served or the state he influenced. His passing is a deep loss, but his legacy will stay with us for a long time to come.

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