By Derek Bartos
NORTH SIOUX CITY — An election mailer sent out earlier this week to District 16 residents has caused confusion among readers of a local newspaper and conflict between the newspaper's publisher and the local Republican Party.
The Union County Republican Party released a mailer Monday that included information and support for several election candidates. The publication, called the Lincoln Union County Times, featured a nameplate with a font and design similar to the Dakota Dunes/North Sioux City Times. This has confused numerous readers of the Dakota Dunes/North Sioux City Times, according to Bruce Odson, the publisher of that newspaper.
He said he has since received many calls from subscribers wondering whether the publication was an endorsement by his newspaper.
"The comments that we received from many people was that there was mass confusion," he said. "We got calls saying, 'I can't believe you did that,' and I explained it wasn't us."
The Dakota Dunes/North Sioux City Times published a story on the front page of its Wednesday newspaper to clarify that it does not engage in such practices and that it was the Lincoln Union County Times that had published the mailer.
"One, we don't endorse candidates. Two, we're fair, and third, we thought this infringes upon copyright or brand," Odson said. "I assume they knew that they were creating that confusion when they were sending it out."
Odson also questioned whether the Union County Republican Party and its chairman, State Sen. Dan Lederman, believe in basic business principles.
"I was surprised," Odson said. "I could not perceive in any of the towns that I've lived in prior to owning papers for 17 years that I would take the same masthead of a paper and do a direct mailing, whether it's the Press & Dakotan in Yankton, or the American News (in Aberdeen) or the Public Opinion in Watertown. You just don't do that."
Contacted Thursday by the Press & Dakotan, Lederman said he took exception to the story in Wednesday's newspaper and the "choice words" said about him.
"I think Bruce Odson thinks people are stupid, because if anybody reads the paper, they'll see the title is completely different," he said. "It's a different name, it's free and it has a full disclaimer on it that it was paid for by the Union County Republicans."
Lederman added that he had no intention of deceiving readers and believes he did nothing wrong.
"The point wasn't to make it look like it," he said. "The point was to use a name that was synonymous with newspapers, which is Times. The name is different. It looks different. It has a different color for the name, and it has a different name altogether."
Odson said he does not plan to take any legal action against the Union County Republican Party, but had hoped for an apology.
According to Lederman, he will not receive one.
"I feel that the only apology should be to me, for insinuating that I was doing anything unethical," Lederman said.
In response, Odson said, "We have a basic disagreement, and the comments I've received from lots of people in Dakota Dunes and North Sioux City back our position."
South Dakota Newspaper Association general manager David Bordewyk could not be reached for comment.