South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, April 20, 2013

City kept its cool during storm

With streets, sidewalks, roofs and yards getting cleared of branches of all size, Sioux Falls is starting to look like itself again.

Sure, there will be gaping holes previously filled by ancient and stately trees that have provided shade and a splash of fall color. Things changed in the April ice storm of 2013.

But just like any natural disaster, the storm brought out the good in so many people with neighbors and strangers pitching in, too. At the same time, our city’s response system worked efficiently and professionally, keeping residents informed of how cleanup and the restoration of power was going. That’s the way you hope it will work out when you prepare for a worst-case-scenario situation.

City department heads, including director of public works Mark Cotter, were calm during the storm and presented orderly, sound plans to temporarily shut down streets and startclearing tree limbs and restoring power. Fire Chief Jim Sideras offered timely advice, throwing in just a little wit to remind us that even when things seem bad, it’s OK to smile. The two, along with Police Chief Doug Barthel, were unflappable and showed leadership in a time when the city needed it.

They, along with Mayor Mike Huether, held regular public briefings so that people in Sioux Falls could stay informed. We like the attitude City Hall brought to the people by telling folks it was acceptable if sidewalks didn’t get cleared as soon as they should. We appreciated the approach that it was fine if the city needed to come back more than once to get branches.

The city kept us calm.

Granted, the city spent and still is spending a great deal of money to help return Sioux Falls to normal, but it is doing so in an organized way that is making a difference. It’s easy to complain about a bureaucracy, but when you need it, look at what it can do.

In addition, companies that provide power in Sioux Falls and the outlying area worked hard to bring power back on for tens of thousands of homes. While it undoubtedly became more frustrating for residents the longer the power was out, those workers — many coming from other states to help — were appreciated. Given the amount of damage, they accomplished a lot in those first days after the storm and took the time to show kindness to people who had lived without heat and lights.

We’d like to think the way the late spring ice storm was handled would be the way it would work in any natural disaster. Yes, the look of our community has been altered. But the people have shown how much they care and how neighborly they can be. That really hasn’t changed. We hope it never does.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, April 22, 2013

Neuharth was a man with a vision

Perhaps one of the best tributes one can offer to the memory of Al Neuharth is that he was the most successful failure in the history of modern American journalism.

This argument would be fair, since Neuharth once tried to create a publication devoted the South Dakota sports scene, SoDak Sports, in the early 1950s. It was an ambitious idea in the age before the Internet, computers and even sound roadways crossing the state. It was too ambitious, in fact, and folded two years later. Nevertheless, the will to wade into innovative territory never left Neuharth, and it ultimately led to the founding of USA Today, a daily national newspaper that literally altered the look and feel of print journalism in America in the late 20th century.

Neuharth, the consummate newspaper man, reached his final deadline last Friday when he passed away at age 89. He leaves behind a legacy of change, challenge and triumph. And yet, as much as his vision of new kind of newspaper for a new kind of world reshaped the industry, he never lost sight of what newspapers — and in fact, all media — must be about.

South Dakota is rightly proud of this native son, who never forgot the state he called home. Neuharth was a fervent South Dakotan to his dying day.

Nor did he ever lose touch with his college alma mater, the University of South Dakota. He did more than touch base from time to time: He helped convert the ancient Old Armory athletic gym into a state-of-the-art media facility that now bears his name. He established an annual award, presented in Vermillion each fall, to honor journalistic excellence. And he worked to promote media education on the Native American reservations.

On the broader stage, of course, Neuharth will always be connected to USA Today, a national newspaper (founded in 1982) inspired by an earlier brainchild publication of his, Today, which was started in Florida. Both publications broke many of the conventional rules of print journalism, featuring static front-page designs, so the main story was always found in the same place, and color splashed everywhere. USA Today also featured news summaries from every state in its ambitious quest to connect with every corner of its market.

USA Today lost a lot of money for nearly a decade, but Neuharth persevered, and the publication eventually became one of the largest and, arguably, the most recognized newspapers in the country.

Neuharth’s formula was not without its detractors. In particular, his blueprint insisted on short, tight stories. We’re talking really short. Extremely tight. Tiny. According to critics, this bare bones structure sometimes left out some details to get to the overall idea as quickly as possible. However, this point-blank journalistic approach was as much a part of Neuharth’s vision as the color and the design schemes. It was his belief that it was what the readers really wanted, especially in a fast-paced age. Judging from the phenomenal, game-changing success of USA Today, it’s hard to argue with his methods.

That may be Neuharth’s greatest legacy: He gave the people what they wanted. It’s a simple idea that sometimes needs great vision to be achieved. Neuharth was that visionary.

The kid from South Dakota did pretty well. End of story. That’s the kind of straightforward final line Neuharth would have appreciated. And insisted upon.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, April 21, 2013

Historical context should rule

Times change, and so do attitudes. Recent news stories show how attitudes can change over time.

The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names recently scrubbed offensive names off the maps of the Pine Ridge Reservation — such as “Squaw Humper” — and the board has its eraser ready to remove several West River geographic names that include “Negro.”

 

The board has opened a 45-day comment period to replace the names of “Negro Wool Ridge” and “Negro Canyon” in Custer County, “Negro Hill” and “Negro Gulch” in Lawrence County and “Negro Creek” in Pennington County.

The new names should be based on local history, folklore, events or natural features of the area.

The state geographic board will review the submitted names in June, propose new names for the features and the public will again be asked to submit comments. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names has the final say on accepting the new names.

The state board was tasked with renaming 38 racially charged landmarks in 2001, and it has renamed 20 locations.

There is no question that names like “Squaw Humper” are offensive, and that they were offensive when the geographic features were first named. Of course, the names should go, and we applaud the state geographic board for getting around to it — did it really take the board 12 years to decide what names were most offensive and change them?

We’re less certain about the degree of offensiveness of “Negro” in a geographic name. While the word has fallen out of favor today, it’s not insulting, although the Associated Press Stylebook says the preferred word is “black” in most usages.

There may have been reasons a century ago for the names the features have, but no one knows what those reasons are today.

Meanwhile, a complaint about a Confederate flag at a historical display at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Hot Springs has led to its temporary removal while the Black Hills Health Care System decides what to do next.

Our recommendation is to consider the historical context of how the flag is displayed to decide whether it is appropriate. Was the flag in the VA display to symbolize slavery or the Confederate states and veterans that participated in the Civil War?

Slavery was wrong, and millions of Union soldiers fought and died to end slavery. Symbols that celebrate slavery — as the Confederate flag is sometimes used — also are wrong.

We doubt that the VA’s historic display was to celebrate slavery. As a historical representation of the Confederacy, we see nothing wrong with including the Confederate flag.

What we wouldn’t want to see happen is a whitewashing of our history. Reflexively removing all references to the Confederacy also removes references to evil of slavery.

Historical context should rule. As someone more clever than ourselves (George Santayana) once observed: If we cannot remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, April 20, 2013

South Dakota’s college costs keep climbing

The good news is that college graduates earn more money over their lifetimes with a degree than high school graduates without a college diploma. The bad news is the cost of getting that university degree keeps climbing.

The Board of Regents approved tuition increases at the state’s six public universities of an average of 4.4 percent.

At South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the annual tuition and fees will increase 7 percent to $9,083, and at Black Hills State University, tuition and fees will go up 4.1 percent to $7,617.

The tuition increases will cover inflation and salary increases approved by the Legislature.

Regents President Kathryn Johnson said increasing costs in the university system necessitated the change. “Our priority remains the affordability of a quality college education for our students,” Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The rising cost of a college education is not a South Dakota phenomenon; college tuition is increasing everywhere.

In the past 10 years, the average in-state tuition and fees at South Dakota’s four-year institutions have risen from $4,449 in 2002-2003 to $6,655 in 2011-2012, an increase of 49.6 percent.

The average tuition increase nationally is 40.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Meanwhile, the inflation rate since 2003 has been 26.2 percent. With tuition costs increasing at almost double the inflation rate, no wonder a college education is becoming less affordable.

Still, a college degree from a South Dakota university remains a better bargain than in most states. According to CNNMoney.com, the average in-state tuition nationally is $8,665 per year, or about $2,000 higher than in South Dakota.

It is no less true in South Dakota as in other states that attending a college in your home state is cheaper than going to school in another state and paying out-of-state tuition.

However, South Dakota is second in the nation with 76 percent of its students graduating from college with student loan debt — an average of $24,200. Coupled with high interest rates on federal student loans — that are set by Congress — students are immediately met with mounting financial stress.

Full-time enrollment at the state’s universities dropped this year by 0.94 percent, only the second time since 1999 that enrollment has fallen. It’s too soon to know if university enrollment has peaked, but the steady increase in the cost of a college education eventually will force more high school graduates to look for lower-cost career choices.

We appreciate the Board of Regents’ efforts to hold down student costs while providing access to a quality education, but the trend toward higher college education costs doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

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