Mixing media on Monday

In the past week, many of you have offered your opinions on our new, bigger Argus Leader newspaper.

In those conversations, some of you have emphasized that you prefer the print newspaper over our digital products. Others stress that they read only on smartphone, tablet or laptop.

On Monday, we’re going to mix and match the media platforms. We’re going to use our digital channels to talk about our print newspaper. 

During Monday’s “100 Eyes” show, Publisher Bill Albrecht and I will take your questions and comments live.

To get involved, just tune in about 3:15 p.m. and enter your questions in the live chat window. We’ll try to answer them and when time runs out, we’ll continue the conversation online.

I hope you’ll watch the show and let us know how we’re doing.

In the meantime, to continue the mixed-media theme, here’s a video explaining the print newspaper changes we have made.



Could we really forget about farming?

The closest many of us get to a farm these days is the neighbor’s backyard chicken pen. Yet it is still tough to believe that Sioux Falls residents might someday need a reminder of their agricultural roots.

We’re living in a city in the middle of farm country, in a state whose economic stability is shouldered in large measure by its ranches and farms. Yet, I think Jim Woster and the people working to build the Stockyards Plaza are right about this: Agriculture is fading farther into the horizon as this busy city grows.

That’s why the Stockyards Plaza certainly sounds like a good idea. Essentially, it’s a development plan that will incorporate the history of the Sioux Falls Stockyards and John Morrell and Co. into the reuse of the parcel that was once home to the stockyards. You can read Jodi Schwan’s story about the project here: http://siouxfallsbusinessjournal.argusleader.com/article/20130620/BJUPDATES/306200006/Stockyards-Plaza-would-preserve-area-history

The stockyards area is familiar to many of us. Chutes and pickups; cows in white-fenced  pens, a wooden walkway overhead that allowed a survey of the livestock below. Anyone who grew up on a farm in this area over the past several decades knows the scene.

Of course back then almost everyone in my classroom lived on a farm. The others had a parent working in Sioux Falls – many of them at John Morrell and Co. The employment landscape is different today, even in the suburban school district that I attended.

The notion that someday the city’s residents might not remember all of that is jarring.

I don’t know what the right mix of usage is for all of the old Stockyards site but I can’t help but feel connected to this effort by Woster to get businesses behind a history and preservation effort.  They are hoping to preserve for generations to come the feel – if not the smell - of that sprawling old place. And to help future generations understand the deep connectivity Sioux Falls has with its farmer neighbors.

Perhaps best of all, their proposed redesign would keep the Stockyards’ giant pig in place.


We care what you think

We’re looking for some opinionated people  to weigh in on the issues of the day. Really, we are.

Our first Argus Leader Opinion Panel wrapped up their work this month and we’re looking for new panelists. You may have what it takes if you:

- Have strong or reasonably strong opinions on local issues.

- Can write at least a couple of paragraphs on a subject.

- Are comfortable commenting on Facebook or Twitter.

- Would be unafraid to ask questions of newsmakers.

If you fit some or most of these categories, please give this a try. To apply for the Argus Leader Opinion Panel, just contact me -  mkueter@argusleader.com.

We’ll select the panel in June. 


Time on the job

As an organization, the Argus Leader has been around for nearly  130 years.

But that longevity pales a bit in comparison to a statistic compiled this week by our marketing department. The reporters, editors, photographers and other staff members in our newsroom today have a combined 582 years of service to Argus Leader Media.

A collective 5+ centuries spent reporting and photographing news in this community is impressive. 

And represents a lot of daily deadlines met.

Message in a bottle in Skunk Creek

This weekend’s “Branch Out Project,” will match volunteers to yard cleanup needs at the homes of elderly or disabled city residents.

Argus Leader Media is sponsoring the event with the HelpLine Center and United Way. More about that effort is below.

Planning the event reminds me of the annual city bike trail cleanup we spearheaded for several years. A couple of hundred volunteers would gather on a spring Saturday morning armed with garbage bags and gloves to fan out across the s bike trail network.

Mixed in with the garbage, paper and cans, were some more unusual items that somehow had been dislodged by the river or left behind by melting snow. Over the years, volunteers found an old wooden boat, a rusty rifle, a couple of bicycles and some broken toys. One year, a volunteer found a corked bottle, lodged in the mud along Skunk Creek. Inside was a piece of paper with a handwritten message. Battered by water and time, it was only partially readable, but the mystery behind that message remains.Here is reporter Peter Harriman’s 2000 account of the find:

“Water unfortunately, leaked past the cork stopper of the bottle found by Monica and Calie Helms. But a photo survives. It shows a dark-haired man with his arm around a woman’s waist and a girl about 10 standing in front of him. Portions of an accompanying note are faded beyond recognition. But the letter seems to represent a private ceremony, a wistful closure to a romantic relationship.

“I did set you free but maybe you didn’t love me as … because you haven’t returned to me,” it reads in part in big, looping script.

” I still live in Sioux Falls, S.D. on 14th Street. But where you are, I haven’t a clue. I guess it’s time to say goodbye. I love you. R.E.S.D.”


To take part in Saturday’s cleanup, call the HelpLine Center or go to helplinecenter.org to register. Teams will meet at the Argus Leader’s parking lot between 8 and 9 a.m. Saturday to get their assignments.

Remembering April 19, 1993

One of the most tragic events in South Dakota history unfolded 20 years ago this week. An airplane carrying Gov. George Mickelson and seven others smashed into a silo on a farm near Dubuque, Iowa, killing all aboard. 

I was working that night as city editor.  Our first hint of the disaster came in a phone call from a former Argus Leader reporter who worked at an Iowa newspaper, telling us that an airplane had crashed in eastern Iowa. The plane’s tail number was registered to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, he said.  Our business editor, Brenda Wade Schmidt, immediately noted that Mickelson and others should have been returning to South Dakota after a trip to Cincinnati to try to persuade the owners of John Morrell and Co. to continue operations in Sioux Falls. Could the plane be theirs?

It was almost impossible to believe that it was and I think back at how we numbly worked to find out and to confirm the news that we were all dreading. There was no Twitter back then, no Facebook, no text messaging or cell phones to keep in touch with the reporters we dispatched via a chartered plane to the scene.

Reporters working that night across the state undoubtedly remember those tortured hours trying to piece together information and finally, the sad confirmation we all silently hoped would not come.

The tremendous sense of loss resonated even deeper in Sioux Falls because in that plane along with the governor were three prominent city business leaders. The men - Roger Hainje, president of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation;  Angus Anson, general manager of Northern States Power (now Xcel Energy) and David Birkeland, chief executive officer of First Bank of South Dakota (now US Bank) – were respected community leaders. Four others - Ron Reed, director of the state Office of Energy Policy and Roland Dolly, commissioner of the Office of Economic Development as well as state pilots David Hansen and Ron Becker – also died in the crash.

 The tragedy and the funerals that followed bound this state together in unprecedented fashion.

In tomorrow’s Argus Leader, Brenda Wade Schmidt recalls that sad day And, in Sunday’s newspaper, Steve Young looks back on Gov. Mickelson’s  funeral procession from Pierre to Brookings and the spontaneous outpouring of grief and support shown by average South Dakotans who lined that highway to pay their respects.

SEO and Benjamin Franklin

I had the opportunity last night to meet a young woman from Madison, SD. Amy Shan, one of our Argus Leader Academic All-Stars, is a high school senior who is headed to the University of Pennsylvania to study business.

How did she arrive at her college choice? She says that once she had decided to major in business, she simply Googled “best undergraduate business programs in the country.”  First on the list – Penn. She decided right then that she wanted to attend the Ivy League school and set out to be accepted.She was and is flying out today to finalize her registration and get a closer look at the Philadelphia campus before enrolling this fall.

Other schools that showed up in her search: MIT, Cal – Berkley and Michigan. Great SEO strategy by Penn’s Wharton School of Business.  But Amy admitted  she also was impressed by the fact that Penn was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

I wish her and all of our 2013 Academic All Stars the best as they move on this spring. You can meet them all Sunday in the newspaper or in this really neat online presentation: http://www.argusleader.com/section/aas


How much are we spending on this?

We learned this week that some 2,600 tons of steel will be needed to build our  new Sioux Falls events center. We also learned that Egger Steel and Gil Haugan Construction along with two out-of-state firms will be working that steel into place over  the coming months.

 What we did not learn – and may never know  – is just how much all that steel work might cost. As in earlier rounds of sub-contractor bid lettings, the city’s construction manager at risk isn’t releasing any information on the bids. The city hasn’t seemed inclined to find an avenue to present it either, though there is always hope for a change of heart.

 I know city taxpayers wouldn’t mind a more detailed report.

 Another interesting public record dispute centered on government spending is playing out in Huron.

 The Huron School District reached a settlement agreement with a former superintendent. The Mitchell Daily Republic has been trying to find out what the agreement provides, but has been denied a copy.  Reporters did discover that the former superintendent has been receiving nearly $11,000 a month since his resignation.

 The newspaper is appealing the school board’s refusal to provide the information. The dispute will be heard by the state Office of Hearing Examiners. It’ll be interesting to learn the decision.

 The same general question is involved:  Shouldn’t Huron taxpayers know what this agreement is costing?

Whose mug shot is that?

It was a cyber mystery to me.

Earlier this week, I received a call asking about a pair of police mug shots that were appearing on one of Argus Leader Media’s websites.

It seemed odd, considering that particular website had been discontinued several years ago - or at least that’s what we thought.

Perhaps even odder was the contention that police mug shots were appearing there, since in this state, such photographs are not released for public view.

So, how were these booking photos showing up on a defunct website? The answer appears to involve a mixed-up feed we were receiving from a Tennessee newspaper.  

Clearly, in Tennessee, police booking photos are available for public view.

Actually, that is one of the changes being studied by Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Open Government Task Force this year. I’m on that task force, as is Argus Leader reporter Jonathan Ellis and many other news, government and law enforcement officials. We are hoping to effect some important changes in state law – among them, making booking photos public.

The task force also is looking at opening to the public the transcripts from 911 calls as well as as additional information on police logs and related incident reports.

The group is meeting again next month and presumably will arrive at recommendations for changes that then will be presented to the state legislature for consideration.

I encourage you to find out how the legislative candidates in your district feel about these and other such moves.

Open government should be an important campaign issue in this state.

Question for the mayor?

If you have never had the chance to cover a press conference, here’s your opportunity.

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether will be at the Argus Leader on Wednesday for our first citizen-led interview session.

Three members of the Argus Leader Opinion Advisory Panel will be asking the questions and if you have something you’d like them to ask, let us know.

You can send your suggested questions in advance to bschmidt@argusleader.com or just log in and ask your questions live.

The citizen interview begins at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Watch it at argusleader.com.

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