Newspapers Across The State Make Big Statement With Blank Front Pages
FREEMAN, S.D. – It’s a phrase we’ve all likely heard: “fake news.” It’s gained popularity since President Donald Trump took office. His administration suggests many national news outlets like The New York Times, CNN and NBC aren’t reporting the facts.
But others see it as an insult that’s giving local media a bad rap. Some South Dakota newspapers came up with a response to the “fake news” frenzy, and put it right on the front page.
In the newspaper industry, the most important stories go above the fold.
“We share what we believe is important for the citizens to know,” says Tim L. Waltner.
But many print outlets this week are replacing this highly sought-after space with powerful statements, like “imagine.”
“Imagine a world without newspapers,” says Waltner. “To remind our readers and our viewers that what we’re doing, we’re careful about it.”
Waltner is a member of the South Dakota Newspaper Association. He recently retired from the Freeman Courier after working there since 1973. He says too often, newspapers are becoming guilty by association to false news reports.
“And there is fake news out there,” adds Waltner. “There’s no question about it. To be frank, social media and the internet has been a big player putting these false or uncorroborated stories out there.”
He says politics have greatly driven this new ‘news era.’
“What was happening with the last election, whether Russia was involved or not, we know that political operatives use social media to drive their agendas,” says Waltner.
“Sioux Falls is a good example,” says Waltner, talking about the latest discussion on the Denny Sanford Premier settlement. “The City of Sioux Falls just went through a big tussle over what the public knows and what it doesn’t know.”
Waltner says without these reports, the public would be left in the dark. So the hidden lead behind the blank newspaper story: “appreciate what newspapers do in providing you with information that you want, and information that you need.”
There are 126 weekly and daily newspapers in South Dakota. The South Dakota Newspaper Association says 60 plus are participating in the so-called ‘whiteout.’ North Dakota papers have also joined in. This movement is taking place during National Newspaper Week, which was also created to shed light on the importance of local news.