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Home > Impact Tracker — March/April 2022

Impact Tracker — March/April 2022

Welcome to the South Dakota News Watch Impact Tracker, which provides a brief overview of the ways in which News Watch is informing the public and policymakers of South Dakota. This page will provide regular updates on audience reach, media partner use of News Watch material, awards and recognition and other examples of how South Dakota’s only non-profit journalism content organization is having a positive impact on the lives of South Dakotans and people across the world.

Breaking news in March/April 2022

— Content Director Bart Pfankuch won two national awards in April for coverage of South Dakota agriculture in 2021.

— News Watch hosted a “South Dakota Matters” online panel discussion on Native American education in March that has attracted more than 1,100 views.

— The Facebook page for South Dakota News Watch topped 6,000 regular followers in mid-April.

— News Watch partnered with the South Dakota Newspaper Association on March 15 to host a screening of the movie “Storm Lake” with Pulitzer Prize winner Art Cullen.

— News Watch welcomed three new members to its 13-member governing board in March: Stephany (Beshara) Chalberg; Nick Kotzea and Serene Thin Elk.

— Reporter Stu Whitney appeared on Dakota News Now TV in Sioux Falls for an in-depth, on-air discussion of his article on a disabled military veteran.

— Most read articles in March/April: “South Dakota veteran denied benefits after exposure to toxic ban pits” (Whitney), Facebook reach of 21,700; and “Pending closure and poor care at Ipswich nursing home latest outcomes of staffing crisis” (Pfankuch), Facebook reach of 14,200.


One critical component of how South Dakota News Watch reaches readers in South Dakota is our unique partnership with other media outlets, in which News Watch provides its material to all media for use at no cost. Here is a snapshot of recent partner usage of News Watch material:

— News Watch material appeared on the front pages of numerous daily newspapers in March and April of 2022, including in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Yankton, Vermillion, Watertown, Aberdeen, Pierre and Spearfish. Multiple weekly papers also made good use of News Watch material. Overall, News Watch material is published by other news outlets an average of 120 times per month in publications with a combined circulation of more than 140,000 subscribers.

— News Watch reporter Stu Whitney appeared as a guest on a Dakota News Now television broadcast in Sioux Falls in March for an in-depth discussion of his article on a military veteran exposed to burn pits in Iraq but who is unable to get medical benefits. Content Director Bart Pfankuch appeared as a guest on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting “In the Moment” news program six times in March and April 2022 to discuss the nursing home crisis, decline in freshwater mussels, Native immersion education and other articles. Whitney was also a guest on a sports talk show in Rapid City in March to discuss transgender athletes.

Broadcasters regularly use News Watch material, and News Watch made strides in expanding our relationship with broadcast media during March and April 2022 by providing news video and audio. Stations that regularly use our material include: KELO TV in Sioux Falls, which publishes News Watch articles on its website every weekend. Radio broadcasts of News Watch material are used by several stations, including Dakota Radio Group (seven stations), Pierre, S.D.; and Homeslice Media Group (six stations), Sturgis, S.D.; and KELO AM and FM, Sioux Falls, S.D.

South Dakota News Watch article by Bart Pfankuch on the crisis in the nursing home industry as used on the front page of the Watertown Public Opinion on April 16, 2022.


Social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are major components in how News Watch reaches a wide audience. Here is a look at recent measures of audience engagement.


— As of April 22, 2022, News Watch had 6,011 followers who see every News Watch posting.

— March/April 2022: total audience reach of 81,100 unique individuals, up 9.0% over prior two months.

— March/April 2022: 16,301 post engagements, up 0.5% over prior two months.

2022 top audience reach to date: “Bills would allow S.D. Native Americans to fish, visit parks for free,” Feb. 2, 2022, audience reach of 34,500, more than 2,200 post clicks, more than 3,300 user reactions.


— As of April 2022, more than 2,450 people follow News Watch on Twitter, including 113 new followers in March/April 2022.

— March/April 2022: More than 64,400 individual impressions from audience. Top audience for article Tweet: “South Dakota school counselors playing larger role amid student mental health crisis” with 16,733 impressions.


“South Dakota Matters” is the ongoing programming offered by News Watch to conduct statewide polling and host panel discussions with newsmakers and knowledgeable people on statewide issues.

NEW in March 2022

— The latest panel discussion on Native immersion education in March 2022 featured Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert and others, and so far has attracted 1,100 viewings on Facebook, with more than 11,000 overall minutes watched by viewers.

— To date, News Watch has conducted three statewide polls and hosted eight online panel discussions on statewide issues.

Statewide polls are conducted with the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota, including in October 2021 (attorney general status; abortion legislation; governor’s performance); in April 2021 (economic pessimism, stress on Democracy, confidence in government) and in October 2020 (female voter attitudes; state COVID response, opinions on governor.) Next poll slated for completion in June 2022.

“South Dakota Matters” panels appear regularly, including recent panels in March 2022 (Native American education); December 2021 (child care in crisis); September 2021 (predator bounty program); June 2021 (economic uncertainty); and April 2021 (civics/history curriculum concerns.)

Internship at South Dakota State University: News Watch sponsors an annual, paid internship for a student in the journalism program at SDSU; in 2021, student Andrew Rassmussen published several in-depth articles. Applications for summer 2022 are now being reviewed.

South Dakota News Watch story by Stu Whitney about the state's transgender sports ban as it appeared on the front page of the Mitchell Republic on April 5, 2022.


Since its launch in February 2018, South Dakota News Watch has been feted for its journalism and civic involvement. Here is a look at some awards and recognition received by News Watch.


New in 2022

Third place, Profile Writing, North American Agricultural Journalists, (Pfankuch), Lake Norden dairyman

Honorable Mention, News Photography, North American Agricultural Journalists, (Pfankuch), South Dakota robotic dairy

Great Plains Journalism Awards (compete with all newspapers in seven states)

2021 — First Place, Business Reporting (Pfankuch/Lowrey), meat plant COVID outbreaks

2021 — Finalist, News Story (Pfankuch), Serenity Dennard missing

2021 — Finalist, Beat Reporting (Pfankuch), agriculture beat

2021 — Finalist, Business Feature (Pfankuch), grain bin deaths rising

2020 — First Place, Beat Reporting (Pfankuch), agriculture beat

2020 — First Place, Business Reporting (Pfankuch), varied economic issues

2020 — Finalist, Investigative Reporting (Pfankuch), Aurora Plains Academy abuse

2020 — Finalist, Online Project (Pfankuch), CAFO photos and videos

North American Agricultural Journalists association (continental journalism organization)

2021 — Agricultural Journalists of the Year (Pfankuch/Lowrey), COVID impacts on agriculture in South Dakota

2021 — First Place, Technical Writing (Pfankuch/Lowrey), lax meatpacking plant safety oversight

2021 — First Place, Ongoing Coverage (Pfankuch/Lowrey), news about South Dakota agriculture industry

2020 — Agricultural Journalist of the Year (Pfankuch), CAFO investigation

2020 — First Place, News Coverage (Pfankuch), livestock industry growth and safety

2019 — Audrey Mackiewitz Special Award for Excellence in overall coverage of agriculture (Pfankuch/Lowrey/Maricarrol Kueter)


— South Dakota News Watch was awarded the 2021 Community Spirit Award from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, which cited News Watch for its “impact in the lives of those it serves and in the community we call home.”

South Dakota News Watch story by Stu Whitney on lack of public access to government meeting as it appeared on the front page of the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan on March 12, 2022.