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Impact Tracker

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 quarterly 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 — Second Quarter 2022

— Content Director Bart Pfankuch won three regional awards in May for coverage in 2021 (investigative reporting, specialty feature, business feature categories) while competing against the largest daily newspapers in eight states in the Great Plains Journalism Contest sponsored by the Tulsa Press Club.

— News Watch intern Kylie Carlson, a recent journalism graduate of South Dakota State University, published six in-depth, bylined articles in May and June and will complete her internship in early August.

Kylie Carlson

— News Watch hosted a “South Dakota Matters” online panel discussion the state teacher shortage and the role of politics in education in June that has attracted more than 1,300 views.

— Pfankuch and others from News Watch played leadership roles at the annual South Dakota Newspaper Association convention in Mitchell in June; Pfankuch taught an educational session on covering rural communities and was master of ceremonies at the annual banquet.

— News Watch co-founder and current board member Randell Beck was enshrined in the South Dakota Hall of Fame in June for his distinguished journalism career and devotion to public service.

— The South Dakota News Watch website attracted 37,000 unique visitors and was viewed by people in 39 countries in second quarter 2022, with top visitation in the U.S. and Canada.

Reporter Stu Whitney appeared on Dakota News Now TV in Sioux Falls for a discussion of his article on diesel fuel prices; Pfankuch appeared twice on “In the Moment” by South Dakota Public Broadcasting to highlight News Watch reporting on carbon-dioxide pipeline projects and the education/politics package.

— Articles in second quarter 2022 with largest audience engagement include: Carbon capture pipeline proposals (Pfankuch), Facebook reach of 33,200 and 6,700 engagements; Politics in education fueling teacher shortage (Pfankuch/Whitney), 22,500 reach and 5,500 engagements; Pending closure and poor care at Ipswich nursing home latest outcomes of staffing crisis (Pfankuch), 14,400 reach, 3,500 engagements.

Direct article impact: After Whitney reported on two separate statewide ballot measures on Medicaid expansion and possible voter confusion in June, backers of one amendment pulled their measure off the ballot and combined forces with the other Medicaid advocacy group.

News Watch Content Director Bart Pfankuch served as a presenter and MC at the annual South Dakota Newspaper Association conference in Mitchell; News Watch representatives Rob Joyce and Jack Marsh also attended.


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 second quarter of 2022. For the first time in News Watch history, separate articles by Pfankuch and Whitney on education in politics appeared together on the front page of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on June 14, 2022.

Whitney appeared on Dakota News Now twice in the second quarter, and Pfankuch made appearances on SDPB.

Stu Whitney

— 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.

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 articles by Bart Pfankuch and Stu Whitney on politics in education and the growing teacher shortageas used on the front page of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on June 14, 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.


— The News Watch website attracted 37,000 visitors in the second quarter of 2022.

— The News Watch website drew visitors from 39 countries around the world, including multiple visitors from Japan, Greece, India, China and the United Kingdom in second quarter 2022.


— As of July 1, 2022, News Watch had 6,183 followers who see every News Watch posting.

— In second quarter 2022, News Watch had a total audience reach of 81,100 unique individuals on Facebook, up 6.5% over prior three months.

— Articles on the Facebook page for South Dakota News Watch had a reach of nearly 174,000 and 31,300 audience reactions.

2022 top single-article 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 June 30, 2022, more than 2,670 people follow News Watch on Twitter, including 218 new followers in second quarter 2022.

— Second quarter 2022: More than 226,000 individual impressions from audience; nearly 7,600 page visits.

— Top audience for article Tweet in second quarter 2022: “Lax enforcement allows some S.D. farmers to illegally convert wetlands to croplands” (Whitney) with 35,000 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 second quarter 2022

— The June 2022 panel discussion on education in politics and the teacher shortage so far has attracted 1,300 viewings on Facebook, with more than 12,000 overall minutes watched by viewers.

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

— The next statewide poll was being conducted in late June/early July 2022 and will feature questions on abortion, gun control, recreational marijuana and civility in society with coverage of the results coming soon.

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 July 2022.

“South Dakota Matters” panels appear regularly, including recent panels in and June 2022 (politics in education;) 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 co-sponsors an annual, paid internship for a student in the journalism program at SDSU. Intern Kylie Carlson, summer 2022, has published several articles; 2021 intern Andrew Rassmussen published several in-depth articles.

South Dakota News Watch story by intern Kylie Carlson about effects of rising inflation as it appeared on the front page of the Rapid City Journal on July 8, 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

— News Watch won three regional awards in the Great Plains Journalism Contest hosted by the Tulsa Press Club. Articles by Pfankuch in 2021 were a finalist in three news categories: in Investigative Reporting for articles on questionable COVID grants received by a South Dakota state senator’s son; in Specialty Feature category for a series on the child-care crisis in South Dakota; and in Business Feature for articles examining the growing dairy industry in South Dakota and increasing use of robotic milking.

Regarding the COVID grant article, the judge noted: “Great example of investigative reporting to hold people and government accountable. The reporting in this is impressive and not only includes great use of traditional public documents — tax and property records — but the reporter also used archived testimony on an unrelated matter … that confirmed what the reporter had learned.”

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 eight 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.