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Challenges faced by the media in today’s political environment

— Stu Whitney, investigative reporter

Journalist and author Angela Kennecke (left) responds to a question as News Watch investigative reporter Stu Whitney (right) looks on. Photo by Dave Eggen. A video of the panel discussion can be found here.

South Dakota News Watch launched its 2023 fundraising campaign with an Oct. 4 event that included an in-depth look at challenges faced by the media in today’s political environment.

The discussion, entitled “Finding Daylight: Today’s Media and the Political Divide,” featured Content Director Bart Pfankuch and Investigative Reporter Stu Whitney of News Watch along with longtime KELO-TV investigative reporter Angela Kennecke and moderator Marci Burdock, a News Watch board member.

Randell Beck, a News Watch co-founder, opened the event at Minnehaha Country Club by outlining the ever-important role of journalists to keep government officials accountable even as traditional media outlets adjust to a shifting business climate.

“At a time of vanishing resources in most newsrooms, South Dakota News Watch has doubled down on the kind of stories that take no sides, serve no special interests and pursue the truth relentlessly,” said Beck, a former Sioux Falls Argus Leader editor and publisher. “That’s an increasingly high bar.”

The panelists shared stories of their time in the field, uncovering stories that made a difference in the community and brought information to light.

“We can’t have a democracy without a free press,” said Kennecke. “I always saw myself as a conduit to the public, covering important meetings or questioning politicians on how tax dollars are spent so people who can’t be there are informed of what’s happening.”

The journalists took questions from the audience and shared concerns over “echo chambers” and the increased partisanship of today’s political environment, which makes the role of reporters even more crucial.

“The media is there to bridge that gap,” said Pfankuch. “We’ve seen circumstances change in a lot of ways, but the role itself is to provide a basis for valuable discussions to occur.”

The hour-long discussion was the latest public event hosted by News Watch, which is committed to producing superior journalism but also to convene communities of thought in order to tackle important topics that affect all South Dakotans.

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