In his column in Sunday’s Argus Leader , executive editor Randell Beck attempted to answer criticism about the paper’s long-time political columnist and reporter Dave Kranz.
An attempt to answer criticism? Maybe. Any real answers? Not on your life.
The issue: Republicans and others have expressed concern with the Argus Leader’s occasionally gratuitous coverage of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. But real issues have arisen about Kranz’s prior relationship with Daschle, and his past ties to Democrat politics.
Kranz doesn’t report on the Daschle-Thune senate race. But he does write a twice-weekly political column and he, along with Steve Hemingsen of KELO TV, posed questions to the two candidates in their debate Sunday night. Kranz, through the Argus Leader , has serious power at the end of his fingertips.
Kranz is truly the dean of South Dakota political reporting, but for Beck to ignore complaints and evidence of possible conflicts of interest is poor public relations at best, and bad journalism at worst.
Whether Kranz is biased and too connected to the people he covers is a matter for debate. That discussion should happen-in the open and with a real look at the evidence.
Beck’s position at the Argus means he is often its public face. I would hope he would listen to concerns and complaints, no matter how trivial, with a modicum of decency and respect. But Beck didn’t answer any specific accusations in his Sunday column. Instead, he mocked those who complained.
And who did he pick on? Some political no-nothing? No, he picked on state representative Elizabeth Kraus, a Republican from Rapid City.
I worked at the legislature earlier this year, and had a chance to see Kraus in action.
She’s not an idiot-she’s an intelligent, fair-minded person. When she spoke, people listened, and when she sponsored legislation, more often than not it got passed.
Instead of responding to the complaints, Beck used his column as a bully pulpit against those that would question his decisions. He wrote a partial transcript of his phone call to Kraus and railed against the “others” who have complained about Kranz’s connections. He said complaints about Kranz all sound like they’re being read off a script.
Well Mr. Beck, here’s some non-scripted questions: Do the obvious past connections Kranz has with Democrats affect his coverage of state politics? Why do you persist in answering real criticism with over-blown sarcasm? And how do you plan to respectfully respond to complaints in the future?
Jeremy Fugleberg studies journalism and political science. He is the Juice Managing Editor.