South Dakota Paper Bans Abortion Opinion

The daily paper of record in South Dakota refuses to run editorials on the abortion ban, because they think everyone will get too upset:

The the biggest abortion rights story in 33 years is taking place in its own backyard, but South Dakota's largest newspaper will not editorialize on the controversial statewide abortion ban just recently approved by its legislature.

"Part of it was that we wouldn't change people's minds, and part of it, regardless of which side we came down on this, is that people would read into it things that are not true," Chuck Baldwin, editorial page editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., told Editor & Publisher. "People would think our coverage is tainted, and not just on abortion but on everything."

When asked if such a view could preclude editorials on virtually any controversial issue, Baldwin disagreed. "Abortion is different from other issues," he replied. "It is a hot-button issue at the core of everyone's soul. It will not change no matter what."

Hey, readers: Are you a reporter, editor, newspaper staffer, blogger, journalist -- or even someone who's had the slightest course in standing on your own two feet?

WRITE Editor Chuck Baldwin. His snail mail is: Argus Leader, P.O. Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5034. Fax: (605) 331-2294.

You wanna compose the letter yourself? Or do you wanna use mine?

Dear Mr. Baldwin:

So you aren't running any editorials on the South Dakota abortion ban!

Are you high? -- or do you just not care about being the laughingstock of your entire profession?

If you do not cover the pressing news and opinions of of the day, you can just turn in your "reporter" badge to the little clown car people who would be happy to outfit you with a diaper and a party hat.

What is your paper's record?

When did an editorial ban come up before? Iraq, Vietnam, perhaps? Gee, those were touchy issues too. And civil rights made so many people upset. I don't know how you get the nerve to discuss something as hot as presidential elections, either. Even the fluoride debate might be a little too steamy for the Argus (gulp) Leader!

I've been a working journalist more than thirty years, like you. I'm a freelancer now, but I've worked for small-town and big city dailies. I've been the plaintiff in landmark 1st Amendment cases defending the right to publish editorial without prior restraint. (See Bright vs. Los Angeles Board of Education).

Gee, I guess I shouldn't have BOTHERED, because gutless wonderments like the Board of the Argus Leakypants don't need to publish anything that might get under someone's skin.

Have a nice weather section, Chuck. But watch out... you know, Bill Napoli might think your meteorology isn't in God's plan. He might have another one of his wicked fantasies you wouldn't want to touch with a ten-foot abortion exception.

I see from your biography that you take special interest in "race and refugee issues." Can you imagine not speaking out on Kosovo because it was a "hot button issue"?

Like Grandma always said, it's time to grow a spine. It's the only way out of this hell. Your problem isn't lack of opinion. This is the biggest thing that has happened in South Dakota since the stand-off with the FBI at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Did the Argus Leader cover THAT on their editorial page?

Redemption could be yours, at least professionally. Send out announcements when you find gravity.

Susie Bright