Columnist Jim Kent and the Rapid City Journal editorial board have butted heads for the last time. On March 10, RCJ booted Kent from its pages after a February 25 feel-good column about Connie Smith’s successful adoption of social media to expand the audience of her Martin-based newspaper Lakota Country Times:
As of this writing, the Lakota Country Times pretty much rules South Dakota when it comes to Facebook “likes” with 204,678 followers. And though that’s only about half the number of fans for national Native publications like Indian Country Today and the Native Times, it’s mega-times higher than any local newspapers in the state.
By comparison, for example, the Native Sun News — published off-the-reservation in Rapid City — has a mere 13,835 followers. Even the state’s two largest newspapers can’t compare. The Rapid City Journal shows just 25,737 Facebook followers while South Dakota’s East River newspaper comes in with a paltry 12,080 [Jim Kent, “The Big Paper with the Small-Town Heart,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.02.25].
According to Kent, RCJ ended its relationship with Kent over what RCJ called an undisclosed conflict of interest with LCT:
It has been brought to our attention and has since been verified that you write a column that is published in Lakota Country Times, a publication that was the topic of your Feb. 27 column in the Journal. You should have disclosed to the Journal that you have a professional relationship with Lakota Country Times so the editorial board could have evaluated whether there was a conflict of interest in this case. Transparency is an essential quality for Rapid City Journal columnists. Our readers and the editorial board expect it. As a consequence of your failure to disclose this important information to the editorial page editor, we have decided to discontinue your column [RCJ to Jim Kent, quoted in Jim Kent, Facebook post, 2016.03.11].
Horsehockey, says Kent:
Right. Of course, the reality of the situation is that I checked with the RCJ prior to “working” with the LCT (In 2010) to see if it was all right with them having the same column printed in their paper published in the LCT. “No problem. They’re not a competitor. As long as it’s not published before us.” AND so it’s gone for nearly 6 years [Kent, FB, 2016.03.11].
LCT editor Brandon Ecoffey also finds RCJ’s purported ignorance of Kent’s six-year appearance on LCT’s apges incredible and suggests that the collaborating RCJ and NSN might want to get over their hurt feelings and do something about their low online reach:
The irony is that the collusion that occurs between RCJ and NSN is quite significant. The two “independent” entities work hand in hand every single week. The Journal prints and helps distribute each issue of NSN and the communication between members of the RCJ editorial board and staff at NSN is continuous. Did it hurt their feelings that Jim Kent pointed out their embarrassingly low digital numbers? Maybe NSN should have taken my advice that this is a digital world, and that it would be smart to make the bold move of joining the rest of us in it. Luckily NSN has Christy Tibbitts to keep them afloat and moving forward as her professionalism and aptitude would surely flourish in any other business [Brandon Ecoffey, “Did It Hurt Their Feelings?” Lakota Country Times, 2016.03.17].
RCJ previously blocked Kent columns for negativity about the local hospital in 2013 and the ugly history of our colonialist American Indian assimilation schools in 2012. Now he’s canned from the Rapid City paper for good. Kent says he’ll survive. He says he’s even thinking of publishing a blog with podcasts of his continuing columns. Uh oh—looks like I’d better boost my online audience before Kent starts chasing me!