Rapid City Paper Cans Kent Columns After Unfavorable Comparison to Competitor

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:

Update: As of 09:00 MDT today—

FB Page Likes
Lakota Country Times 214,281
Rapid City Journal  26,252
Native Sun News  14,456
that Sioux Falls paper 12,477
Dakota Free Press 1,257
Dakota War College 618

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].

Kent published the same column in Lakota Country Times and a similar story on SDPB Radio.

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:

Jim Kent
Jim 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!

11 Responses to Rapid City Paper Cans Kent Columns After Unfavorable Comparison to Competitor

  1. On important lesson from this story is the need for annual written disclosure of conflicts of interest. People forget, people change jobs and roles, etc.

    This story makes it sound like the disclosure was made six years ago, was made verbally, and the terms of managing the conflict were also verbal. Time and lack of documentation leave lots of room for dispute.

  2. Jim Kent was a highlight of the RCJ every week as he pretty much “told it as it was” and of course this don’t seem to fall into Lee Enterprise’s corporate business model of “toeing the line for SD GOP media friends”!! Not the first time, either, that good syndicated editorialists (or not syndicated for that matter) have been bumped from those pages as we all know others have met the same fate! Best of luck to a really good man and only the Journal will be the loser…..

  3. Roger Cornelius

    Just as Cory refers to the Argus Leader “as that paper”, the Rapid City Journal should be referred to as “that west river newspaper”.
    And Jake is right, that paper has a long history losing some of the best journalist in the state, Kevin Woster and his wife Mary Garagan, Steve Montgomery, etc.
    In simplest form, that west river paper is a bias rag. Remember the recent controversy over Rounds refusing to call out Trump on the KKK? Nothing about it in that west river paper.
    Yesterday on its webpage they featured an article about the 3 Gear Up being arraigned in court. There was only a picture of Stacey Phelps the Indian guy. I immediately emailed them and told them they should show photos of everyone. After about half an hour they took Stacey picture down and replaced it with a Gear Up logo. I’m no fan of Stacey after this scandal, but if all 3 had to appear in court, they should all be featured.
    Jim Kent was a regular target of redneck readers and commenters for his articles on Lakota history and culture. The journal editors allowed some of the most vile comments about Jim to be posted without using their true identity.
    I hope Jim finds a new outlet for his work, he has a real ability to associate with the Lakota and write what he sees and does it well.

  4. I, for one, like the RCJ. It’s about the only reasonable “newspaper” left in the state, even as far as it has fallen. It is far better than that east river newspaper, even though they have some very ignorant comments posted on their stories. Mr. C is righter than right about some of the vile comments. Viler than all get out. I did not care greatly for Mr. Kent’s writings but his dismissal leaves me less enthused about that newspaper. Perhaps his bloggings will be widely read.

  5. Bob Newland

    He’ll miss the extra $40 a month, I’ll bet.

  6. Mr. Newland is righter than right. We can only hope the RCJ will fill that slot with somebody who tells stories like Bob, if not Bob himself. Or even an alternating point/counter-point debate format with Bob and that car collector fellow from out by the dump, not to be confused with my friend Bill. I am talking about that other fellow named Bill.

  7. John Wrede

    The RCj refused to publish the piece I wrote in response to Daugaards assertion that the ESA needed significant revision. They also refused to publish a guest opinion column that criticized a story written about “grouse hunting and management” as well as GFP biologists that contributed half baked and patently false information for the article. The journal is an insult to the 1st Amendment.

  8. The Rapid City journal is not a newspaper. I am not even sure what you would call it. Is it third world? Is it a throw back to some publication in the deep south 60 years ago? There is no investigative reporting. There is nothing fair and balanced about it. A person who was let go by this rag would certainly have to look back and say—thank god!

  9. Between the editorial bias and the disgusting, ignorant, bigoted $.02 comments, I canceled my subscription over 2 yrs ago and haven’t missed it a bit! Besides, running “news” articles that were days old, cutting the content to pamphlet size, and delivery persons that make one play find-it every morning, it just wasn’t worth it!

  10. editorial bias… disgusting, ignorant, bigoted… I think those same words have been thrown at me on various occasions. ;-)

    There seems no reason to doubt Kent’s statement that he revealed his relationship with LCT when he began his relationship with RCJ. Kent’s columns were public knowledge. Michael, if RCJ didn’t have a clear, written conflict-of-interest policy, does Kent bear any responsibility for not reminding them of what he told them when he started?

  11. Cory: That’s a tough one. Technically, he may not bear the responsibility, but human nature says most anyone construes ambiguity to their own advantage and professes shock when confronted with a contrary impression of the ambiguity.

    In an employment or contractual situation, reducing ambiguity is more in the interest of the employee or contractor than it is in the interest of the employee or client due to the relative power of the parties.

    In this case, there’s a lot I don’t know so I don’t want to criticize anyone’s actions. That’s not to say, however, that it couldn’t have been handled better by both parties.