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KSOO Films Petition Circulator: Know What You Are Signing!

KSOO’s Beth Warden joins the watchdog journalists doing the public a great service by going out and talking to petition circulators on camera. Does this guy pass your smell test?

Wow—he didn’t run from the camera; he still tried to earn his pay and get the signature! These operatives are getting smarter… or Beth is just cuter to stand and talk to.

Fishier than the fact this guy doesn’t directly answer Warden’s question about where he’s from at first is the fact that he can’t explain his ballot measure when he gets his chance and that the first sheet of paper he shows Warden is not the sheet that tells Warden what she might be signing:

The only thing that concerned me is in this case was the opportunity for signatures to be swapped from one petition to the other.  The man I spoke with had multiple petitions, told me what it was for, but the page I was asked to sign didn’t have the Attorney General’s description on that particular page.  I asked to see the page that had the actual description.   The page including the description had only a couple of signatures with many blank lines awaiting future signatures.  I then discovered how easy it could be to swap petition signatures from one issue to another [Beth Warden, “Is This Petition Gathering Legal?” KSOO Radio, 2015.10.05].

Warden gives every South Dakota citizen exactly the right advice, basic but worth repeating:

If you are asked to sign a petition, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, and make sure the petition you to want to sign is indeed the one your name is attached to, especially when someone is gathering for multiple issues [Warden, 2015.10.05].

Thank you, Beth Warden, for that useful reporting. Now let’s see every journalist get out there with a camera and ask every circulator they see questions.


  1. Tom Lawrence 2015-10-05

    Speaking of ethics, did she identify herself as a reporter?

  2. Notinks 2015-10-06

    I wish she hadn’t turned the camera off when he explained the petitions and when she noticed the petition was blank (is that what she is saying?) on the reverse side.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-06

    Tom, are reporters required to do so? Is the presence of a camera sufficient to alert the speaker that the comments will go on some record?

    Notinks, I’m not sure of the exact layout of the sheets. I would love to see that, too. Every signer should ask to see both sides of every sheet they sign.

  4. Bill Fleming 2015-10-06

    I wouldn’t be so hard on the guy, Cory. First he kind of got blindsided by a woman asking him questions about where he was from. She wasn’t clear about what she was asking, and when she finally clarified, his ID came right out. Then she wanted to know what the petition was about, and when he started to tell her she shut the camera off. I give him a pass. He did okay. You might have done better, but I’m not sure a lot of us would.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-06

    Blindsided? Bill, tough shiskey! He’s standing at a gas station blindsiding customers with a request to sign petitions. He should expect questions. “Resident of South Dakota? Where you from?” Not hard questions. And what difference should it make if he’s on camera? He’s in public, carrying out a public function. He should be ready to speak to the public.

  6. leslie 2015-10-06

    says the debate coach!!

  7. CraigSk 2015-10-06

    I completely agree with you Cory, South Dakotans wise up. At the very minimum, the circulator should be able to clearly describe the petion they are asking you to sign, and be happy to do so. What is this anti-corruption petition he was taking about? Not being able to explain the petion you are holding is like working at McDonalds and not knowing, two all beef patties, special sauce , lettuce , cheese, pickles, onion on a sesame seed bun is a Big Mac not an corrupted egg McMuffin.

  8. Bill Fleming 2015-10-06

    …or being able to spell “petition”.

  9. Bill Fleming 2015-10-07

    Sorry Cory, I’m not a big fan of ambush journalism. Especially when the subjects are ethnic minorities and the ambushers are white people from one of the most red neck states in the nation. I can think of about two million good reasons why those cameras might make them more than a little nervous. And neither interview you posted ever really gave them a chance to calm down and explain themselves. Put it this way, neither you or the gal from KSOO would ever get a job doing man on the street interviews for a pro agency. You have to get it that you’re not the talent, they are.

  10. CraigSk 2015-10-07

    My apologies Bill, for the typo of spelling of the word petition. I promise to proofread better next time. But thanks for the catch.

  11. Bill Fleming 2015-10-07

    No worries Craig.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    And if I were angling for such a job, Bill, I shoot different video. If I had sympathy for these fakers, I’d feel differently. But if we want to call these ambush videos, I’ll contend that in some fights, an ambush is a useful and allowable tactic. I urge all citizens to stage the same kind of “ambush,” with or without cameras. Walk up to a petitioner, ask what they are circulating, what it’s about, where they are from, and any other question relevant to determining whether the petition and the circulator are legitimate. That’s an ambush only if the petitioner feels as if seeking the truth is an attack.

  13. Bill Fleming 2015-10-07

    Okay, so what did we learn about this particular petitioner, Cory? Sorry, but I can’t tell from the video provided. If someone sees him on the street, which petitions is he circulating?

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Sure, we don’t learn enough from this video. I’d have liked her to have kept the camera on for the entire interaction. If I were circulating, I’d have said, “Oh no, keep that camera on. Let me tell you and your viewers all about this great proposal and the good it will do for us South Dakotans.” And if the guys I’d talked to had been willing to answer questions instead of running away, I’d have kept the video on the whole time, too, so folks could learn what’s up.

  15. Bill Fleming 2015-10-07

    There you go. Keep shooting until you have a story.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-08

    …or until the guys who could give me the story run away… which is itself a story.

Comments are closed.