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Needing Something to Do, Bryon Noem Takes Up Blogging on State Dime

Now we know why Bryon Noem has been practicing his little DeSmet Farm Mutual knock-off posts about small-town life on his insurance agency Facebook page. He’s been warming up for the big First Gentleman’s social media initiative that his wife’s marketers cooked up for him:

“As First Gentleman, my mission is simple: I want to celebrate South Dakota and all the things that make it special. I want to remind people of the hidden gems of our small towns – the places off the beaten path,” said First Gentleman Bryon Noem. “Our hometowns are the heartbeat of our state, and I want to highlight them. I want to remind people that South Dakota’s rural communities are some of the best places to raise a family or to start a business. I’m excited for this opportunity to listen to the stories of our people and our rural communities. Our small towns are our culture. They’re who we are. This is South Dakota.”

Bryon Noem’s initiative, entitled “This is South Dakota,” will highlight the role smaller communities play in South Dakota’s landscape and the importance of preserving the state’s rural culture. As part of this effort, Noem will travel to towns and educate his social community about the value of small town living and the stories found in rural settings [Office of the Governor, press release, 2019.10.21].

Basically, Bryon’s going to drive around the state (in a state car, with a state videographer) blogging.

Bryon Noem, blogging about small towns for state government
Your tax dollars at “work”….

“I think there’s a lot of nuggets in these small towns,” says Bryon in the first video that the Governor’s office produced for him. “Nuggets” is perhaps an apt analogy for the feel-good flavorlessness that will issue from our Governor’s husband’s mouth as he wanders around the state mouthing highly processed anti-urban platitudes and doing free advertising for small-town shops on the taxpayer’s dime.


  1. John 2019-10-22 10:36

    Bryon was my junior high and high school basketball coach growing up, and while I don’t agree with many of the policies of his wife, I think that this is good exposure for places that are never touched upon by the keloland/Sufu news machines. I think this is good for South Dakota. Pay for it out of the visitors bureau, then it makes monetary sense.

  2. Donald Pay 2019-10-22 11:09

    I agree with John. One thing that Mr. Noem should concentrate on is not just the rah-rah stuff, but the real tough issues that face rural communities. How, for instance, do small towns maintain their schools in the face of the current school funding system? Should rural communities be bribed to force them to permit LULUs, like large-scale CAFOs that would put other producers out of business and cause degradation of the rural environment? These are issues that don’t get covered enough.

  3. Caroline 2019-10-22 11:32

    Doesn’t Mike Huether already do nice small town stories on KELO?

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-22 12:11

    Good point, Caroline! Kristi can’t even come up with original ideas to take up our mindspace in anticipation of her 2022 reëlection campaign. Maybe she anticipates Huether finally working up the courage to run against her, so she is trying to undermine his marketing appeal

  5. John 2019-10-22 12:12

    I don’t know, I quit watching kelo-land when it became the Sioux Falls news.

  6. John 2019-10-22 12:16

    focusing only on the plight of the largest metro areas will get us exactly where we ended up 3 years ago… on the losing side of another presidential election.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-22 12:17

    John and Donald together have a good suggestion. If Bryon’s project were a genuine rural life blog, designed to give voice to the rural voiceless and talk about real issues of inequality that rural folks face (economic opportunity, healthcare, education…), it would be a great addition to public policy conversation in our state.

    But the opening video suggests all we’re going to get is rah-rah nostalgia and image-making, not real investigation, analysis, policy discussion, or action.

    Say, if we really want small-town stories, doesn’t Bernie Hunhoff’s estimable South Dakota Magazine have that demand covered? Isn’t Bryon’s sally into rural storytelling just another example of socialists in Pierre intruding on the free market?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-22 12:18

    And lest we think the Noems have any real moral authority to speak to rural issues, remember that we’re talking about people who think the best representative of rural interests is a Manhattan billionaire who’s never done a day’s chores in his life.

  9. Ariel 2019-10-22 12:22

    I think it’d be great if they got a videographer who kept himself out of the shot… ;)

  10. jt 2019-10-22 12:31

    I’m glad that the SD taxpayers are going to foot the mileage bill for Bryon’s door to door insurance salesmen venture, and we are going to pay for the vlog of it as well. Look the real issues are that very few young people want to come back to these communities because our state won’t invest in infrastructure or get simple bills passed so we are where our neighboring states are headed, we are falling short on the times. We will be economically stuck in the past and continue to lose the next generation.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-22 12:46

    I wonder how much time the First Gentleman will spend in reservation communities asking waxing poetic about their idyllic rural life. (The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s travel ban only applied to Kristi, not Bryon, right?)

  12. Porter Lansing 2019-10-22 14:59

    Bless the Noem’s. They don’t need to fake a clinging, traditional marriage. Just come right out and make a video about it. Like Stace tweeted about buying Mrs. Nelson a new wine refrigerator. “The more she drinks, the better I look. Happy wife … happy life.”

  13. Debbo 2019-10-22 20:42

    I’m not against this. A little cheerleading will help the little towns get some recognition. But there are shortcomings.

    Cheerleading doesn’t fix the lack of healthcare, high poverty, educational needs, etc. It doesn’t even address those issues.

    In addition, it is purely whitewashing. People don’t leave SD because it’s not white enough. Nor does the state lack immigration because it’s not white enough. In his little speech, Byron makes clear how pasty white his little videos will be. “Our small towns are our culture. They’re who we are. This is South Dakota.”

    So these videos are a teeny, tiny start. That’s a plus. Barely.

  14. Buckobear 2019-10-22 21:38

    … and just like donald, hire your spawn and relatives.

  15. chris 2019-10-22 22:24

    This would make a good Stephen King story. Like, another politically ambitious guy discovers something non-sentimental in a rural SD town in October and wishes he hadn’t.

  16. Debbo 2019-10-22 23:24


  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-23 12:29

    Noel Hamiel is on SDPB right now agreeing with what some folks in this comment section are saying: Hamiel says we all know small towns are great, and that telling their story is not the real challenge they face. Small towns need economic development, and Hamiel says to matter, Bryon’s initiative needs to look for ways to connect with actual policy from the Governor’s Office to address rural economic development. Jon Hunter says we need to see results from this effort, actual measurements of the good done for small towns by sending Bryon out to Hecla to stand in front of a camera and look hunky.

  18. Debbo 2019-10-23 13:43

    “actual measurements of the good done for small towns by sending Bryon out to Hecla to stand in front of a camera and look hunky.”


  19. Jenny 2019-10-23 20:23

    I hope but highly doubt Mr Noem takes on the small town social problems SD has such as discrimination towards their fellow Native Americans, also the lack of mental health professionals in rural communities and how it affects people suffering from mental illness, and also the opioid addiction that has become prevalent in rural America. It would also probably be prize winning to interview an LGBT person on what it’s like to live an anti-gay rural SD. Hey Cory, that’s a story you could do. We all know there are too many still living in the closet out of shame.

    Instead it will be a ‘rah rah SD is great’ communication piece. Same old song and dance. Nothing ever changes in SD.

  20. Jenny 2019-10-23 20:45

    The video is already cheesy to me. This is going to be another SD tourism commercial. All is great, everyone gets along, no bullying in our small schools, we love our God and we pray the gay away.

  21. Porter Lansing 2019-10-23 21:30

    I agree, Jenny. Who’s gonna see it? South Dakotans? After the Columbine school shooting, Michael Moore made a movie about my little town. “Bowling for Columbine”. No puffery or nice guy stuff. Just all the problems that encouraged two white kids with rocket scientist fathers to seek revenge on the jocks who tormented nerd kids. Lots of locals hated it but it was real.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-24 05:52

    Videos like these can be a start, Debbo, but I suspect in the Noems’ mind, these videos are a policy finish… in two senses of the word: an end, beyond which we may expect no further action, and a shellac, meant to protect and polish Kristi’s image.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-24 06:00

    Jenny, imagine Bryon’s project taken to the cutting edge, telling the real untold stories of small towns. Instead of the predictable rah-rah nostalgia, imagine if he did sit down to interview a same-sex couple in a small town (if we could find one that would speak on the record and honestly about the discrimination they face). Imagine if he did an interview with two small-town high school seniors, one who is leaving for Harvard, one who plans to stick around and work on the family farm: put those two kids in a room, turn on the mic, and let them talk out their different views of their hometown and the factors that have led to their decisions. Talk to a teacher with a master’s degree trying to raise a family on $40K a year in some town an hour’s drive from a fully-stocked grocery store and a hundred miles away from a hospital than can handle anything more serious than a broken bone. Talk to anyone other than the stereotypical local boosters who look at the camera with nothing but a smile on their faces and who fawn all over the First Gentleman for coming to pay attention to them.

    Yeah, a video tour of small-town South Dakota could make for some really interesting storytelling, a sort of “This South Dakotan Life” with our own version of Ira Glass (except with better enunciation). But that tour needs to be led by a real journalist, someone committed to the truth, not personal image-making.

  24. Amber 2019-10-29 13:07

    I agree with everything that has been said so far. We already have many places with which to go for “fluffy” home town stories. South Dakota Magazine, Keloland On the Road with Mike Huether, SD Public TV has Dakota Life and Savor Dakota. There are probably a few more but you get the gist. To me this is a thinly veiled approach to setting the stage for her to run again in 3 years.

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