Bob Mercer reports that Attorney General Mark Vargo has pulled another journalist off the beat and into state government:
Vargo brought aboard Stewart Huntington, a longtime reporter and editor at a variety of news organizations, to be his official spokesman.
Most recently, Huntington was based in the Minneapolis area while working as a contract reporter for Indian Country Today with a focus on national stories.
Prior stops in South Dakota included five years at KOTA-TV in Rapid City, four-plus years as founder and CEO of an internet startup, and 10 years as publisher of the Black Hills Pioneer newspaper based in Spearfish. He previously worked two years as managing editor at a Kansas newspaper and 10 years in various newsroom roles at the San Francisco Examiner [Bob Mercer, “SD’s AG Office Returns to Having a Spokesman,” KELO-TV, 2022.09.02].
Vargo hired Huntington about ten days ago, shortly after Huntington’s August 6 report in The Guardian saying good things about Pennington County’s “groundbreaking partnership with a group of Lakota elders to divert some cases into the new Oyate court, or people’s court, which employs a process based on Native Culture and aboriginal peacemaking principles that stress healing over punishment.” Huntington reported for KOTA-TV in 2019 on the diversion program Vargo started as state’s attorney in Pennington County. On his online résumé, Huntington describes his position at KOTA as “Indian Country Reporter“:
When riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, over racial imbalances in that city’s police force and practices, I called up management at KOTA TV and presented a proposition: Would they like a reporter to explore the landscape in Rapid City where the police force was all white and the jail population majority Native American? The answer was “yes” and I embarked on a five-year journalistic exploration of the racial and cultural enmity that simmers between the territory’s broader community and its Lakota minority – and the moments of comity and conciliation. My dedication to reflecting all perspectives in a given story – and in my body of work – was widely seen as unprecedented in the territory where the racial divide is often viewed as part of the fabric of life and not viewed as “newsworthy” except when tensions flair [sic] [Stewart Huntington, LinkedIn profile, retrieved 2022.09.03].
Huntington also organized an anti-racism picnic in Rapid City in June 2014 in response to Ku Klux Klan activity and other racist incidents in the Black Hills.
The state is paying Huntington an annual salary of $71,000. According to Open.SD.Gov, Marty Jackley’s spokesperson, Sara Rabern, ended at $69,569.76. Ravnsborg’s crony mouthpiece and chief of staff Tim Bormann, whom Vargo wisely axed on day one in the office, was getting $125,228.53.
During his brief stint as Department of Health coronavirus-downspinner, Trumpist import Daniel Bucheli got $83,328. (DOH doesn’t list a new spokesperson now; recent press releases and the staff directory direct inquiries to DOHMedia@state.sd.us, and other reports cite DOH generically.) Tony Mangan was getting $61,545.72 when all he had to do was speak for the Department of Public Safety; now that he also has to write and recite Governor Kristi Noem’s baloney, Mangan is getting $109,545.72. When Bob Mercer spoke for Governor Bill Janklow 20 years ago, he made $82,399.82.