“Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing,” is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. That’s often how I feel like my relationship goes with the press. I hope to be doing things worth writing about, and I hope they are writing things worth reading.
One of South Dakota’s greatest resources is the hometown newspaper. Local newspapers, television stations and other media sources like these play an instrumental role in keeping communities strong and informed. And honest reporting can be a valuable tool in upholding the integrity of government entities.
I’ve seen that first-hand. Fact-based reporting helped shine a light on federal VA abuses against our veterans. It has helped us see inside institutions like the Indian Health Service. Tough, investigative reporting can lead to much-needed policy reforms. Even so, local reporters can be forced to testify for investigating important stories, causing them to choose between maintaining the confidentiality of their sources and the possibility of jail.
Reporters should never have to choose between revealing a confidential source and jailtime. That’s why, in my State of the State address, I asked for a reporter shield law that protects journalists from revealing privileged sources and information to reach my desk by the end of session. I’m pleased to report that a good bill recently passed both the House and Senate, and I signed it into law.
This new law will help ensure that investigative reporters can do their jobs without fear of consequences or legal action. This is a necessary step toward protecting the constitutional right to a free and independent press. I am thankful that the South Dakota Newspaper Association (SDNA) supported this concept and worked with a majority of legislators to get this across the finish line.
As David Bordewyk, the executive director of SDNA, said: “The journalist’s shield law will help to ensure a free and robust press in South Dakota can do its work effectively without fear of being compelled to divulge confidential sources or to release unpublished newsgathering material. These protections are important to protecting a free flow of information in our state.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’m committed to making my administration the most transparent in our state’s history. As we grow our economy and strengthen family structures, we must be diligent in keeping government transparency as a cornerstone. Let’s throw open up state government to more daylight and let genuine accountability be a guiding principle as we work to make South Dakota stronger for the next generation.
—By Gov. Kristi Noem