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Free press? South Dakota elected official asks for $100,000 in taxpayer funds to sue local newspaper  2 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

An elected board member in South Dakota, unhappy with the reporting of the Rapid City Journal, proposed using $100,000 of taxpayer funds to sue the newspaper.

His motion was defeated by a 6-3 vote on Tuesday night, just hours after TIME magazine honored four journalists and one news organization as its "Person of the Year," citing the challenges that journalists face to "tell the story of our time."

In one of the newest attacks on the free press, Nathan Gjovik of the West Dakota Water Development District raised the possibility of a lawsuit during the meeting, claiming the newspaper had defamed the board, and requested a $100,000 allocation, or 45 percent of the district's 2018 revenue, the Journal reported.

The lawsuit allocation, if approved, would have exceeded the board's spending on water projects this year by $14,000, the Journal reported.

“When you’ve got a bully on the beach, sometimes you’ve got to go pop them on the nose before you get things squared away, and that’s kind of how I look at the Rapid City Journal situation,” Gjovik said during the meeting, according to the newspaper.

Director Thomas Mack, who voted against Gjovik’s motion, was quoted in the Journal: “We have much better use for $100,000. We could actually be funding water projects, which is our intended purpose.”

The attempt to sue the newspaper came a day before Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin attacked two news organizations on social media. A Republican, Bevin criticized a partnership between the state's largest newspaper, The Louisville Courier Journal, a member of the USA TODAY Network, and ProPublica.

Bevin described the Courier Journal as a "biased, left-wing organization" and dismissed ProPublica as a tool for billionaire Democratic Party supporter "George, I hate America, Soros."

On Election Day in Iowa, a Republican congressman also barred the local newspaper from covering his election night event. Rep. Steve King's son, a campaign staffer, refused to give the Des Moines Register credentials in an email. 

“We are not granting credentials to the Des Moines Register or any other leftist propaganda media outlet with no concern for reporting the truth,” he wrote. 

President Donald Trump tweeted his most recent criticism of the news media on Tuesday: "Fake News has it purposely wrong. Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington. Please report news correctly. Thank you!"

In recognizing murdered Saudi Arabian writer Jamal Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette newsroom and three other journalists, TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in an essay, “They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world – as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018 – who risk all to tell the story of our time."

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