Over the weekend the North Dakota Newspaper Association held their annual conference, and they handed out some awards. A reporter friend forwarded me the list of winners, noting that the Fargo Forum won the 1st Amendment award for their coverage of the North Dakota University System.
“Seems like you should get some of that [credit],” my friend wrote to me.
Maybe so, but more interesting to me were the comments that went along with the award. These are the judge’s comments, as listed below:
The Forum was relentless in its effort to expose willful and pervasive efforts to hide public higher education information from the public. Its coverage demonstrates serious and necessary attention to an out-of-control state entity. Very good work.
“An out-of-control state entity.”
I couldn’t agree more. North Dakota’s university system is out of control, and badly in need of reform. What’s ironic is that some of the loudest defenders of the status quo are the state’s newspaper editorial boards, particularly the Fargo Forum and the Grand Forks Herald.
For instance, back when I exposed that university system muckety-mucks were using North Dakota State University’s private airplane to jet back and forth to Bismarck to plead poverty to legislators, both the Herald and the Forum defended that ridiculously lavish expense and attacked me for bringing it up.
Based on private conversations, I think some in the newsrooms at these newspapers get that there are major problems in the university system. And with the North Dakota Newspaper Association handing out awards for covering the “out-of-control” university system, maybe that reality will filter into the editorials too.
In November North Dakotans will cast their ballots on Measure 3, a constitutional amendment that will reform the way the university system is governed. It seems the need for that reform has become apparent even to some of its most ardent defenders.
Update: Forum reporter Kyle Potter – who also got an award from the NDNA, congrats to him – notes that it was a judge for the NDNA not the association itself which made the comments. That seems like a distinction without a difference, but I’ll note it.
The irony is still hilarious.
@robport For what it's worth, those comments come from judges (I believe from OK), not NDNA itself.
— Kyle Potter (@kpottermn) May 5, 2014