If Only The ND Media Put As Much Effort Into Covering Government As They Put Into Covering Football Games


Considering this a bit of an addendum to my post yesterday about pay for public officials versus pay for football and hockey coaches.

Today my social media feeds are full of dispatches from North Dakota reporters and media types extolling their coverage of the NDSU Bison championship game in Texas which, apparently, the Bison won.

That’s great for Bison football fans, but it’s interesting to see the contrast in the amount of media coverage given to a football game and the amount of coverage given to important political events. And I’m not just talking about elections, either. The media, even as they look down their pointy noses at “mud slinging” and such in editorials, loves a good, nasty political fight. It sells newspapers, and attracts eyeballs, but it may as well be entertainment news. Election coverage tells us very little about how politicians govern.

Rather, I’m talking about day-to-day coverage of how we hare governed.

Forum Communications, for instance, sent a team of photographers and reporters to Texas to cover the big game. They’ve got on-the-ground reporting, complete with video and audio reports. The coverage is, in a word, massive.

Yet last month when Governor Jack Dalrymple was delivering his executive budget to the legislature, the platform upon which most of the policies and spending priorities that will govern our state for the next two years will be built, Forum Communications didn’t have a single reporter in Bismarck for it. The one reporter who covered it for the media company which owns most of the state’s newspapers – the Fargo Forum’s Ryan Johnson – watched the governor’s speech on the internet. Multiple policymakers noted to me the absence of a single Forum Communications reporter in Bismarck for the proceedings.

In fact, Forum Communications hasn’t had a full-time capitol reporter in Bismarck for months, not since reporter Teri Finneman took a leave of absence.

Looking at the masthead for the Fargo Forum, there is a dedicated section for the half dozen sports reporters/editors employed by the paper, which is nearly as many as the eight reporters dedicated for all the other types of news (less than half of which ever write articles pertaining to government or politics).

But this isn’t unique to the Fargo Forum, or Fargo media in general. The Grand Forks Herald has more resources for covering hockey games than government.

If you’ve ever wondered why political and government reporting in North Dakota doesn’t go much beyond re-hashing the press releases candidates and officials send out, that’s why. The political reporters don’t have near the resources given to the sports reporters.

And this isn’t unique to North Dakota. Nationally, sports/entertainment topics get a lot more coverage and attention than political topics most of the time. President Obama’s soft-media strategy was based on this phenomena, as I’ve noted before. Obama didn’t go to People Magazine and Jay Leno for softball questions. He went to People Magazine and Jay Leno because that’s where the reader/viewers are.

I could blame “the media” for that, but really it’s our fault. We’re the people who care more about football games than tax policy, and that’s reflected in our news consumption. Forum Communications cares more about the NDSU Bison winning a football game than they do about how much the state government is going to spend in the next biennium because covering one is a hell of a lot more profitable than covering the other.

People always want to know what’s wrong with government. Why is it so dysfunctional? Why are they so corrupt? How do they get away with it all?

This phenomena is a big reason why.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • VocalYokel

    If only the Taxpayers were as interested in government as they are in sports.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob


      Well said.

      • $8194357

        Bread and circus while Rome burns……

    • awfulorv

      This past election teaches the near futility of defeating an entrenched establishment which uses the funds of unions, and the workers themselves, especially government unions, to quash the opposition. In key states workers, whose salaries were being paid by John Q. Public, were used to man telephones, and other means of communication, to get out the vote for Obama, and other Democrat candidates. Do not doubt that hundreds of thousands of man hours were “contributed” to their campaign efforts. In Ohio, for instance, each “volunteer” was responsible for contacting fifty potential voters, and making sure that vote, giving rides to the polls, if necessary, was counted. Meanwhile the Republicans had one unpaid worker for, perhaps, two thousand voters. Something has to change or the GOP will never again win a presidential election, unless the incumbent does something extraordinarily egregious while in office, and the mass media, fairly, reports the transgression to voters, which is unlikely.

      • VocalYokel

        There is no doubt that the GOP and Conservatives were outspent, out-maneuvered and out-muscled in the recent elections.

        It is my considered opinion that had more to do with agendas…mostly the culture war, and what the government could do to impose these on the opposition versus the concern for the Constitutional duties for which the government was originally established.
        This is true of both Left and Right, and the more we stray from the idea of a government that is limited to specific duties, the more we will face political contests that are propaganda-driven, self-serving, interest group based, economic slug-fests.

  • $8194357

    They sure are dropping the ball on weapons distribution in the middle east as well…

    Dropping the ball…Get it?


    Why are U.S.-made anti aircraft and anti tank missiles being sent to Gaza for Hamas?

    I thought Barack Hussien Obama was only sending US-made weapons (coordinated by slain Ambassador Chris Stevens) from Libya to Syrian jihadist rebels via Turkey? Perhaps he decided to divert some of the weapons to the terrorists in Gaza, as well.

  • spud

    Well congratulations to the Bison winning back to back titles. They received alot of flack when they decided to leave D2 but it has worked out. Yes the forum should do much better job of reporting on governmental affairs especially when it deals with North Dakota. When UND gets to frozen four tourney there is tremendous overkill on stories on hockey and fans also. But then there head coach is nicknamed Chokestol so we all know they lose the big game. Local newspapers will report local events this is a big local event. Rob if newspapers showed up for final two weeks of legislature session that would almost be good enough becuz face it our local legislators are just like our elected national leaders nothing happens until the bitter end.

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      Rob if newspapers showed up for final two weeks of legislature session that would almost be good enough

      Spoken like someone who doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to the legislature.

      • spud

        Spoken by someone who knows that it is final two weeks before the appropriation bills get decided. Congrats to Bison and there loyal followers who are with them win or lose. Rob I doubt that a Fargo newspaper really cares what some guy with an agenda has to say from Minot, ND. I think they care about the area that buys subscription’s. As a fan please keep bad mouthing NDSU as it makes it so much more fun when we continue to kick butt regardless of your opinion.

        • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

          Right, because the process which develops those bills isnt important at all.

          But you’re exactly the sort of low brow, low information voter the Forum caters to.

          Seriously. You think this is about the Bison.


          • borborygmi

            Your are the UBER political Junky Rob. Good for you. You really should have been born in the 1800’s. There is so much more out in the world and with todays media it is open to everyone. Lets see watch or listen to the machinations of North Dakota Politics or Cspan for National Politics especially when the congressional Rep or Sen is speaking before a room full of empty seats….NO thanks I think I will turn to the Spanish Paint Drying Channel.

          • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

            Fair enough, I guess, though people like you probably shouldn’t be allowed to vote then.

            If you’re not going to pay attention, why should you get to participate?

          • borborygmi

            you can pay attention but you don’t have to be consumed. Why do you think I read SAB to get info.

          • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

            I don’t think expecting people to believe law making is more important than football is a demand for obsession.

          • borborygmi

            believe it or not you can do both. That is why we have representative gov’t . I don’t need to know every legislator in Bismarck. I don’t need to know if Carlsen has a pimple on is buttock. Most of the bills are rather mundane. THe important ones are in the media whether electronic or print. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people out there that don’t give a rats hiney. Those are sheep, but there are plenty of types of sheep. There are also the ones that buy the party line because the party says so.

            There are those that wish to advance their agenda. You present facts but you also twist or interpret facts differently. Your Headlines mislead. It is up to the non sheep to investigate. There are those that

            provide links but those links are from a slanted source

            Here is a good example, Last Best Hope puts up that an Iranian city of a million plus had to be evacuated because of radiation. gives a link that says a reporter of the BBC is the source. Go to the BBC website, nothing about it is mentioned, nothing. Credible Source or agenda driven report.

            THis blog is guilty. In 08 report is given American Flag was taken off of OBamas Jet, picture shows jet with no American Flag. A little checking and picture of the same jet shows an American Flag on the lower fuselage. Same plane different angle of photo

            Credibility. Everyone complains about how the mainstream media lacks credibility, WHy because the do distort the headline, they do emphasize a different aspect of the facts. Turn to Fox same thing. Read SAB same thing.

            Ask yourself, is it possible to advance your Conservative agenda without distorting the facts, by telling the truth (the whole truth) or do you just want to provide entertainment. If the former you aren’t there if the latter you are at the top.

          • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

            You don’t like this blog because it provides facts and viewpoints that don’t fit your narrative. And rather than offer any coherent rebuttal, you wine about agendas.


          • camsaure


          • Guest

            Well, you did tag the story with “ndsu bison” and included a picture of them. If not about the Bison, why tag it as such?

          • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

            Because I was illustrating the point by pointing to the coverage of the Bison football championship.

  • Mike

    If only people wanted to know news — they’d buy it. They’d rather buy entertainment, i.e. sports. Appeal to their (immature) spirit and you have an audience for news.

    • Guest

      What do you think blogs such as this one do?

      • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

        Inform. Rebut.

    • camsaure

      You get nothing but 3 day old news and biased left news from the likes of the Fargo forum and Grand Forks herald. If you want the up to date truth you have to go searching for it. Some are to lazy to do this and others have only narrow interest in sports, it would be better if most of these types didn’t vote either.

  • Matthew Hawkins

    So it is the media’s fault?

    • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

      Not really. Not entirely, I should say.

      We want it, and they enable it.

      • camsaure

        Yes, but those who want it are sadly forced to search for the truth. I guess on a positive note that is good for your blog and for that I am grateful.

  • guest

    North Dakota media is in bed with the governor and other powerful elected “leaders” (I use the term lightly). Notice Governor John Hoeven issued a press release immediately after his Lt. Gov. Dalrymple led a trade mission to China in 2010 with DSU and NDSU officials that resulted in the beginning of Confucius Institutes at the schools? See this http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-2000383241.html

    Notice how quick politicans are to take credit for anything they perceive as positive? Outside media even picked this story up http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2010/07/30/dickinson_state_ndsu_seeking_stronger_china_ties/

    But when incovenient facts arise that show those politicans might be involved in things such as the Dickinson State University Chinese diploma mill scandal, North Dakota media doesn’t cover it at all. Why is North Dakota media not pursuing the fact that a March 2010 state trade mission led by Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple resulted in deals struck with Chinese schools such as Taiyuan University of Technology and Beijing Jiaotong University that shipped unqualified Chinese students over to Dickinson State University improperly and were given fraudulent degrees by Dickinson State? See page 8 of this document http://www.dickinsonstate.edu/uploadedFiles/DSU/Content/DSU_News/Signal_Butte/136560%20DSU%20low%20res.pdf

    And see page 4 of this document http://www.dickinsonstate.edu/uploadedFiles/DSU/Content/DSU_News/Student_Media/The%20Hawk_March_10%20final.pdf

    And see page 16 of this document http://www.dickinsonstate.edu/uploadedFiles/DSU/Content/DSU_News/Signal_Butte/SignalButte_Spring2011.pdf
    Why was the Hoeven-Dalrymple administration so proud of the Dickinson State-China relationship in 2010 but now not a peep. Gov. Dalrymple considers it an “unfortunate distraction.” Why is North Dakota media not covering this? Because they are in bed with the state’s ruling political class. The media will only cover good news that the powerful want out but not the bad.

    • camsaure

      Probably because Horeven and Dullrumple are both first and foremost progressives, therefore agreeing with the print rag’s agendas.

  • Geoff

    Don’t know about anyone else, but sports to me is a brief escape from real issues. It’s terribly exhausting reading all the negativity and vitriol. For 3.5 hours I can forget about all the troubles surrounding us. NDSU football has been great therapy for me this year. We all need to find “our own personal therapy”, mine happens to be football. What’s yours?

    Rob, have you ever tracked your posts? How many negative stories to how many positive? Would be interested to see the percentage

    • camsaure

      Is that why you give them a pass on fraud? A large part of the team should be in court or jail ,plus suspended. Winning titles be damned. I guess this is the same reason damocrats don’t care about govt fraud, crime and unconstitutional acts by govt representatives, and that goes for both major parties.

      • Geoff

        They did go to court. Apparently there wasn’t much of a penalty for their crime. Don’t blame ndsu for that, because they ALL went to court. Oujori was suspended for a game because he had a prior team infraction. The others did not. So stfu…. They did go to court so stop lying. Get your facts buddy

        • camsaure

          You said nothing to disprove my original statement. So maybe you should stfu…punk.

          • Geoff

            A large part of team should be in court is what u said. They went to court… Punk. I gave no pass on fraud, our judicial system gave the pass…. Not ndsu or anyone else….. The judicial system. Punk

          • camsaure

            OK punk, I guess you think if they can get corrupt officials or someone else in higher places to fix it for them,and/or help them sweep it under the rug, that makes it OK. Well, that is exactly what is wrong with you and the rest of the country. No one should be above the law. I guess people like yourself think it is just fine that Ted Kennedy got away with the Chappaquidick fiasco, just because he got help fixing it. You probably like sports because it helps keep the uninformed part of the public from finding out about corruption. I guess these NDSU atheletes will go on in the future thinking that they can get away with anything they want because folks like you think it is just fine just because they excell at NDSU football.

          • Geoff

            I never said that it was right or ok. Point being, they went to court, handed their tiny slap on wrist and walked away with virtually nothing…. But that is what happened and story after story on SAB is not going to change the outcome.

          • camsaure

            NDSU is and was obviously trying to sweep it all under the rug(maybe even with the blessings of the SBHE). None of this would have had much light shed on it if not for this blog. Therefore I think it should continue to be exposed as well as any other similar incidents in our schools and colleges. As usual the print and broadcast medias were and are compliant with the wishes of those whom are trying to hide all of this.

        • http://sayanything.flywheelsites.com Rob

          They got lucky. The law didn’t make what they did, on the scope they did it, a serious crime.

          This legislature is likely to change that.

          And you and the rest of the Bison fanatics absolutely have these crooks and the university administration a pass.

          • Geoff

            How did I give them a pass? Yes, you are right, they were lucky. That’s why I don’t understand why this still bothers everyone. Kinda like Obama getting re-elected. IT’S OVER.

            One last statement. As far as bohl n hakstols salaries. At least they get paid on performance, unlike teachers and professors and if they lose 2 years in a row….. FIRED

    • guest

      Imagine if the Washington Post had adopted that mindset during Watergate? Richard Nixon’s corruption would never have seen the light of day!

      • Geoff

        What Nixon did is peanuts compared to Barry and his cronies. How we sitting with that right now? You suppose us griping back n forth on SAB will get these boys indicted?

        My only dog in this fight is that this story has been way over played, I happen to be a bison homer, and for 3.5 hours 15 times a year this is my therapy from a f@&? Up country

  • awfulorv

    Time and again I’ve viewed North Dakota teams playing in games that are nationally televised and have noticed a bias, for whatever the reason, maybe it’s the North, subtly displayed against them. Again, yesterday, the announcers seemed to be overly expansive in their praise of the Texas team and, disappointed, it seemed, whenever the Bison were successful in their efforts, which was often. Makes you wonder what it is? It shouldn’t be racial as the state was not involved in slavery and, it is obvious, the team is comprised of a good number of black athletes. Perhaps they consider the state to be comprised of Jed Clampett types whose errant rifle shots have made oil riches gush from the ground. A clue that it may be simple stupidity, as well as lack of respect, on the part of the citizens of the other 49 states, is the pronouncement, still often heard, that Pierre has moved north, and become the Capitol of North, as well as South Dakota. Finally, odds are that, had Roger Maris been born, and raised in say, Cairo, Illinois, he would have been, long ago, enshrined in Baseballs Hall Of Fame? And that’s a damn shame if bias could have had anything to do with his exclusion, as what he did deserves entrance.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    I was glad to read the last few parts of your post. The media aren’t really in a conspiracy of ignorance, but they are interested in making money. They will make a lot more money on sports than politics or government. Personally, I’m more interested in science news and education news than I am in sports news.

    Of course, I have a small side job photographing high school sports. I don’t make money photographing government meetings or high school students learning things in the classroom. My priorities are screws up too.

    • guest

      Richard Nixon’s corruption would never have seen the light of day if the Washington Post had been more interested in making money. Thankfully Graham, Bradley, Woodward, and Bernstein cared enough about real news and holding the powerful accountable. I wish the North Dakota media cared about news more than running pr for the powerful.

      • camsaure

        You are right and the republican party held him accountable for it. But the bigger problem is; where are these reporters now? They seem to have no problem with what the obuma administration is doing. And they are doing one hell of a lot woese then the Nixon admin did. And I am NOT condoning anything that Nixon did.

        • guest

          I agree. I am especially concerned that the Obama administration apparently with the help of the North Dakota governor are helping China not only own a large amount of America’s debt but also enabling and apparently encouraging China to own oil resources in Canada, North Dakota, elsewhere in America and the Gulf of Mexico and in southern Iraq. I do not understand the logic behind it. As for reporters, North Dakota is a microcosm of national politics. I think North Dakota media outlets are much more in cahoots with the ruling political class than at the federal level, merely because of the limited diversity of media ownership in North Dakota and the relationships they have with North Dakota political leaders. There is much more journalistic competition in DC but reporters there treasure access to the powerful ruling class as well. Only difference is the reporters in DC have more motivation to get a real news story because of competition. Although they do seem to pick and choose the stories they make news there too. Benghazi case and point.

  • tomorrowclear

    That darn free market!!!

    Ultimately, blame the consumers who are more interested in watching a third-rate football team playing for a nonsense “national championship” than about public affairs.

  • fredlave

    When you’re a monopoly there is no need to try harder.