The Rapid City Journal reports the South Dakota Supreme Court has given the green-light to a lawsuit by Sioux Falls Development Foundation President Dan Scott against the Argus Leader for damaging his reputation with a piece which was supposedly "parody." The piece was written by Argus Leader editor Randell Beck.
Beck labeled his weekly July 15 column a "reasonable facsimile" of that letter. It appeared in the newspaper's "Voices" section with Beck's byline, photo and a lead-in explanation under the headline, "Divisively arrogant: Dan Scott's apology."
Beck ran a column one week later explaining it was satirical and not intended as an attack. But Scott demanded a retraction and ultimately filed the lawsuit, arguing his reputation was tarnished because many readers were fooled into thinking Beck's words were actually from Scott's letter.
Sanford said it was clearly opinion because it appeared in that section, but Janklow argues readers thought otherwise and some called for Scott to resign or be fired.
Beck says the piece was "protected satire." In complete honest I have to say, I'm a pretty well-read person, and when I read the piece, as outrageous as it seemed, I saw no substantive clues that would reveal this was satire and not a reprint of the actual text.
Bob Schwartz at the South Dakota Moderate has the text of the "parody" piece written Beck. (Nice new look on the blog, Bob.)
As petty as it sounds, this whole thing seems to have gotten started when Scott gave a speech about Sioux Falls development in which he said the Argus Leader doesn't speak for everyone in Sioux Falls.
As I recall, the Argus Leader tried to get something started out of that speech, claiming Scott had somehow disparaged smaller South Dakota cities by stating, "So if you just can't bring yourself to catch the excitement, then at least stay out."
When that didn't get much traction, Beck came out with this "parody" hit piece.
Maybe it would have been better if the Argus Leader had tried something it and too few newspapers do these days: remain objective.