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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shad Olson Goes Palin, Quits Job to Profit from Political Pablum

Shad Olson is a quitter just like Sarah Palin. He has left KOTA TV to be a "radio talk theologian." Shad, I live with a theologian. You are not a theolgian. Being a theologian requires much more than politically motivated Mormon-bashing.

(I'd link to Olson's article urging "vigilant avoidance of anything and anyone Mormon" and saying Mitt Romney is going to hell, but Olson's website is a piece of flashy junk that doesn't provide unique URLs to specific content.)

Shad Olson image from website, all in re.
I'm Shad Olson, and my superhero goggles help me see Reds everywhere!
(Image from ShadOlsonShow.com)
Olson also plans to make money as a political consultant for Gordon Howie. Alas, the text on Olson's website indicates he won't be able to come up with any improvements on Howie's shoddy campaign slogans. "Gordon Howie Stands Alone"—that's obvious, Gord, but should you really trumpet that as a good thing when you want to govern all South Dakotans? Olson's contract with the Howie campaign just shows more bad fiscal judgment, since that job will last less than four weeks.

* * *

I was going to cut Olson some slack. Yes, he spoke at a Tea Party rally. Yes, the journalistic code of ethics says newspeople should "shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity." But I'm uncomfortable with any job that says you cannot participate in the civic life of your community. When journalists establish their credibility by shunning politics, they reinforce the notion that we can't trust people who are involved in politics.

It seems to me other parts of the journalistic code of ethics—distinguish analysis and commentary from straight reporting, hold those in power accountable, give voice to the voiceless, support open exchange of all views whether you agree or disagree—are plenty to ensure that journalists conscientiously inform the citizenry on air or in print even if after work they speak at a GOP rally or a Dems meeting.

I hold teachers to the same standards: they can enlighten students and promote fair and free classroom discussions and still be active in community politics. I don't want anyone to shut down the good Dr. Blanchard's blog or to kick him out of the classroom for political advocacy off campus. Of course, should Dr. Blanchard go off his rocker and start giving D's to students who say the New Deal was effective and A's to students who say FDR was a socialist dupe, he should get the boot. (Even there, a paper claiming the New Deal was effective might still be a D paper; I'd want to see if the student used semicolons properly.)

I would take the same position on Shad Olson: unless someone can demonstrate that his job performance was suffering, that he was twisting his headlines and vetting sources to give KOTA News a Foxy tilt, he should have been free to continue covering Rapid City commission meetings and bake sales. I'm inclined to argue the burden of journalistic objectivity should not crush journalists' participation in civic affairs; the burden should fall more on the editors and the viewing/reading public to scrutinize the journalists' messages.

Requiring this monkish non-participation of reporters may be akin to requiring celibacy of priests. No, it's not about preventing reporters' children from inheriting corporate media wealth. But this requirement of political "celibacy" takes reporters out of the fullness of civic existence. It makes them outsiders to the community... and thus, perhaps, less qualified to speak on the issues that matter to and shape the community.

Of course, none of this now matters in Shad Olson's case. He is unwilling to stand and fight for good journalism. He prefers to quit a job that requires conscientious public service and enhance his own fame and wealth spewing the unoriginal platitudes of talk radio.

Just like Sarah Palin.

Update 2010.06.12: But hey, at least Shad isn't doing creepy undercover stories like this any more. Eeewww!


  1. One thing going for his new career - he is quite good-looking. Hm.

    I've always detected this attitude from him on the air. And they say liberals are condescending. They have nothing on The Return Of The Shad.

  2. Thanks for the perspective, Curtis. I never caught his broadcasts. I'd be curious to hear impressions from other Black Hills viewers. Was he a fair journalist?


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