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Jason Nordmark, Published November 03 2012

Letter: Campaigns seek out freebies, and newspapers often oblige

The amount of political email pouring into media outlets from North Dakota candidates could be characterized as stunning if it wasn’t so annoying.

Senate candidate Rick Berg must be paying his media relations officer a ton of overtime hours.

Meanwhile, his opponent, Heidi Heitkamp, has to have one person with their finger stuck on the “send” button.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple has issued an amusing number of “press releases,” complete with glowing quotes about how much he cares about North Dakota. It’s not that we doubt his love of the Peace Garden State, but this is the first time he’s cared this much.

Ryan Taylor, Dalrymple’s Democratic adversary, has been pretty quiet. Last week, however, we received one of the few emails issued by the Taylor campaign, and the sad irony of it wasn’t lost us, nor should it be on anyone in the newspaper industry.

Taylor’s information director asked newspapers to run a “story” about how the campaign just released a television ad.

Community newspapers such as the Turtle Mountain Star also sell advertising. It’s the primary source of income, which is used to pay reporters and cover expenses.

Taylor’s attempt to sneak in a free press release about an ad that will appear on some TV stations at an unknown time is a direct insult to newspapers.

We let Taylor’s representative know of our contempt, and, sadly, it wasn’t the first. Heitkamp’s media director tried the same thing earlier in the campaign. We responded much the same way and haven’t received a similar email since.

Most statewide candidates ignore newspapers when it comes to buying ads. At the same time, they seem to want us to get the word out about their every action, response and now even their ad purchases in other media.

In all honesty, it’s not such a surprise that all of the candidates try to get their “press releases” into newspapers for free while doling out millions of dollars to radio and TV stations.

The individuals in charge of the state’s major newspapers bring this on. They allow endorsement letters to blanket their editorial pages on a daily basis and then wonder why candidates won’t buy ads in their newspapers.

The reasoning for such a policy escapes us. They should know, however, that such business practices not only hurt newspapers, they hurt voters.

Media outlets across the state are overwhelmed by these “press releases” from candidates. The primary reason they continue is because it’s proved as one way to get the candidates’ names into the public consciousness.

Occasionally, some slip by us at The Star, but not too many make it to the press. This time of year, there aren’t enough trees to print them all.

Nordmark owns Nordmark Publishing, which publishes the Turtle Mountain Star at Rolla, N.D., and the Lake Metigoshe Mirror at Bottineau, N.D.