MINOT, ND — The fate of the newspaper industry, especially that of small publications serving rural areas of our state, has been depressing.
Without the local newspaper, who covers the meetings of the departmental commission? What about city council meetings? What about park boards and school boards and all the other kinds of meat and potato journalism that are both prosaic and deeply vital to the health of our communities?
When we learn that someone is about to own and operate one of these extremely important institutions, we should be happy.
But news that a Trump-aligned talk radio company — which peddles election conspiracy theories, among other bizarre QAnon mob catechisms — is buying a 114-year-old rural newspaper should alarm right-thinking North Dakotans.
Flag Family Media buys the McKenzie County Farmer, a major publication in the heart of North Dakota’s oil country. You should care.
Flag Family Media is a Fargo-based company in which longtime radio host Scott Hennen (a former employer of mine) is a partner.
It’s hard to tell if Hennen actually believes some of the wackiest stuff he puts out, or if he’s just saying what he’s paid to say. The line on Hennen in political circles is that he is coin-operated. Drop a quarter and he’ll say what you want.
And anyone who tuned in to the Flag Family Media broadcast knows how many checks they cashed from pillow impresario-turned-campaign-conspiracy demagogue Mike Lindell.
But does it matter if people like Hennen work to undermine American democracy for profit or for mistaken beliefs? The result is the same.
And here’s the thing: election conspiracy theories, as heinous and out of touch with reality as they are, aren’t even the most heinous thing that Flag Family Media promotes.
Not too long ago, an FFM host named Dennis Lindahl – who airs the morning show on their Tioga station, who was seen at a rally for former US Senate candidate Rick Becker calling for the death penalty for federal bureaucrats, which is
at his day job at the town of Tioga – urged his audience to believe what amounts to blatant Russian propaganda.
Lindahl alleged that support for Ukraine was waning after evidence surfaced on social media of a Ukrainian “Nazi” battalion beating and raping Russian women.
Lindahl claimed that leaked FBI files proved that the US government funded a Ukrainian neo-Nazi group which, in turn, orchestrated the notorious
These were just a few of the hundreds of bogus claims Lindahl made to his audience.
Flag Family Media seems to be doing a good job of delivering this type of content to the public.
And now they’re going to own a newspaper.
Sometimes people who work in talk radio (like I did for years) get a pass for exaggerated and factually inaccurate content. They have an excuse, we are supposed to believe. They are shock athletes. It’s just entertainment.
Newspapers, as a medium, are meant to be different. Worse. Stay.
Only, I don’t believe it. If you work in the news media, whether your work is purely news or opinion, or both as is often the case for me, your work must be grounded in truth.
There is nothing wrong with being provocative. Or funny. Or even entertaining. But the goal of the effort, whether you’re working on text, video, or just audio, should be to give the audience a better understanding of the world around them. One that reflects reality.
Flag Family Media does not do this.
They promote lies, lies and conspiracies.
And now they own a newspaper.