The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Shaw an odd choice for editorial board

Anybody notice that Jim Shaw is now the citizen at large representative on the Rapid City Journal's Editorial Board?

I just recently noticed he'd been named to that spot. I've been reading the former mayor's columns since he started filling a space similar to one I once filled on the Journal's editorial page. But I thought he was just another local columnist. His position on the editorial board is something quite different.

I should say here, too, that I enjoy reading Jim's columns. He has a lot of experience in city politics and he is a trained writer who can make his point without a lot of gobbledegook. Sometimes I agree with his columns, sometimes I don't.

Anyone reading Jim's columns could easily conclude that he hasn't lost his desire to hold public office. And, there's little doubt that he enjoyed being Rapid City's mayor. (He also needs another term to qualify for retirement.)

That's why I'm surprised to see him on the editorial board. I know the editor and the publisher. The editor has his roots in journalism. The publisher's roots are in advertising. There's a difference. But even with his background in advertising, I would not have expected the publisher to allow someone who apparently is using the newspaper as a platform for a future run for office.

Take note here: Jim Shaw has not announced any intention to run for office. But his columns lately are clearly laying the groundwork for the defeat of current mayor Alan Hanks.

Shaw's columns have clobbered Hanks on his downtown revitalization efforts while at the same time blaming the demise of the Rushmont project on Hanks, when the blame for that clearly rests on Shaw's administration, specifically his city attorney's insistence that because the Rushmont was to be built on city property, it must go through the city's bid process, which caused the Rushmont's developer to bristle and back out.

The Rushmont's developer wanted nothing to do with the same bid process that caused the Civic Center addition to come in millions of dollars over budget, while at the same time leaving out important infrastructure necessities like the power plant. The developer rightly concluded that if he was to take the financial risk, he would decide who would build, and at what cost.

Surely when Shaw announces his intention to run for mayor – and I personally believe that is his intention – the Journal will force his resignation from the editorial board and from his position as a columnist. In the meantime, they appear to be paying Shaw (albeit, it ain't much) to run a weekly political ad for himself.


Wayne Gilbert said...

I agree with the entire post and couldn't add a thing.

Thad Wasson said...

The columns penned by Jim Shaw are far more conservative than the way he ran the City as Mayor.

taco said...

I don't know about journalistic ethics, but I do enjoy Shaw's column - even if I don't always agree with what he says.

Wayne Gilbert said...

Thad's observation is well taken, which in my mind is proof of Mike's point that Mr. Shaw is posturing for a run, and is counting on Rapid Reply votes.