Here's a bit of real South Dakota Politics! From John Hinderaker at Powerline:
In October 2011, NPR aired a three-part series of programs on its investigation of foster care for Native American children in South Dakota. The series, reported by Laura Sullivan, made the sensational claim that South Dakota welfare agencies take (the word "kidnap" was used more than once) Indian children from their homes, and place them in foster care with white families so that they can collect money from the federal government.
Hinderaker produced a series of posts that demolished the NPR story. You can find links to his posts at the above site.
NPR's ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos has released his own review of the story and it confirms what Hinderaker has been saying. Schumacher-Matos tears the NPR story into shreds.
In October 2011, NPR aired a three-part investigative series by and alleging abuses in the foster care system for Native American children in South Dakota. With a mix of statements by the reporter and much innuendo, the series unmistakably alleges that the state's Department of Social Services was systematically removing Indian children from their families in order to collect federal reimbursements. The series further alleges that cultural bias — it stops just short of saying racism — was behind the overwhelming placement of these children in white homes, in possible violation of federal law…
My finding is that the series was deeply flawed and should not have been aired as it was.
The series committed five sins that violate NPR's Code of standards and ethics. They were:
1. No proof for its main allegations of wrongdoing;
2. Unfair tone in communicating these unproven allegations;
3. Factual errors, shaky anecdotes and misleading use of data by quietly switching what was being measured;
4. Incomplete reporting and lack of critical context;
5. No response from the state on many key points.
No doubt the investigative team was driven by the history of injustices suffered by Native Americans. There is much to be outraged about. But good intentions are not enough. Specifically, there is no whistleblower, no document — no smoking gun even — to support the unmistakable allegation that for nearly the last 15 years, state social workers have been so evil as to take Indian children from their families as a way to reap federal funds for the state government. The charge is so shocking and such a potential insult to many dedicated social workers that the burden of proof should have been especially high.
There is more that is wrong, too. The reported federal reimbursement numbers are badly inflated. That is a factual flaw. Perhaps more upsetting to many of us is a moral one: concern for the centrally relevant matter of child neglect is simply dismissed. That many of the foster decisions, meanwhile, are in fact made by the tribes' own independent judges goes unreported altogether. The crucial context of social ills and a crisis of Indian family breakdowns on the state's reservations are also all but missing.
Apparently NPR is "standing by its story" even though there is not enough left of it to bury in a coke spoon. I close with Hinderaker's conclusions.
I don't believe I have ever seen a representative of a media outlet take apart his own outlet's story with the care and thoroughness displayed by Mr. Schumacher-Matos. The one thing he doesn't do is address the motivations of those who reported and produced the false and misleading series, but it is easy to fill in that blank. The reporter and editors spoke from the liberal perspective that is taken for granted by pretty much everyone at NPR. They had a narrative that they wanted to push for political reasons.