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Real News In North Dakota? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Thursday, 24 March 2011 09:49

MattA real news service in North Dakota?  No way, right?  But that's the word on the street.

Scheduled to deploy some time in the next few months, a new publication has the potential to play a roll in reshaping North Dakota's "news" environment.  Bismarck native Matt Bunk (pictured) is in the process of putting together a team so he can publish -- some time this Summer -- the first issue of the Great Plains Examiner, a weekly newspaper and online news service focused, primarily, on politics and business in the Bismarck and Mandan area.  Though the newspaper will be "completely local," Bunk says the news and information available on the Examiner will not be limited to just those topics.  "We'll do anything of interest to the community,"  Bunk said.  "There are a lot of stories not being told."  

Bunk has been analyzing the news landscape in Bismarck for a couple years while earning his stripes at newspapers in Montana, North and South Dakota, Arizona and California. He's focused primarily on political reporting, so that is where he intends to spend quite a bit of his time.  He has set up a company -- Highground Publishing, Inc. -- and is working with another local writer, Kelly Hagen.

The first public sign of the project was that HighGround Publishing was incorporated on February 8 of this year.  A couple weeks later, Bunk posted an ad on a University of North Dakota job's board, indicating he was looking for a student intern to work on setting up a website.

Bunk's most recent past position was as Managing Editor at the Arizona Capitol Times, a weekly and online news service covering state politics in Arizona. While there Bunk had fairly regular access to Arizona notable politicos such as Sen. John McCain, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (before the tragic shooting), and their congressional staff people. Bunk resigned from that weekly and online political newspaper in January and moved to Bismarck to start putting together the Great Plains Examiner.  

The Examiner will be different from the other local newspapers, Bunk said, in several ways, the most significant of which is that typical newspapers have writers whose editors are screaming at them to turn in their daily assignments.  The writers, he said, are always wishing they had more time to do better quality stuff.  "We are going to be doing better quality stuff," Bunk said. Asked how the Examiner will be different from the local competition, Bunk said, "It will be high quality journalism; investigative journalism. Unfortunately, at a daily newspaper, you're always trying to generate copy." The Examiner, as a weekly, will not be under similar pressures to put out all the fill we see in our daily newspapers, Bunk said.  

According to Bunk, the Examiner will "take bigger issues, and help people to better understand them. We will be more thoughtful and analytical."  The Examiner, Bunk says, "is not going to be a partisan newspaper. Not right. Not left. We're just going to give you information -- more information -- and let you make up your own mind."  

Asked whether his news service -- like the Plains Daily "news" website -- is being funded by a partisan, non-profit fake news outfit like the "Franklin Center" who is funding the production of right-wing fake "news" in North Dakota and many other states already (more on this soon), Bunk said, "No."  

"Nobody should be trying to slant stories.  To do so is bad for the business model, bad for the community, bad for the news industry," Bunk said.

Bunk, who said he is not a Bismarck Tribune subscriber, is working with about 10 local freelance writers in the area and has already assigned stories to each.  He expects to be getting their drafts back in two to three weeks and will start working with them to put together the first edition, due some time this summer. 

I've never met Matt Bunk.  (I tracked down his email address and then we connected on the phone.)  I only found out about this project, frankly, because of a conversation I overheard at a local coffee shop earlier this week.  I can't vouch for Matt or his new business venture, but I do know the Bismarck/Mandan area could use a couple real news outlets because we have no legitimate news service currently. I look forward to seeing whether the Matt, Kelly and the Examiner can produce a quality product in Bismarck. If it does, I'll subscribe.

Comments (2)add comment

bill said:

Sounds a lot like the High Plains Reader in Fargo. Good to hear Bismarck/Mandan has an alternative weekly of their own.
March 25, 2011
Votes: +0

HB "Pete" Peters said:

Arizona's loss is Bismark's gain. We had Matt on our radio program on a regular basis. He was our political eyes and ears. He was always insightful and factual. As much as I tried to get him to go left or right I couldn't make it happen. He always reported it right down the middle. You are fortunate to have him. You can depend on his reporting. Congratulations Matt.
Pete Peters
The Boomer and The Babe Show
April 01, 2011 | url
Votes: +0

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