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The phony furor over the Pledge of Allegiance

by Greg Belfrage

A comment on our website caught my attention this morning...

"Wow, no more pledge of allegiance and just after Veterans Day 2013. What a disgrace, what is your problem in that area?"
My first thought was, "No more pledge? What in the world is this person talking about?"  Then I remembered the headline and story I read a few days ago at keloland.com.

You can see the initial headline and lead above, "The Sioux Falls school board voted unanimously not to allow high school students to say the Pledge of Allegiance."

At best, that statement is grossly inaccurate. At worst, its deliberately misleading.

There's nothing prohibiting high school administrators or teachers from leading students in the pledge. The board voted against requiring the pledge to be recited daily in high schools.

If you don't understand the difference between not allowing students to say the pledge...and not requiring students to say the pledge... then go fill out an application at KELOLAND TV. They don't understand the difference, either.

KELOLAND TV's initial story has been heavily edited and its headline changed since it was first published at keloland.com.

Their initial headline, "Pledge Of Allegiance Voted Down By SF School Board", has been replaced with the much milder "Pledge of Allegiance Becomes Hot Topic".

And now at the end of the story, almost as a begrudging afterthought, KELOLAND TV reluctantly provides these details...

"The school board voted to expand its policy to require middle school students to say the pledge of allegiance. It's already recited in the elementary schools."

Did you catch that? The school board voted to expand its policy. Elementary and middle school students are required to recite the pledge daily. That means more kids are now required to say the pledge than prior to the vote.

That's a far cry from "Pledge Of Allegiance Voted Down By SF School Board".

Sadly, this is the kind of sensationalism and inaccuracy that has long tarnished television reporting. 

I'm not one to pull punches when our elected officials deserve it. But public service is tough enough without those of us in the media engaging in inaccurate reporting in order to drive a controversial story.

Now KELOLAND TV is running a story that refers to the outrage their viewers have expressed about the board's decision.

It's my view that the outrage is coming from people who have been misinformed. There wouldn't be any outrage if KELOLAND TV had offered balanced and accurate reporting in the first place.

I'm a radio talk show host. Believe me, I understand the desire to stoke the flames of controversy. I do it daily.

But I never deliberately withhold or distort facts in order to make a situation appear worse than it is. And that's exactly what KELOLAND TV is doing with their reporting on this week's board vote.

Shame on them. The community, and certainly our elected officials, deserve better.

UPDATE: Pledge vote results in threats to board members

Greg Belfrage is heard mornings 6am-9am on KELO Newstalk 1320 AM / 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com. You can also follow him on Twitter.