Rapid City Journal blasted for Page One Sturgis motorcycle rally ‘death pool’ story


The Rapid City (SD) Journal’s lead story today is about a family and their friends betting on how many bikers will die during the Sturgis motorcycle rally. A dozen people have put $5 each into this year’s pool. (They’ve done this for seven years now.)

“They base the final results on the state Department of Public Safety ‘Rally Tally’ that records deaths from the first Saturday of the rally until the final Sunday,” reports the Journal’s Meredith Colias. One pool participant tells her: “It’s not meant in any way to be malicious, or hoping anyone has a bad accident.”

Commenters on Facebook and the Journal’s website have lashed out at the family for running the pool and the newspaper for reporting on it. One writes: “Saw this on the front page this morning and was thoroughly disgusted. Whether or not individuals choose to do this sort of thing, it is not newsworthy, not front-page-worthy and treating it as such is an embarrassment to our community.” (A $60 pool does seem like small potatoes, but editors no doubt ran with it for its “water-cooler talk” and clickbait value. They had to know they’d be criticized for it. Update: The AP has picked it up.)

Former Rapid City Journal sports staffer Lenn Davis writes on Facebook that his former employer “just hit rock bottom” by running the piece.

He adds: “I am embarrassed to say I spent 19 years there… What a croc [sic] of shit and as a friend that had a buddy killed on a motorcycle while at the rally… You can kiss my ass Rapid City Journal forever more!”

I’ve asked reporter Colias what she’s hearing about her story. Update: She forwarded my message to editor Bart Pfankuch, and he wrote: “We’re not going to have any comment on that.”

* Pool held on number of dead rally bikers (rapidcityjournal.com) | Page One (newseum.org)
* Read the Facebook comments about the story (facebook.com)

– h/t Nick Penzenstadler