MITCHELL, S.D. – Daily Republic staffer Candy DenOuden’s journalistic efforts have gone national — though perhaps not in the way she envisioned.
David Letterman included a picture of DenOuden’s from August in his “Small Town News” segment Friday night on the “Late Show” on CBS. The photo shows a dead raccoon on the side of a highway with a “Get Well” balloon tied to its leg. (The mention of the photo appears at the 5:20 mark.)
Before displaying the photo, Letterman mentioned Mitchell and said “I bet that’s a tiny town.”
He also comically tried to stave off criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“I don’t want any PETA people up my nose about this, all right?” Letterman said. “Leave me alone! I had nothing to do with this, OK?”
He kept up with the PETA theme after showing the photo to a laughing studio audience.
“I know it’s making your blood boil. I had nothing to do with it!”
The photo was taken Aug. 18. DenOuden was wrapping up her work that Sunday evening when she got a text about the raccoon from her mother, Cheryl.
She was on her way into Mitchell on state Highway 37 with her husband, Don, and had seen the strange sight a few miles south of the city.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go check this out,’” DenOuden recalled.
She drove out to the spot, took the photo and cleared its use with her editor. Reader reaction to its Aug. 19 publication ranged from disgust to laughter.
DenOuden does not know how the photo came to the attention of Letterman’s staff. Friday night after the photo was shown on TV, some people took immediately to Twitter and Facebook to proclaim they had seen it. One person tweeted about it with the hashtag “ProudSDMoment.” Others weren’t so thrilled. A Facebook commenter said the photo made people in the Mitchell area look “like rednecks.”
Daily Republic Editor Seth Tupper said he knew the photo would spark some strong reactions.
“When Candy called to ask about publishing it, I hesitated momentarily,” he recalled. “It’s obviously not the kind of photo we publish every day. But I knew if it was on Highway 37, lots of people probably saw it and talked about it. And if lots of people are talking about it, it’s news. And it’s not like we killed the raccoon or tied the balloon to its leg. Candy just did what journalists do, which is to capture an aspect of life and reflect it back to readers.”
The Daily Republic is a Forum Communications Co. newspaper. Forum Communications is a multimedia information company based in Fargo, and owns dozens of newspapers, websites and television and radio stations, and commercial printing plants in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.