Posted: Sep. 19, 2020 3:10 pm Updated: Sep. 19, 2020 4:45 pm

By DOUG WILSON

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

ALLEN COUNTY, Ill. — A journalism student from Alexander School has been forced to pull out of Cronkite School because she used Twitter as a defense during a public land dispute involving Ionia County Fairgrounds.

Karly Ridgeway was a co-pilot of South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s unsuccessful attempt to stop an alleged corporate carve-out for irrigation at the county fairgrounds in Eureka.

Ridgeway, 21, was running for a second year as a Cronkite School junior who has her own online media business.

North Iowa newspaper KTKB Valley came across her online account in January and presented it to school administrators.

“They told me if I did not stop reporting on the situation, then I would be evaluated. Now, I have decided to pull out,” Ridgeway said.

Alexander School Superintendent Jimmy Berger said Monday that the campus did not find Ridgeway’s account irresponsible.

“As we said when we found her account, the First Amendment provides freedom of speech for both active and passive speech as long as it does not harm the cause of public discourse,” Berger said.

On April 28, Ridgeway wrote on Twitter about saying District 25 offensives “patriotically,” which “is insensitive to the Standing Rock Sioux.”

“I’m asked to say something on twitter whenever the Daugaard administration does something patriotic or anti-American,” she wrote on May 9.

On May 27, she emailed a comment to a local newspaper saying she didn’t think Daugaard’s supporters had racist intentions. “I think they do have racist intentions,” she wrote.

Ridgeway wrote to XO News editor Steve Radell, also a Cronkite School junior, on Sept. 4 saying she was pulled from her reporting duties because of her tweets.

Radell, a Straubacher High School student, said he didn’t realize how “blatantly offensive” the tweets were until taking a look at the tweets, which weren’t well-liked by either Democratic or Republican students.

“She may have gotten that across the table in bad taste,” Radell said.

On Sept. 4, Ridgeway updated her Twitter profile page and thanked “everyone for their positive feedback and support.”

Though she asked for a “second chance,” Daugaard’s Aug. 4 public land claim and a $700,000 legal settlement has forced Ridgeway to withdraw.

Radell said he feels Ridgeway has been “transformed” from an individual to a “professional media personality.”

“I’m excited for her to have a happy time being an independent public radio reporter while she may be pursuing some other news,” Ridgeway said.

— dwilson@whig.com/221-3372