South Dakota weekly goes Gangnam Style with video

Nov 4, 2013

By Stanley Schwartz

Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

CUSTER, SD—It may not have been Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland getting everyone together to put on a show, but it was close.

Claiming it was just a “wild hair” that spurred her on to create a Gangnam Style parody video, Custer County Chronicle Editor Norma Najacht said everyone at the 1,800-circulation weekly had a blast putting it together. And although it may not have gone viral nationally, it did make a lot of people smile in and around Custer, SD. The video received more than 2,000 hits on the paper’s website and it’s YouTube version saw nearly 800 views.

Publisher Charlie Najacht brought a copy with him back in April for its debut at the South Dakota Press Association’s annual convention. Reed Anifinson, a former National Newspaper Association president, said the more than 200-person audience found it extremely entertaining.

General Manager Jason Ferguson said at first he was reluctant to star in the video. He anchors the paper’s news videos on the website, as well. But once he agreed, he said, he was in it 100 percent, taking on the role of Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy from the original Gangnam Style video.

“It was a shot-for-shot recreation of the original,” Ferguson said, “down to the last detail, but low budget.”

First to show Norma the song and dance number was reporter Carrie Moore.

“I said, ‘we could do that,’” Norma said. “Everyone agreed,” she added, “until they found out they were going to be starring in the video.” It wasn’t long, however, before the staff was scouting locations and blocking shots, getting ready for their “celluloid” appearance.

“One of the many roles of a newspaper is to entertain,” Norma said. “We take that quite literally and seriously here at the Custer County Chronicle.” And as a promotional tool, such a video can be a way to reach one’s community. For more on newspaper promotion, see the stories starting on Page 6.

Over the course of three to four weeks, Norma and the staff put the video together while also putting out the weekly paper and the company’s two yearly magazines. Plus they were also putting out a new magazine.

Ferguson, who has been with the paper for 13 years, said Charlie didn’t want some of the scenes from the video to be shown, but he was overruled by the rest of the participants.

“He didn’t like the toilet scene,” Ferguson said. “Or the scene in the elevator, which was shot with the help of the deputy state’s attorney. Several people from the community really got into it.”

Community feedback has been tremendous, he added. “They loved it, and thought it was hilarious.” Ferguson still has people come up to him and mention the video.

“Even my family has seen it,” he added, though he tried to keep them from locating it online.

But as a means of breaking down the barriers between a newspaper and its community, he noted, the video did the job.

“It showed that we are human, too, that we have a sense of humor,” said Feguson. Even in a small community, sometimes barriers can form. It’s important to keep lines of communication between the newspaper and the town open.

Norma said when she first took on the project she knew how involved it was going to be. Even for a newspaper with a large staff, this would have been a tremendous undertaking. For the six-person staff of the Custer County Chronicle, the parody video was huge.

“Carrie egged me on,” Norma said. In her column about the video, she wrote: “As our social media specialist at the newspaper, Carrie is my enabler, always willing to jump right in and help us make fools of ourselves.”

Included in the video along with Ferguson were the Najachts, Charles and Norma, Carrie Moore, Erin Sherman, the paper’s assistant bookkeeper and Debbie Petterson, the compositor.

Norma also wrote that “Deb is always willing and eager to try new things, as she likes new challenges—at least until she is in the middle of it and it starts to dawn on her how much more of a work load she has signed on for.”

Norma, too, has been “recognized” for her participation in the video.

In order to get that shot-by-shot recreation, the staff needed several locations in and around Custer, plus the help of a willing community.

“No one turned us down,” Norma said.

She thanked everyone in her column: “Everyone we contacted about using their property for venues or about being a part of the video graciously agreed. The video would not have been the same without deputy state’s attorney Matt Brown, Mitch McLain, chamber director Dave Ressler, Rex Jorgensen or Bella Johnson. Carolyn Mastin not only loaned us her horses, but rode one and brought two others along to Broken Arrow Campground and Horse Camp so we could film for only a few seconds on a very cold Saturday morning. Prairie Hills Transit loaned us its bus, along with riders Lily Baltazar and Don Parsons, who enthusiastically played their parts.

“Super 8 allowed us to use its pool for the pool scenes and our neighbors Ray and Janice Gellerman not only allowed us to use their sauna, but heated it for us on another chilly day. Rock Roeck and his pyrotechnic crew at French Creek RV Park gladly furnished us with a fire, even offering us a 16-foot explosion (which we politely declined).

“Other places we filmed were the alley behind the Chronicle building, the courthouse elevator, Gates Park, Carrie’s yard with her dad’s canoe and hunting jacket (she couldn’t find their life jacket), the 5th Street crossing, the Mickelson Trail, the Chronicle’s restroom and the YMCA.”

There are no regrets for making the video, Norma added. But she did have a list of hopes that she put in her column:

“1. That Jason forgives me (If you like the video, please tell him!)

“2. That my family doesn’t disown me.

“3. That I don’t sprout any more hairs of the wild variety.

“4. That we don’t get on The Today Show.

“5. That you enjoy our video. It can be found at”