Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 20, 2012

Censored News: What I've learned blogging for six years

With Marcos, Sonora
What I've learned blogging for six years

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

I’ll try to make this funny so people will read it.

It is about what I’ve learned from blogging, publishing Censored News for the past six years.

I’ve already made the first point. People would rather laugh than hear more of the world’s problems.

During 30 years of journalism, here’s the most powerful lesson I’ve learned: In the end, everyone just wants someone to be nice to them.

The biggest lesson, or surprise, that I’ve learned along the way, is about being a working journalist. At least in my case, the more I wrote on my blog, the less money I made. In the end, after six years of work, my income is zero.

I’m not sure if it is because all the editors consider me too controversial and have blacklisted me now, or if it is because they can now get the info for free.

Perhaps they went the way of the last newspaper that I worked for. The editors decided to get rid of all their journalists and hire plagiarizers instead.

Perhaps it is the information itself. How many newspapers are really publishing the truth about dirty coal-fired power plants on Navajoland or senators trying to steal Indian water rights?

Along the way, I find I’ve become incredibly rich from this experience, rich in new friends, rich in new thoughts and rich in new possibilities.

And really, what could be more exciting than opening up one’s e-mail each day and seeing an article written from someone’s heart and soul. What could be better than discovering rare passages dragged from the depths of someone’s being, and sent with so much passion and love. These are labors of love, from the timid and the bold, from seasoned writers and grassroots mothers, from elderly and youths. They are the voice of power.

Once in a while, my old editors write to me and tell me how much they dislike me now, because of what I am writing. It is sad, but in the end, a real journalist never writes to make friends, or even to keep them.

If I had not taken this journey, I would have missed out on a great deal.

I would have never been in that boiling, blistering red car, so hot that we had to wrap ourselves in wet towels to keep from passing out, on our way to the border in the middle of the summer.

I would have never seen the men with hunting dogs stalking the Arizona border, or watched the Border Patrol agents throwing their coffee cups and candy wrappers on the ground, while they were talking on their cell phones, by the spy towers that didn't work. I would have never heard from my friend about the Israeli out here, which led to the articles on Israel’s Elbit Systems receiving a border security contract here, continuing the Apartheid work it does in Palestine.

If I would have never taken this journey, I would have never gone to Fort Huachuca for the protests of the army’s torture training, where the School of Americas torture manual was published. Abu Ghraib would have never been real to me, or the underground railroad of Indigenous fleeing torture. I would have never known that drones are used for targeted assassinations, that border spy towers are for corporate profiteering, or learned so much about white supremacists with AK47s at the border.

I would have never known that the Sonoran desert is so hot that when you are walking in mid-summer that you can pass out in minutes. I would have never known what heroes the people are who walk and search for the bodies of migrants in this sun and heat, and carry back their remains. If I had never taken this journey, I would have never known hunger, food banks and homelessness, or how it feels to have a surveillance van parked outside your door in the barrio on a dark and lonely night.

If I had never taken this journey, I would have missed out on the great journeys, of being with the Zapatistas in Sonora, of sharing tortillas and laughing together, and of hearing the stories of the long walkers as they walked from the Pacific to the Atlantic on the Long Walk 2. I would have missed out on learning something about radio on that epic five month radio broadcast with Govinda at Earthcycles on that long walk. I would have never spent time with Mohawks, Anishinaabe, O'odham, Pueblos, Navajos, Supai, Yaqui, Mayan, Maori and all my other friends.

I would have never choked on the dust of the oil trucks at Fort Berthold, on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara land in North Dakota, watched the long coal trains crossing Crow land at the Little Bighorn, or gasped for breath in the polluted dark air of power plants on Navajoland, near Dinetah.

I would have missed a feast with Evo Morales in the mountains of Bolivia.

I would have missed out on hearing the poetry and the language of love that transforms helplessness, hopelessness and sorrow, into resistance and revolution.

If I had never taken this journey, I would not have realized the high price of truth, of integrity, of honor, or been able to recognize it in the faces, in the eyes, of the people I see now.

So, in the end, you see, it is difficult to write something funny, or even to entertain. All I can say is thank you to all of you who shared your truth with me.

--Brenda Norrell
Publisher, Censored News


Ned Hamson said...

Perhaps journalists like yourself and others who look for truth in all the right places, need to form an independent journalists network (cooperative) and put out a low cost e-paper that you could all share income from? If I could spend 10-25 cents a day for such an e-paper and have the money transferred from card once a month and not see too many ads - I'd sign up! Smile.

John Kane said...

I hear you, Brenda. I never was a paid journalist. I started writing and ultimately doing radio because no one was hitting the message. My point was not wrap everything up into neat little stories and not to be the last word on any subject but to encourage conversation on the issues with real insight and views that never make it to print or on air. Sharing my comments with you and your readers over the years has been an opportunity for me and them to share genuine perspectives that many times never even make it to the spoken word let alone print or the airwaves.
There is humor in plenty of what we do. I find the lighter side of the heavy lifting is easier to demonstrate on radio than print. I suppose that is where we need improvement.
Keep at it. I was asked recently in an interview; how do you know all this stuff? I told the reporter that everyone doesn't need to know "all this stuff", but someone does.

Marty Mars said...

Thank you Brenda for fighting for indigenous communities, justice and equality. Your voice is listened to here in the south pacific.

Tim said...

You do wonderful and insightful work, Brenda, even though it is at a cost. Please, by all means, keep up the good work. You are a hero in the truest sense.

sapphoq said...

I care very much about what you are doing here at Censored News.

Thank-you for educating me on these issues.


Desert Dreamer said...

I wanted to take a moment to say thank you for your blog. Your blog is the best source of real Arizona news I can find. I often share your articles. Thank you!

karen said...

I care about what you are publishing here, I want you to know that. I care even though it puts a lump in my throat regularly, spikes my anxiety for a moment (or longer), forces me to look at, rather than away and deal with what I see in whatever capacity I can. I acknowledge it is a tough path, and pay my respects to you for your work.

Thank you.