Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 29, 2012

White Clay: Real reporters work on Sunday

Coverage of the White Clay protest tells its own story about the state of the news and the times we live in

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Photo 1: Joey Feaster 3: Deep Green Resistance.

On Sunday, Lakotas and Deep Green Resistance protested the White Clay, Neb., liquor stores, on the border of Pine Ridge, S.D. These liquor stores profiteer decade after decade, causing misery, suffering and death.

The news coverage of this important protest reveals the state of the news industry and the times we live in.
Debra White Plume, Lakota, describes the puppet masters of White Clay and the day's events in her article, "Solidarity Gathering, Horse Trailers, and the Lakota Women's Day of Peace." White Plume describes the arrest of five who locked down on the street.
"By this time, it was getting dark out. The five individuals on the blockade were carried en masse into the horse trailer, placed into piles of animal dung and driven thirty miles to Rushville, followed by their attorney Lisa Adams, where they were given citations and released on personal recognizance." Read article:
Here's one of the best news articles about what happened at White Clay, during the Women's Day of Peace, as women united against genocide.

Keven Abourezk writes in the Lincoln Journal Star, "Activist criticizes use of horse trailer to remove White Clay protesters."

Abourezk writes, "A protest in the Nebraska border town of Whiteclay ended Sunday after officers used a horse trailer to move five protesters to a nearby town."

However, it is sad to see the national Native American newspapers are continuing their pattern of relying on plagiarism, rewrites and phone calls -- rather than having a news reporter present.
The reporters play this game: They wait for others to cover an event, then spin off a story based on other's hard work. They add some brief phone calls, and then lift a photo from activists' webpages or videos, to make it appear they were present. In other words, they sit at home and let others do the work for them and reap the benefits by way of a paycheck.

There's no excuse for national editors not to assign local Native freelance writers to cover events in the Pine Ridge area. The main reason is laziness on the part of the editors, not a lack of funds. Working with freelancers isn't as easy as having a national armchair journalist make a few phone calls, and lift a few photos.

Meanwhile, AP's article, as it appeared around the country, continues the AP style of turning everyone who protests into a criminal. The AP style is to focus on arrests and the police, rather than human rights issues. There's no excuse for AP not to add the comments of those protesting, since the press statements are easy to find online. There's also no excuse for newspapers to publish AP articles that butcher the truth of the event.

Ruth Moon, at the Rapid City Journal, reported the White Clay protest in an ethical way in this article. Moon begins with the reasons for the protest. "This 'Women’s Day of Peace' is a way for tribal women to take control and protest alcoholism in Whiteclay and on the reservation, said Olowan Martinez, who organized the event." The Rapid City Journal also had a photographer present:

It is always difficult to get news reporters out to cover any event on a Sunday. It is one of the secrets of the newsrooms. No one ever wants to do it. Once there, it is even more difficult to prevent new
s reporters from turning every protest into a crime scene, by presenting American Indians, and any other activists, as criminals.

The bottom line is reporters and editors don't like to get caught in their easy chairs, working as parasites off of others work, and making phone calls and lifting photos. AP also doesn't like to get caught making criminals out of the good guys.

Let them know that you know when they are not present.

Also see Deep Green Resistance's own press coverage:

Brenda Norrell has been a reporter of American Indian news for 30 years. During the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation, she was a reporter for Navajo Times and a stringer for AP and USA Today. After serving as a longtime reporter for Indian Country Today, ICT censored her repeatedly, then terminated her. The result is Censored News, now in its sixth year. She is a contributor to Narco News.
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