Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 19, 2013

Plagiarism the new norm in Indian country journalism

An action packed week in Indian country! Where are the Indian country reporters? (Photos by Andrew Ironshell, Black Mesa Water Coalition and Dawn Dyer.)
Plagiarism the new norm in Indian country journalism
By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

There's a great deal of action happening this week in Indian country, but you wouldn't know it by the national Indian news. Instead of having reporters out covering the news, most of the media now relies on plagiarizers.

Writers who sit home and profit financially from the struggles are not reporters. They are opportunists.

Plagiarism is the new norm in national Indian country news. The deception is easy to spot. Writers who never leave their homes plagiarize and rewrite the hard work of others from the Internet. Then, they make a quick phone call to disguise their article. Finally, they top it off with a borrowed or stolen photo. They usually expect activists, and photographers, to do their work for them. The armchair journalist is the only one getting the credit, and getting paid.

This endangers journalism and more importantly, human rights and justice. When reporters are not present, they do not know the facts. Armchair journalists often rewrite the mainstream news, which usually misses the point in Indian country.

The routine pattern in mainstream news is to criminalize Native Americans, or promote corporate interests, and to forget about the real issues and how those impact Native people. The websites that post links, without doing any real journalism and ensuring the facts, do more harm than good while promoting select agendas.

Currently, there are no watchdog reporters for Indian country in DC. Corporations -- along with the Congressmen that cater to them for campaign dollars -- are seizing the opportunity to continue the exploitation of natural resources in Indian country, with the aid of corrupt local politicians.

Highly paid spin doctors, serving as public relations experts, deceive the public on issues like the carbon market scam. The so-called carbon credits allow the world's worst polluters, including coal-fired power plants, to continue polluting. Spin doctors disguise the backdoor deals of stolen Indian water rights.

Spin doctors hide the profiteering of non-Indians from casinos in Indian country, including the billions going to non-Indian casino management firms, attorneys, lobbyists, non-Indian charities, and the states. In many cases, a mere trickle of dollars ever reaches Indian people. Another censored issue is how gambling addictions are increasingly damaging families in Indian country.

Along with the truth about casinos, the most censored issues in Indian country include the targeting of American Indians to serve in the US military for bogus US wars; the theft of Indian water rights in so-called water rights settlements; and the global impacts on Indigenous Peoples of coal-fired power plants, oil and gas drilling, tarsands, mining, deforestation and toxic dumping.

The victories are also being missed since there are no staff reporters out in the field covering Indian country.

The collapse of journalism in Indian country is not about funding. There are plenty of dollars being spent on Indian country conferences, travel to conferences, and generally avoiding doing any real journalism.

The money would be wisely spent by hiring Native American journalists (who haven't spent the last decade plagiarizing, or suddenly decided late in life that they were Indians.) They should be placed as full-time reporters with travel budgets in key places in Indian country, including the Navajo Nation, Pine Ridge, DC, and in the Northwest. Freelance writers in other countries should be credited and paid, and hired based on their track record of producing authentic journalism and being present. Photographers should be credited and paid a living wage.

Journalists in Indian country should also be asked to fully disclose all of their current and former clients that they have carried out public relations work for. Columnists should also disclose this, along with all funding from federal and private grant sources. This would make clear any conflicts of interests and hidden agendas.

Readers can help stop the fraud in Indian country journalism by writing publishers, editors, reporters and broadcasters, and demanding authentic journalism and the truth.

Readers can also ask reporters, "Where you there?" Further, readers can analyze the advertising on websites, magazines and on radio news, and ask the producers and publishers why certain issues and truths are being ignored, censored or manipulated.

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 31 years. During the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation, she worked for the Navajo Times and served as a stringer for AP and USA Today. After serving as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today in the Southwest, she was censored, then terminated, and created Censored News. Now in its 7th year, Censored News has no advertising or sponsors.

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