March 2023

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 4, 2022

The Best Kept Secrets in Indian Country: The Shift from Authentic Journalism to Armchair Plagiarism


The Best Kept Secrets in Indian Country

The Shift from Authentic Journalism to Armchair Plagiarism

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

The shift from authentic journalism, to armchair plagiarism, went undetected for years. At the newspaper Indian Country Today, where I was a staff reporter, the shift began after the newspaper was purchased by new owners in New York State, in the late 1990s.

Reporters who actually went out to cover the news were driven into financial ruin while paying our own expenses and then fired. Those who never left their easy chairs continued in their role as plagiarizers.

Some of those reporters spent their entire careers plagiarizing and rewriting others' hard work and deceiving their readers.

There were many victims, including Native photographers who lost their incomes, because their work was stolen from the web and never paid for by reporters and editors.

There were also the victims of the loss of truth. We were forbidden to write the truth about casinos: How Las Vegas casino owners used tribal sovereignty in their scams to build casinos in Indian country, and non-Indian management teams operated the tribal casinos and disappeared the profits.

We were forbidden from describing how states like Arizona required compacts with sovereign tribal governments, then required tribal governments to give non-Indians in the state a share of the profits. Much of it was kept secret from the public.

We were forbidden from writing about local gambling addiction destroying families with the loss of income, domestic violence and elder abuse.

We were forbidden to write about many issues.

Among those censored was Louise Benally of Big Mountain. As bombs fell on Baghdad, Louise compared the war in Iraq with the genocidal Longest Walk that her ancestors, Dine', were forced on by the U.S. government.

The harsh treatment of Leonard Peltier in prison was censored.

The words of Bahe Katenay of Big Mountain were censored when he described oil and gas drilling on the sacred Place of Origin of Dinetah.

Indian Country Today's censorship of Buffy Sainte Marie at Dine' College reveals how the media silences truth and promotes war and the U.S. military.

Backstage, Buffy described being forced out of the music business in the U.S. by President Lyndon Johnson because of her stance against the Vietnam War, and her song 'Universal Soldier.'

In the end, the editor of Indian Country Today threatened me with termination and told me in writing that I would be fired if I did not stop writing about "grassroots" Native people. That was 16 years ago and they fired me in 2006, in order to silence the voices of Native people who live on the land.

When Indian Country Today fired me, they offered me just under $3,000 in hush money to keep this story silent, which I refused. That is why I created Censored News.

In its final years of collapse as an online newspaper owned in New York State, the online version of Indian Country Today relied on advertisements from the CIA, that could be seen online. The CIA regularly used Indian Country Today to advertise and recruit for CIA agents. Today, the newspaper has new owners.

About the author

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 40 years, beginning as a reporter for the Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a correspondent for Associated Press and USA Today, covering the Navajo Nation and federal courts.
She then served as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today. She was censored and fired in 2006 and created Censored News to show what was being censored in Indian country.
Since that time, without pay for her work, she has covered the west and traveled with the Zapatistas. She was in Bolivia in the high country with President Evo Morales.
She has a master's degree in international health, focused on infectious diseases, water and nutrition.
Today, Censored News is a collective. There are no ads, grants, salaries or revenues.
Thank you for reading and sharing Censored News.


Unknown said...

Indian gaming corruption in California. They didn't want 100 plus casino's so they created a fund of 1.1 million to non gaming tribes, this fund became a political per Capita payment system where elected tribal officials use this fund to control elections and cutting off tribal members who question or object to the lack of accountability. Half my tribe have been politically disenfranchised for the past 11 years and Indian Country Today or will not report anything that challenges the federal government institutional racism. Every new Casino looks exactly alike, as they are all the same Las Vegas gaming cults that control California Indian Gaming. FYI, I am planning to read your article today on Tribal Voices Radio Podcast 5-6 PM Streaming at Studio phone 707-263-3435 All My Relations

Censored News, publisher Brenda Norrell said...

Thank you for reading this on the radio. I hope it will be shared by others. The censorship of the truth about casinos in Indian country has resulted in harm to many people. Some of the casinos in Arizona continue to be operated by non-Indians who disappear the money, while tribal members remain in need. The newspapers avoid publishing articles on the detriment to local families from gambling addiction and the loss of their family incomes in casinos, or about domestic violence and elder abuse because of gambling addiction. The secret backdoor deals for casinos require whistleblowers to expose. Many decisions are made in the "executive sessions" of tribal councils, so tribal members will not know the facts and follow with action. Meanwhile, censorship in newspapers and online media is determined by the publisher and editors. Reporters often have no control over the final article or headline. Reporters do however have control over their own plagiarism and re-writing of others' hard work. Copy editors often change the content, and many copy editors have little knowledge of Indian country. Other reasons for censorship are dependence on advertising, business partnerships, fear of local politicians or community reaction, and sometimes arrogance by the publisher or editors because of just plain greed and selfishness, and a lack of concern for the well-being of others. A great deal happens in the backrooms of casinos and newsrooms. In the U.S. today, many paid reporters and editors work from home online, and simply copy and paste, and steal the hard work of others. Photographers' work has been stolen for profit by the media for too long. Also, Google and Facebook have profited and played roles in driving media into bankruptcy. Reporters and photographers must have funds for expenses, travel is expensive. For too long publishers have forced reporters in Indian country to pay their own expenses and driven them into financial ruin. Meanwhile, reporters around the world risk their lives. Currently, there are repeated assassinations of journalists in Mexico, just across the border. While they risk their lives and are murdered, many journalists in the United States simply sit in their easy chairs, and steal others' work, and receive a paycheck for it. This false world of news is faltering now, as can be seen in Facebook's recent stock collapse, and the media putting up paywalls to survive. Whatever is coming, in the new media, will be the result of this collapse, and this rotting of the facts in the newsrooms. The elitism has died a nasty death, taking with it the racism and bias that once haunted newsrooms. The editors have been unmasked, and the reporters are now being forced to tell the truth, and stop deceiving their readers. -- Brenda Norrell, publisher of Censored News.