Lately I’ve come across news on NPR about protests against the Dakota oil Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota: protesters worry that the pipeline which is to be constructed across four states can disturb sacred places and pollute the Missouri River.
Although those protests (that began in April) represent the largest mobilization of Native American activists in more than 40 years and a fight for environmental justice, they had not been covered by any major American broadcast media before journalist Amy Goodman went there and reported about violence against protesters. To date, during the protests at least ninety people have been arrested including Goodman and another journalist.
In this context, there is a clear gap between social and media reality. Why were those protests The Guardian named “new civil rights movement where environmental and human rights meet,” and The New Yorker called “new movement for Native-American rights” outcast by media? Why didn’t influential outlets such as CNN, NPR, CBS, or NBC send their reporters to cover Dakota Access Pipeline controversies? Was it gatekeeping?
And finally, all of it led me to a question – as journalists and strategic communicators, where should we start when analyzing such complicated issues? When applying theoretical framework of hierarchy of influences to this particular case, should we focus on how ideological forces shape and influence media content, or simply on routine practices?
Image is from Native American World Facebook page