Why Aren’t The Media Covering The Massive Protest In North Dakota Stopping A Billion Dollar Oil Pipeline?
“If it bleeds, it leads.”
That’s an old newspaper truism, illustrating the stark economy of the news business: nobody wants to read about boring legislative actions, but hit them with a juicy murder-suicide and you will almost certainly sell more papers.
Which is why it perhaps isn’t so surprising that there has been scant coverage of the standoff between a Native American tribe and a company that is attempting to build a $3.8 billion oil pipeline through their ancestral lands that would eventually reach Illinois.
That’s perhaps one reason it hasn’t been considered “sexy” enough to cover–that’s another newsroom term that, once you hear a dumpy, middle-aged, coffee-breath editor use it to describe a story about a landfill might make you swear off actual sex forever.
But consider a rough if not perfect parallel: the Bundy standoff in Oregon a few months back. There were no shots fired, no bleeding leads, nothing like that. Yet the media slavered all over this non-story about a non-revolution in which wannabe militants played dress-up as soldiers for a few weeks staking claim to public land that owned by all Americans.
Now think about what the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are facing down: since April they have been in a standoff agains Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, at times shutting down work. They are protesting not only because the pipeline would encroach on their ancestral territory, but also because such a pipeline threatens their drinking water, their health, and the viability of the Missouri River which they have relied on for water and sustenance for hundreds of years.
What’s the difference? Two things jump to mind right away: that $3.8 billion price tag the pipeline fetches, for one, and it points to two very real problems with the way news is done in the modern era.
One is the “if it bleeds” outlook of most newsrooms: even if there isn’t actual blood flowing down the streets, the news thrives on conflict. It is the meat on which the media feeds. Picture Wolf Blitzer in his ridiculous Situation Room reporting thusly: “Today the president sat down with Vladimir Putin, the leaders of Syria, Turkey and the Ukraine and they decided that pushing humanity to the brink of World War Three is idiotic and borders on the pathological. They decided to step it down a notch. All is well.”
No. That can never work, not the way news is constructed–and believe me, it is constructed–today.
The second problem the lack of coverage in North Dakota illustrates is how deep in the tank the major media outlets are with big money–hell, they ARE big money themselves. Their board members also sit on the boards of Exxon, Shell and BP. They aren’t going to be happy at coverage of a group of plucky underdog Native American protesters standing up to Big Oil.
That’s why our work here at Open Source Truth and at dozens of other media outlets that fly under the radar of the big media are so vital. Please support them and us and spread the word. Link to our stories, pass them on to friends, engage in the coversation by commenting. We’d love to hear from you.
And keep up the good fight!