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As someone who works in alternative media, my expectations are rock-bottom low for media coverage of protests and dissent in general.
I've come to expect little or no coverage of social justice movements by Canada's mainstream media. Movement spokespeople rarely get on TV to make their own case. Rather, the safe talking heads parse the protests and advise viewers that there's nothing to get too worked up about.
The standard response to activism in the streets is: 'nothing to see here, folks, please move along.'
That said, I'm still shocked by the silence from the mainstream media on the 'Idle No More' Indigenous rights protests this week.
The real kicker for me, and what prompted this post, was CBC's 'The National' -- the flagship news program for this country's "public broadcaster."
I watched the full news portion of the broadcast last night. Here are the stories that were reported on, in order: South Africa (Nelson Mandela's illness) Egypt, Syria, Wisconsin, something about the new World Trade Centre tower, Rush's admission to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, a story about the theft of corn in Quebec, and a little profile about the benefits of meditation for health. And -- of course! -- there was a story about The Hobbit, and specifically about whether this film's 3-D format would leave viewers dizzy.
There was no coverage, not even a passing reference, to the more than a dozen rallies across the country the day before, or to the fact that Attawapiskat's Chief Theresa Spence -- who had been at the centre of an international media sensation a year ago focused on poverty and poor housing -- had started an indefinite hunger strike in coordination with a Canada-wide movement for Indigenous rights. (There was also no reporting on the ongoing Federal Court "robocalls" case -- very little 'national' about this edition of 'The National.')
Whatever your politics, the Idle No More rallies and the diverse expressions of discontent from First Nations across the land is a significant news story for Canada.
There's just no excuse for The National's failure to cover the protests and the hunger strike and the broader story.
The CBC should be called out on this. They need to hear about it, as do all the other media. Organizers working on Idle No More actions and anyone else concerned about this should not just let this neglect stand unquestioned.
Remember that there are many reporters, producers and hosts working in the mainstream outlets who do want to tell the stories of Idle No More and related issues. The higher-ups need to know that people want, or rather demand, to have these stories covered.
And remember that Tahrir Square was full of protesters for many days before Anderson Cooper and CNN got there, and that for the first couple of weeks the young people who camped out for Occupy Wall Street were ignored. Social media and networks helped force these stories into the mainstream media and into mass consciousness.
I hope we'll see things play out similarly with Idle No More. In the meantime, we'll keep doing our very best to help fill the gaps and tell these vital stories.
Artwork designed by Dwayne Bird.