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Derrick O'Keefe's blog

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former rabble.ca Editor Derrick O'Keefe is a writer and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. He is the author of the new Verso book, Michael Ignatieff: The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya's political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice. Derrick also served as rabble.ca's editor from 2007 to 2009. Topics covered on this blog will include the war in Afghanistan and foreign policy, Canadian politics, media analysis, climate justice and ecology. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe

On the mainstream media's shameful failure to cover #IdleNoMore

| December 12, 2012
Artwork designed by Dwayne Bird.

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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.



 It is clearly also important to "....give credit where it's due...." to the main stream media when they DO do a good job of reporting on issues that we think are important. One of the reasons for this is to avoid alienating them any more than is absolutely unavoidable if we confront them over not reporting on something, and if there is reason to suspect lawyers and others operating "behind the scenes" of being responsible for the lack of interest or refusal to report. A big problem here is corporate lawyers with access to essentially unlimited money from their corporate clients to start frivolous /vexatious libel lawsuits against the main stream media, for the purpose of covering something up. In my view, the fact that the "alternative media" are struggling financially also serves to highlight a problem for them where they have very limited access to funds for defence lawyers, relative to the funds available to the main stream media, in the event that someone who want to cover up starts a frivolous libel lawsuit. It's not in our interests to treat the main stream media indiscriminately as a sort of "whipping boy" in this context - because if we do, that will lead to an "us versus them" mentality becoming dominant in which we will all be made to look like pariahs for the wrong reasons. In anything that we bring to the attention of the alternative media, therefore, it is doubly important to stick to the facts and be prepared to back up all statements with documentation - so as to make it absolutely clear to lawyers, and such-like, that if they DO attempt to start frivolous libel lawsuits (for instance, to cover up corruption in business) then they are going to find themselves in very serious trouble at once. See also my web site at www.exposethismuck.com

It looks to me as if Derrick O'Keefe's article has "stung" the mainstream media into giving very good coverage of Chief Theresa Spence, the Idle No More protests and the Idle No More movement generally. Within a day or so of Derrick O'Keefe's article appearing on Rabble.ca, I noticed that "The Ottawa Citizen" and the CBC suddenly started giving very good coverage. Is there actually a cause-and-effect relationship operating here, involving the main steam media being "stung" into giving coverage by Derrick O'Keefe's article -  or am I committing the "cardinal sin" of confusing correlation with causation in this case? I'm interested to know what other people think about this.

Here's a few of the examples of good coverage outside the mainstream media, yet another reminder that we need to support and celebrate independent journalism -- which is always struggling financially. 

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)

Indian Country Today Media Network:



Huffington Post -- the closest anything corporate came to good national coverage, and wasn't bad

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