Over at the University of North Dakota professor Mark Trahant – a journalism professor, albeit one sharply biased in favor of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters – is holding a symposium on those protests which today featured a panel of panelists who covered them.
One of the panelists – Los Angeles Times reporter Sandy Tolan – actually told the audience that he was concerned the coverage of the protests were too balanced and ought maybe have been slanted more toward the protesters.
He also compared the #NoDAPL protests – which saw political extremists work day after day to instigate violent conflict with law enforcement – to the civil rights marches in Selma. Just in case you needed an insight into which side this guy is lining up on:
Tolan told the story of losing his keys to his rental car on one of the most dramatic days of the protests, which left the vehicle swallowed by advancing police lines and in one of the most iconic images of the event. But he also discussed coverage, which he believe was sometimes almost too balanced, so to speak — perhaps creating a false moral equivalence between different sides of the issue. He referred to the protest site as the “Selma of the North,” a reference to the famous, violent clash during the civil rights movement in Alabama.
“A lot of what drew me in was this notion of people standing up for something they believed in,” he said. “The government of North Dakota — their response indicated how badly they wanted this pipeline to go through.”
I don’t believe in objectivity. I don’t think anyone is objective. I’m not. You’re not. No journalist in the world is objective. Every news story, even those produced by people striving to be as fair as possible, is a collection of opinions from reporters and editors and producers about what the headline should be, which quotes should be included, which photos and graphics should appear alongside the text, etc., etc.
That said, it’s remarkable to me that anyone with even the pretense of objectivity would think that the national coverage of the #NoDAPL protests was fair to all involved. Day after day the professional protest organizers fed their narrative to national press reporters who dutifully regurgitated it, treating the protesters as the heroes and law enforcement as the enemy.
The protesters would block a highway, or trespass on private land, or do some other activity which law enforcement couldn’t ignore. But when the cops would attempt to apply the law to an unlawful situation the story line perpetrated by the journalists would promote the idea that evil cops were attacking peaceful protesters.
The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline drew violent political extremists from around the country who came to south central North Dakota to pick a fight. They accomplished that goal, even if the pipeline today is complete and moving oil.
The mainstream press coverage of the #NoDAPL protests was an absolute travesty resulting from the utter lack of meaningful viewpoint diversity in the ranks of professional journalists.