Tim Giago: Mainstream media ignores the real issues

When I was a boy we lived in the Pine Ridge Reservation community of Kyle. My father, Tim, worked as a clerk and butcher for Chris Dam, a man who owned the local market.

One Sunday I found my father sitting on the steps at our house watching intently as our pet Bulldog, Butch, carried a large bone in his mouth that my dad brought home from his job as a butcher. Butch would dig a hole, place the bone in the hole, quickly cover it with dirt and then walk around the yard sniffing the air. He would then rush back to the hole he had just dug, dig up the bone, and find another spot to dig so he could re-bury the bone.

This activity went on for quite a long time as Butch repeated his activity and finally my father said, “That dog is going to worry that bone to death.” His comment has come back to me several times over my lifetime because the term is so applicable to what is happening around us for as far back as I can remember.

When I watched the 24/7 news channels go on and on about Anna Nicole, my dad’s comment came to mind. When I watched the media overkill on the Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami tragedy in the Pacific, and now the media strangulation of Don Imus, my father’s words come back to me.

It seems that any event the mainstream media feels is newsworthy is an event that will be played over and over with slight variations until we finally just tune it out. These media decisions are apparently made in some corporate office in New York City and the deciders seem to believe that whatever the easterners find newsworthy is a reflection of how the rest of America must feel. And that is totally wrong.

The Anna Nicole story played for about two issues on the inside page of our local daily here in Rapid City, SD and then it was gone. I never saw one line about it in the Indian newspapers I read. But the bottom line is that we are not idiots. If there is a story the mainstream media finds intriguing, we read it, we understand it, and then we move on. We don’t need to see it day after day, night after night, and hour after hour. As much as the mainstream media would have you believe, we are not a nation of sheep.

What other news stories are being ignored while the MSM (mainstream media) pontificates and hyperventilates over stories of sensationalism? The 24/7 news channels have clearly influenced the once staid network news channels to fall in line. What used to pass as news is nearly unending “Infotainment.”

Well, I and many other Americans do not want to be entertained by our news sources. We want the hardcore facts presented to us in an intelligent manner so that we can sift through them and make up our own minds about what it means to us.

This past week the two Reverends, Al and Jesse, showed up on nearly every news channel on the airwaves. It is true that millions of other American, including me, detested the horrific comments made by Don Imus on his radio and television show. They were thoughtless, heartless, and racist. But I do not need the media to use Al and Jesse to beat me over the head hour after hour. Believe it or not, most Americans are not racist and most of us went to the heart of this matter immediately.

I was in the news several years ago and my political situation caused Rush Limbaugh to make some comments about me on his radio show. Because I am an American Indian, he chose to use an array of tired clichés such as “smoke signals, tipi, and powwow” to indicate how hip he was on Indian issues. Well, I do not live in a tipi or use smoke signals to communicate but I will admit to attending one or two powwows each year. It was just the idea that in order to define who I was, Limbaugh had to bring in what amounted to racist speculations to make a connection to me.

The MSM needs to get out of New York City and come out to the hinterlands to discover that there are folks out here that do not subscribe to their brand of news. We read it or see it one time and that is enough. We do not want to, or need to, be literally inundated with news about Anna Nicole, Don Imus, or the two Reverends. They might even ask themselves if these stories are really news? Didn’t such stories used to be seen on Entertainment Tonight only?

The few times the Indian people of America see the national media is when there is something tragic or controversial happening. Remember the hours of coverage at Wounded Knee II in 1973? The media came, they saw, and then they left, never to return. How many of you have ever wondered what happened in the aftermath of Wounded Knee II? Remember the school shooting tragedy on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota? What happened at Red Lake after the tragedy? These are stories that also need to be told.

Heading into an election year you can bet your boots that the MSM will find many bones to worry to death while we, the real mainstream, continue to turn off our television sets and radios sick and tired of a media that treats us like a bunch of thrill seeking idiots.

Did we bring this upon ourselves? Edward R. Murrow must be spinning in his grave.

McClatchy News Service in Washington, DC distributes Tim Giago’s weekly column. He can be reached at najournalists@rushmore.com. Giago was also the founder and former editor and publisher of the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the class of 1990 – 1991. Clear Light Books of Santa Fe, NM (harmon@clearlightbooks.com) published his latest book, “Children Left Behind".

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